Jacob Glenn, Founder/CEO, mGenio
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
Jacob shares the story of how and why he started mGenio:
- With a career focused in professional services, Jacob’s technology and business acumen led him to building his own firm
- mGenio is focused on custom software development including enterprise and mobile applications, IoT (Internet of Things) integrations, and Salesforce implementations.
- What is IoT and how do you become an Internet of Things developer?
- Why experimentation with projects is so important. Tinker, play, try, fail, keep trying.
- Jacob provides insights into the importance of attitude and aptitude for his talent evaluation process.
- Lastly, Jacob shares his top three Vietnamese restaurants in Cleveland to get Pho!
Full transcript of our interview below:
RON: Hi, everybody! Welcome to episode nine of The Bell Falls Search Focus on Talent video series. This is the Technology edition. Although this is episode nine, this is the first time we’ve been interviewing a technology executive.
Today’s guest is the Founder and CEO of a software consulting firm that creates custom mobile applications, partners with businesses to build Internet of Things (IoT) solutions , and also has significant expertise in Salesforce implementations.
He’s a great friend of mine. We’ve worked together in the past, and I’m a huge fan of the company he is built, the culture he’s created, and the authentic person that he is.
JACOB: Hey, thanks for having me on. I appreciate the kind words and have many of the similar things to say about you.
RON: I appreciate it. You know, I’ve been watching you do video interviews for a while now on LinkedIn, so you’ve been kind of an inspiration for me to kind of get off my butt and start doing this. So thanks for that.
Can you, you know, kind of walk backwards and talk about your career progression and onto now running your own consulting company and then talk about Ingenia, please?
JACOB: Sure. Yeah. So I started my career at Hyland Software, actually, and right out of school, I got a computer engineering degree and I got a business degree. So I went into their professional services group. And that was first of many professional services positions where I was doing either software or project management or insert specific task.
But really, I kind of grew up in the consulting world, always kind of on, like, innovation side of technology, to jump through a lot of positions with that a lot with you.
And then not long after I left, and I went to a company called Acumen Solutions, where instead of being kind of front line services, I was actually building a technology center for them. Instead of delivering service, I was building the team behind the scenes with delivery and took that from 2 to over 50 people in about two years, set up a model there that let us recruit and scale learned a lot from that and then decided to go on there.
And so back in 2012 started mGenio. Originally when we started we were going to be a mobile firm and that lasted about a day because our first project wasn’t mobile. But over time, we’ve kind of refined our niche. And so today we use custom software development.
Mobile cloud and mobile is pretty straightforward. Mobile apps or mobile web cloud is mostly serverless cloud, which is again, so what I would say on the innovation side of cloud development, we’re moving towards that as an industry.
We’ve been doing that for a while, and that was what actually naturally lead into Internet of Things. That doesn’t mean that we’re doing connected device work but we’re doing the cloud work and the app work for connected device and working very closely with people who use the hardware stuff.
And then, of course, we do Salesforce.com as well. That came from our accidental experience and is another offering that falls in that cloud.
RON: Okay. I think you mentioned earlier that Salesforce just bought Acumen, right? So that team, that core team that you build over there has now been kind of realized from a value perspective?
JACOB: Absolutely. Yeah. So when I left, it was 50. I think now in Cleveland, there 250 or 300. I take a little pride in the fact, it’s the model that I built there that scaled to that. But Yeah, they were acquired last year for a good amount, and they’re now part of the Salesforce..
RON: So do you have an industry focus? I mean, I know you’ve done some stuff in consumer products, I know you’ve done some stuff in health care. Are you agnostic or do you focus on any one area?
JACOB: I mean, ultimately we’re agnostic. It’s really about that innovative technology approach we take. We kind of partner with our customers and take a very kind of technology agnostic strategic approach to how do we solve the problem.
So that could apply to any industry. We do have specific industry experience in health care. We have industry experience in manufacturing.
In building products, you know, that’s an area. We have some experience and then insurance, financial services. We have some experience there as well.
RON: Okay. So good transition. I’d love to talk about case studies, if you’re willing to share a few and would love especially if you could talk about, unless it’s top secret about Internet of things case study, potentially, because I find those the most interesting.
You know, it’s one of those words, one of those buzzwords that lots of people talk about. You’re actually putting it into practice. And I know you’ve done it multiple times, as we’ve discussed over our lunches. But tell me if you don’t mind, can you talk a little bit about this?
JACOB: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll talk about mine because one that is probably most well known, but also it’s a really good example of our process. So Moen decided they were going to develop a smart faucet a few years ago.
We got engaged with them very early on, help them with the strategy and architecture and then rolled into we actually did all the cloud development and the mobile app development for the initial faucet.
We worked with their internal team and partners who are doing the firmware, the hardware design and all of that interface. And we worked with them through the launch. And then we continue to work with them today on their IoT roadmap. They’re about to launch another product that was announced. It’s a sump pump monitor monitor we’ve worked on as part of their connected whole house valve. You can shut off your water if there is a leak kind of thing.
So we worked with a lot of different stuff there. But the faucet was a fun one because it was really end to end architecture, through launch. And we really own the cloud and level pieces of that. And, you know, won a ton of awards, was advertised on the Super Bowl.
And the highlight was of my team being made fun of along the way.
RON: What part was that?
JACOB: As the Daily Show, the segment where they and they were making fun of the most ridiculous things that CES, and they highlighted the faucet and they make fun of how the only person needed to talk to their faucet is pretty lonely.
RON: We’ve done lots of back end solutions that people actually never see kind of the architecture and the extent of development. But to see something actually on a commercial and then on the Super Bowl had to be pretty fulfilling, I would think.
JACOB: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s the thing, especially when we’ve done a lot of B2B stuff where we do cool stuff, but it’s not really front and center. And, for example, we just finished a project for Amazon Whole Foods where they have a locker system that they put the phone they use for checking in and out packages for their Prime shoppers to go through Whole Foods and do the shopping delivery.
It’s behind the scenes. Nobody ever sees it. Right? But it’s actually really cool technology that we built there, but it’s not on a Super Bowl commercial. So that’s why I like to talk about the Moen case study as a good one.
RON: Cool. Do you have another one you want to share?
JACOB: I don’t know if I have another one, I would call out the the specific customer, but I can tell you some of the ones are the most familiar are the ones where we get to be involved at a strategic level. Right?
So we worked with a startup that we helped them to develop their initial product, to help them were going to go raise money. They brought us in as the interim CIO. We help them sell the company. Actually, instead of raise money, they end up selling it to a Fortune 100.
And then we did a full integration with that Fortune 100 back. So it was really filling to be able to take that from this is just a concept to a fully integrated someone had a great exit on that.
We were able to participate all through that process. And so those are the more fulfilling ones where you get to be involved in that.
RON: Yeah. Very cool. Alright. So let’s shift the talent a little bit. And I know you back to your Acumen days and the times we worked together and even with the team, you built mGenio…you’ve done one of the best jobs I’ve ever seen at taking young talent and developing them into highly productive, efficient, very successful developers and individuals.
So can we talk about, from your perspective, for new students coming out of college or maybe thinking about in the next couple of years, what would you suggest to them both from a concentration in school perspective, what classes are important, what technologies are emerging, what common themes do you think are important to set themselves up for success and then potentially maybe kind of sprinkle in there, how to go about looking for their next role?
JACOB: Yeah. Well, first of all, thank you. Very kind words about what I’ve done. I think that a lot of that’s attributed to what we hire for. Right?
I fully subscribed to the idea that you hire for aptitude and attitude and not a specific skill set.
And so I layer on top of that, that we are a culture driven organization. And so we look for cultural fit as a key part of that aptitude attitude assessment. So it’s not about what you’ve done, but it’s what you can do, what that foundational skill set is. And then how will you fit?
What do you want to do and how that fits with what we’re trying to accomplish. So when you talk about somebody’s in school and they’re looking to go out and find that first job, I think a lot of it comes down to really stepping back and thinking about what they want to do.
So in their classwork, what do they really like? What could they see themselves doing? A lot of not just like a class where you enjoyed a project or two, but like, Hey, I can see myself spending 40, 80 hours a week doing this a lot of times will be higher.
We ask, what size projects have you done, especially with developers? What project do you do for fun? What do you do for fun?
The answer to those questions are video games, which tends to go hand in hand with good developers for whatever reason. Or they’ll say, Oh, I have this side project here. I have this project where I did.
I have a relatively newer hire that we hired last year that came out of school at Ohio State. And he was his answer to that question: I built an app because my friends and I would be in the car and we fight over whose Spotify was running the radio and build an app that let us all kind of join a group and add to the Spotify playlist.
So that was a great example of like, okay, this is someone who will solve a problem and they’ll do it for fun.
And so that’s the kind of thing that we look for. Like, when we’re hiring someone who has that initiative who has that laws of programming where they’ll do it to solve their own problems, not just because it’s a job. So that’s a big part of it.
And so I think it’s important to think about what you want to do. I know that when I was getting my first guess, I interviewed a lot of different places and my answers or what I thought I would get me the job. Will get me the offer. And I figured, well, if I can get more than one offer, I’ll figure out which one is the best fit.
And I’ll go there and there’s something to be said for that. Like, obviously, one job sort of the no job. And so you don’t want it, not get the offer. But I think there’s a lot of value in thinking about what you want to do and where you’ll be a good fit.
You know, a lot of times when I talk to folks today, it’s clear that they don’t know what they want to do or what type of organization you want to work at.
There’s a big difference between a small organization and Fortune 100, right?
There’s a big difference between working for a mGenio and working for Moen, right?
It’s just a different person.
And it’s important for someone coming out of the school to think about what they want. Do they want that stability and the slow kind of growth that comes at a big Corporation where you’re going to get me the small things over time and you’ll grow in a very structured way? Or do you want to be in a scenario where things are going to get thrown at you and maybe chaotic, but you’re going to want to and you’re going on it really fast right before you’re going to get to do more different things.
And I think answering those questions will go a long way and finding the right fit for someone has come to
RON: Okay. How does someone get into IoT?
JACOB: So if you break it down, it (IoT) is really cloud, it’s mobile, and it’s hardware.
And you can get into it by going down one of those paths or you can get into it by thinking about it as a whole ecosystem. And so I have folks on my team who do both cloud and mobile for an It project.
Or I have people who do just one. And if someone younger, they just want to, like, learn and experiment. You can play with things like the HUE light bulbs.
You can go get an Arduino and connect it to some sensors and start to do stuff like that.
You know we have a BitCoin miner in the office, I was having an issue with getting shut off, and so one of my guys took a little switch in Arduino and built me an app and connected it to the switch so I can remotely turn the power on and off stuff like that.
RON: Well, and even my favorite is when I come to your office, the facial recognition product you cobble together so that I could get in and out of the door to our access control is a great example.
JACOB: Right. So that was built on a Raspberry Pie, and we continue just to add components to it and connect it to the cloud.
And then we have an app and we have integrated with Google Chat and all kinds of things. I think the answer to your question is the easiest way is to:
- Go get an Arduino, go get a Raspberry Pi connected to the cloud of step one.
- Build an app that’s step two.
- Now see what you can make useful or valuable.
RON: You’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years and hired and not hire a lot of people over the years. What advice would you give those people out in the market kind of thinking about their next thing and and how to differentiate themselves in the interviewing process? For you, it’s a little different because in technologies both of us know, and as everyone knows, you can spell “S-O-F-T-W-A-R-E,”, you can probably get 10 offers tomorrow, all for $100k each.
So sometimes you can kind of get away with maybe not being not the best interviewer or being prepared for presenting yourself. But at the same time, there’s different roles, whether they’re CTO roles or executive roles, the project management consulting roles.I mean, what’s been your experience there and what do you like to see?
And how do you help differentiate one candidate from another?
JACOB: I think especially developers get a lot of leeway on their interviewing and social communication skills. Personally, I think that’s a little bit of a mistake. I think if nothing else, the communication skills are really important, especially in an organization like mine, where you’re going to have to work with junior people and you’re going to have to be able to just like it’s not worth it. I’ll just do it myself.
But there are organizations certainly, where all they hire some new people and they all get their own little kind of piece of the pie and they go pound on the keyboard. But I think when you look at if you break those rolls up a little bit and say the CTO or the VP director, it I think there’s a lack of people who can demonstrate an understanding of both the business and the technology.
And I think that’s where a lot of the value comes in those roles. Right? So if you can bring those two things together and communicate it and demonstrate that you understand how they work together, and it’s not just about, Hey, I’m the CTO, and we’re going to build the coolest technology. We’re going to use the stack that I think it’s best.
But you can say, hey, I understand that the objective of the business is to do that, and this is how we make money. And this is how the technology will enable that versus it’s just about the technology. That’s where I think you really set yourself apart and those people are really hard to find and they can have any job they want.
If they can communicate that they have that set up on the heavy tech site. We want to be in the code. You can write great code. You can architect a great solution. How do you work with the team? How do you be a leader versus just a contributor?
Because to me, that’s where the difference becomes the difference between a senior person who thinks at a high level and someone who can develop. A lot of them get a high salary when they see or not. That’s the differentiation.
Can you be a leader and can you bring people up with you versus just being someone who can write really great code? I think we are beyond the years where that one savant could write a whole system. And that’s all you need. That’s not the world we live in anymore. And I think for either the size of that, I would say networking huge. Right.
When I decided to start my own company. One of the things that enabled me to do that was the knowledge that I had a network. If I failed, which I mean, I didn’t believe I was going to. But if I did, I knew that I could leverage that network to call back and find a position.
And it was that understanding that let me take the leap And I think it’s really valuable to have that network.
RON: I agree. Having that fall back and having other people you can tap into for advice, no matter who you are.And what level you’re at is just my number one piece of my number one suggestion I give to everybody.
You know, you taught me a lot over the years around the right temperature to brew your coffee. The exact measurement in grams for how to make the best cup of coffee. You’ve introduced me to great beers, great restaurants, but in lots of cool to your point, tinkering experiments that are really fun in your office.
I’d say the number one thing you’ve shown me is good Vietnamese food. And you know, you and I have had a lot of Pho around town. What are your top three favorite Vietnamese restaurants in Cleveland?
JACOB: Yeah, well, I would say for the best Vietnamese, find a Vietnamese family who will make it real because my brother in law’s family Vietnamese. And you can’t touch what they do at a restaurant.
I don’t usually make it to number three because it’s usually one or two.
I really appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure and can’t wait to share this with my audience.
June 4, 2021