Today we are talking to Doug Brent, the VP of Technology Innovation at Trimble. And we discuss deploying a strategy throughout the organization, Insight on where to apply yourself as a CTO and the importance of setting a culture of technical excellence.
All of this, right here, right now, on the Modern CTO Podcast!
Doug Brent joined Trimble as Vice President of Technology Innovation in July 2011. In this role, he is a leader for Trimble technology strategy, catalyzes cross-company technology collaboration, and works to enhance Trimble-wide engineering and innovation culture. Active projects at Trimble include augmented reality (particularly HoloLens-based), software re-platforming and autonomy components and solutions.
Doug has a thirty-plus year record of management and leadership in high technology companies in Silicon Valley – as VP of Engineering of several startups including Whistle Communications and Packet Design, as a general manager at IBM and in product development at Apple. Doug also served as Chief Operating Officer at the international Internet governance organization ICANN from 2006 to 2010.
Doug also serves on the advisory board of Piaggio Fast Forward (focusing on new forms of transportation) and is on the Board of Student Mentor.
- Tremble is about 3 billion in revenue, 12k+ employees
- Construction with AR with Hololens
- AR technology is still pretty prototypey. But it is going to change the game especially in the industrial world
- Trimble started out as a pioneer in GPS. 40 years ago. A major player in GNSS satellite systems. How do you take position in the industrial world and take it for automation and autonomy. Connecting physical and digital worlds.
- Participates in agriculture, transportation, construction, geospatial
- Accuracy of a phone is 5 meters, Trimble is a couple centimeters of accuracy. 80% of farm tractors are automated
- How has Trimble changed in the last 10-15 years.
- Skeptic in consumer vehicle autonomy
- The difference between what we have now to a fully functional system, there’s a long way to go.
- Resist the current thinking about autonomy. Level 1 – 5
- The value proposition isn’t enough. GM Super Cruise is a better product promise.
- There’s a discontinuity from driver assist to fully autonomous.
- Stopping is an entirely valid action. Task Automation, such as the paving situation.
- Start with a lot of digital models, roads, farm fields, buildings. 3D printing models in the real world.
- What are you most excited about at Trimble. Automation uses less resources, less load on the environment. Positive social impact
- Lots of talking about Machine learning.
- 100% turnover in trucking industry every 12 months. 2 factors – What routes they drive. How far and how often they send you away from home. Use ML to make it less likely they’ll leave
- As technologists we get so lost on the beauty of the tool that we lose focus on the value
- Application of modern AI models to solve industrial problems.
- 20-40% of construction is waste.
- The purpose of BimObject was because of the amount of waste he saw in the industry was insane.
- Acquired Sketchup from google
- For structural steel design they have a design program – Content driven design
- Constructible 3D Models
- How construction has so much waste
- Buildings aren’t products, they’re projects – Answer is: Slack for Contractors
- Talking about InVisionApp
- Collaboration is hard – Slack isn’t the answer
- Insight on where you apply yourself as the CTO. What’s the specific problem you have to solve? 100 Acquisitions in the last 10 years. Have to be close to the customer. Make Decentralized decisions. How do you get commonality. Look at a glaring problem or a glaring opportunity.
- Have a common set of building blocks for cloud applications.
- Encouragement, then get a stick out.
- A Steady diet of what I say is a recipe to lose.
- What can we do to get a sense of who we are as a company. Hackathon, exercise creativity
- What are your thoughts on strategy and deploying it throughout the organization. It’s a fundamentally hard problem. Recognizing that no one person will have THE strategy for a big complex beast. Don’t always have the answer but it’s an ART but the strategy should be led by the people are closest to the customer and the business. Cross company strategy issues that matter.
- Setting culture is very important. Company culture. Technology. Sharing everything. Technical excellence. Highlighting the best people and their successes. Not shying away from failure. Just making sure to learn from them
- What does your direct team look like. Have 400 people reporting to him directly.
- The ability to influence the entire organization. Developing trust in relations.
- Management is important but it’s not the primary purpose. It’s more on the leadership side.
- On advisory board of Piaggio. Vespa, looking at the future of transportation.
- Very easy to get inside your own head. Advisory role gives you a chance to be in someone else’s problem set
- What are some of the problems you see with LeaderBits. Transitioning from IC to Leader. Analytics on existing leaders.
- Do you do any public speaking on behalf of the company?
- Excavator can dig a level trench.
- Advice you would give yourself 10 years ago. You hear people’s life stories. Some of the most exciting places he’s worked were at places that he’s never even heard of. Look for the opportunities as they exist. Seize them and enjoy them