How companies can create and retain jobs during a digital transformation

Keith Krach, chairman of the board of DocuSign, talks with Tonya Hall about how to retain and create jobs in the context of digital transformation.

How companies can create and retain jobs during a digital transformation Keith Krach, chairman of the board of DocuSign, talks with Tonya Hall about how to retain and create jobs in the context of digital transformation.

TechRepublic's Tonya Hall wants to know how to retain and create jobs during digital transformation and asks Keith Krach, chairman of the board of DocuSign, to explain. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Tonya Hall: Can digital transformation really raise the tide that lifts all boats? Where does the magic of Silicon Valley come from? Welcome, Keith.

Keith Krach: Well, Tonya, thanks so much for having me on the program. I really appreciate it.

Hall: Absolutely. It's an honor. Explain what DocuSign does.

Krach: Well, DocuSign enables anyone to transact anything, any time, anywhere, on any device, securely.

Hall: You are a Silicon Valley veteran, and you're known for building innovative and high-performance companies and creating new industry categories. What are some of the major changes you've seen in Silicon Valley since you arrived a few decades ago?

Krach: Yeah, so in the last 30 years, there's been a bunch of things that have stayed the same, Tonya. That's the people, the importance of values, and the ability to leverage a paradigm shift.

But I think three big fundamental changes that I've seen, is, first of all, is that speed of innovation. It is not the big that eat the small. It is the fast that eat the slow. Speed is the weapon of choice. It's the currency. Things are just speeding up. Leadership is no longer defined by size. It's defined by momentum.

The second thing, I would say, would be ... It'sUnited Nations out here now. I think it's really the diversity of thought. I think people realize now that different temperaments, talents, and convictions and diversity of thought is the catalyst for genius, and the secret sauce to building a high-performance team.

I think the third thing that I've seen is the importance of social responsibility. When I was CEO and chairman of Ariba, I remember we were talking about, "Should we start a foundation?" We went public almost 20 years ago. We looked at it. That wouldn't be our right to give away shareholder money, but at DocuSign, it's totally different. Everybody, all the employees, "Oh yeah, let's start the DocuSign Impact Foundation," which mission is to transform people's lives by transforming noble causes. The board was right there. It's a big part of why people love DocuSign. It's that noble mission.

Hall: Keith, you talk about digital transformation, which is often a major catalyst for corporate disruption. What does digital transformation mean to you? How has its role changed since you first entered the workforce?

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Krach: I think now, and I was just at Fortune CEO Initiative yesterday with a large number of Fortune 500 CEOs. It's at the top of everybody's strategic imperatives. When you talk about the digital transformation, it's really about a cultural transformation. That's the key to adoption.

When you talk about the cultural transformation, to me, it's change, right? Without change, we don't develop, prosper, or grow. In business, you either change, or you die. It has just been so powerful to see that in terms of disruption. I'm able to see it because I spend a lot of my time with the Fortune 500 CEOs, but also enabling and being a platform for startups. Everybody goes, "Well, you feel like an arms dealer." I go, "No. We've declared war on paper. Our enemy's the status quo."

Hall: Why is digital transformation imperative for us to remain competitive in the global economy?

Krach: Well, if you think about the digital transformation, it is the basis for innovation. That innovation is absolutely key for our nation's competitiveness. It's key that happens in basic industries so we can capitalize on productivity, and we don't ship so many jobs overseas. It spurs the job growth.

The other thing is that it increases the GMP per capita, which is basically the standard of living. It raises the tide for everybody.

The other thing that's important about technological prowess and the digital transformation, is in terms of national security. That's just so critical, so that we can keep our freedoms here in this country.

Hall: You've always been a proponent of mentorship, calling it "the magic of Silicon Valley." What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs or leaders on how to seek and what to avoid in their own business?

Krach: Yeah. I believe the most important things in life are not written in a book. My mom always said, "Hey, learn by OPE (other people's experience)." I've had some great mentors.

My recommendation is ... I call it the Leadership Hybrid Mentor Matrix, where ... don't just model yourself after one person, but multiple people, because here again, it's that diversity of thought. One of the things that I've recently done is started a non-profit organization called the Virtual Mentor Network to enable people to mentor at scale, where you can take some great leaders.

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Last week, I just did 90-minute interviews with General Stanley McChrystal, four-star general who ran all the special forces, Dan Goldin, longest-serving director at NASA, and then also Michael Brown, one of the most epic social entrepreneurs in our country, CEO of City Year. He inspired AmeriCorps. It's just amazing when you talk to people about this. It brings tears to their eyes. Everybody's had some great mentors.

The corner of this magic about it is that when you're mentoring somebody, I always say, "You don't learn anything unless you can teach it," but also you learn more from your mentees. It's a great 60-60 deal. I think that's the great thing about the magic of Silicon Valley, is paying it back and paying it forward.

At the end of the day, my legacy won't be creating four categories. It's really about the people I mentored along the way. It's really my -- I call it -- the mentorship genealogy and how they pass it on. My father would always say, "You never know if you're a good father until you see your children's children." I say, "You never know if you're a great leader until you see your mentees' mentees." I think it's one of the wonderful things in life.

Hall: Wow, that's excellent advice. Okay, so should we try to strike a balance then between technology and job retention, or will technology guarantee better jobs for everyone over time?

Krach: Well, I'm a big believer in ... creates a better society in terms of innovation, technology, productivity, but I also believe that it's important that we play a role in retooling a workforce because the change is coming absolutely so fast.

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One of the great privileges of my life was to be chairman of the board of trustees at Purdue. We bought Kaplan, one of the largest online learning programs, one of the best platforms. The average age of those students is 37-years-old. We're combining that with Purdue, the biggest engineering school in the country. We created Purdue University Global. A big focus of that is retooling the workforce, particularly in the STEM fields. I think the combination of productivity and retooling the workforce is really going to serve this nation. It'll be a magical combination.

I also think the same things, the same aspects, for example, that Purdue's doing for online learning is also applicable for like prison reform, to teach skills in prison, so that three months after they get out of prison, they've got a job. That really maximize the probability they won't be incarcerated again. I think that combination is really, really important to our future.

Hall: Okay. Let's take a step back. Speaking of digital transformation, tell us about your relationship with 3D-printed homes.

Krach: Well, I'm the chairman of the advisory board for New Story, which is a phenomenal non-profit. We build homes in places like Nicaragua and Haiti. It got started by Brett Hagler and Mike Arrieta after there was a hurricane, or it was the earthquake. Then we rebuilt some more, when there was the hurricane.

It costs about $7,000 to build one of these homes, but now with 3D-printing, we can do it for about half that cost. That's great, because then we can build more homes. We build communities, and we really impact people's lives. That's in conjunction with the DocuSign Impact Foundation, which is to transform lives by transforming noble causes. It's a great mission.

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Hall: Okay, Keith. Where is digital transformation headed? What's the future?

Krach: Well, I think it never ends, but I think a big thing on the horizon ... I think the two big things on the horizon is artificial intelligence and the ability to take all this data and to combine all this data and make ... because it's deployed in mass scale. You could make decision, approval, even agreement a cognitive one, but that's got to be combined, here again, with retooling that workforce and really increase the quality of life and the standard of living for everybody. I'm bullish when it comes to that.

Plus also too, it's a lot of fun because it's fast-paced, and it's change and affecting people's lives. I think in terms of what's left to be done is really in the partnering area between private and public and social and academic. I think you get those four ingredients moving, it's just going to be a much better world.

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Hall: Wow, Keith. Thanks for your insight. I really appreciate your time and advice on leadership and mentoring and more. If somebody wants to connect with you ... maybe they want to find out more about the work that you're doing, and maybe they want to get involved with 3D-printing homes ... how could they do that?

Krach: Well, they could go on the New Story website. They can also go on keithkrach.com. I'm on LinkedIn. I'm on Twitter. That's an easy way to do it.

Hall: Well, thanks again, Keith. If you guys want to find me and more of my interviews, you can do that right here on TechRepublic, or maybe go to my website, tonyahall.net. I have links to all my social sites, including Twitter. In fact, if you connect with me on Twitter, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for listening.

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Keith Krach, chairman of the board of DocuSign