(Woodstock, Illinois, October 23, 2017, by Cirina Catania) The news of Jen Soulé’s nomination for a Stevie Award was no surprise to this reporter. We’ve tracked Jen for several years now as she has led Other World Computing, along with Founder, Larry O’Connor, to a leading position as manufacturer and supplier of high-end tech and computing products. She is a rare person in the corporate world, someone who places personal relationships as important as bottom-line profits. Could this be one of the reasons that OWC has risen from a garage start-up to an $85 million organization with distributors worldwide? We think so.
Listen to Jen’s interview on YouTube here (full transcript below):
This is Cirina Catania with US Times. I am with Jen Soule, President of Other World Computing Incorporated, a North American based company providing cutting-edge computer technology products for serious professionals, prosumers and DIY customers worldwide. She’s been with OWC for over 20 years starting on the sales team in 1997, later heading a product development, then moving on to President. She has a unique background for a tech exec. Jen graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Secondary English Education. I like that. Hi Jen.
Tell me, how does this educational background help with your approach to management and leadership in this tech company?
Jen Soule: Sure. I think I guess to the start, I think that the key to any management or leadership position is having that interest in people and that appreciation that we’re all driven by different things or different strengths and weaknesses. I think in education, you spend almost as much time learning how to teach as you do on the actual subject matter that you’re going to teach.
lI didn’t necessarily recognize it initially, but as you work with people more and more, you experience those managers or those individuals who are so focused on what they’re doing that they lose that there are people on their teams or that they interact with that they need to also help along or include in whatever it is they’re doing.
I think that the education background really instilled in me that it’s about the people or it’s about the people that you’re working with not necessarily just the work that you’re doing.
Cirina Catania: OWC is really known for the tutorials that they have and the educational assistance that they have, is that true? How does that all tie in?
Jen Soule: Oh, absolutely. Larry O’Connor, our founder and CEO, he started the company really to do that, to do just that. He experienced this lack of information in the world. He was 14 at the time, this was a while ago and there’s no information about upgrades right? The joke was that you bought your computer and it was obsolete the moment you opened it, but what started out his path and ultimately the path for the company and what really excites me about it is it’s just running to empower and educate people to take what they have and make it better.
That could be in making it faster, that could be in adding ports, that could be adding functionality, but that’s what gets us all excited is when people have those aha moments and like, “Hey, I learned how to do this thing. I didn’t know how to upgrade my computer. I wasn’t sure I could, but I watched a video and now I can.”
We literally get comments every single day about what’s exactly along those lines of how excited people were that they figured out how to migrate data or back something up or format even a drive. There’s all those little pieces that you start to take for granted that somebody does find really useful when they need it.
Cirina Catania: I’ve actually used it myself quite often. I’m actually recording this using an old 2011 MacBook Pro, but I upgraded it with one of your SSD drives and I’m a techy so I thought, “Oh, I can do this myself, but I really … I watched the video and it was very helpful.” I’ve had quite a few people ask me how I can still use this old laptop and I tell them why and explain to them that they can get the equipment by ordering it and then they just watch a tutorial and it’s really easy. Other people have done it as well.
Jen Soule: Oh, I love that.
Cirina Catania: Yeah.
Jen Soule: Right? And it still can do very cool things.
Cirina Catania: Before we get too far into this, for people who don’t know what OWC does, can you explain to us exactly what OWC is as a company and what they do?
Jen Soule: Oh sure, yeah. At our heart I think we’re a solutions company. Obviously, we do that through empowering and educating customers as much as through the products that we offer, but it’s … Our focus is our storage and upgrades and connectivity. A lot of what we do is make sure that people can do the work that they want to do with the machine that they have, that that investment that they’ve made continues to be valuable to them and then also once they’ve created something, personally or professionally that then it’s safeguarded.
That’s the types of solution that we provide but yeah, at our heart we really see ourselves as providing solutions and really enabling people to do … To get the technology out of the way so they can do what they want to do with it.
Cirina Catania: You’re an Apple developer, how does this affect the way you approach the market?
Jen Soule: I don’t think it really impacts how we approach the market because it gives us access to early versions of the OS before there’s anything publicly available and information like that. It helps in our development process and make sure that we can upgrade or update our customers and let people know, “Oh hey, when this new OS comes, you might have to download this firmware.”
Again, keep continuing that education piece because if you want things to continue to work, you might need to do this or we may delay. I guess yeah, it does impact it a little bit. Sorry, I have to go back on that. In some instances, software or hardware there will be a point where we recognize that it’s important to get a driver in order to really have something be plug and play.
We want the driver in the OS. If there is an OS release pending, we’ll go ahead and hold off on announcing it or starting to ship it because we’ll wait for the bulk of our customers trying to update OS very quickly. Then they’ll be in a position to just literally plug and play rather than have to download a driver.
Cirina Catania: I’m sitting here and I’m picturing you in your office and I’m actually wondering a little bit, thinking about you and your day. What’s a typical day like for the president of a major corporation? A tech corporation. First of all, is there a typical day and if there is, what is it?
Jen Soule: Right. I don’t know that there’s any typical day, but certainly I think the consistency regardless of whether it’s meeting with maybe my team members one-on-one or going to lunch or walking around or having broader management meetings as I think the part that I’m constantly playing is looking for those opportunities to either help bridge a gap, get somebody to maybe work with someone in another department to solve a problem or make suggestions or ask questions about different obstacles.
A lot of times, people are very crafty and resilient and when something pops out, that makes less than ideal workflow, they’ll start to work around it and then you don’t even realize you’re working around it anymore. A lot of my day is spent really looking at what it is that we’re doing or hearing from team members what they are working on and what are those things they’re getting away or asking questions like, “Oh hey, why did we do this this way?” Or, “How is this help you?” Or, “How is this hindering you?”
Then just trying to knock down barriers and obstacles. Doing that in different ways depending on who I’m talking to or working with, but there is always that piece. We’re growing a lot and we’ve been growing a lot. We have people that have been with the company for decades. It’s always fine too to make sure that as we try to scale and we grow and we expand geographically, to keep that core together and just make sure that people continually understand who we are, where we’ve been and where we want to go.
I feel like that’s harder and harder to do. We have all these different collaboration tools and you have Hipchat, you have these project management tools and everybody gets all these updates and sometimes it still feels like we’re not communicating as effectively was we need to so that everybody really feels comfortable with the changes and understands why they’re happening. We’re always playing around with better ways to do that or I am playing around with other ways to do that.
Cirina Catania: It seems to be always the problem isn’t it or we should call it challenge the challenge.
Jen Soule: Yeah, I know right.
Cirina Catania: Other than communication, what would you say your biggest challenges are as a chief executive?
Jen Soule: We’ve always been entrepreneurial and very much like a start up at atmosphere. I find that a lot of fun, it’s really invigorating. There’s a lot of energy to it, but it’s hard to scale it and it’s hard to get that resiliency. A lot of what I spend my time out is just finding the ways to put more processes in place without losing to throw the spark in the heart of who we are.
I know that sounds really touchy feely, but there’s a lot of different aspects and components that go into this.
Cirina Catania: The way you’re dealing with people, people have hearts, they have minds, they have challenges of their own every day and I think as a leader, that’s one thing that every good leader has to be aware of, right? That’s just part of leading.
Jen Soule: We started out as everybody in one building in Woodstock, Illinois and now we have two facilities in Illinois, two in Austin, one in Nevada. We have remote employees. This is common. Many people have employees all over the world, but I think one of the things that we haven’t quite recreated yet even with all the different technology options is how to disseminate the hallway conversation information.
You’re getting your coffee or your tea or you happen to pass somebody and you just have this idea and you share it and it expands and improves upon an existing project and then really making sure that that gets back through to everybody or you don’t want to lose those impromptu happy accidents.
Cirina Catania: Exactly. I call it management by walking around. And then how do you take what you learn on those strolls and then communicate it to everybody, yeah, I totally get that. In your case, you’re dealing with a company that’s very technological. It’s changing. Technology is changing all the time. How do you manage to keep up with all of that and the solutions that you offer?
This may be hard to describe, but how does it affect planning and execution and delivery? In terms of keeping up with the technology, what are your considerations and what are you watching?
Jen Soule: Sure. One of the things that we’re working on and that we really need to improve right now is the supply chain piece of that ever changing technology. It’s really looking at, “Okay, especially all the changes that have been happening on the storage and connectivity side.” In a relatively short period of time, we’ve had Thunderbolt which was a very different type of interface. Thunderbolt 2, Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0, 3.1, Gen 1, Gen 2. Along with that came the power delivery and the USB-C port.
There’s so much flux and there’s this constant learning curve and it shifts and it changes. Sometimes it’s relatively short and other times it’s significantly longer. The technology impacts us by needing to change really how we look at safety stock and our inventory levels when we’re transitioning.
We’re moving to really appreciating that as these technologies are being pushed faster and faster, often times there’s a lot outside of our control that delays things. There are those last minute maybe a firmware update or there are some testing protocol that changes. Then we have to put a product back through certification.
Things like that even if it’s delaying a few weeks can impact that supply chain and that impacts our customer. That every changing technology aspect right now for us that we’ve struggled with has been maintaining our supply during those shifts and changes. That’s something that we’ve been working on and I have been talking with purchasing and sourcing and product development engineering just to look for ways that we can be less optimistic sometimes about how things are going to go, but not all the way over to the other side and then also balancing that with our customer support team is phenomenal and they always just want to help and give information and a lot of times we’re working off of information and if we share that at the wrong time, then we set the wrong expectation. A lot of it goes back also to communication on the supply chain. That’s a big, big piece for us.
Cirina Catania: I think people need to know that you’ve set it up so that your customer service department, they’re actual human beings on the line and you can get them on the line when you have a problem. I think that’s really important.
Jen Soule: Oh, I could talk about that all day. We have a phenomenal customer support department. We really do. I take time every day to read customer comments about us and our products to almost the last one of them. I called and I got somebody right away. They knew the answer, they put items in the cart and sent me a link.
All those little things that I’m sure a computer can probably do some of them, but when you have your MacBook Pro all taken apart and all 80 million screws taken out of it and you think you screwed something up, it means a lot any time of day to be able to call or chat or email and get a quick response so that you can breathe again.
Cirina Catania: Absolutely. I remember calling in one day, I don’t want this to sound like a commercial, but I am very positive about the company.
Jen Soule: No, keep going.
Cirina Catania: I’m sorry, I can’t help it. SoftRAID gave me an indication that one of my hard drives was failing. Of course, being in the media production business with a few films in post-production, that’s crucial to me. I immediately called and let the customer service office know that I had a drive that was potentially failing and I wanted to replace it.
They literally got on the phone immediately and they sent me a replacement drive before I even had to ship one back. They did a temporary charge and then when I got the other drive and returned it, then they credited me, but as a producer, it meant I could keep working without any interruption and that was just awesome. It was awesome.
Jen Soule: Oh cool.
Cirina Catania: Yeah.
Jen Soule: Its in own way, you just happened to mention that, but through designing and engineering, the products the way we do and really focusing on the quality of that extension of the customer support, ideally you don’t have to contact us, but if we can put products out there like SoftRAID that tell you in advance that you’re going to have this problem and give you the opportunity to fix it before it’s actually a problem. That’s huge.
Cirina Catania: Absolutely. Digital brings problems with it. We all know that. Drives are going to fail, you know they’re going to fail especially if you’re a power user and you have a lot of drives going. That reminds me, let’s talk for a minute about some of your key products because I want the people listening to know a little bit more about for example, where are you with Thunderbolt right now, what’s happening with that?
Jen Soule: That is some of the challenges of which I speak, but no, the Thunderbolt 2 is still really strong. Obviously there’s a huge install-based of Thunderbolt 2 machines. Thunderbolt 3 machines we went a little bit delayed on some of our development there, but it’s all starting to flow and come out now.
We finally for all of those people that pre-ordered a Thunderbolt 3 doc, they’re pretty much all out the door so I think we have one more shipment and then we’re caught up with all the pre-orders and we should be positive. That is a big relief off for me and then also, we have a number of fast, fast Thunderbolt 3 drives coming up. We have the viper and Envoy Pro. Those will both be in September.
Cirina Catania: Oh that’s good news.
Jen Soule: Yeah, I know. We’ll have the Thunderbolt 3 version of the Thunderbay which is really popular in video production certainly coming a little bit after that and then also six days and beyond for those for whom a 4-bay solution is not enough yet anymore.
Cirina Catania: Can I ask you a question about Thunderbolt 3? If somebody orders a doc.
Jen Soule: Mm-hmm.
Cirina Catania: And they don’t yet have Thunderbolt 3 everywhere … For example, if somebody wants to order the doc and they don’t want to get the two and then move to three in a couple of months, can they use the three with some kind of a converter until they get everything updated in their system or do they need a way?
Jen Soule: No. There are adapters. Actually, we went ahead and sold the apple ones. Apple did a great job on their Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapters. It’s bidirectional and it’s around $50. There’s a price to it, but yeah, it does give you that ability to buy the newer product and then use it later.
Cirina Catania: That was a selfish question because I’m sitting here looking at the new doc and realizing that I’m on this old laptop. I’m going to have to, I’m going to get the converter. That’s awesome. I’m glad you’re doing that because really for a lot of people, you don’t want to buy technology that’s a little bit older and then have to convert in a couple of months. That’s great.
Do you want to talk about SSD at all because I’m actually recording this on an SSD card that I normally would use with my Blackmagic cameras and I have it in a little icy box and I’m finding that I’m using SSD more and more often especially when I travel because of the weight and size restrictions if I’m traveling internationally.
There are some new SSD solutions. You did mention a couple of them. Can you go into a little bit more detail?
Jen Soule: Sure. There’ll be certainly extensions in some ways. We have the Envoy Pro EX which is a portable SSD. This particular one is USB 3. It’s going to go around 400, 450 megabytes a second which is plain fast. It absolutely can, I believe you said you were capturing on that right now.
Cirina Catania: Yeah, I’m recording directly to the SSD drive. I’m running dual system sounds. When I go into final cut, I’ll actually be using the master media with the sound files and cutting this audio right directly off the SSD drive.
Jen Soule: Awesome. We have a lot of customers especially in the video space that do exactly that. They’re using either they’re taking any of the external versions of our drive that have an SSD in it or they’re using sometimes the Envoy Pro which is really an external SSD or they’re taking an internal one that they have, putting it in a doc and using it that way.
Cirina Catania: The what? You love the what?
Jen Soule: I love that you reuse that. That you had it.
Cirina Catania: You know what? I’m always looking for a new way of using things that I already have and I think that fits with the culture of OWC, doesn’t it?
Jen Soule: Absolutely, yeah that’s the part that excites me.
Cirina Catania: I always tell people when I used to work at the studio and I had a $200 million year budget, it didn’t matter how much money I was spending, but now that I’m an independent film maker, I have to watch my budget so your stuff has really helped. Let’s talk about storage for a minute because that’s a big issue for all of us and you I believe have some new things that have come out in the last few months and possibly will be coming out. Do you want to talk about your solutions for storage?
Jen Soule: Sure, I mean, it’s certainly for people in the video space it seems that Thunderbolt is pretty much all roads, I feel like they lead to Thunderbolt however, we’ve also been releasing USB 3.1 products that of course use a USB-C port, but those are also have been very popular because they’re less expensive, cables are less expensive and a little bit more universal than some of the Thunderbolt solutions.
Cirina Catania: You have the Jupiter systems for larger systems, right?
Jen Soule: Yes. Yeah, Jupiter is definitely more of our that enterprise level. It’s a shared storage so it’s a little bit more advanced than the direct attached where you are in control of that with one user. Jupiter is perfect for small workers so multiple people can then edit or do color correction on the same files.
You definitely were finding, we have a good mix of customers, we have a lot of people that need the direct attached because they’re independent or they’re working on their own and then we have also those customers that are working in groups that then take advantage of Jupiter.
Cirina Catania: Jennifer, we’re talking about solutions and I was really interested in the fact that you pay attention to what the customers write to you every day, what are you finding are some of the biggest challenges on our end we’re all having?
Jen Soule: Well certainly, based on some of the comments, I can say that we still have a job to do and letting people know that they can upgrade and that these solutions and options that are out there because a lot of times there’s that surprise that this even exists or luckily someone told them or they found it on a Google search.
Part of the challenge is for many customers is that they do have machines that don’t do what they need them to do. They’re not quite fast enough, but then you indicated budget being a concern when you’re an independent film maker, not everybody is just walking around wanting to drop another $2,000 plus on a new machine.
One of the issues we have are people really struggling with the machine that doesn’t provide them the power or the capacity that they need and the consumer side and even on the professional side, one of the big challenges is people just don’t have a backup strategy. Actually, in some ways on the consumer side I think it’s improved with things like time machine because it’s almost automatic.
It’s just there as long as you have an external drive connected, but I think for our … In particular, for our professional customers, there’s so much data and especially if you have … You’re filling up different direct attached storage devices and then you’re trying to put them somewhere, how do you manage all of that and know where all of your data is and know that it’s all backed up that you actually have multiple copies of it?
It’s heartbreaking when somebody loses something that they’ve worked really hard on or that they … Photographs of their kids, they might not be a work product, but it’s something that has value and that really breaks your heart when that happens.
Cirina Catania: When you work on your computers which we all do now backing up and redundancy is really, really important, but think about technology not just OWC, but think about the world of technology, if you could say what you see is the biggest challenge all of us have at the moment, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Jen Soule: Oh gosh, I think relationships, they’re relating. I feel like as … I think sometimes about what my Google profile is or whatever the data aggregators think about me and big data and AI is so powerful and it’s becoming more and more powerful so I literally can be … Everything that’s coming into my inbox or phone calls that I’m getting or real side popups on Facebook, those all are relevant now.
All of this information that I’m ingesting and digesting and of course there’s been a lot of talk of that lately, it’s very easy to end up in your own echo chamber or there’s something very powerful of finding people that are like you, but it’s so easy to now just surround yourself with that and to constantly be fed things that you already like.
I think for me, the part the technology that’s interesting is just how it’s changing how people relate and are able to hold a conversation or interact with people when it’s not through a screen.
Cirina Catania: Right.
Jen Soule: Yeah, it’s concerning. It’s one of the things you think about when you’re raising kids and all those things trying to make sure that they’re able to exist and talk to people in the real world.
Cirina Catania: I agree. I think it was Stephen Hawking who said that AI is very frightening for the future. I think there’s positives and negatives to the increase in technology.
Jen Soule: Oh, I agree.
Cirina Catania: Which reminds me, what about working in the cloud? Everybody talks about working in the cloud, I have my own opinion, but this is your interview so I’m going to let you answer that.
Jen Soule: Well, working in the cloud, the cloud in general, I maybe not as negative as some are, but I mean, it’s clear that there are security issues, there have been instances where smaller cloud companies have lost people’s data. There are real speed barriers to actually working with it.
Certainly with all of the different security issues that we’ve been reading about lately, it would be a concern for me to work in that space as just a regular person, though I do find it as a really nice addition to my backup strategy. I have an onsite backup and then I know that all my photos are automatically go into the cloud so then there’s that additional piece that’s not … If the house burns down and takes the computer and the backup with it, I know that there’s another copy of all of that somewhere.
I don’t see it as all bad. We certainly, many of the tools we use every day are cloud-based so there’s a lot of positive and good that makes it easy to work when you’re running around and like I said, we have multiple facilities so it makes it a lot easier to do a lot of the work I need to do for my phone or from any work station.
I do find her to be a lot of benefit, but I do worry about the security aspects and privacy aspects. You’d be surprised what you give to companies when you use their cloud-based solutions.
Cirina Catania: Well, I think I mentioned too before we started talking, Skype updated their interface and without even asking and I went on this morning and they want to automatically upload my contacts to Microsoft. I’m not willing to do that. I think that privacy and security for my generation anyway still remains a problem.
I think children who have been raised with the mouse in their hand almost from the time they were born are used to sharing a personal information, but many of us particularly those of us who are a little bit more mature than 15 and who work in a business environment, we really appreciate the importance of security.
I’m curious about one thing. Everybody talks about and this may sound like an old discussion about 4K versus 8K, but what that does is it reminds me again and we’ve talked to it for a moment earlier on about how technology is changing, do you think the changes are helping us or in some way maybe even slowing us down or hindering us?
Jen Soule: Oh yeah, I really think that that is a struggle and it probably maybe depends on exactly what type of creations you’re working on, but it seems like the people certainly that we talked to most of film, music, photography, you want to capture something interesting and share it with people something that’s meaningful and compelling and while maybe 4K or 8K or deeper color schemes, there are things that probably help in that storytelling, but every time these things change or people want 4K now or they want 8K and you had a stable set up that allowed you to focus on the story that you’re telling versus having to be a technologist as well and continually keep up with the latest and greatest.
I think that that’s a struggle. I think it can be incredibly empowering and fun to change your craft and maybe get additional benefit like VRs. It’s for those people that are really into VR. It’s very different storytelling and that can be fun to put your arms around that, but at the same time if you can never have a stable platform where you’re just focused on your craft and you’re always having to play the technologist and take time to upgrade, I think that in some ways does slow things down.
Cirina Catania: It does in a way. A lot of people say, “Well, it’s worth it because it’s cheaper.” Is it a blessing or is it a curse?
Jen Soule: I feel like I always say both, right? I think that speed is … I covered some of the changes, some of my overall concerns which are the pace of technology, but also I guess from more content, I think it’s great. That barrier to entry is lower for people from a camera, from storage, from workstation’s cost.
Anybody can really create something tell their story, tell a story that’s important to them, but then as a reader, consumer or content, I find the choices a little bit intimidating at times. I don’t want to spend an hour trying to figure out what I want to watch if I happen to have two hours to watch a movie, because then I will…
Cirina Catania: Exactly.
Jen Soule: Also, I don’t have two hours to watch a movie anymore. All the sudden I turn around I spend an hour reading things on Facebook or whatever because I started out on some relative’s post and got to see a graduation thing or whatever and before I know it, I’m reading this article which leads to that article which leads to this one.
There’s so much content that I think the technology has enabled which is on the one hand can be really powerful. You need to be able to read stories or hear stories that move you or that say, “Oh hey, there’s other people like me.” But then at the same time it plays into what I was talking about earlier. You can end up almost more alone.
Cirina Catania: I have heard from quite a few people about the green initiative at OWC and what you guys are doing to protect the environment and to keep up with all of the uses of wind and solar et cetera, et cetera. Can you tell us what’s going on with that?
Jen Soule: Yeah. You mentioned the wind and the solar are headquarters in Illinois are powered by both and then we also have solar on our design facility in Austin and really between the two solar rays and the wind turbine, we actually generate more electricity than we use in all of our facilities combined. I definitely think that’s pretty cool.
Cirina Catania: You actually started that quite a few years ago right? Before a lot of people were getting into this so I would say you’re an early adapter of that kind of technology right? Am I wrong?
Jen Soule: We definitely were an early adaptor. We were one of the first platinum Leed buildings in Illinois. First privately held one I believe. I also have one of the largest privately held solar rays in the state. It’s a part of our DNA. It stems from the products. You don’t start a company when you’re 14 and have money to put wind turbines and solar rays on the roof, but it’s that desire to constantly be looking at the resources and figure out how can you make the best use of them.
It’s very cool. Yeah, we have geothermal so we don’t really have to burn electricity or use harsh chemicals and heating and cooling the air which I think is cool and actually, I’m looking out and our parking lot has this whole paver system with all these layers that essentially takes all of the water which inadvertently is going to get chemicals.
Somebody has maybe an oil leak or a transmission leak. Go in any parking lot and you’ll see little spots here and there, but even the parking lot, it’s made to basically control runoff and also filter. As that water with any pollutants in it, it filters down. By the time it goes back into the ground water, it’s clean.
Cirina Catania: Oh wow.
Jen Soule: Yeah. A lot of cool things. Enormous bios whale around us. Again, it’s just controlling and making sure that we’re conserving the water and the electricity and the power.
Cirina Catania: How much of your waste is recycled? Do you have any numbers on that?
Jen Soule: We’re able to keep 98% of our waste out of the waste stream. That’s true. Recycling, obviously the normal plastic aluminum paper type of recycling and then also of any electronic components. Fun little tidbit is that our garbage gets taken out once a year so essentially that’s how often they needed to pick it up.
Cirina Catania: Seriously?
Jen Soule: Yeah. It was like 11 months so it’s close to a year.
Cirina Catania: That’s unbelievable for such a big company. That’s great. Well, congratulations on that. Okay, put your crystal ball on and I’m just curious about what you might say about this because I know people ask us all the time, right? People ask this, what do you see in the tech future? If you are riding a sci-fi novel, what would the new tech be?
Jen Soule: Oh gosh, oh no. I’ll say that I’m not the great prognosticator or a novelist. I think about it on my drive here and there, but I think it goes a little bit along with some of what I already talked about where I really see that as we continue on with AI and big data that as we go forward I think the people that really continue to remain tied to real people are actually going to be the ones that really shape the future because otherwise, big data is going to continue to feed you what? A bigger and better mouse trap maybe versus actual real leaps and technology. I think that human elements are actually going to be the key in the future for those of us that haven’t watched it.
Cirina Catania: I think we’re going to get more and more back to our roots as people find out that the human element is still very important. I agree with that. What advice do you have for other executives who are sitting in your chair at other companies? How can they be better at what they do?
Jen Soule: Well, I don’t have anything particularly profound. I think a lot of the tried and true advice out there is tried and true for a reason, but my advice would really be to walk around and talk to people. You mentioned management by walking around. I really believe in that and I think that maybe gets summed up in making an effort.
It’s so easy to get lost inside of your head or inside of our sheets and charts and data and if you’re not walking around and you’re not talking to people and I’m talking more than the just people that directly report to you, but really talking to everybody within the organization. You won’t be as effective and you won’t appreciate and understand when messages and communication goes a little bit astray.
Even when it’s in a town hall, directly from me or from Larry or there’s been a newsletter piece that we send out or something where there’s a direct communication, the way people read things is often different. If you’re not walking around or you’re not talking to people are asking questions and understanding what their day-to-day life is like, you just lose out and you’re going to make decisions that you think are based on good data, but the data doesn’t have the context that it should.
Cirina Catania: You’re right about that one. Okay, here’s the big one. Drum rolls. Star Wars, Star Wars or Star Trek. Which is it?
Jen Soule: I feel like that you’re asking me to choose which of my kids I love, but Star Wars dominated so much from my childhood that I think if pressed, I would have to go with Star Wars although it does crack me up as I hear kids or my kids and they understand what a red shirt is and I’ll be explaining that too. Other little kids on the playground when they use it as a term or they’ll explain that The Hand of Thrawn trilogy is definitely the best Star Wars works ever written.
Cirina Catania: That’s great.
Jen Soule: We embrace both.
Cirina Catania: You’re obviously a good mother.
Jen Soule: It’s important. You got to get the basics in there.
Cirina Catania: That’s right. Jen, where do we go to learn more about you and OWC? I know there used to be a site or maybe there still is a site called macsales.com, there’s also a new site OWCdigital.com. Which one do we go to or do we go to both?
Jen Soule: Really, you could go to either. OWCdigital.com is great for learning about the products and also finding out where you can buy them. We have reseller partners all over the world. If you’re listening to this from Europe or from Asia, there’s definitely somebody that’s got the product in country, that would be a lot more convenient.
Macsales.com is our direct sales arm. That sells all of our OWC product along with many other brands. That’s a great place to get a lot of that educational content and also is the direct site that you can buy from.
Cirina Catania: That was Jen Soule, President of Other World Computing Incorporated. I’m Cirina Catania for US Times. Thank you for listening and remember, get off your chair and go do something wonderful today.