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The Opportunity to partner…

by | Oct 28, 2020 | Opportunity, partner, Van Halen

At a Women In Technology meeting a few years ago, a young woman said “How did you construct such a perfect career plan for all of these experiences?”  Well… if you read these regularly, you know that planning is not really a core competency.  Recall I got the Fannie job with a title that I didn’t even know what that was, and now I was leaving having mastered it.  Faced with a tough/bad decision, I opted for the role with my old boss, who frankly was one of the most fun to work with, and also a car guy. So what could possibly go wrong?  I was hired to “knit together 3 different businesses into a coherent roadmap”.  No problem – except the overlap between customers and markets was… after a month’s analysis – the Null Set. If you remember your math – that is not good… 

… and luckily the head of one of the business units quit, along with their head of Product Management.  And they had JUST hired a new VP of Engineering – the role I probably was qualified for.  Andrew offered me the head of Product Management – which like Software Engineering I said “sure – how hard could that be?”  I started interviewing my new team to get a sense of what I had stepped into… and it was mostly not good. And, the new VP of Engineering was a little suspicious of me… I put on my best “chatting him up” voice, and we started to get a sense that NEITHER of us were in a good place – and mature enough to know if we stood together, we would at least go down together…. 

… so Roth was out, and now the band was in an odd spot.  They needed a singer who would both sing the monster hits that they had created together, and also bring potentially new energy to the band.  In a very early tour, they were second on the bill with Journey as the headliner – the opening act was from the LA, a straight-ahead hard rock group named for a monster guitar player – Ronnie Montrose 😉  (interestingly he played on Tupelo Honey with Van… which I still find amazing..) That band broke up, and left their singer to go his own way, which he had and had a few hits of his own… with his own following. Decent hits, and a decent loyal following .. so why should he leave that behind? 

Partners… what are they, and what is your ACTUAL definition of that?  Much is said about it, but when looking at Opportunities, particularly as you get further up the organization, working alone is impossible – you HAVE to work together.  Collaboration has to replace Competition, and during your interview process, if you have the idea that you are being “brought in to ___  and we are counting on you alone” – yea – no. You need to figure out what your unique talents are, but also how you will partner with others to bring it all together.  Both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds use this song for their air shows, and watching this you see something interesting.  Clearly, they have to all work and trust each other… and the Lead Solo – in theory, the leader – takes off last. 

One of the things that Roth liked least was the bend of the band to keyboards… not remembering that both Alex and Ed were trained pianists. When they added their new singer, the fact that he was a decent guitar player (probably better than many… just not Eddie) freed the band to move in a different direction.  For me, I started to call my partner daily to ensure there was no daylight between Engineering and Product Management.  Because we literally were on the same page, we shipped the first product – on time – in 3 years – within 6 months.  I added another question to my interview process also – “Who are the key partners, what has been done to ensure we are aligned before I arrive?” What partners do you need to ensure you are that tight with coming out of this crisis… and what Opportunities do you need to take to ensure that is not just, one of my favorite Van Halen/Hagar tracks –  Dreams. 

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