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John Stetic

John Stetic

John Stetic

Serial Entrepreneur

John is a special person very dedicated to the success of everything he is involved in. He is always looking to grow as a business professional, learn from others and use that knowledge to further improve the people around him.

InsideSpin asked John the following questions about product management, life balance and what the future holds for IT:

You’ve been through a variety of startups over the early parts of your career, what were the common elements you saw that led them to underachieve or overachieve their business plans?

It's all about finding a problem that needs solving.  At a few companies that I worked for, the sales team was busy selling a prospect a problem not the solution.  This was not the sales teams fault, rather the company was trying to solve a problem that people did not have, or were not all that interested in paying money to solve it.  So, bottom line, find a problem that people want a solution for and get moving. 

Finding a mentor can be an important step for a business professional with aspirations to one day be a CEO, what are the characteristics of the leaders you saw that are typically learned more from a mentor than time on the job (where there is often no time to learn)? Is a mentor a necessary thing to reach appropriate heights in your career?

Having someone that you can have an open conversation with about your thoughts and ideas is key.  Being able to bounce new ideas off of someone who has been there can save you a number of missteps. The key here is to recognize that everyone has their own biases.  So soliciting someone's advice and councel is one thing, what you do with it is all up to you.  Through my career I have been drawn to people that share my passion for new ideas and thinking about how something could work, rather than how it could fail.  I have also liked working with leaders that have pushed me past my comfort zone, but made it clear that they are there to help if I need it.

The technology industry continues to undergo rapid change – as you look out over the next 10 to 25 years what would you predict are the biggest changes likely to occur?

I remember reading books about the "future" as a kid and being so excited to live in it, well here I am future, and I'm still waiting for my jet pack!   Seriously though, one of the key things I read about the future is that using the lens of today to judge what tomorrow will bring can make for some poor predictions.  So I'm going to try to put on my tomorrow glasses to answer this.  There will have been some breakthrough that will have opened up new realm of possibilities, just like the semi-conductor did for communication, or the air foil for transportation.  What will that be in 10 to 25 years, something at the DNA level, something to manipulate time or maybe a better way to manage your inbox?  Whatever it is it will have an impact that we can't yet comprehend.  Not because it’s so fantastic, but because we don't yet have the right lenses to look at what it can do.  So I keep my mind open to what the future will deliver.

On a grounded note, I do think, like many others, that cloud computing will have a real impact on the global enterprise software and hardware market.  There are so many proof points on this that they almost seem trite to mention: Saleforce.com's has 72,000 customers using a cloud based CRM solution.  You can buy compute power in the cloud from a bookstore (Amazon EC2).  Google is selling Gmail to companies.  We will see a shift in which vendors an IT organization does business with.  Instead of buying hardware and network gear for the data center, IT teams will be buying hosted application (SaaS), massively saleable development platforms (PaaS), and on-demand expandable compute resources (LaaS) from a host of new vendors, as well as today's vendors that can evolve with the market.

If you were to start your own business tomorrow, what would be the first 3 hires you would make and why?

Assuming it's a software business, two kick ass developers and one kick ass money guy.  This is really driven by building a team with the right set of skills to bring a new idea to market.  I know parts of the business, but I can't do it all.  I would want people who can build product fast so we can get into the market quickly.  I also want someone that can run the books.  I know how to read a P&L and calculate a cash to cash cycle, but there are also professionals that can do it.  I'd be looking for a partner to help run the business from the money side.

Product management continues to be a skill hard to come by in the industry – companies struggle to develop within but often fall short in this critical area. What are the main characteristics of product management excellence that someone could focus on if they were to build towards this important position in their career?

a. Information synthesis.  Product management is all about making choices, and there is never a clear "right choice".  You need to be able to take different types of data from different inputs and shape it into something useful.

b. Presentation skills:  A Product Manager's currency is ideas and being able to clearly articulate them is so critical. Whether trying to present an investment opportunity that can expand the market for a product; or talking about how a feature should work you need to be able to get your point across.

c. Cross functional skills:  Let's be frank, a product manager can't be successful at their job without a team around them.  You need development to build the product, marketing to market it, sales to sell it, support to support it.  A product manager needs to be able to interact with each of these groups, and talk in their language.

d. Ideas: As I said before a Product Manager's currency is ideas.  Without a creative mind those ideas can be hard to come by.  You need to be able to seek out new ideas; through research, talking with customers, brainstorming, and a little day dreaming.  If you can't keep the idea well full, it's going to be hard to keep driving a product forward.

You have gone on with Novell after the PlateSpin acquisition; presumably life is even busier with a bigger company. What would you recommend people focus on to maintain the proper life-work balance as they go through a transition from working in a small company environment to a much larger one?

Life is always busy, no matter where you work.  It's just sometimes a different type of busy.  I try to practice two things that I think have helped with my work-life balance:

Be at home when I'm at home. I have a busy travel schedule, so when I’m at home, I try to be at home.  This means getting to my kids soccer practice instead of staying late at the office.  Turing off my blackberry from dinner to the kids bed time.  It's all about valuing the time when you are at home and making the most of it.

Take vacation.  The world does not come to an end when you go on vacation.  It's such an easy thing to do and yet so many people skip out on it (I used to too).  You need the time to recharge and block your job out for a while. If you have to be available while you're on vacation (try not to be though) pick a time window where people can reach you.  Also if you are in a leadership position, being on vacation is a great chance to see how the team does without you, and you can give someone the chance to step up while you are away.

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