The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.
Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
As official media sponsors at ManufacturED 2019 in Chicago, The Kula Ring had the pleasure of podcasting onsite, interviewing leaders at the forefront of digital transformation in manufacturing.
This special compilation episode focuses on the importance of finding top talent and enabling your teams to do ‘deep work’, including three short interviews with Stephen Gold, CEO of MAPI; Cal Newport, acclaimed author; and JoAnna Sohovich, CEO of The Chamberlain Group.
Finding Top Talent and Enabling Your Teams To Do ‘Deep Work’: ManufacturED Special Compilation Part 1 Transcript:
Stephen Gold: The Evolution of The ManufacturED Summit
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring. We’re coming to you live from the ManufacturED Summit in Chicago, Illinois. And we’re really pleased today to have Stephen Gold, the CEO of MAPI, with us, joining us again, actually, on the podcast.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
And I think it’s a nice opportunity to just kind of touch base almost mid conference here and check in on how the conference is going. It’s certainly been an exciting time for us here. Yesterday was just chock full of fantastic speakers and a lot of really great, I thought, crowd interaction. Like the folks who are really helping each other out and then that networking, I think, Stephen, was just so terrific to see and at a very, very senior level as well. But that’s from the outside looking in, admittedly, here at Kula. Kind of curious about your take on how the day went yesterday and how the conference is going so far.
Stephen Gold: Well, the conference is going very well. It’s exactly as expected. Great turnout, as you said, high level executives. It’s what makes our MAPI events, I think, kind of a little unique is that these guys all work and these men and women all work in companies that are very similar to each other. The highlight for me was probably the chocolate peanut butter cups during the demo and dessert.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. No, no. I’ve felt like I was a salesperson for those things for a while because I told the four or five people that they needed to go. And I think Deloitte thought I was just trying to send them to their booth or something, but I wasn’t even being that nice to Deloitte.
Stephen Gold: Yeah, but I’ll tell you, it’s a little different than what we’re doing this year. That demo and desserts was different. Everybody got a chance to look at the new technologies, Microsoft has its technology with AI, and Deloitte had its virtual reality, and Siemens was showing its automation technology. I thought that was very useful, very valuable use of time for folks. But at the same time, we’re also mixing it up. We have our keynote speakers, of course, talking about digital transformation and AI and such, and we’ll have more of that today. But we also had the ED talks, which Education Talks, modeled after TED Talks.
I thought that that’s different. Obviously there’s no Q&A there, but it really gives you a chance to mix in a lot more ideas, a lot more concepts. So far, I think all the speakers, they understand the audience. We’ve had folks talking about drugs in the… what do you do about drugs in the workplace with all the states that are legalizing marijuana? We have folks talking about corporate culture.
Carman Pirie: Now, I feel that if we need to stop right at the legalizing marijuana piece for a minute because it’s about the best time to bring up the fact that it’s early morning here in Chicago but we have a full deep dish pizza in front of us, thanks to Stephen, wanting to introduce this.
Jeff White: Which goes back to our conversation on the previous podcast where we were asking where the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. Deep dish Chicago versus New York style.
Carman Pirie: Exactly. So it was a source of some debate and discussion. So I guess we’re going to buckle up after this recording and see if we can get through some pizza. So maybe, I don’t know, maybe the lawyer that gave that talk on marijuana in the workplace has some supplies from the conversation that might help with the pizza. I don’t know.
Jeff White: I think one of the things that I’ve really kind of taken away from it, and not just the hardcore manufacturing talks and the discussions about integrating AI and the digital transformation of your plant, but I thought there were some really interesting discussions of the softer side of things with Cal Newport, to who we’ve recorded on the podcast as well, really looking forward to releasing his interview. I thought that between that and the fellow from EnPro?
Carman Pirie: EnPro Industries, Marvin Riley.
Jeff White: Marvin. He was wonderful and he was talking about a one and a half billion dollar company with 6,000 people all across the world and the creation of culture. Kind of creating that community within your organization. I think that that really was bringing a different perspective than you might expect at an industrial manufacturing conference.
Stephen Gold: I think that’s a good point. I mean, you mentioned Cal, you mentioned Marvin. With everything that we’re facing today, in terms of not just the digital revolution, but in terms of the volatility of the global marketplace and the volatility of politics and look what’s happening in China, you’re looking at recession now in Europe. People talking potential recession here. It’s important, with all of that, to understand we’re dealing with people. In fact, we have a couple of speakers today are talking about talent.
If you ask a manufacturing leader, “What is the single most important thing right now in your mind, top of your mind, top priority to try to figure out,” it’s how do you recruit and train and develop talent. That’s a soft skill, it’s caring about people. So I thought it was really important for us to bring those in, mix it in with the more engineering, more technical aspects of what’s going on with the digital revolution.
Carman Pirie: Stephen, the conference has been going on for a number of years now.
Stephen Gold: Number seven.
Carman Pirie: This is number seven.
Stephen Gold: Yup.
Carman Pirie: I’m sure you see changes year to year, beyond just this year, coming to this gorgeous venue here at Morgan Manufacturing. I know that that was a significant change, but how have the participants changed? How has the mood in the room changed? How has the conversation evolved around digital transformation as these years go by?
Stephen Gold: Yeah, well, of course the initial, the early conferences were not focused solely on… it wasn’t about accelerating the transformation, we had different themes back then. This is a theme that’s been consistent probably for four years now for obvious reasons. It’s on everybody’s mind.
But obviously technology is moving so fast. Also, things are happening really fast in terms of the global marketplace. So I think the conversation, I think what we’re able to do is dive in a lot quicker into these conferences to more relevant issues. We got our speakers getting right to the heart or the meat of the matter much more quickly. I think what’s interesting about this group, I have never seen so many new faces at one of these conferences. We always have repeat attendees. But, boy, we probably have two thirds of the folks are new to this executive summit and hopefully they’ll come back next year. Next year we’re going to be doing at a similarly… at a manufacturer, a former manufacturing facility. I do think that it’s easier for us to jump into the, again, to the most important, those most important times.
Carman Pirie: And really get the sleeves rolled up early. There’s not a lot of contact setting required and people are up to speed.
Stephen Gold: Yeah, exactly.
Carman Pirie: Fantastic. Well, Stephen, thanks so much for joining us again. I think this has been a great little update of the conference so far. Looking forward to day two.
Stephen Gold: Good, thank you. Thank you for being here.
Jeff White: Thanks a lot.
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Cal Newport: Enabling Your Teams To Do ‘Deep Work’
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie.
Carman, how are you doing?
Carman Pirie: I’m doing well and we have Cal Newport with us here.
Cal, why don’t we just get started right away with getting you just to briefly introduce yourself for those who don’t and haven’t read your book. And then we’ll dive into some questions about your session here at MAPI.
Cal Newport: Of course.
Well, I’m a computer science professor at Georgetown University. I also write about the intersection of technology and culture. Particularly in our struggle with new technological tools. To struggle to try to get tools to serve the things we care about, to try to avoid having these tools accidentally subvert the things we care about.
So I’ve written about this on both the professional angle and from the personal angle. So 2016, I had this book, Deep Work. It’s really about some consequences of tech in the workplace. Earlier this year I had a book called Digital Minimalism, which is really about some unintentional consequences of tech in our personal life, in particular our phones and how much we look at them. So I cover these issues from a technologist point of view but also from a philosophical point of view. I look at both the world of work and the world of our life outside of work.
Carman Pirie: I think what we’re hoping to maybe cover in this chat is just at the intersection of those things in some ways. So I think we’re going to touch on both of them.
Because the audience for our podcast, largely manufacturing marketers, one of the, certainly a significant trends over the last number of years, I believe since 2012, has been more and more and more people working client side versus agency side. In 2012 it was about peak employment from an agency side perspective. Now so many marketers are coming client side. I think prior to that, a lot of marketers used to be not flying completely solo, but smaller teams outsourcing a lot of their work. In doing so, didn’t have to be as focused on how the work got done. I was really struck in listening to your presentation earlier today around Deep Work and how it seems so contradictory to the world that they’re working within.
A world where people are hired because they have a savviness with digital tools, with social media tools. And expected to work in them all day every day. Then contrast in that, in some way, with how do we get to a level of deep work, in that context and that environment. I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s start at how do you hire for or think about hiring for digital competence without making sure that everybody’s on all social media profiles all the time?
Cal Newport: Well, marketing is interesting because you get this odd intersection between what’s often quite separate for people. So there’s this world on their phone that is often quite separate from their world at work. There’s this world of social media and the distraction and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, and then there’s world of work. These are quite different worlds marketing, they come together and that causes issues.
So actually, in my most recent book, to try to get at this issue, what I did is I said, “I’m going to go find some high level social media brand managers.” So people who do this at an incredibly high level for really large brands, the real pros. The reason I went and profiled how they work is that it has nothing to do with what you see people doing casually on their phone. That if you spend time with a really high level, let’s say, social media brand manager, first of all, their phone has nothing to do with it. They’re accessing the services through computers. They’re not accessing them, typically, through the standard consumer facing interfaces. They’ll be using a much more sophisticated interface, maybe through some software as a service interface or something like TweetDeck.
They have a lot of structure to how they actually do things, let’s say like monitoring social media reaction to a particular brand or looking at particular campaigns. They have schedules, they have structures, they have sophisticated filter searches that they run on a regular basis. It has almost nothing to do with, I’m on my phone all the time. I tell that story mainly to emphasize that there’s a difference between how professionals use social media and how the rest of the people use it. If you confuse those two things and say, “Well, if I’m familiar with social media platforms and I should be fine running a sophisticated brand monitoring campaign on Twitter or running a very complicated Google AdSense,” it’s going to run you into problems. You’re going to end up with a lot of 23 year olds who are siphoning through a lot of money and are very, very frenetic and not actually making an impact.
Carman Pirie: I had like four follow up questions to that. The trouble is that when you have four, you basically, effectively, have none.
Jeff White: Well this is the problem now, you’re context switching on your questions.
Carman Pirie: Exactly.
Cal Newport: You need to dig deeper.
Carman Pirie: Exactly right.
Cal Newport: You need some time.
Carman Pirie: Well, you know, maybe. I guess, as you think that through, I’m wondering, do those people that are managing, that you interviewed and perhaps shadowed a bit, what were they doing in their personal lives? Were they living more typically distracted lives personally with their phone? Or did they take that same level of scheduling discipline to what they’re doing professionally to what they actually do personally?
Cal Newport: Well, you see both. But I think the fact that there’s at least some people who are in that situation, who really don’t use a lot of social media in their personal life, indicates the separation between those two things.
One example I really like is one of the engineers who was involved, actually, with the introduction of the Like button to Facebook. So the Like button, there’s an interesting history behind it. I mean, slight diversion here. It was introduced for a very sort of nerd-ish, technical reason. They were trying to make comments more efficient. The engineers hated to see one word comments. “Okay, great. Cool.” The scene more efficient, but it ended up actually transforming the fortunes of Facebook and the other companies that borrowed this design because it transformed the whole social media experience. So now it was no longer about, “Let me check what my friends posted and post some things myself.”
It was instead, “Let me look at these incoming social approval indicators. How many likes have I gotten recently? How many retweets have I gotten recently? How many photos have I been auto tagged in?” That change in the social media experience is what transformed our relationship to our phone from a tool into a constant companion. So really, the source of a lot of the addictiveness of social media came from transforming the experience.
So anyways, one of the original engineers on the Like button, she went on to do her own startup after that. Though they needed to do social media advertising and social media branding for the startup, she was so, let’s say burnt out or unhappy about what she had helped to rot with the technology, is that she refuses to see any of it herself. So she’s hired people to manage her online and her company’s online presence. Sort of ritualistically or mechanistically do the work that had to be done because she didn’t want to have anything to do with personal involvement with those platforms.
Carman Pirie: It’s interesting because you see that in—we’re going to date ourselves now—I remember a time when your time spent on social was spent more-
Cal Newport: Interacting.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Well writing blog posts or a tweeting original content, doing something or interest or value.
Cal Newport: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Then now, you’re quite right. Like how often are you just logging on the platform to see some level of positive social indication coming back.
Cal Newport: The point to emphasize is that that was purposeful. So I get into this in the more recent book, but you can actually trace the timeline. Guess what the key pivot is on the timeline, the Facebook timeline, that you get this great re-engineering happening around. It’s their IPO. They had to shift from this sort of high burn rate, venture-backed customer acquisition mode into revenue generation mode. So they could have the right numbers on the books when they went to Wall Street. So how do you get your revenue up if you’re Facebook? One of the things you do is you have to get people to spend more time looking at their accounts. What they had before was, “Let’s take Web 2.0,” this world of blogs and homemade websites. “And make the interfaces much easier.” This is what Facebook and the original companies offered.
We put a nicer interface around this nice Web 2.0 experience. They had to transform it all into, “No, no, no. It’s all about this incoming intermittent stream of information about you and how people are thinking about you.” It hacks your brain in such a way that you can’t help check it again and again. It made them incredibly wealthy, but it also completely transformed people’s experience with this tech. So it’s incredibly artificial, what we see today, which is people looking at their phones all the time. That is not an intrinsic property of these technologies, it’s not an unavoidable outcome of having a world of internet connectivity. It’s essentially a business feature.
Jeff White: Do you think that the… I mean, that engineered dopamine hit that we’re seeing there, that that can be trained out of people? You talk today in your talk here at the ManufacturED Summit about how we can train organizations. You spoke of extreme programming or pair programming, and how instead of getting 50% with two people working on a single task, you actually get a significant multiplier, more productivity and quality of work.
Do you think it’s possible for people to be kind of trained away from relying on that constant approval rating and focus more on their work?
Cal Newport: Yeah.
So I ran this experiment where I put out a call to my readers and I said, “I want you to do something kind of radical. I want you to step away, at least in your personal life, from all of this optional text of social media and streaming video and video games and all of the things you do to distract yourself on your phone and on your computer outside of work, the stuff you don’t have to do for your work. I want you to step away from it for a whole month. Then when the month is over, we’re going to then rebuild the tools you use but be much more selective.” So it’s sort of Marie Kondo, but your phone. It was a big ask because it was 30 days without using any of this. So I thought, “Well, I’m going to get five or six people.”
I mean, I thought I would profile. The idea was that I would follow him and I would talk about them and they’d be in the book. Over 1,600 people signed up to do this. Basically, the feedback I got is it takes about ten to 14 days to lose the itch to check the phone, and then you’ve pretty much lost it. Now the problem is, if you don’t want to go back to it is you have to then put in place the replacement. That turned out to be the key.
“What do I want to do with my time instead?” Because we underestimate the degree to which all of this stuff now that we do on our phones has pushed out of our lives. The types of activities that used to give us satisfaction and meaning, we’ve lost our familiarity with them. They’re a little bit harder than just looking at a screen, but long term, they’re more satisfying. So that’s why I ask people to take 30 days. It was enough time away from all of the noise to actually figure out again, “Oh wait, what do I want to do instead?” The people who did not do that work, of what do I really want to do with my time, they went right back to it.
Carman Pirie: I want to kind of talk and touch on a bit the kind of notion of organizing for deep work. I’m praying to put myself in this, it’s not much of a stretch, frankly, in running a small marketing agency. In the place where you have a group of marketers that are working with you. So if you’re a VP of marketing at Siemens or what have you, you may find yourself in this position. I wonder, how do you begin to foster those kinds of deep work patterns? It occurs to me that the workplace might need to shift physically in some way. I guess, talk to me about that.
Cal Newport: It can be hard. I mean, I think that we need to see, ultimately, wholesale shifts in the workflows that are deployed in professional settings. A short term hack that seems to work in lieu of that is this idea I talked about briefly in the talk, I also talked about in deep work, which is this notion of, “Well, let’s get a number and have something to actually manage to.” Allow the drive to hit this metric, bring in innovations in how you run the office. So the number in particular that seems to work is this deep to shallow work ratio. So you sit down with your direct reports, you sit down with your boss, you say, “This is what deep work is. This is what shallow work is. Both are important. If I don’t do any deep work, I’m not that valuable. If I never answer email, I’m not that valuable.”
What’s the right ratio that’s going to maximize the value that I bring to this organization? And then you have a number. 50% of my time, 20% of my time, 75, depends on the job. Now you can actually measure it. “What percentage of my time this week was actually spent on deep work?” And if it’s falling short from what you agreed on, what’s going to maximize value for the organization, that’s what starts to spark creative change. And so the reports I’ve been getting back from readers is stories such as, “I was sure that our culture of, let’s say, constant Slack or something like this was so entrenched it would never change.” They run this experiment and in two weeks there’s massive changes to the way that their particular organization runs. So it can mean different things. It depends on the organization, what type of work you could do.
So it could be a physical reconfiguration, it could be the CEO, if it’s a small company, saying, “These are periods in which this particular person is completely inaccessible. This has my blessing. They’re not allowed to look at Slack, are not allowed to look at email during this period of the afternoon, this period of the morning.” I’ve seen that happen before. Or “Nothing before 10:00 a.m., I want everyone just doing unbroken work until 10:00 a.m. Never try to schedule a conversation or client meeting before that.” There’s a lot of different creativity that’s possible there. But having a number to charge for, to try to get to, unlocks quite a bit of this flexibility.
Carman Pirie: Have any best practices emerged there? I know that in your chat you talked about programmers specifically. Which occurs to me that that shouldn’t probably… I mean, I don’t know what the percentage ought to be for deep work there, but it’s seems like it might be on the higher end, I guess.
Have you seen any kind of guardrails that you might suggest or kind of guideposts to think about as you begin to formulate these targets?
Cal Newport: So some interesting ideas that have come out. So one, scheduling deep work, having it on calendar systems and protecting it like any other meeting or appointment is useful. Because not only does that give you a lot of control about how much deep work you do, but it gives you a record. And now you can actually manage to this and see how much deep work is happening. There are software products coming down the pike that actually make it easier for organizations to actually get these numbers. “How much deep work are we doing? Could we do better? Are we hitting our target, are we not?”
There’s also ideas coming from Scrum. So we have this sort of agile methodology that came from manufacturing into software development, which is now percolating out into other types of work. But at the core of Scrum methodology is this notion of brief pre-scheduled synchronous coordination. So you replace back and forth ad hoc emails. Send you, you get back to me, or Slack back and forth. Just this constant ongoing unstructured conversation. You replace it with these, what they call them, Scrums.
The relevant people get in the same room. They don’t sit down, because you want any bloviation, right? Everyone stands up, you go around really quickly. “What are you working on? What do you need from who? Did you do the thing you were talking about last time?”This turns out to be incredibly effective in a lot of contexts. That pre-scheduled efficient, synchronous coordination can replace hours of slow back and forth communication that keeps disrupting. So I’ve seen that idea be pretty big as well.
Jeff White: I think that’s really interesting because we switched to agile scrum four or five years ago and over that time, saw a monumental improvement in our ability to deliver better work.
Cal Newport: Yeah.
Jeff White: I still think that there’s a ways to go, certainly for many organizations and us as well. In terms of being able to truly focus on getting great work done without distraction.
Carman Pirie: For any of the team listening to this, now they’re going to think we’re going to be more militant about-
Cal Newport: Militancy helps.
But also, what’s relevant, especially let’s say for a marketing firm, is client communication is another place. So a profile of some firms that basically what they do is they sign a client communication agreement with their clients that spells out, “This is how we’re going to interact with you.”
They’re often very afraid of this because the assumption is accessibility is key. If you remove accessibility, the client is going to be upset. Often, however, it’s having clarity that people really want. Clarity trumps accessibility. So this one company I’ve been profiling recently, it’s not marketing, but they do sort of UI design, so it’s roughly the same size of maybe a 12, 15 person company, works with corporate clients. They sign these client communication agreements with their clients that says basically, “Here’s how it works. There’s this weekly call where we check in, we answer all your questions, we let you know how things are going. We then write a written record of everything we discussed and everything we promised during that call. That written record is sent to you so you have it.”
That’s how we’re going to do it. As opposed to what was happening before, which is they’re letting clients actually into their Slack channels. It is infinitely better and the clients don’t care. They’re happy to have the clarity. Great, now I don’t have to worry about this. We have the Thursday call, we get it in writing, everything we talked about. Now I can clear that out of my mental bandwidth. They were terrified that they were going to lose half their clients. No one complained.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
People think that just being 100% accessible equals good services. Frankly, putting in that kind of a framework makes total sense.
Cal Newport: It’s probably exactly the opposite.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, we’ll steal that for sure.
Cal, thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us today. I know this is a bit of a brief introduction to your ideas and work in the space of deep work and a digital minimalism. But I thank you for contributing your insights.
Cal Newport: No, it was my pleasure. Thanks a lot.
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JoAnna Sohovich: Attracting Top Talent
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring. We’re coming live from the ManufacturED Summit in Chicago, Illinois. And joining us today on this episode is JoAnna Sohovich, the CEO of the Chamberlain Group. And welcome to The Kula Ring, Joanna.
JoAnna Sohovich: Thank you.
Carman Pirie: Why don’t we start, JoAnna, maybe tell us a little bit about the Chamberlain Group for our listeners who maybe don’t know who the Chamberlain Group is, if we could just get a-
JoAnna Sohovich: Okay.
Chamberlain Group is a global leader in access solutions. So you may know us from our LiftMaster and Chamberlain garage door openers, but we also make gate openers, telephone entry systems, and everything is brought together under our MyQ cloud.
Jeff White: I think that in our conversation before the show, I think that was what we found to be extremely extraordinarily interesting, is just the digital transformation of the Chamberlain Group more broadly and the integration of more technology. You were mentioning that this year was one of the very first years that you actually had more software people than you have hardware people. That’s got to change the overall, obviously, the makeup of the company, but just the feeling inside as well.
JoAnna Sohovich: Yeah, absolutely.
For decades we’ve been a global leader in durable hardware solutions, and we’re good at that. We produce and ship millions of them every year. But our transformation has been about transforming our company to add intelligence. So our vision expanded to, we give the power of access and knowledge. So as we made our products more intelligent and we connected them to the internet. We have a consumer app, now you can see when your garage door opens and closes, you can open and close it remotely. You can even have your Amazon Prime packages delivered into your garage. It changes the nature of what we’re offering. We’re thinking more about the end customer and what they want instead of only how do we open and close a barrier.
Carman Pirie: I think, too, that that has to… it changes revenue streams, obviously, because it brings services into play and not just a physical devices and machines and hardware. How has it changed how you go to market?
JoAnna Sohovich: Oh, we had to restructure the entire company. We were originally structured by product and brand and so we had our LiftMaster products and we had our Chamberlain products. We ended up having to restructure to be more aligned to the end customer. So we have our residential business unit, we have our commercial business unit, we have our automotive business unit. Those teams have to think about who’s the end user, what do they want, what are the problems that they encounter, what could make their lives better or their business better compared to the next best alternative? We’re creating solutions.
Carman Pirie: I’m really curious about the difference in managing a group, team of people shifting from hardware to software.
It seems to me, and maybe I’m a bit biased, this person I used to work for, who shall remain nameless, used to be of the view that you couldn’t have traditional creatives, TV, ad people, the radio copywriters, et cetera, working next to a website developers. Almost like these two people were so different that they couldn’t even work in the same company, let alone on the same initiatives. Which, you know, fast forward to 2019, would seem entirely ridiculous that you wouldn’t have a level of digital enablement in almost any marketing initiative. When you talked to him at the time, it was like, “What’s next? Dogs and cats living together?” I mean, you can’t imagine it. So I’m kind of curious, has there been a real shift in how you’ve had to think about the human side of the business as you have more and more people dedicated to driving the software side?
JoAnna Sohovich: Yeah, absolutely.
So probably the first manifestation is when we began to hire software engineers, we found that none of them wanted to live and work in the suburbs. So we had to rent a WeWork office in downtown Chicago and hire engineers to work in that office. Of course, those of you who know the nature of these types of offices, there is no dress code, they serve beer. It was totally different than our traditional office working environment. Since then it’s been interesting because we get about 50% of our job acceptances now in the suburbs, in our Oakbrook headquarters.
So we are mixing dogs and cats. But I’ve found that it’s not so much the software people being different, it is the engineers have a different preference for working than maybe the rest of the organization. So we’re finding that even though we have a very modern building, that is open and collaborative, they want to have a much more flexible workspace. They want to have stuff taken apart and they want to put stuff together and they want to ideate and they want to be able to work in different teams and pods and things like that. So we’re having to just rearrange and be more flexible in how we account for that.
Carman Pirie: Look, I think it’s just this week where WeWork office got into the news because I think an umbrella fell between the door and the wall and somebody been locked out of the WeWork office for the last three days because they can’t find a way to get through the door and get the umbrella. If we can somehow tie that kind of Twitter meme into this, I mean, it’s just fantastic and it’s a home run, Jeff.
Jeff White: Perhaps there’s a Chamberlain Group device that could be used to open that door.
JoAnna Sohovich: We do provide access and knowledge.
Carman Pirie: Well, sorry, was this supposed to be scripted? I mean, this is radio.
Jeff White: It’s true. It’s true.
I think one of the other things, how have you found the… I mean one of the themes of this conference has been around talent acquisition and getting the right people into your organization. I mean, as someone who hires software developers, I know how difficult it can be to find them. How have you found that compared to the past, where you would’ve been hiring primarily hardware engineers?
JoAnna Sohovich: I think the problem is twofold. So, first off, most people don’t think about working for a company like Chamberlain Group. You know, when I was a little girl playing Barbies, I didn’t think I was going to grow up and work for a garage door opener company. So just the awareness of who we are as a company, what our mission is and the technology opportunity that it creates for people is the first thing. The second thing, just really around finding talent and being able to tell that story. We have ramped up our co-op and intern programs significantly. And we’ve gone from just probably less than a handful to 60 this summer of co-ops and interns.
And so as we look at the demographics of our company, we have a lot more, per capita, Gen Z’s this year than we did three years ago because of that program. And it really is getting kids exposed to what could they be or what could they do. They see what a great company and culture it is, they are getting real work and challenging work and they want to come back. They accept the jobs that we offer. The second thing that we have to do is we have always been a very self-sufficient company, very vertically integrated. All of our hardware durable products were manufactured and designed by us alone. When you become a software system services company, you have to really begin to consider ecosystems and partnerships a lot more broadly. Not only in your end customer solution, the partnerships with other devices and other interoperability, but also as you look for talent. Sometimes you have to go away from Chicago, Illinois and partner with other people in other countries, where there’s great educational base and more talent that can be brought to your company.
Carman Pirie: JoAnna, I really appreciate you taking the time today just to share some of your insights and knowledge on The Kula Ring. It was great to meet you here at the conference and really enjoyed your chat as well on risk taking. We didn’t really dive into that much, but perhaps we can save that for another day. But thanks so much. Really appreciate it.
JoAnna Sohovich: Thank you. It was nice to meet you both.
Jeff White: Thanks.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring with Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
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