"I excel in leading people through messy, ambiguous, chaotic environments that swing between incredible highs and lows with no exact path ahead."
In the past twenty years I've moved between cities and across the globe six times. Three of those times with my wife and children. Once with a rabbit.
No, I'm not on the run from the law! (I can't speak for the rabbit, though). I've been in pursuit of opportunity.
I didn't know it at the time, but, in hindsight, certainly since I was a teenager, I've always sought out things that made me come alive. I've often chosen the hardest path -- the chaotic, daunting, spooky one which any normal person would definitely avoid. But that's the thing, I don't like normal. I've always been one to challenge the status-quo.
Turns out I don't follow the map; I like to create it.
Read the whole story below or just jump to the recent stuff.
It really ramped up when I dropped out of university...
In the mid 1990's I left a journalism degree at university to go work at a tech company - because technology lit me up. Also, because I discovered journalism didn't pay much to begin with. And because I joined the beer club and didn't get to many classes.
Remember, this was at the time when the internet was about to boom. I was meeting people from around the world on ICQ (one even travelled from Canada to stay with me and my parents -- hi Jenny!), building websites on Geocities and getting access to secretive FTP servers where I could access amazing software (may not have been "legit", but nobody knew back then, right?).
It was exciting -- relatively new and there was no clear direction on where it was all headed. I was drawn to it.
Little did I know at the time I'd end up at that same tech company some years later...as the General Manager.
I started to poke the box.
Just as the new millennium was rolling in and everyone was panicking about the Y2K bug (remember that?) I decided to pick up my life from Melbourne, Australia and move to the other side of the country - Perth. I landed there with virtually nothing, certainly no job. My motivation? This time it was a girl that made me come alive. She's now my wife.
A pattern was emerging and it became the basis for many things in my life, even what I'm doing now. I wasn't afraid to poke the box - try new things, throw myself in the deep-end, get out of my comfort zone. I wasn't afraid of failure.
I landed an amazing job in Perth working at an international technology franchise company. My role was to train new franchisees in the business - from business systems specific to the franchise to general business skills including sales, marketing and accounting.
In truth, I learned so much from the franchisees I was training - often men and women with 30-40 years of business behind them.
Bank managers, senior executives, chartered accountants. Folks that were investing considerable money to run their own businesses in perhaps what was the last ten years or so of their working lives.
For two and a half years I soaked in all the knowledge I could and I really found a passion for small businesses and startups.
I experienced my first IPO with this company. It was addictive.
Then, an old friend called me...
Meanwhile, the tech company I worked with after leaving university continued moving in to the B2B services space as client-server networking and the internet became more prevalent in the early 2000's.
The owner, who'd become a friend, called me in late 2002 asking if I'd come back to help him grow the business, knowing I'd had some great exposure to building businesses at the franchise company. The catch? It was back in Melbourne. Without hesitation, my partner and I picked up and headed east for this next adventure.
So commenced an amazing seven year period where we grew that business and had tremendous success within the industry, winning multiple awards. We grew nationally, forming key partnerships to deliver our services in some locations as well as opening up new state offices.
And guess what? I moved back to Perth again in 2006 to open our first state branch office. That was the first opportunity I had to essentially build a new business from nothing.
It went very well - so well that in 2009 I found myself standing on stage at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, USA, accepting a worldwide award for a solution we developed in the state branch office I'd established just three years earlier.
I began speaking at Microsoft conferences and events, helping other Microsoft partner businesses prepare for the inevitable change. After all, it was 2009 and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was about to declare "we're all in" when it came to the cloud.
Soon, Microsoft asked if I'd like to join them to focus full time on the role of helping their partners transform their business models to the new era of subscription and cloud services. Having big corporate experience was one thing I was missing and so, in the spirit of diving in and trying something new, I made the tough decision to leave the great tech company I'd help to grow over seven years for the exciting opportunity to help many businesses transform and grow.
Of course, it meant another move over to the east side of Australia, with my now wife and our then 2 year old son.
Working at Microsoft during that time was an amazing experience. The "cloud" was just gaining traction and my job was to help Microsoft partners move to new business models, uncover new market opportunities and develop new streams of revenue.
It was both daunting - I had responsibility for figures that ran well in to the hundreds of millions of dollars - and rewarding. I again found myself in the privileged position of talking to many seasoned business owners, CEOs and Directors of a diverse number of businesses where I was both able to assist them and soak up their collective wisdom.
We were viewed as a forward thinking tech company moving in to subscription based business models. Microsoft came knocking.
Then I made a decision which led to some people telling me I was crazy!
And maybe I was...a good kind of crazy! I left a successful five year career at Microsoft to move my family across the world and take an opportunity at a small, relatively unknown startup in Bellevue, Washington.
The connection was one of my old managers at Microsoft who knew my real passion was working in the nitty gritty of fast growing businesses.
So, once more, my wife and I - now with two children in tow - decided to poke the box and move our lives to the Pacific North West USA.
My hyper-growth startup tours of duty.
Partner channels and programs
I was originally brought in to Auth0 to establish and build a global partner channel - which we believed at the time was the right strategy to fuel top line revenue growth.
But six months in we pivoted due to the success we were seeing in inbound enterprise customer sales. Our channel strategy was put on ice and instead we needed to focus on the onboarding, activation, ongoing delivery of value and, ultimately, the renewal of enterprise customers.
And so in mid 2015 I was tasked with building the practice and team we called Enterprise Customer Success. At that point in time we had perhaps a dozen enterprise customers.
Over three years, reporting to and working closely with our company co-founder and CEO, I built out a highly-motivated and successful global customer success management team from the ground up, responsible for all aspects of the post-sale customer lifecycle from onboarding to renewal.
At the end of my tenure in this role I managed ten direct reports around the globe (North America, APAC, EMEA) who were responsible for a portfolio of 400 enterprise customers, representing growth of around 40x in 3 years. In a period where Auth0 as a whole experienced crazy growth.
This is where I particularly learned I excel in leading people through messy, ambiguous, chaotic environments that swing between incredible highs and lows with no exact path ahead. Although, it came with its doubts.
Cultivating company culture
In early 2018 our company hiring plan showed such rapid growth that we were forecasting almost half of the employees at the company would have a tenure of less than 12 months by the end of that year. This represented a significant concern for our CEO who knew protecting and cultivating our culture was paramount to continuing success.
I was in a unique position to leverage my knowledge and tenure at the company - and my passions - and took on the role of Director of Culture throughout this period of explosive growth. Throughout my tenure in this role, I built programs and functions to support and cultivate Auth0's already amazing culture, ensuring the foundations to scale from 200 to over 500+ staff, and a USD$1B valuation, without losing its "soul". I championed the move from what we thought of as a "remote culture" to being one of a "relationship culture". I worked closely with the CEO to refine and nurture core values - how we go about doing things around here - weaving them deeply in to everyday programs and engagement.
Auth0's culture and success as a company with a large remote workforce (around 50%) is now continually recognized as one of the most forward thinking in the industry.
Me (left) and Auth0 CEO, Eugenio Pace.
My wife gave me this as I was deciding on the startup opportunity - it wouldn't have happened without her support and ability to organize our family.
A "foundations builder".
After four years, my family and I returned to Australia - still with the same startup that'd now grown to 500 people across the globe, a recognized leader in the identity & access management space and, in May 2019, achieved a valuation of over US$1B after a Series E fundraise of US$103M.
Moving back to Australia and having been at Auth0 to see through the “unicorn” status was a good point of reflection for me on what I’d achieved and wanted to do next.
In July 2019 I hung up my Auth0 boots.
On leaving, Auth0’s CEO described me as a “foundations builder”:
“I feel extremely fortunate to have had you for this part of our journey. You were a foundations builder, on top of which many things stand which we take for granted today. These continue to be extremely important for our mission.
I’m happy and honored to have worked with you during these years. Thanks for setting us in the right direction.”
So now, I’m in pursuit of new projects - focusing on areas I’m passionate about or have great interest in learning more about. I’m seeking out conversations with interesting and inspired folks to see where they lead. I’m getting involved with early stage startups where I may be able to add value from my experience.
I've founded MX Growth, where we'll focus on building practices in areas including organizational culture and health, startup execution frameworks and remote workforce engagement.
And I’m dabbling in personal passion projects, just for fun.
I'm looking forward to the journey, the great conversations and continuing to learn more.