Making career and job decisions is hard. Most people involve God in decisions like this. It’s a big deal. After I left one of the best jobs at Microsoft, I really wanted to make a difference in the community. I feel like I’ve been able to do that, but the adventure was far from over. You rarely know the full story. Some day I should put together a behind the scenes book together that talks you through why I zigged instead of zagged.
In 2011, I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to work for the LDS Church to run their Collaboration Environment. I had a fantastic time. I built an amazing team and met some incredibly talented people who could move mountains, mission accomplished and we really did. I hope you meet or get an opportunity to work with some of those people in this small community. In 2013, the church had 20,000 new volunteers they needed to accommodate (they changed the age of the missionaries from 19 to 18 for men and 21 to 19 for women) and the budgets needed to shift.) I was happy to have been part of an incredible amount of change at the church in the collaboration space. It was an incredible opportunity and one that was destiny. Some day you’ll have to ask me about my Jonah and the Whale experience when I was in Joffa and realized I needed to go work for the church.
SharePoint Team at the LDS Church
Not pictured. Our awesome interns.
My Contract with ViewDo Labs
After that I had the opportunity to work at a couple of startups. ViewDo Labs was a fun startup. Great people, exciting opportunites, and lots to learn. ViewDo was a contract position, that I evaluated and renewed up to 6 months until they went into sustainer mode and then took another step back… and I quote from the VDL blog, “Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we announce that starting February 1st, ViewDo Labs will no longer support ViewPoint Enterprise. Unfortunately, the cost of running an analytics product is high and with dwindling usage, it is no longer in our best interest to sustain ViewPoint Enterprise.”
Startups Sometimes Don’t Work Out
Many know I spent some time with on Presales, Business Development, Marketing, and Management. Since the other places I spent some time are still in business let me not name names and share what happened. I was in a great position to join startups and lend them my abilities, but not all businesses succeed at first and not all opportunities are a good fit. These past couple of years have been trying as Microsoft has shifted it’s marketing muscle to the cloud.
- Was told “After this next check we won’t make payroll.” No one was getting a paycheck. That changed to… Only those billing will get paid for what they billed. I stuck around for a few weeks and worked on some deals, but ultimately found something more reliable. Still friends with those that are still there and wish them the best.
- Was told one thing going in, and the environment changed including losing my boss and restructure of the entire department. The person who hired me was no longer around to explain why I was hired and provide direction. The needs changed and we decided mutually that it was better if I look elsewhere. No burned bridges. I don’t believe in that. We live in a small community, so it’s important to keep good relationships with everyone. Still only wish these guys the best.
Why Move to California?
When I had the opportunity to move to California I took advantage of it. I was born in the bay area and my wife is from Southern California. I hadn’t lived in California since I was 5, but many summers we visit Southern or Northern California. While I grew up in Idaho and am extremely fond of the mountains, I have always wanted to live by the beach. That’s really been a big dream. I learned surfing up in Washington, but I need more practice.
A couple of summers ago, I did a southern California User Group Tour starting in San Diego to Orange County and Los Angeles. It was here I first met some of the Hershey Technologies people. I first met the SharePoint MVP Haaron Gonzales while speaking in Mexico City. I met Tom Castiglia when I joined the User Group committee and hung out while working on the Speaker Dinner for the SharePoint Saturday San Diego. I had some crazy ideas about fire dancers and hula dancers on the beach in San Diego. With his help we were able to pull it off. It pays to think big.
Everyone loves puppies this is pinky and stumpy our Chihuahua Dachshund mix – Chiweenies
I’m very excited about my new house and cute puppies. Just closed about a week ago. Oceanside, CA a San Diego suburb is my new home. I’m in a good place. Feeling Zen. My kids are in good schools and making good friends. Life is good.
When I started looking for work based off some startup challenges at a previous place of employment that I don’t want to get into. I reached out to the User Group committee and asked for suggestions. It was there that I kicked up conversations with Tom. I was surprised to find out that Hershey Technologies has been working in the ECM space many years before SharePoint was even a concept. I went on the wayback machine and saw their site from 1997 (crazy!). They were supporting scanning, printing, faxing and data capture into ECM with Kofax and essentially doing software and hardware support since 1991! In all of the companies I’ve worked for I’ve never had someone celebrate a 20 year reunion, but that is not uncommon here at Hershey. (Honestly, I did join a Jeff Raikes going away bash, and he had put in 27 years at MS… 20 years more than mine. We had some great chats since he was leaving Microsoft at the same time I was.) Seems like half the team has worked here for 10+ years! What I found was while they are a small company, they aren’t exactly a startup. What I see is a family. Tom heads up the SharePoint and Office365 practice and Neal drives sales and the Kofax business with Arjay. Tom and Neal have been running the business very consistently for more than 20 years with serious reliability. Their clients love them. I felt something here that I really liked. They are all putting in serious effort and enjoying what they do. They take on hard challenges and work together. They supported my focus on community and in helping customers succeed. They’ve supported my ideas of around focus on adoption, governance, and in adding real business value.
Over the last couple of years I have encouraged people in IT to pivot their skills to ensure they aren’t left with skills that are out of date. Just like those who stick to the command line… STSADM really has become obsolete… you better learn scripting and powershell or you’re going to have a hard time administering SharePoint in an automated way. I’ve had a passion for community, social marketing, content marketing and marketing. The opportunity to own marketing for Hershey Technlogies has been an exciting proposition. Not only can I help provide direction around the Hershey XenDocs products, but I can step in and line up webinars, events, SEO, website content marketing. In fact I just launched the website http://hersheytech.com Ultimately I’m helping connect solutions with people who need help. I don’t really have to do any selling when I match the best solutions to the people who need it. There are customers who need help and I try to be there when they need me. I say, awareness is the biggest problem in the vendor space. If I can do more to help provide awareness around the tools we provide around legacy ECM migration to SharePoint, and data capture to SharePoint with Kofax and XenDocs. I can strengthen both my marketing skills and hone in on strategies that can help in any industry.
You can read more about Hershey Technologies.
FAQ – I’ve gotten some interesting questions while out at events. Here are a few questions and simple answers
Has your travel requirements caused problems with your employment?
No. Travel has never been a reason that’s made me leave. I do feel like I was travelling too much while I was at Dell Software (was known as Quest). They told me I was traveling more than I needed to, and it was true. I was giving myself more travel than I needed to. But in any of the startups travel was not an issue. I do love travel and I work out an agreement before I start work to set proper expectations around international events for both parties.
Why don’t you just go independent?
While I see huge satisfaction in building a business, I also see the commitment it requires and the sacrifices. I need more stability at home than what my own startup would require. I would be more willing to do it, but my wife isn’t as excited about the sacrifices it requires. So for both our sanity, I’m ok with making someone else profitable. I’ve done independent work, and I really don’t like the taxes, the lead time, dealing with collecting payments, accounting, and all that jazz. I have less headaches and stress while working for the man or the woman J
Why all these startups? Couldn’t you just go work for Google or Microsoft?
I did enjoy my 7 years at Microsoft and would consider working for Microsoft again. I’ve been approached by Google and Amazon, but I’m now enjoying my new life in San Diego. Going to work at HQ for a company in Silicon Valley while exciting isn’t in the plan for the near future. The commitment I’ve made to Hershey is solid. Hoping that things work out for them and me. I got a call from Microsoft a couple days after I joined. Sorry, too late.
Are your travel plans associated with the Church? Seems like you visit a lot of LDS temples.
I love seeing and visiting the LDS Temples doting the globe. There are 146 operating temples 13 under construction and 14 announced. I’ve visited over 65 different temples and it brings me peace where ever I am in the world when I see one. I’ve got others in the community taking photos of temples as well.
My daily commute takes me right near my favorite temple, the San Diego Temple, where I was married 20 years ago this August.
Are you going to be traveling less?
I still get opportunities to speak. I weigh those with work commitments. I have worked out an arrangement with work, where they support some of my international speaking, events and community building. So I will still be doing a fair bit of travel compared to most. Compared to what I have done, it should be similar. I am still on a quest to visit every country in the world, but it’s getting a lot harder and so it requires more planning and more visas.
What about independent work like product reviews and webinars with other vendors?
While I have reduced a lot of that, I still enjoy doing panels like the Enterprise Social panel I did last week with IT Unity and last month with Cosign and will be presenting at #SPBiz15 in a couple of days. I have written up some simple intros for Content Panda and Office365Mon in the last month. I am in touch with a few vendors that want to do joint webinars and product reviews. I’m always looking for community sponsored travel funds so I can reach farther places. I don’t ask Hershey to pay for my international conferences.
What events are you doing? Where can I see you?
I did SharePoint Saturday Silicon Valley a week or so ago, and plan to support another one in San Diego and Orange County with the right folks involved. My current plans will find me at the Iceland User group (Aug 1 – TBD), Modern Worksplace Summit in Oslo Norway, Slovenian SharePoint Conference, European SharePoint Conference in Sweden and 8th
Latin American Simposium in Santiago, Chile (we’re looking for sponsors).
I’m already looking at Algeria, China, Persia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Brunei in 2016. If you’re associated with those SharePoint communities we need to start talking… I do have some contacts in those areas, but please reach out. Africa is always a target, I always find lots of things I can do to improve communities and support the people there. My email is joel.oleson @ gmail.com