Today we are talking to Mike Anderson, the CTO and Founder at Tealium. And we discuss how tribal knowledge is vital in engineering, tips for having candid conversations with your team members, and how to achieve bigger goals than you ever thought possible.
All of this, right here, right now, on the Modern CTO Podcast!
Mike Anderson founded Tealium in 2008 and has served as the chief architect behind the company’s market-leading tag management and unified marketing platforms. He previously worked at WebSideStory (Adobe Systems), where he served as a senior engineer on the core architecture team. As the builder and leader of the company’s professional services team, he oversaw analytics tag implementations for Disney, Best Buy, Target, Cisco, Citi, FedEx, and more.
Mike studied electrical engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and computer science at California State University San Marcos.
Tealium revolutionizes today’s digital businesses with a universal approach to customer data orchestration – spanning web, mobile, offline and Internet of Things devices. With the power to unify customer data into a single source of truth, Tealium offers a turnkey integration ecosystem supporting more than 1,000 client-side and server-side vendors and technologies.
The Tealium Universal Data Hub encompasses tag management, API hub, customer data platform and data management solutions that enable organizations to leverage real-time data to create richer, more personalized digital experiences across every team, technology, and customer touchpoint.
Find out more at tealium.com
- Offices of Tealium. Joel says they are the most beautiful thing. When they started the business they were 3 people. Pressured by first venture team to move to bay area. Said no wanted to do it in San Diego. Designed first office but it was stiff and functional. Second time around they had designers put in their input.
- Hosting events now like Girls in Tech. Showcased in Tech Cribs.
- How did you fall in love with technology? Needed to figure out something to do after he figured he wasn’t going to be a professional musician. Took a programming class at a junior college. Had a flair for it. Had a competition to write a program that would play battleship against another student and won the competition.
- Traffic school over the internet. Started a business about starting Traffic school over the internet.
- Coding around the clock at the time. 7 days a week for 6 months. Cut out on Sundays at 8 o’clock to go home and watch the sopranos.
- What was the inspiration behind founding Tealium? Left the traffic school after 4 years and took a year off. Got a dog and pajamas and looked at figuring out what he wanted to do next.
- Went to a company Web Side Story and worked as an individual contributor and was eventually acquired by a company Omniture. Ultimately they were purchased by Adobe. Ripping out the code and replacing it never really works.
- Created Tealium to insulate and future proof customers from having to rip and replace.
- What’s the core function of Tealium. Had an afinitity for the customer side of things. Helped customers with deployments and implementation. More engineers need to have the more customer facing role. A switch that flips. Some of the most successful engineers can do a little bit of a sales pitch.
- Was looking at other business and thought he wanted to do things a bit different. Normally customer success and sales are tethered together. He wanted to couple customer success with engineering. Lets you know what the customer is thinking and feeling and also binds the customer to the engineering. Core strategy put in place early on.
- People have bought in to the idea that they need Analytics on everything. That was the defacto solution. They helped pioneer that market. Now there is an explosion of vendors that use the data collection technique. The world is getting to where it runs on data.
- Everyone wants the data so now the deployment or launching of all the software it becomes a really difficult task. Used to be 2 or 3 softwares. Now it’s like 90.
- Their software helps do data orchestration. Build a solid foundation and help them build their data stack.
- The idea is that all of their solutions. If they get the data wrong, at least it’s consistent across the systems. Breed a culture with companies realize that they need a data foundation that describes the foundation, customer, product, whatever it might be.
- They start to smooth out the data, personas and interactions.
- Before Tealium a retailer had 4 audiences, after Tealium they had 96 audiences.
- Tealium can help you use data to make the best informed decisions. I’m done with this vendor and now I want this vendor.
- Now in the growth and scale phase. Learned at first that he was a startup guy and not a growth and scale guy.
- In tech you can’t just say “hey i’m going to reboot my engineering team”. Tribal knowledge is valuable in engineering. How do you hire the ones who have the start up skills? How do you invest in those employees to help them understand how they become a growth technologist and then a scale technologist.
- Have to have candid conversations with the technology people to let them know where they need to go.
- It’s not always a first class seat on the train after the conversations. It’s his job to use his history of where his skillset broke down and capped out to be transparent and about what he needs and where he needs them to go.
- There may be a little bit of cowardice in the way he does it. Can’t even afford to take them out to lunch in the early days. I know you have a wife and kids. I can’t pay much now but I can promise this. A lot of people took a big risk to bet on me. I owe it to them to take a bet on them.
- QA engineer he worked with at Web Side Story came over to Tealium. “This is the most perfect job I could ever want.” “Yeah because I made the job up around who you are”
- Do you find that it’s hard to get other people to take risks? He doesn’t. It’s infectious. You have to spend time with people, you have to get people in to that mindset.
- For us to fast track this, we need to do a road trip and spend some time together to find out if we compliment each other.
- Founder energy is essential for success. Went out for drinks with his VC investors. You’re over that 10 year mark. A lot of founders get itchy around this time. Asks how he’s feeling about it. For him, he loves this stuff and loves what they’ve built. Loves the people
- There are different summits that you want to hit. He wants the San Diego park to be called Tealium Park. Was playing at a golf tournament and the president of the padres gives a speech and people ask questions that weren’t good questions so he raised his hand and asked when Petco lose the naming rights and he would love to put his company’s name on the park.
- Big goal that truly drives him is looking at the employees. New car, new house, new life. How many people does he get in to the new house. How many does he get in to the new life.
- Some of the people’s biggest regrets were not setting their goals big enough.
- Leadership quadrant. Happy, cozy, boring, stressed. Life is best between stressed and happy. When you tackle the stress you’re happy about what you accomplished. Having over 450 employees and that many families and people counting on them. Challenge is an opportunity
- Very proud of the fact that in 2018 1.2 trillion searches. They handled 3 trillion events. Have to go back to the drawing board sometimes.
- Is there a persona that would be a good fit or type for your company? Industry is going towards software usability. Open to customer suggestions. Believes that engineers need to get a step closer to the customer. Understand the customer more. UX design UX research. The world will be decided on Usability. Information Architecture. Documentation and support documentation. Interested in people that want to take risks on product design and build cutting edge usability and design patterns. And understand that engineerings job is to get software out of the factory, there’s a whole other line of the business whose job it is to put it in the showroom. Creative people. People who look at apps and are like wow I like the design and feel of this.
- Personalization engines for developers. Building a stronger advocate. This is what they do. When you start to get in to subscription models. Looking at vendors. Looking at Churn prevention. Bringing people back by looking at what other similar personas enjoy.