Career Success with Jeremy Baker, CTO of Retail Zipline - Issue #267
The unconventional career path of an entrepreneurial technologist
My guest for this episode is Jeremy Baker. He is the co-founder and CTO of Retail Zipline, an enterprise SaaS company that provides communications software to some of the world's largest retailers.
He is a seasoned developer and entrepreneur who has been involved in web design, online product development, and technology startups since 1997.
Prior to Zipline, Jeremy co-founded MightyHive, an enterprise software startup acquired by S4 Capital for $150M. Before that, he worked as a Senior Prototyper at Yahoo! for nearly five years, which is where I met Jeremy when he joined my Search team way back in 2007.
In this podcast episode, you’ll hear about:
His nontraditional engineering career path (without a CS degree).
What has helped him be successful (including luck).
What he looks for in the talent he is hiring.
His experiences in the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds.
The value of mentoring and giving back.
Key points from our conversation
I want to call out a few points from my conversation with Jeremy to help you as you are seeking to create your own invincible career.
Grit vs. credentials
Jeremy does not have a traditional CS degree. He was a self-taught developer and very entrepreneurial. He started his first hardware company when he was 16 years old, selling computers he assembled to local businesses.
He started several small businesses to hustle and make a living when he was young. He got hands-on experience developing solutions for companies while his friends in university were learning CS fundamentals.
He spent about 10 years building businesses from the ground up. Even though he didn’t have a college degree, his grit, determination, and real-world experience impressed me, and I hired him for my Yahoo! Search team.
Don’t let a lack of credentials hold you back. The world is changing, and more companies are hiring people who can do the work even though they don’t have an advanced degree.
He builds teams with complementary skill sets. You need a few people who are good at disrupting things, but you need many more people who can keep moving projects forward.
Things he looks for:
His company is 100% distributed, so he looks for people who can write and clearly articulate their thoughts in code and communication.
He also looks for people with curiosity. If a candidate hasn’t researched the company, team, or role, they don’t care very much. If they have very few questions, it’s a sign that they don’t have the curiosity that will help them really dive into problems and understand how things work.
Finally, he looks for kindness. I think we’re all tired of working with unkind people.
Books, mentors, and failures have been the biggest ways he’s learned. Mentors have really been key to his success.
He has an executive coach now who is helping him continue to grow. It’s important for breaking out of the isolated perspective you may have.
It’s so valuable to be a mentor and give back. You’re not only helping others, but you also learn from the people you mentor too. It’s a wonderful exchange of value. You both share experiences and become better people.
Thanks for listening to this episode! I hope you enjoyed hearing about Jeremy’s career path and the advice he shared.
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This week’s professional development challenge
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Larry Cornett is a leadership coach and business advisor who runs a professional online community. He lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and children, and a gigantic Great Dane. He does his best to share advice that can help others take full control of their work and life. He’s also on Twitter @cornett.