I had the pleasure of interviewing Jed Ayres, IGEL’s Global CEO.
Jed is recognized for the impact he is making on the end user computing industry, as well as the instrumental role he has played in IGEL’s pivot starting in 2016 from a hardware-centric to a software-first company. As Global CEO, Ayres leads IGEL’s seasoned team of executive leaders as the company works to align with the world’s most prominent cloud providers to transform end user computing by simplifying and securing the cloud-delivery of all needed applications and resources.
Ayres brings more than 20 years of technology experience to IGEL and has a wide range of industry experience across workspace management, virtualization and mobility. Prior to joining IGEL, he was the SVP of Worldwide Marketing for AppSense, where he helped the company rebrand and achieve significant growth prior to being acquired by LANDESK. Ayres was also CMO at MCPc, a $300m+ Solutions Provider in Cleveland that achieved rapid and sustained growth and was acquired by Logicalis. Prior to MCPc, he spent six years as SVP of Partner Management and Marketing at national Solution Provider MTM Technologies, a large Citrix Platinum Partner that focuses on virtualization and managed services.
Previously, Ayres held senior management positions at MegaPath, Rhythms NetConnections and GE Capital IT Solutions. He has also held a number of advisory board positions, including Citrix Platinum Council, VMware Global Partner Advisory Board, Hewlett Packard Partner Marketing Advisory Board and the Cisco Marketing Council.
Ayres holds a BS in Business Administration from Sonoma State University and an MBA from San Francisco State University. An avid swimmer, biker and runner, Ayres successfully completed six full Ironman races and several ultramarathons. He resides in Marin, California.
Thank you for joining us Jed. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
In 1995, I was pursuing my MBA at San Francisco State University and I got a lucky break as a summer intern for a computer reseller, GE Capital IT Solutions. I commuted to Sacramento and worked as part of a small marketing team. My first assignment was to port a massive paper catalog of IT products used by the State of California to the Internet. At the time, being able to search for products and see pricing via the Netscape browser was revolutionary! At the end of the summer I was the only one in the company who knew how to maintain this online catalog, so I returned to school with a part time job, working from home! This position eventually led to sales and management roles in a variety of technology resellers and software companies. Further, my early experience with working from home has shaped me philosophy on the concept and benefits of remote work scenarios.
In short, I’ve been blessed to live on the forefront of the technology wave over the last 25 years. This industry is just as exciting today as it was in 1995 as companies continue to leverage technology to stay competitive.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I first started in sales, one of my tasks was responding to Request for Proposals (RFPs). The projects were massive undertakings and typically hundreds of pages in length. I would always underestimate the time required to complete them, print and deliver them. On more than one occasion, I would end up staying up all night and just barely making the delivery deadline. While we had much success, probably the most important lesson I learned from this is how to manage a project and to delegate the work efforts so all-nighters and high-speed drop offs weren’t required.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I read the book from “Worst to First” in the late 1990s about Gordon Bethune’s remarkable turnaround of Continental Airlines. Taking the worst airline to the very best, he did it by building a simple plan that focused on his employees and customers. I remember how he connected compensation to the key outcomes that he needed to change. And instead of including it a normal payroll he made a spectacle out of it and cut a fresh check and hand delivered it for achievement. This book also helped me realize you can take the worst situation and turn it around. I’ve been able to take much of what I learned from this book and apply it to my role here at IGEL. Since coming on board with the company in 2016, we’ve experienced massive growth both in the U.S. and around the globe, elevating our company from #7 to #3 in terms of market share. This year our aim is to become the #1 Edge OS for cloud workspaces! Much of this can be attributed to our laser-focused efforts on humanizing the experience that our customers, partners and employees have in terms of their relationship with IGEL.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
In February, I assumed the role as the global CEO of IGEL. I took the helm of the company from the founder who spent 20 years building an amazing company. We passed a real lit torch on the stage in front of our 450 employees. Leading up to this moment we worked extensively to define and articulate the values that had propelled the company — namely Trust, Integrity, Independence, Innovation and Partnership. These values now provide a foundation to deliver on our vision of transforming the way the world works to create better outcomes for people, organizations and the planet.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
I like to say we run IGEL on three words. The first one is “Believe.” Believe is the idea that you have to think like a child. The words “not possible” are not an option. If we have the right mindset we can dream it, we can build it and we can bring it to market. Be bold and don’t be afraid to fail. The second two words are “Servant Heart.” This is the idea that we live each day by prioritizing kindness and in service of others. Starting with our own team and extending to our partners and our customers.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
COVID-19 has radically impacted our household. I have three kids, (ages 17, 15 and 12) a dog and a cat. We’ve all been together every day for 60+ days juggling the challenges of schooling, work, cooking, cleaning, shopping, exercising, etc. We’ve had to cope with uncertainty and fear but we’ve also identified many positives. We’ve eaten better, tried new recipes, appreciated cleaner air and quieter skies. We’ve spent time thinking about what is really important. We’ve planted a garden, cleaned closets and fixed up the backyard. We’ve called our family members more. We’ve painted. We’ve played games. But most of all we’ve remembered to hug each other and laugh. Now, we eat meals together and we play a game called “Rose, Thorn, Bud.” We share something great that happened that day, something that was frustrating and something we are looking forward to or hoping for. It’s real and it’s therapeutic.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Some of the biggest work challenges we all face during this time are communication, connection, maintaining momentum and energy, and staying in one place — day in and day out. Some of the things we are doing at IGEL to overcome these challenges are weekly all hands meetings, Zoom Happy Hours, extended leadership teams and showcasing and celebrating the great stories of innovation and resilience that are coming from our customers, partners and employees during these uncertain times. I can’t stress enough the importance of communication during this time — it’s okay to overcommunicate when everyone is working remotely. Also, I am making an effort and encouraging my team to move around during the day — don’t work in one place — even if it is moving from the kitchen to the garden or balcony. Changing your “view” every once in a while can provide motivation and energy. I also tell my team not to be afraid of real life blurring into work — barking dogs and crying children are the reality, and shouldn’t be hidden away. Be authentic.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Exercise is very important during this time — just getting outside for a run, walk or bike ride can do wonders. Going outside for little fresh air and sunshine always brings new perspective. Meditation is also very important. At IGEL we have a corporate subscription to the HeadSpace app and are encouraging all of our employees to use it to help focus, breath and promote mindfulness. I also recommend scheduling device-free time. Digital detox is important to maintaining good mental health. Take time each day to step away from the e-mail, texts and phone calls.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Traditional work, as we know it, has dramatically changed. From before COVID-19 to the future of what remains, one thing is for sure; humans are spirited and headstrong, and if it’s any consolation from the brilliant minds of Bill Gates, who created Microsoft from his parent’s house, or Jeff Bezos, who started Amazon in his garage, or IGEL’s Heiko Gloge who started our company in a tiny attic — one thing is for certain: work is something you do, not somewhere you go. IGEL is preparing for the post-COVID economy by making it possible for people to work from home. Our operating system and management platform ideally suited for Microsoft 365, VDI and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions, and today we are helping organizations enable and accelerate their true work from home strategy by providing them with the ability to deploy and manage the IGEL OS across the internet securely, enabling IT organizations to manage and support thousands of endpoints.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
There are a number of ways in which COVID-19 is going to change the way we work and live. To begin with, I think we are going to see an increasing number of companies and worker embrace work from home. We’ve already seen that starting to happen with Twitter’s announcement that all employees can work from home forever. We are also going to see dramatic changes in commercial real estate as companies look to leverage more flexible workspaces. Large office buildings will become a thing of the past. There is also going to be more innovation in terms of technologies to support and connect people at home from telemedicine to remote learning. I anticipate this further accelerating as schools and universities re-evaluate curriculum delivery over the long-term. I also anticipate there will be fewer cars on the roads, but at the same time, there will be more autonomous vehicles as people shift away from mass transit to prevent the spread of disease. Another thing we will see is the rise in home gardening. During the pandemic, gardening has provided us with the antithesis to the calamities caused by COVID. With gardening springs new life and joy that can be found from the simple act of cultivating fruits, vegetables and flowers. I also think that we will be more grateful for each other when we can finally spend time face-to-face with friends and loved ones.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
A recent Gartner CFO survey found that 74% plan to shift some employees to remote work permanently following the pandemic. As such, I see work from home become a huge tailwind for innovation. Getting everyone in every organization set up to work from home on a secure manageable device will be table stakes for every organization going forward. At IGEL, we are working with our ecosystem partners to provide our mutual partners and customers with solutions and provide employees with the freedom to get work done from almost anywhere, while at the same time providing IT with full management control. Our vision is to transform the way the world works to create better outcomes for people, organizations and the planet.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Agility is our new superpower. Don’t be afraid to change and in some cases radically. Some of the best outcomes are born from adversity. Think about the innovations that came between World War I and World War II. In 1914, went to war on horseback and in 1946 came out having split an atom. During that time, penicillin, computers and jet engines were invented. I am confident that human intellect and innovation will prevail, and that similar progress will come from the COVID crisis.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always loved the poem from Richard Kipling titled “If”. He wrote it as if he was talking to his son, giving him advice to find his place in the world and to live with integrity and dignity. The first line is one I repeat to myself anytime I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed…I have a quarantine goal to be able to memorize the entire poem,
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!