Culture Centered Scaling: Balancing High Performance, Growth, and ScalabilityEd Wood with Dispersive Networks, LLC
It’s about not getting too big too fast, AND staying true to your roots! ~ Ed Wood’s mission for Dispersive Networks, Inc is to GROW and make an impact, but he also expresses the right way to be SCALABLE and help your company culture evolve.
Edward J. Wood
President and Chief Executive Officer, Dispersive Networks
Member of the Board of Directors, Dispersive Networks
Ed was appointed President and CEO in October 2018. He had been a managing director with Accenture, spending 23 years in the Communications, Media and High Tech industry group.
During his tenure at Accenture, Ed served a number of client service and practice development roles. He was a thought leader in the service provider industry. His focus was on carrier digital transformation, working with carriers in their journey around software-defined networking, cloud computing, security, multispeed delivery, product incubation and omnichannel.
Ed has a history on focusing on customer relationship development, complex transformation programs, building multi-disciplined high-performance teams, developing partnerships and market offerings. Prior to joining Dispersive, he worked with the company on its value proposition, market strategy, and joint customer opportunities.
Ed holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh.
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Series Quick Links
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast where your host Josh Sweeney will give you, the business leaders, HR professionals and company culture aficionados the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.
Josh Sweeney: Hello. And welcome to the Epic Company Culture Podcast. Before I get started, I would like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcast space.
Today’s series is part of the Culture Champions. And we have culture champion Ed Wood from Dispersive Networks, in today. Ed, thanks for coming in.
Ed Wood: Thanks for having me.
Josh Sweeney: So, tell us a little bit about yourself and Dispersive.
Introducing Ed Wood!
Ed Wood: Sure. Well, I’ve been in the communication industry my whole career. 23 years with Accenture. I was a managing director, responsible for carrier transformation, service provider space. And I worked with Dispersive for about two years as a partner, helping them with market positioning, developing their value proposition, sell strategy, and they gave me the opportunity … offered the opportunity to become the CEO and it was a fairly easy decision. Because I really believe that Dispersive has one of the most disruptive technologies that I’ve ever worked with, that will change how internet communications will work in a secure fashion.
Josh Sweeney: So, we’re gonna step back, I know you mentioned Accenture, you probably worked at some other places.
Ed Wood: Yeah.
Experiences Worth Bringing to Dispersive
Josh Sweeney: So, while you’re working in Dispersive and you’re looking at what you wanna do with the company culture, how you wanna formulate the teams and the people, what are some experiences that you had in your past that you really wanted to carry over into this organization?
Ed Wood: Yeah. Well, I mean Accenture has a tremendous culture. It’s now evolved, I mean when I started it was 30 thousand people when I left it was 460 thousand, right. So, they’ve gone through a lot of change. But, somehow, they’ve been able to maintain sort of a core culture around innovation and what I call high-performance. And you saw it in some of our advertising over the years.
Culture of a High Degree
But to me, it’s a culture of high-degree of collaboration, very curious, a bit of a work hard, play hard, solving major customer problems, being very empathetic of the customer. But the collaboration was key, right. Bringing a lot of different disciplines. A lot of different … you know, be very inclusive of diverse subcultures and bringing those together. And you can’t get to 460 thousand people without having to bring in a lot of different cultures, experience hires, those types of things that, you know, that really being able to harness that power is really a high-performance culture to me.
Things not Maintained
Josh Sweeney: So, with that growth, you mentioned some of the things that were maintained through the growth. What were some of the things that you felt were lost or kind of dropped off?
Ed Wood: Yeah. Well, you know, and it’s not even so much what was lost or dropped off within Accenture. To me, within Accenture it was an evolution, right. Going from a small organization to such a large organization with a lot of different cultures being integrated, it just changed. I don’t think it was not necessarily bad or it was just it evolved. But there was always focus on innovation, always focus on collaboration, always focus on bringing the best to address customer problems. And that’s always been the case, right. But, what I’ve seen is in 23 years working at different clients, I’ve seen a lot of different cultures. And I’ve seen what works well and what doesn’t. And a lot of big companies, a lot of big corporations, they lose a lot, right. They lose the innovation angle. They lose the collaboration. They don’t put the energy in training their people.
Ed Wood: And I’ve seen that in a lot of different types of clients, right. And so, Accenture did a really great job of always reinforcing those pieces and focusing on high-performance. Because end of the day, I mean, the amount of money to recruit new people, new talent, integrating them into the company and training them is so much higher versus investing in the team that you have.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely. So, which aspects of that culture have you brought into Dispersive?
Ed Wood: Yeah. So, we’re a fairly small organization about … well, we were about 66 people when I joined. We’re now at about 80. So, we’re gonna be scaling … I mean it’s quite a bit of growth already, in just a couple month.
Josh Sweeney: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
Scale – Inclusion and Diversity
Ed Wood: But and that’s gonna continue to … We’re gonna continue to scale quickly. And we’re gonna need to bring in senior talent into the organization, that have experience in selling and marketing and delivering solutions. And so, part of it is just the integration of the culture, a heavy focus on inclusion and diversity.
As you can imagine, as an engineering company predominantly in the past, it’s a very engineering-centric type of group of individuals, right. So, how do we be very inclusive of all those different types of skillsets, right, and backgrounds? Really driving home the collaboration, right, within the organization to really kind of bring out the best in us, right, in terms of product life cycle management, how we redevelop our partners. Our partnerships. And so, collaboration, communication.
I have a weekly email that I send out to my entire employees every week so that everybody knows what we’re working on, everybody knows what the priorities are, and that’s really important.
Ed Wood: Just to kinda make sure we’re all on the same page, and we’re all kinda pulling in the same direction.
And, really, and I’ve told my team this. I’ve told the entire employee base that I wanna measure us now, and I wanna measure us at the end of the year through employee engagement. And my hope and my goal is that employees will be out there proactively talking about what a high-performance team we are. That it’s a great place to work, we’re very inclusive. That we’re collaborative, that when we got new people that are joining the company, everybody helps them out, right. Again, we’re all working together towards our end game, which is that mission of securing critical communications.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. So, you’re really trying to take that high-performing team piece, implant it in, or maintain it at the organization that you’re in and ensure that all the new people that come on board keep that consistency.
Retaining the Family-Focus and Employee Base
Ed Wood: Yeah. That’s right. And you know, and Dispersive themselves has a great culture and a great value that they believe in as an organization that’s a very family-focused, just a great employee base. So, it’s important that we retain that part of the culture as well, while we’re bringing in these new stills.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Well, you mentioned diversity. I mean, that’s obviously a very hot topic in the last few years. Do you feel that there’s, you know, with all the new programs that are out there that it’s much easier to build a really good solid diverse team? ‘Cause when I look at all the facilities, you know, ten years ago, maybe, I don’t know when Women Who Code was founded or anything but, oh about a decade ago it was challenging. It was challenging to find the people. Now there’s so many programs, that it seems like it would make it easier. Are you finding that?
Ed Wood: Yeah. I think so. Yeah.
Josh Sweeney: Okay.
Ed Wood: I mean … But you know … But it comes in many ways, right. Certainly engineering, it is a challenge. And we actually wanna take a much more active role with the local community and the local universities to help promote STEM and technology within the different workforces. But, we’re building our organization in a lot of different areas as well. And, so yes, I do think it’s much easier to have a more diverse organization. And I think it’s important because diversity creates strength ’cause we’re coming with different points of views, right. And that’s important for a high-performance team.
Negative Experience Share
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. So, we talked about all the great things at Accenture that you experienced and some of the items you’re bringing over to Dispersive Networks. What about a share that was something you don’t wanna bring over? Something you experience, and it may have been pre-Accenture, it may have been something you observed at another company, and again we don’t … I like to remind everybody, we don’t have to name names.
Ed Wood: Yeah.
Josh Sweeney: But, what are some things you’ve experienced or been through or seen where you’re like, that’s a part of culture you don’t want? That’s was, you know, that’s a negative.
Getting Big Too Fast
Ed Wood: You know, I think one is getting too big too fast, where we become so focused on sort of the day-to-day grind, we get so, just ingrained in that, that we lose that communication collaboration, that innovation where we’re focusing just purely on the sales and revenue, kinda targets and we’re not kinda staying ahead of the market and being competitive. Like I said before, you know, you see kinda companies that kinda lose their way, right, they lose their focus.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah.
Staying True to the Roots
Ed Wood: So, I think that’s probably what I would say is, what I wanna make sure we avoid. Is just staying true to our roots and what we do, right. Yeah, I would say, we wanna also, we wanna compete aggressively, we wanna be fair, right. We don’t want a cutthroat type of mentality and environment. You can see a lot of organizations that are growing fast from a sales perspective, go down that path. And that’s not a path we wanna go down.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I think we’ve seen a few in the news recently, which they accomplished grand things from a scaling perspective but, it cost them somewhere.
Ed Wood: Right. Bodies on the ground. Yeah, bodies on the ground, exactly. Yeah.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah.
Integrate Technology in the Community
Ed Wood: And then, a point that I wanted to mention before, as I was thinking about this discussion, is we really do wanna get more tightly integrated into the technology community in Atlanta, right. So, we’re out in Alpharetta, which can be a little bit far away from what’s happening in Buckhead, in Midtown, and out here, right, from a start-up community perspective. So, you know, we’re getting plugged into Atlanta Tech Village. We’re gonna, you know, participating in the meet-ups. You know, not only for visibility of our technology but also, for us to be able to contribute back to other start-ups that are just getting off the ground. ‘Cause we have a lot of gray hair in the leadership team here, and a lot of experience from all of our years from various companies and we think we can give back. So, we’re excited about that as well.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. And you … If I remember correctly, you have Tech Alpharetta, right. So, you have some other start-ups and … or not start-ups, but like incubators and co-working spaces that are popping up in Alpharetta that are really trying to bring that out.
Ed Wood: I think so.
Josh Sweeney: I think it’s Tech Alpharetta’s the name of it.
Ed Wood: Yeah, I live in Buckhead. So, I always get lost in Alpharetta.
Josh Sweeney: Okay. Yeah, yeah.
Ed Wood: But …
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. There’s a lot happening there.
Ed Wood: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.
Company Culture Favorite
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Awesome. Well, so, for Dispersive, what is something you haven’t talked about that you really love about the company culture? Is there one thing where you go into the office and you just really enjoyed that something happens? Or, that the team takes care of something, like, what is an aspect of company culture right now that you enjoy?
Ed Wood: I started to touch on this but, I’ll reinforce it.
Josh Sweeney: Okay.
Ed Wood: Everyone is focused on a common mission. We’re working on a technology that is just unbelievably secure, that’s used in special forces, it saves lives today. That we’re applying to all critical communications, financial services, the power industry. And we’ve got a major program that we’re focusing on, that with the intent of securing all critical communications for the power grid in North America. And it’s … So, we’re all very passionate about it. We feel very strongly about it, not just for success for our company but, that it’s important for our county, for democracy, right.
Got all this stuff you hear about on the news. Everyone is focused on that mission. Everyone’s passionate about it. Our retention is super low in terms of our loss rate, right. I mean, very few employees leave because they believe in that mission, you know, through all the ups and downs of a start-up right, and all the bumps that any start-up has gone through, we’ve gone through the same thing and they’re still there. Because they believe in the mission. And that’s really exciting to see.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. There’s definitely a lot of bumps in the road in doing a start-up and growing. A lot of decisions that have to be made and directional changes and things like that. So, it’s good to hear that everybody’s on board for the mission.
Time to Execute
Ed Wood: That’s right for- Yep, and I think we’ve got a very clear scope in terms of what we’re focusing on. I think it’s … The messages are resonating in the marketplace and everyone’s excited because that’s happening, right. And so now, we just have to execute.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Well, sounds like an amazing technology for you to be going after. I mean, security and the whole security industry has just been exploding and I spend a lot of my corporate years in information security. It’s a fun space.
Ed Wood: Yeah. It is. It’s fun. And it’s also high-stakes, right. I mean we’re trying to solve some really big issues. And so, it’s great to have a team that’s sticking to it and concerned about the same things, right.
Josh Sweeney: So, last question.
Ed Wood: Sure.
Culture Initiative for 2019
Josh Sweeney: What company culture initiative or what area of growth would you like to see in the organization from a people and culture perspective in 2019?
Performance Management Process
Ed Wood: Well, funny you mention that. We are rolling out a performance management process. We’ve already drafted it, we’re going to be rolling it out. We’re putting a mentor program in place that cross-functional. So, let’s say our sales-lead may have a mentor that’s in research and development, right or other areas. And the whole idea is to improve collaboration and communication in things that may not be as obvious, right.
Breaks Down Barriers
That’s cross, that way it kind of breaks down any remaining communication barriers that we may have, will be resolved through that. Because we’re now doing it top down, left to right, you know, crossways. So, we’re doing that. We’re rolling out performance management process, the intent there is that we have consistent and fair equitable way for assessing the entire employee team and then tying it to merit and performance pay, right.
Ed Wood: So, we’ve got a consultant that helping us out and kinda working out the final details. We’ll roll it out, have formal review processes. And so, I’m excited about that because before it was kind of ad hoc, right. And now we’ll be able to really start to establish us.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. So, the performance review process and then the mentoring program. And I think the unique about the mentoring program is that it’s cross-departmental.
Ed Wood: Right.
Skillsets Coming Together
Josh Sweeney: Right, and that’s a big factor in helping everybody work together ’cause there’s lots of challenges and barriers that can be broken down by two completely different skillsets coming together for a challenge.
Ed Wood: That’s right. Right. It’s to me, you know, adjacent skills, you know, people that come in from two different points of view is the best type of relationship. And it’s also out of the supervisory role, right. So, if an employee has an issue that it’s like “I need your advice, what should I do?” You can have that confident discussion, right, on how to address that and work through it.
Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Well, this has been a fantastic session. I appreciate all the information you’ve provided.
Ed Wood: Sure. Absolutely. Anytime.
Josh Sweeney: Thank you for joining us on the Epic Company Culture Podcast. This has been part of our Culture Champion Series with Ed Wood of Dispersive Networks. If you wanna find out more go to YouTube, check out our YouTube channel. Leave comments or questions. You can also follow us on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and iTunes. Thanks for joining.
Speaker 1: Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the Epic Company Culture Podcast with Josh Sweeney. If you enjoyed this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts, visit EpicCulture.co. If you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us @EpicCulture1 or email at Podcast@EpicCulture.co.
Podcast Highlights and Resources
- It’s a culture of high-degree of collaboration, very curious, a bit of a work hard, play hard, solving major customer problems, being very empathetic of the customer.
- A lot of big companies, a lot of big corporations, they lose a lot, right. They lose the innovation angle. They lose the collaboration. They don’t put the energy in training their people.
- At the end of the day, I mean, the amount of money to recruit new people, new talent, integrating them into the company and training them is so much higher versus investing in the team that you have.
- I have a weekly email that I send out to my entire employees every week so that everybody knows what we’re working on, everybody knows what the priorities are, and that’s really important.
- We actually wanna take a much more active role with the local community and the local universities to help promote STEM and technology within the different workforces.
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