Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Missing Ingredient


Last week, Delphix held its annual Company Kickoff (CKO). It reminded me of what makes Delphix such a fantastic company, and energized the whole company about what’s to come for this new fiscal year. There are many observations and takeaways, with a lot to share, so I’ll break this into two or three blog posts. First allow me to share some personal reflection on the past year.


Having been at Delphix for over three years, I have enjoyed the ride that being a part of a disruptive startup has to offer. There have been successes, and there have also been setbacks. We have had some easy wins, and we have also had some scrappy battles. While there is no doubt of our success, being the pioneers and masters of our space, or the value we deliver to our customers; I couldn’t help feeling that we were lacking something. We were a company on the cusp of greatness, yet that that golden ring seemed to be just beyond our fingers. Of a surety, something had to change. And 2017 ushered in an abundance of change: we filled all of our senior leadership vacancies, had a few organizational realignments, and even product realignments. And we are definitely better for it; people were excited, bustling, and busy. Yet coming into this new fiscal year, something still felt like it was missing.




The evening before the official start of CKO, we had a welcome reception for everyone who had already arrived. The only way for me to describe the scene and to give it justice, is to liken it to distant family reuniting to celebrate a holiday. And why not such a description? For us at Delphix, this is a time of celebration: we reflect on the previous year’s tremendous accomplishments, and also share our plans and dreams for the future. And true to the analogy, there were many warm embraces, huge smiles, and boisterous bursts of laughter between those that are normally separated by thousands of miles. We had food, drink, and friends. Yes, indeed this was a joyous event.

The next day we our CKO was kicked off by our CEO, Chris Cook. Our event opened up with a video of Chris taking a car full of Delphix employees on a “Carpool Karaoke” drive from our HQ in Redwood City, California to the CKO location. The video showed a more personal side of Delphix, and the laughter among the Delphix family was infectious. As the video ended and Chris took the stage to an standing ovation, I looked around me to see everyone with grins from ear to ear. It was at this very moment I realized that the transformation of Delphix was happening, and that I was witnessing a metamorphosis before my very eyes. For the first time that I had ever witnessed, all of Delphix were in the moment...together. This was my first aha moment (more on that later).



As everyone returned to their seats, Chris began to share with us “The Delphix story,” painting a vision where data is no longer the constraint, but data moves at the speed of business. He shared with us what a world looks like where data is as easy and instant to conjure as a snap of the finger. He then challenged us to make that vision a reality, to execute on our mission to reduce the weight of data, accelerate the pace of discoveries and breakthroughs and inspire more aha moments.


Wait. What are aha moments? Chris explained that this is the moment when people discover something profound where they previously had no knowledge. This happens a lot with Delphix customers. It is so pronounced, that you can see it physically emoted in many cases. To be honest, this is one of the best parts of my job. To see someone finally grasp Delphix and then get slammed with the realization of the huge impact Delphix will have on their lives is absolutely amazing. I have seen people go wide eyed, shake their head in disbelief,  get out of their seat and walk around, and just stare at me with their mouth agape. Watching those life changing moments are just as life changing to me.


This was my second aha moment. Chris was ushering in a fundamental shift for Delphix. It’s not our job to sell software; but instead it’s our job to change our people’s lives for the better with our technology, unlocking as much innovation and potential as possible while freeing them from the shackles of their data constraints. This is a mission that I cannot refuse.





After his talk, Chris brought in former Blue Angels pilot, John Foley, to speak to us that morning. John shared some amazing stories about his exploits as a pilot, including functioning as a goodwill ambassador during times of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia. He taught us the value of his #gladtobehere initiative, where a heart of thanks and gratitude are the bedrocks of character and success. But the thing that stuck out the most to me was the precision that was needed to achieve the level of excellence that makes the Blue Angels the best. Yes, that precision takes thousands of hours of practice, teamwork, dedication, and skill. But what set the Blue Angels apart were their unity in focus and purpose. The hours of daily drills where they would sit in a briefing room and talk through the day’s flight, literally turn by turn, maneuver by maneuver. Why? Because they are all committed to precise execution; the consequences of even slight miscalculations could be catastrophic. That was their promise to each other: to be of one mind, focused on their execution and of those around them, in order to collectively be the best at what they do.


And it was the conclusion of John Foley’s presentation that I realized that we finally had what we had been missing: one vision, one mission, one focus, one promise, one team…Unity. We have a lot a unbelievable talent at Delphix – you won’t find better anywhere else. We’ve been been doing our best individually or as small groups, and that’s gotten us to a great place. Now that we’re unified, we are poised and ready to transform the way the world deals with its data.