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We@PS Podcast

Entrepreneur and Team Leader from an Early Age

- Welcome to another episode of We@PS, I'm Halley Marsh and joining me are my co-hosts, Nadine Bennett and Nick Easlick. We are all part of the Global Talent Acquisition team and come together each month to give our listeners an inside look at the people behind Publicis Sapient. As usual, we're gonna start with another one of our bites sections, where we share our thoughts and opinions on recent news articles. So, today we'll start with Nick, what do you got for us?

 

- Yeah, so my son, Elijah, just turned four and his first birthday, he received his very first Lego. And so my first thought was, it's happening. Because I was obsessed with Legos as a kid, I had-

 

- I can picture that.

 

- Yeah, oh yeah. I had buckets of them in the basement. We used to build cool things, but it went beyond just building an inspired, imaginative play with myself and friends and objects in the room. And probably my family dog that hated me. But I recently stumbled on an article from Julia Golden. Who's the Lego's Chief Product and Marketing Officer. And so the first thing that stuck out to me was that, her title and job are kind of traditionally two people's jobs, CMO and CPO, chief product officer, but with Lego, that's one. And so there's been a shift from this product centric marketing strategy to more of a consumer centric strategy. And so, this shift has been key to them launching over 300 new products every year. So Julie goes on, she talks about how the insight that her team gains from watching kids play with different Legos. So it goes beyond just age groups and genders but it understands like needs and play patterns and how people live. So, Lego's also branched well beyond like the physical products, they have digitized a lot of their products as well over the last, really several years, they have movies and TV shows and a ton more. Lego, actually their YouTube channel has more than 10 billion views since 2021.

 

- Oh my goodness.

 

- Yeah, so, Juliet, she later she's interviewed in the article. And there are a few things that really stuck out that I thought were really interesting and relevant. First, she says that being a marketer, no matter what someone's level or experience or role that you should always hear what your customers have to say. So after all, you can't be a successful marketer if you close your mind off to other people's views and experiences. And so that reminded me of one of our core values at Publicis Sapient, engage with openness. And similarly, she goes on, she says that one of the hardest parts about being a marketer today, is staying ahead of the curve. And that the best way to do it is to seek diverse opinions and different ways of thinking. And so, this means like recognizing and nurturing diversity across your organization and valuing diversity. And that reminded me of another core value of ours which is inclusive collaboration. And so finally, Julie talks about how, for kids learning is instinctive and that they pick something up, they throw it, they chew it, they, you know, whatever. But as an adult we sort of lose that instinctiveness to continue to learn and experiment with things around us. So she quotes Alvin Toffler who says. This is really cool. "The illiterate of the 21st century "will not be those who cannot read or write "but those who cannot learn, unlearn or relearn." So that reminds me of another one of our core values, which is, having a learning mindset.

 

- We had a whole session on that quote at the beginning of the Fellowship and Transformation Leadership.

 

- Oh, no way, cool.

 

- No way.

 

- I Wasn't familiar with who Mr. Toffler was, but it was such a cool quote that I'm like, that's really, I don't know, I just thought that was super interesting. So it reminds me, like when we're back in the office, whenever that time is, I think it would be so cool to have like a communal spot within the lobby or like other part of the office, just with like a big bucket of Legos and like, where it's like a cool thing people can build things. I don't know, maybe I'll imagine a play, who knows but like, it's a cool way to like socialize. So, I don't know, I just thought that was interesting.

 

- I love that, that reminds me of, we actually used to do that. We used to hand out Lego kits at campus as part of one of our giveaways. And it had that, 'cause it was very connected to that whole imagine a play thing and it fits in with all of that. I love that. Though, I just have one other thing to say though, is like, that's fine if it's at the office, but like, I don't like stepping on little Lego pieces. you're about to ensure that phase of your life, Nick, which I'm a couple of years ahead of you on that and like, ouch, just ouch, that's all I'm going to say, so.

 

- Yeah. Oh, I've had. The Lego that he got was a firetruck and it has like this little flame, like jaggedy flame. It is, yeah, so I stepped on that.

 

- Oh, that's awesome. I love all of that, thank you for sharing that. Nadine, what do you have for us?

 

- Yeah, so I have an interesting topic I'm really looking forward to discussing with you both, because this last week, there was an email shared from the CEO of Canadian firm, Shopify, that's really ignited debate about how we think of colleagues and ultimately what that means for company culture. So, published by Insider, Tobias Lütke's email likens Shopify's workforce to a sports team rather than a family. And he calls the idea of colleagues as family, preposterous, in his own word, because it makes it harder to let underperforming employees go. So, I'm really curious to see what you both think about this, because it's an interesting way to approach it, because I love the sports team mentality and I watched a documentary recently which was talking about the principle of Ubuntu, Ubuntu? I'm gonna need to fact check that everyone who's listening, but it's about working as a team and what's right for the collective is what's the right thing to do. And, you know, the strength of the pack is the Wolf and the strength of the Wolf is the pack kind of mentality. But it was interesting that he went straight to the underperforming piece. Like you can't let people go if they're part of your family. I just feel like, I don't look at it from that angle but I do think it's good to have the boundary and recognize who your family are, who are unconditionally there for you, love you, no matter how great you're performing or how poor you're performing in the family context. And then in a sports team, you work together to try and achieve whatever that, you know, that unified goal is. So, what do you both think about that?

 

- Yeah, I think this sports thing is a much better analogy than the family, for sure. I think about, you know, when we hear, at least here in the states and I'm sure the same is true internationally, but when we hear players going from, you know, team to team or being cut from one team to land on another, they often talk like, "Oh, it's a business, it's a business." I get it, and that's like a very common, you know, crutch phrase that people use. But it just represents that like, yeah, this is, you know, this is something that is a bit, it can be a bit like this isn't necessarily a family where we, but decisions have to be made, difficult decisions have to be made, but we can both be better at the onset of those decisions. I think the family dynamic can be tough, I think, for the underperforming or, you know, lack of performing piece to it. But also I think just so many other different, you know, reasons. Everyone is trying to run, you know, a business and be efficient and whatnot. Halley, what do you think about that?

 

- Yeah, I feel like I've read similar things, so not maybe as well articulated as what you just shared, Nadine. Thinking about how this whole mindset of a family at work is actually falling out of vogue or however you wanna say it, in the pandemic, when we're all having this remote work and the lines are so blurred and people are talking about, you know what? I don't want you to be my family. You're in my house all day, every day, right? Like I see, or like visually, like on video, you're in my house, right? But that does not mean that I need you to see me in my pajamas or that I need you, you know, what I mean? Like there have to be some boundaries, right? And there's some of that where it's like. And people are being so encouraged to be vulnerable and transparent with people at work. Like, especially when you think about some of the racial challenges that happen like, following the George Floyd murder and stuff like that people are like, oh, be vulnerable and stuff like that. But you shouldn't be forced to be that vulnerable like you would be with your family, right? Like, there's something about it where it's like, you know what, a sports team like, you're still super close, you're still super tight, but it is a work relationship. So I think that there's something about it, where it's like giving, empowering people to feel like that boundary there by using the word team as opposed to family. I do kind of like. Though, it's still means you're super close and super tight, right. Like I still feel super tight with everybody at Sapient and that doesn't mean that I don't love everybody. It's just a different kind of love, it's not family love. Anyway. So, thank you, Nadine, I loved that. And then I'm gonna transition and talk about an article I read recently in The Economist which was talking about, it's title was "How Executive Mothers Cope". You can talk about coping with what, right? But like, just cope with life, in general is basically what the article was about. And the first thing that I thought was so interesting about this article, was they talked about different generations of women and how they coped over time. And they said like boomer women who were executives, first of all, there weren't that many of them. Second of all, they were just really stressed, pretty much. 'Cause they were fully expected to do all the mom stuff and all the business stuff, and they were not allowed to talk about them. Like there was a brick wall in between those two. And then they said, you know, the next wave, so people who were born between '74 and '85, you know, they mastered what they called the work-life sway, which I kind of like the sway, right? It's like, you know, they would move back and forth between professional and parenting, like pretty seamlessly throughout the day, they'd be like moving back and forth. And they said, the thing is though is that what you forget about this is that it's still like, they're still feeling overloaded. They have massive amount of guilt. And they talked about how, and they had some other statistics I just have to throw out there which I know we've talked about before. But they said, you know, only 27% of employers in the US have maternity leave and they talked about, so imagine how much worse this is for working mothers who aren't executives, who don't have the resources they have, like daycare or anything like that. And then they also said, though, on the plus side though like adult daughters of employed moms are more likely to have a higher income and to be supervisors and their sons spend more time with their family when they're adults as well. So it's a benefit for both or all children. And where I wanted to talk to you guys about this. And so we've talked about before, like in this article reiterated as well, it said, you know, in order to make this work and have more executives you need high quality childcare. Like that's thing that we all need. But where I really started to think about this, where I was like, okay, so it's it basically, they were like, it doesn't sound attractive, right? Like being a female executive or a working mother period, you know, that they made it sound pretty hard. And one of the things I started really thinking about for us as a company, or, you know, it's just like, if we don't figure out how to crack this we are leaving so much potential talent on the table, right? So many people who could be really beneficial and we all know talent market is really tight and it's not gonna get any better, right. It's not like we're seeing tons and tons of other people, like people are leaving the workforce more than they're joining the workforce. Due to like population decline and things like that. And so all I could think of was like, how else can we help women cope? Like the head of the article like really made, and actually maybe this fits with what we were just talking about, Nadine, right? Like work as a team, not a family. And how can a team support it, even if we don't have high quality childcare from government institutions or anything like that. I don't know if you have anything to add from other conversations we've had, of ways we can add, help people cope, right?

 

- Yeah. It's so interesting, but it's also just such a case-by-case thing. I look at our family and my wife works. But the way that we parent is so co-parent. We don't have like these defined roles, where like, okay, you know, you're the mom, so you do this in running our house and I am the man and I do this. Like, that is not how we do that. But it's so tough for those that do. And it really, a lot of that falls, the whole running the house, running the family falls on the woman. And that can be so, so challenging when they're also trying to be an executive at a company as well. I don't know what the solve there is, I just know that in our family, it's so much of like a co-parent and not in a shared responsibility back and forth that somehow kind of works for us a little bit, because of it being kind of this, again, this shared thing. So, I don't know.

 

- I will share one other thing there. So the Women's Leadership Network here at Sapient, yesterday did host a town hall or a panel, I should say, on being a working mom and what is it like and talking about it. As one person said afterwards, they're like, "Man, you really shared all the gory details." And so sometimes I think it's. It wasn't me, I didn't share the gory details, but one of the panelists did. And so it was like, I think being real about it to not make it look like, oh, I have it all figured out, right? Like the guilt can be real, feeling overwhelmed is real. And that's okay, you're not alone, I can maybe help.

 

- Yeah.

 

- So, yeah

 

- Yeah.

 

- Yeah, I think, oh, go ahead, go ahead, Nadine.

 

- Sorry, Nick. I think that this is a subject I'm really interested in and we are doing a lot of work as the VivaWomen Resource Group around actually how work-life balance impacts all of our employees, whether that be men, women, whether you've got children or not. But there's a really inspirational woman that works for us in our publicist group family called Gemma Phillips. And she was behind the Saatchi & Saatchi Family Policy. And what she has done is really challenged the status quo and developed policy that helps women that are, it's actually at the earlier stage where they're trying to conceive whether they're going through IVF, whether there's pregnancy support trying to get pregnant or difficulties during your pregnancy. We also have a Menopause Policy now as I digress slightly, but my point is, it started with someone who was brave enough to have a challenging conversation with that agency leadership. And it's not exactly what you're referring to, today, Halley, but I think it's a step in the direction where people are getting, you know, more advocacy from the leaders to really try and make it work for all parents. Yeah, I've noticed in the last kind of two years things actually happening and meaningful impact kind of coming through. So yeah, shout out to Gemma there, great work.

 

- I love it, I love it. Thank you guys.

 

- Today, Nick Easlick and I are joined by John Weston. John Weston leads Publicis Sapient Global Microsoft Practice and specializes in business leadership focused on enterprise cloud transformation. John is a critical driver in our relationship and partnership with Microsoft and currently holds over 45 Microsoft certifications. He brings with him 35 years of experience in IT as a developer, infrastructure architect, team builder, business developer, sales manager, change agent and cloud business developer. John, welcome to the podcast.

 

- Thank you.

 

- Halley, you missed, you missed expert sailor.

 

- Expert sailor.

 

- Expert sailor, as well. If I'm not working, and actually I might be on a boat right now and you wouldn't even know it.

 

- You're absolutely right. Except for the fact that I can see you and I don't think that's a boat.

 

- I'm not on a boat today, it's a rainy day. I have four kids and all of them race sailboats competitively as well as I do. And so it's what we do together as a family.

 

- That's awesome. I have some friends who do that and love it. And it's just like, it's one of the best pastimes ever. I get motion sick, so not my hobby, but yeah. So John, we believe that where we come from helps shape who we are now. So we just like to start with all of our interviews on this show to understand where did you grow up and what were you like as a kid?

 

- Great question. So, I live just outside of Dallas, Texas and I wasn't born here. We got here when I was probably two or three and I call Dallas home. My parents were both educators and education has always been very, very important in our family. I mean, you think about my grandmother was a teacher, her mother was a teacher and actually got her. She was the first woman to graduate from Texas A&M, 65 years before they admitted women into Texas A&M. If you think about, we go back way into education. So education was always important. What was I like-

 

- I Just have to say one thing. I graduated from Texas A&M, so I'm right there with-

 

- Gig 'em!

 

- Gig 'em! I love it.

 

- I get on right into personal stuff. My mother went to Texas, I was not about to go to A&M, but my wife and three of my four kids went to A&M. And so I was on A&M on the weekends but I went to SMU up here in Dallas.

 

- Sorry, I just had to throw it out there. I was like, I went for grad school so it's a little bit different not the same like whole thing, but anyway. Now, what were you like as a kid? I wanna hear it all.

 

- I was an entrepreneur early. If you think about the summer I was 16, I had a paper route. Not just a paper route, I threw 500 newspapers every afternoon 26 to 28 miles on my bicycle before I had a car. And then I worked at a firework stadium and I also scooped ice cream. So I was always trying to find ways to work really hard and make money to support my, to be able to go buy more boats, to be able to support the things that I like to be able to go do. I was probably eight years old when I learned to sail on my own boat. And I'm the youngest of three kids. And my dad built sailboats with his father. And so you think about. You know, we're inland, we're not at the coast. We're not at west coast or east coast where sailing is very, very popular. Our next door neighbor sailed. It's what we did as a family on the weekends. I didn't know until much later in life. I thought every kid, you know, when you're about eight you learn to ride a bicycle and you also learn to sail a sail boat, I just thought that was a given. I didn't know that that was unusual until many years later.

 

- That's fantastic. Did you guys travel around and like go to Nationals and the whole thing?

 

- When my older two kids started traveling and I was complaining about, you know, driving all night to Corpus Christi to a sailboat race, my dad goes, "I seem to remember taking you "when you were a teenager." We would travel quite extensively throughout Texas, particularly. You know, my kids have sailed all over the world. I mean, my son's raced to Bermuda, he's raced in world championships around the world. So, you know, it's a travel. My youngest is in college today. He's a senior at up right here at University of North Texas. He just got back from purchasing a, new to him, a 20-year-old sailboat, but that boat was in Florida. So he in a typical college road trip, he and a roommate got in his pickup, drove to Miami, picked up the sailboat and drove back. And they had been home maybe six hours and were out sailing in that new to them boat. So yeah, he's hoped to race that boat in the National Championships in next month.

 

- Now, that's so cool. John, I told you this in a previous conversation, but I just, I'm a new owner of a sailboat as well-

 

- Congratulations.

 

- Yeah, thank you. So I will be, I'm sure, messaging you about, "John, what's a boom?"

 

- It's the noise the metal part hits your forehead, yeah.

 

- Of course I was gonna say, don't ask me 'cause the answer would be very different.

 

- So you talked about, you know, your paper routes, scooping ice cream. Was that your first job? The paper route?

 

- Yeah, my older brother had done newspapers. I follow him a lot, and then he and I had our own software company together after college. But yeah, newspapers was really interesting. And the scale that we, you know, normal paper routes maybe 50 customers. For whatever reason mine continued to grow and grow. You know, always looking at, you know, think about from there in high school to, I was in my senior year in high school. I was actually a programmer. I, you know myself. Early '80s was in a work study program. And most of the early 80s work-study programs for auto mechanics or how to build a house or cosmetology. I was the first one in our high school to do computer programming. So I went to school from seven to 11 and then I wrote code from noon to eight. I worked a full 40-hour week my senior year in high school writing software in the early 80s. So, you know, even before the original, right as the original PC came out.

 

- Yeah, yeah. Wow, that's wild. What did you program in, what language?

 

- It was Basic, IBM Business Basic. So did a lot of mini and mainframe as well as, you know, but yeah, all different kinds of languages throughout college, I did everything from COBOL to Pascal to, you know, Basic. But my first language was Basic.

 

- Yeah, did you know that you wanted to get into software programming into college once you were making that transition in life?

 

- Great question. So, again, back to my older brother. He started out as biology in college and realized he can't, or you can make a living but you can't really get an exciting career in biology. So he switched and my dad taught at the university we went to at the time and he said, "Why don't you try this new MIS thing? "It's not just programming, "it's this, you know, Business and IT together." And so my brother switched in his degrees in MIS five years ahead of me. And then so when I was going into college. It's interesting, I started out as a Computer Science and went two years as Computer Science. And since we all typically do change majors, I was like, you know, in the 80s to graduate as a computer scientist you had to write your own compiler. Microsoft does that great, I don't need to write a compiler and you know, you need to learn some really archaic languages. I mean, I help remove the punch cards out of the computer room, right. And we figured out quickly how to crash the mainframe and the back services that we had in college. You know, we were very creative programmers, if you will back in those days. But I actually switched from Computer Science to my degrees in Engineering Management. I knew early on I would manage people and I wanted to know all the engineering. So my degree is in Engineering Management with a minor in Computer Science. So I have all the different engineering, civil, mechanical, electrical, as well as Computer Science background in college. The ability to manage people as part of. So I took some of the business school classes on People Management, but then minored in Computer Science.

 

- What interested you about people management? We can get into your role here in a second where you are managing people in a practice. You mentioned that twice, what really made you wanna say, "Yeah, I wanna manage people."

 

- Back to the entrepreneurial stuff. One of the side gigs that I did during college was looking at ways to make money. And I did everything from like, the dorm I was in did not have carpet, right? And, my gosh, this is a private college and I'm not letting my daughter go to college without carpet. So people would go buy remnants, 'cause they're only in that dorm for one year. You know, It's a freshmen dorm. I figured out that you go in May and pick up all, people would pay you to remove the carpet, 'cause the carpet has gotta be out before you check out the dorm. I'd pick up the carpet, clean it, store it for the summer, and then resell the same. I sold the same piece of carpet four years in a row.

 

- Oh my gosh, I love that.

 

- I was even doing a PC help desk out of my dorm room. So I would pay people to man the phone while I was in class.

 

- How did you have enough hours in the day?

 

- I did, and ended up dating a girlfriend that was in College Station, 200 miles away, right. Yeah, so I worked 40 hours a week and went to college full time as a programmer for different companies. Some of them professors there at the university, some doing research, some of my own customers. But I realized quickly that I would, there's only so much code I can write and that to be able to advance, I'm gonna be able to help coach and manage people to do that. That some of that comes from my father. If you go again all the way back through my family history, I believe there's some leadership DNA that you're born into. I see it in all my kids. My son's on the sailing team. I just, I warned him, I said, you're gonna be the captain, and you're gonna be the president of the club. It's in your DNA. You have very little patience for bad management and so you wanna be a part of that and take over that. All those factors kind of drove that I knew that would be managing people into or at least leading them regardless of what position I had in the company. And so that's why I changed my major and really wanted to learn how to manage people.

 

- Cool, yeah. So let's fast forward to you graduate from SMU.

 

- Yup.

 

- How'd you get connected with your very first job out of school?

 

- So great question. Did a bunch of interviews. Interviewed with, you know here in Dallas, Texas Instruments, the IBM's of the world, Arthur Anderson with the typical interview cycles. And it already, you know, between the gigs of writing code with the different companies that I worked for, I had done a lot of independent stuff. And so the choice was, go to work for one of these big corporations or start my own software company. And, you know, it was summer of '86, I graduated, moved, got married and incorporated my software company all within a six-week time period.

 

- [All] Wow!

 

- And so my brother and I started it. I was the first full-time employee, he joined me about a year later full time quitting his day job. And the two of us really built it from no debt. No, we didn't have funding, we did it purely out of cashflow and grew it to about 50 people within three or four years. And so it was a decision. And that was, you know, so scary, right? Because getting married, buying our first house, having our first kid, all while depending upon, with no money in the bank, no line of credit. We basically had to go write code and get people to pay us for it, you know. And that was back when the hourly rate was way lower than it is today. And, you know, learning about hiring your first employee, you know, thinking about things like benefits and how do you take care of them, had the retirement plans, you know. It's very daunting at 24 to have in your charge, a company that that you're responsible for 50 families, you know, that basically you're responsible for the livelihood of those 50 families. And so learned a lot, very, very quick on what to do and what not to do.

 

- And I imagine you were working just like crazy. I feel like the theme I'm seeing here is like, John equals like hardworking. Like there is no. Yeah, there's so much hustle from that early age. So it's not really surprising, right, that that was your fist job, yeah.

 

- And it was, you know, a very pivotal memory, Texas Instruments, I was gonna be a developer for them, they made me the job offer. And when I declined it, the recruiter and I had this really heart to heart discussion. I said, you know, I hate to decline the offer but here's what I'm gonna go do. And he was like, "You know, if I was you "I'd make the same decision." Because I was gonna be in cube 33, row FF, a quarter mile from a window, right. And writing code as an individual can trip. Now, I have friends that worked at TI for 30 years. You know, great company, they've had a wonderful retirement and a great career there. Nothing against Texas Instruments individually, but that just wasn't the career path for me.

 

- Yeah, so you then get connected with Microsoft which is where we still leave from, which we'll talk about in a second too. So how'd you get connected with Microsoft?

 

- So, at Weston Brothers we were, it was Weston Brothers Software Inc. My brother and I owned it for 10 years. We were a partner with both IBM and Microsoft and really got to know Microsoft through that relationship. Our partner was partner Number 10, there's 400,000 partners now. We were in the very first year of their partnership program. Learned a lot about partnering with IBM, learned a lot about partnering with Microsoft and looked at ways that we could, you know, leverage that. Now, once we sold Weston Brothers to one of our customers, you know, where do I go from here? Obviously you plan to stay for a little while, but after six months when you sell your own company is just not the same. And so I had really gotten into the certification arena at that time and had my, at the time MCSC, a Microsoft Certification. So I got into training and I was teaching at colleges and local private training companies and then got hooked up teaching in-house at Microsoft. And so my first full-time at Microsoft was teaching as a trainer for them for their new hires, things like Windows NT5, Microsoft never had a product called that. So it was Windows NT, you know, the versions that they renamed. But I could go learn a new topic of Microsoft, pass the exam when it was in beta format. And then that made me a valuable teacher both outside Microsoft and well as internal to Microsoft to train their new hires. So they would, you know, we're talking 96 timeframe, 97. They would hire someone and they would send them through six weeks of training before they would then determine what part of the company they would go to. So I started out as a contract trainer, did that for a few years and that kind of ran its course. Was doing some international training for them. And then they asked me to come on full-time as a full-time employee, totally different role. But again, it's all the people who I knew through those previous contacts.

 

- Yeah, that's cool. So, John, I know the answer to this, but I want our listeners to find that out this the fun way. When you look back at your 24 years of Microsoft, what's like the one thing that you really hang your hat on from accomplishment perspective?

 

- Yeah, so let me rephrase your question. What are you known for? Yes, yes.

 

- And I am known as the guy that sold Azure or Microsoft's public cloud to Walmart. And at the time. So in 1994, the largest Azure deal at the time was probably two or $3 million and Microsoft sold them in one year contracts. And I had switched roles within Microsoft, and so I was now the Azure expert on a brand new team called Incubation that covered Azure as it just was first getting going. And the mission was to sell it to Walmart. And it was very, very interesting. It was a hard sale. They're a very difficult customer to sell to.

 

- I can imagine.

 

- But we did a deal 10 times bigger than any other Azure deal had ever been done, at the time. And changed the way Microsoft sells Azure. That we did a three-year deal, which we'd never, Microsoft had never done. And that's all Microsoft does today are three-year deals. And so that kind of put me on the map. They got me in their Platinum club, got to go to Hawaii with the executives at Microsoft and take my whole family. And that kind of started some of our family's direction towards Hawaii, which I can talk about later. But that's kind of an interesting that the Microsoft trips really kind of got us towards a Hawaiian, some of our, you know, my son living out there for a number of years. You know, it was something that created my reputation. I then they asked me because of that one sale to go back into management and then built in sales team from about four people when I started. So that team today is well over 300 people. So it was a lot of fun being early on in that and get known as the guy that sold the largest Azure deal in the world. Now, obviously there've been way bigger ones since that today, but you know, 2014, that was a big deal to do something 10 times bigger than we'd ever done before.

 

- This is one of the things that I think people sometimes forget, is that you can be super entrepreneurial in a big company. Which is what you just talked about, right?

 

- Absolutely.

 

- And I think that the more examples people hear of that, it can also help people come places, like here instead of going to start in their own company.

 

- And you don't have to be a manager, right? I mean, I'm a Simon Sinek fan, I love his thoughts about leadership. I'm a firm believer that regardless of your position in a company, you can be a leader. People will follow you if you care about people, if you take care of others and you help show them this is the direction that we're going. And so my, you know, kind of skipping ahead but my job here today is I'm building a company inside of Sapient. I'm building the Microsoft practice. Yeah, I could have gone back and started my own consulting company again after leaving Microsoft. But to me it's a wonderful opportunity to do that inside this great organization.

 

- Yeah. I'm curious, you and I, John got connected in like September, October of 2019. What was the motivating factor of coming here?

 

- So first, let me talk about why I left Microsoft and then I'll talk about why coming here and make sure I get there. But it's a couple of reasons why I left Microsoft. One, is I didn't leave the company, absolutely love the company, still today. Very, very passionate about the company. Left, one, a bad manager. I had worked with a great manager for a number of years, had some phenomenal managers at Microsoft that I would work for again in a heartbeat. Last manager was just, I can't just other say than it was just bad. And so Pete and I looked at going back to my old manager, well, he left to Google, again, that's not me, right? So it was just, that was number one, it was a bad situation I wanted to get out of. And two is, they offered an early retirement program. It's where as big companies like that have big stock programs as part of the compensation. When you leave you lose that, you know, the grant. The vesting stops, well, not true at Microsoft if you reached their early retirement program. And so I was able to leave in such a way that continue to vest in my stock over the next few years. And so that was, to me, it was a perfect timing to be able to leave there. So that's kind of there're couple of reasons why I left Microsoft. Why here? Primary reason is the people. I had offers from elsewhere and the people and the culture are very, very important to me. I could work at a number of different places. I could go do, be successful, have fun at lots of different places. But to me what's most important is who I work with every day. And not just what I do, but the caring of people. I mean, I think about, I joined what? A month and a half before COVID started. Just the compassion today for our people and the impact that COVID is, right, having right now in India is just unbelievable. We were on Nigel, our CEO's call for all the internal employees took an hour and a half to talk about this topic. And that's all he talked about for the hour and a half. I have three new employees that just started that Nick knows about that. They'd been with the company about six weeks at that time. And so I had a back channel I am chat going on with them during this call. And I just put a comment there. I said, I feel the passion from Nigel about caring for people and the compassion that he has to take care of our people is way more important than profit, way more important than our customers. Taking care of our people is so critical. And all of my employees that work for me just love that comment. And it just created a team unity around, wow, look, here's our leader, addressing the situation and just the compassion that he has around that. And I sense that during the interview process. When I interview both people, both ways, it's not just selling me on the job, you've got to sell me on the company. Why do I wanna work at Sapient? And it's the people, it's the culture, it's the environment and the freedom to, you know, if you've got an idea, hey, you know, maybe we should go do business this way or what about thinking about doing this? We have the opportunity to express those opinions here and see and figure ways to go get them funded. That's what really attracted me to come in here.

 

- Yeah, whether you're just coming here or you've been here for a while, when asked what keeps you here, or why did you come here? The people is consistently the first response people give.

 

- Absolutely.

 

- Yeah. So, looking ahead to your business, John, as the Microsoft Practice Lead, what are you most excited about going into, you know, wrap? Well, I shouldn't say wrapping up 2021, but, you know, we're kind of starting to stare at the back half of 2021 into 2022, but, what are you looking at when you look at that?

 

- Yeah, to me, I mean, our year's calendar, but Microsoft's is July one to June 30, and so we're in the last six weeks of Microsoft's year. And so Microsoft is doing that planning phase for next year. And so to me, I've added three people to my team, I wanna grow it to 10. We're actively looking for people, both here in the US and outside the US, particularly over in London or in the UK or Europe, anywhere for that matter. To add to my team, to grow this business development. We're an overlay team, you know, so we don't necessarily own the sales relationship with a specific customer, but we, you know, are helping the connection with Microsoft. Why use Microsoft technologies? Should we jointly go to the customer with things like, you know, the Microsoft account team and our account team go into the customer together, we've jointly responded to some RFPs together. And so, you know, growing that capacity, you know, so we have influence sales that we, you know, measure in our consulting and our application development that we're doing in Microsoft technologies some of that's happening with our team. That's great, but we're trying to grow that, that my team is influencing. So I have a team that reports to me as well as a virtual team. And we measure growth on a quarterly basis with Microsoft. So, by how much consulting revenue we get and then how much Azure we're driving for Microsoft. We're doing about 100% year on year growth in that area. And that's just, you know, crazy when you think about, you know, how do we scale that up? And so to me, you know what I see three to five years I would love to have the Microsoft practice here be a significant portion of our consulting business. Obviously we do multi clouds and other partners, you know, so that's great, I don't expect Microsoft to be the dominant one by that factor, but I do expect us to be able to continue to rapidly grow, both the size of my team, the impact of my team, and then the revenue to Sapient that my team helps drive.

 

- Yeah. Cool. When you look ahead as well, any dream client or brand or anyone that you think of that like, oh gosh, that would be so cool to have this in our portfolio.

 

- You know, that's an interesting question because we're verticalized, right? So we have Energy and Commodities team, we have our Financial Services team and we have our Retail team. The three that we primarily focus in. Now we have seven across all of those. What I'd love to have is a Fortune 100 in all seven of our verticals, right? To say that I helped drive that. I mean, my reputation at Microsoft was obviously the Walmart's, the big, big whale customers of the world would love to help land a vertical, a whale of that sorts in each of our verticals here at Sapient.

 

- Yeah. Yeah. Very cool.

 

- So, I know we've been talking a lot about future stuff but I've got a question going back to, looking back, right, over the last 30 plus years of your career. And I'm just curious, 'cause it sounds like you've had so many great successes, all these great big whales and everything. But what's one mistake that you've made in your career that you wish you could do over?

 

- Oh gosh, there's so many. You know, there are missed opportunities. At Microsoft, I was in a team called Evangelism, and what in the world is that? We basically, I would give 400 speeches a year. I love being on stage, love presenting. I stayed in that organization too long. One of the interesting things I learned at Microsoft back in my early part of my Microsoft career, you're expected to move teams every two years. And then they changed that where they wanted people like salespeople to build deep relationships with the customers. They wanted them to stay in role longer. I stayed way too long in the Evangelism team. And they got kind of known as the demo or he's the speech giving guy, or, he's the guy that did Windows 7. I mean, I literally gave the Windows 7 launch speech in 22 cities around the United States. And so it hurt my reputation, is I became that, you know, you're known as that guy that does that. Now obviously two years later picking up on Azure was very smart, and then driving the Walmart deal changed that reputation. But I stayed too long in a role within Microsoft and should have moved much sooner. I had people giving me advice to move to the enterprise role and it took me too long to get there.

 

- See, I think that's actually really good advice for anybody listening to who's thinking about a career switch, right? Like, don't stay too long. It's hard sometimes and it takes a lot, to a bravery to look for a new job. But I think that it's really important for people to think about. So John, we're nearing the end of our time here but we'd like to end all of our interviews with something we call the Sapient Seven. So, what I'm gonna do, is I'm gonna ask you seven questions, we're gonna go rapid fire. I want you to think of the first thing that comes to your head, okay. Don't don't sweat it.

 

- Okay.

 

- So, you're ready?

 

- Yep.

 

- Okay, first, what is something new you have learned in the last 30 days?

 

- How to approve expense reports?

 

- It's not that hard, for everybody listening, I promise.

 

- And approved time sheets. You know, before having employees I never had to do that before, and those are process questions.

 

- Yes, yes, okay, next question. What is one trend you're paying attention to?

 

- There's public cloud is public cloud, but now the Microsofts and Googles and AWSs of the world are doing vertical clouds. So Microsoft has announced a cloud specific to healthcare, a cloud specific to financial services, a cloud specific to retail. So think about-

 

- It makes sense, actually.

 

- It does makes sense.

 

- As you're saying it it make sense.

 

- Yeah. So I'm a CIO or I'm a business manager at a company. What is, okay, I'm in banking and I do mortgages, what is the Microsoft financial cloud really mean? You know, try to understand public cloud is public cloud, but now that they're getting in these vertical solutions, how is that gonna change how people use the public cloud? Therefore, how do we create applications or solutions for those customers in conjunction with those public cloud verticalizations.

 

- Very interesting. Okay, next question. What is something on your bucket list?

 

- Australia, never been there. Been to lots of countries. Those flags represent yacht clubs I've sailed at around the world that are in my office here. Never been to Australia. I would love to go sailing in Australia, looking for a business reason to get over there as soon as COVID travel restrictions are lifted to get to Australia.

 

- That sounds amazing. Mine too, I wanna go to Australia at some point. Okay, next, did you have a nickname growing up? And if so, what was it?

 

- Okay, great, great. Yes, I do. A little bit of history here. So I'm a new grandfather, so I had two grandkids born in the last 18 months.

 

- Congrats.

 

- Thank you. One in Hawaii, one here in Texas. They're now both here, back in Texas. So what is your grandfather name? So that's the same question and let me kind of get there. I was born nine months after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I go to first grade, seven of the 30 kids are named John. And I wasn't named for John F. Kennedy, I was actually named for my mother's older brother, John. And so my middle name is Moak, M-O-A-K. It's an old English name. I've got a book on the shelf over here that tracks my family heritage line back to the Moak family, came from England to the United States on the second trip of the Mayflower. Most people don't realize the Mayflower came over, it went back. It came back on a second trip and my family came over on that second trip, that's the Moak family. So it's an old family name. So in first grade, my family members and the other seven Johns in the class, I was known as Moak. We went by either our middle or last name.

 

- I love that, I love that. That's a good one. That's a good nickname for grandkids. Okay, it's easy to pronounce. Next question. What is the most valuable thing you've learned from your parents or family?

 

- Great question. Most valuable thing I learned is to love and to trust people and take care of others. It's so important to the community and the people that we interact with every day, that you have a personal relationship with them, and you look after others. That's part of me about being a leader. Again, back to Simon Sinek said, "Leaders eat last". You know, that the leader shouldn't eat until he'd make sure everyone in his charge has been taken care of and fed and well looked after, then people will trust you and amazing things will happen.

 

- Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And totally agree. So, next question. If you were on a deserted island what album would you take with you?

 

- Mmh, great question. Been a longterm Jimmy Buffet fan. So he has his albums part one and part two of the "Songs You Know By Heart" like we all know those. I've taken many of my kids to-

 

- I don't know

 

- You don't know Jimmy Buffett's "All The Songs You Know By Heart" Well, he has a new album out called, "The Songs You Don't Know By Heart." But I know the word to every single one of them. I've been listening, I've been going to his concerts for 35, 40 years. I've been taking my kids as young as 18 months old to his concerts. So it's, you know, so probably his album, the newest one, "The Songs You Don't Know By Heart" by Jimmy Buffett.

 

- So that you can learn them by heart, there you go.

 

- I never pegged you as a parrothead, but I can see it now.

 

- With the sailing, oh yeah.

 

- If you go out to my truck or my wife's truck on XM, they're both on Margaritaville.

 

- And I will say that Nick, you're kind of right. I don't know

 

- Now you got an album to go listen to it.

 

- That's why I asked these questions, John, is to learn stuff like that. Which is actually for real why I asked next one for, what book are you reading now? Or that you recently finished?

 

- I'm reading all kinds of stuff but most of my stuff is not work-related. Read a lot of funny stuff-

 

- That's okay, I don't need a work book, I don't need a work book.

 

- Let me explain this one. And I don't know if you can see it, but it's "Together is Better" by Simon Sinek. It is a great little book. It takes about 30 minutes to read. It's a lot about teamwork and how teams work together and a lot about leadership. There's some great quotes in this. It's a very, very quick read. I buy this by the box from Amazon. If you're an employee for me and you work for me, you get a free copy of this. The first thing, first day you start this is gonna arrive at your house. I'm gonna mail this to you. It just kind of sets the tone for how my team works and that we care for each other, we take care of each other. We're a team, we can get way more done together as a team. And it's okay to be a leader regardless of your position within our company. And that sets a little bit of the culture of my team. And I did that at Microsoft as well, not just here. I've had many people come back to me, even a couple of years later saying that made me feel so special when I joined your team. Why in the world did you buy me a book and send it to my house? And it's just a little bitty, little bitty, inibitty thing but it says so much about I care and read this. The book may not, nothing may land with you but I think it's important to kind of set the tone of the culture.

 

- That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that. And thank you, John, this has been so much fun.

 

- I appreciate you inviting me.

 

- And so before we let you go, where can our listeners find you if they want to connect a little more?

 

- So it's John Weston. Well, now you know my middle name, excuse me. On LinkedIn, if you look under John Weston Windows is my, you know, again many years ago tuned my LinkedIn profile for anything Microsoft related. So we use the term Windows. Or email John.weston@publicissapient.com, would love to interact with anybody.

 

- That's awesome, thank you so much, John, this has been great.

 

- Thank you.

 

- Thanks you all.

 

- Thanks again for listening to another episode of the We@PS Podcast. Don't forget to subscribe in whatever app you choose and check us out at careers.publicissapient.com. Until next time, I'm Halley Marsh.

 

- I'm Nadine Bennett

 

- And I'm Nick Easlick.

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