What Have You Lerned, lately?

  • “I don’t want to learn anything new, I just want to get through the next couple years and then retire” – actual quote from a CIO at a London conference I hosted.
  • “I know COBOL, I just want to work on those projects” – actual quote from a Professional Services employee at a large technology company.
  • “I went to school, I’m done learning new things” – A recruit during an interview
    “I am so SMRT” – Homer Simpson

I’ve done many, many discussions and interviews with technical people over the years and it never ceases to amaze me when I find someone who refuses to keep up to date on the latest technologies.  To me it’s part of the job-description – stay on top of the latest technology, trends, processes and anything that helps to be a better technologist.

Continuous learning may be mandatory for any technical person, but also business people better serve their companies and careers when they look to technology to be more valuable to their employer.   A finance person who educates themselves on analytics tools such as ‘R’, Tableau or even MapReduce can provide tremendous value, and knowing these technologies will help their career advancement.  It’s everyone’s job to be technically literate and to contribute.

The best thing about staying technically relevant is that it’s very low cost or free!  Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others provide free online tutorials and even cloud resources to learn valuable skills on their platforms.  Open Source software is free and there are communities who ‘meet up’ to discuss best practices.  And, as always, you can reach out to many, many people willing online to give you advice and help.

I’m talking to students this evening at Oakland University and my message to them is:


What I Want to Be When I Grow Up


I am THE Venture Technologist.  Nice, maybe I should start referring to myself in the third-person.

Thirty-six years programming, testing, architecting, operating, managing…

After thirty-six years working for startups, founding startups, performing due-diligence for M&A work, and now mentoring startups and doing due-diligence and consulting for private-equity investments, I have finally defined myself.   Funk Brother, Rock-&-Roll genius.  No, wait, those dreams will have to wait a while.

What we do at Compuware Ventures that is different from most VCs is focus on technology delivery models that give us insight into higher probability for success.  Apps are important, great programmers and designers are critical, the right mix of technology and management are key, but it’s the mix of all-of-the-above and the balance of business acumen that makes a startup successful.  I love taking a technical approach to evaluate a business plan because the technical DNA of a company, no matter how large or small, expresses a lot about the company, their people, and their probability for future growth and success.

CODE DOESN’T LIE.When I was a young pup at programming, almost all of my peers hated to work on someone else’s code.  Mostly because there were a lot of different technical complexities  that we had to contend with and many times the code was difficult to decipher.  I always prided myself  on my ability to ‘decode’ another programmer’s program and understand every ‘moving part’ of the system.  I made it fun and tried to imagine what someone was thinking when they put together their solution.  The coding, design, quality control, testing, source-code repositories, architecture, operations, support; all are critical to a whole-product solution and each can break a system’s integrity if not put together properly.  We can do a complete code and process review of any system, and material weaknesses, as well as value, are exposed very quickly,  We can also find weaknesses and strengths simply by talking to the technical folks involved.

PROGRAMMERS DON’T LIE.Maybe I should state that as “PROGRAMMERS CAN’T LIE”.  I don’t know if it’s because we’re inherently ethical or we’re just bad liars!  In any case, technical people are very transparent and talking to them always gives us the best insight and evaluation of an organization.  In addition to the knowledge we acquire about the company’s technology, we also understand how well they work as a team and communicate with their customers and stakeholders.  Great ideas and technology can’t succeed if the organization is dysfunctional.

There are many things to look at when evaluating these opportunities, and the technology of any venture is a critical component to the probabilityof success.  I’ve finally grown up, I’m Mr. venture Technologist.  So, when you give your pitch, run the numbers, tell your story, remember, I’m waiting to talk to the techie behind the scenes.

And I pity the programmer who tries to fool me!