How to find the right employee or services partner: 4 tips

After speaking with SADA Systems leaders about their processes and future plans, Andy Wolber offers four lessons for hiring an employee or selecting a professional services partner.

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Image: TechRepublic/Andy Wolber

On May 20, 2019, Tony Safoian, CEO of SADA Systems, announced that Miles Ward would join SADA as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Until the move, Ward served as director and global lead for solutions at Google Cloud, where he worked for about five years, and had worked at Amazon Web Services (AWS) previously. At Google, Ward helped companies (such as Twitter) move to Google Cloud Solutions.

But what makes the move interesting is SADA's connection to Google, which recognized SADA Systems as Google Cloud Partner of the Year for 2018 at Google Cloud Next '19. SADA's sole technology focus is on Google Cloud solutions: In March 2019, Core BTS announced that it had acquired SADA's Microsoft business unit.

SEE: Recruiting and hiring top talent: A guide for business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

After speaking with Ward and Safoian about the process and future plans, the following four ideas struck me as relevant for many technology decision makers who need to hire a key employee or select a professional services partner.

1. Narrow your focus

The decision to focus on Google solutions before bringing on a CTO helped narrow the nature of expertise and experience needed. "The search for a CTO was a two-year process," said Safoian. Part of that time, "we were also working on and contemplating divestiture of our Microsoft business unit." Had SADA not sold the Microsoft business unit, a CTO with both Microsoft and Google experience might have made sense.

2. Seek experience and expertise

Relevant work experience and expertise are always relevant--especially in terms of the rate of change and scale. Ward summed up his last three work experiences in terms of growth. "I joined a start-up that grew 100-fold," he said. "I joined AWS, and it grew 100-fold. I joined Google Cloud solutions and grew it 100-fold." Presuming that SADA Systems expects growth, that experience should serve the team well. Deep technical familiarity with Google solutions and systems, of course, will help, too. "We were looking for someone who could credibly say to Fortune 100 companies, 'This will work,'" said Safoian.

3. Focus on the opportunity

In most cases, sustained and significant impact requires sustained and significant focus. Yet, over time, the set of problems and opportunities that a person seeks to engage with shifts.

As Ward puts it, "I could recite all the cliches: We're living in a time of incredible change, the world is shifting under our feet, or the only constant is change… I do see very material opportunities for customers today that didn't exist a few years ago. Companies move to public cloud because they want to acquire a behavior, a culture, a different method of working. They're interested in learning a more efficient way of working together, enabled by technology, rather than blocked and impeded by it."

More specifically, part of what may appeal to Ward with his change in role is the ability to offer specific advice. "Our role is to be more direct, more prescriptive, and more responsible than any vendor to drive customer success," said Safoian. Or, as Ward puts it, "SADA can say, 'Here's how to do this' to provide a faster path from a good idea to delivery in practice with customers."

4. In the end, it's about people

In the technology world, we tend to focus on capabilities, speeds, and scale. No doubt, those matter. Ward, for example, noted that the "differences in performance between Microsoft, Amazon, and Google's clouds are dramatic." He's confident that Google's Cloud delivers a better solution at global scale than competing solutions.

But people build and stand behind every technology solution--in enterprise solutions, especially, it can help to have a person to call. "Business empathy matters. You need person-to-person engagement," Ward said. "Through your partners and direct with Google, make sure that you're building a real relationship. When crunch time comes, make sure you have people you trust."

Conversations with people can also influence how technology evolves. Ward mentioned that he'd once had the opportunity to talk with Vint Cerf, one of the creators of the internet. He asked Cerf how he'd been able to build the internet without the internet. Cerf responded that they'd had networks, but that the networks were all separate: The internet enabled all those networks to inter-operate. Cerf asked Ward, "Why haven't you made the inter-cloud yet?" In 2019, Google's Anthos seems to be the company's first formal answer to this question. And at SADA Systems, Ward will be working with real use cases as customers, developers, and technologists leverage Google's tools.

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