Straight talk with Tim Campos, former CIO at Facebook

Tim Campos is the former CIO at Facebook. He recently left to build his own company called Woven, a revolutionary new way to think about calendaring.

**Please note that this interview has been condensed for this blog. 

Mayank: Hi everyone. Thank you so much for joining. I am very excited to introduce the two folks that we have with us today, Marina and Tim. Thank you both for taking the time.

Marina: You’re welcome.

Mayank: I’ll introduce Tim first. Tim, for those of you who don’t know, served a CIO at Facebook from 2010 to 2016 and served as its VP of IT. Tim was one of the early executives at Facebook. During his time there, was responsible in not only doubling employee productivity but also supporting the business as it saw 20X growth. We’re all been there and done that! Right out of Facebook, Tim was actually the CIO and VP of IT at KLA-Tencor and led the implementation of several major enterprises and Tim continues to serve actually as a board member of Viavi, Rackspace and board of directors for the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Tim we’re so excited to have you with us. Thank you for taking the time.

Mayank: Tim joins us currently as the founder and CEO at Woven. That’s actually one of his thesis that we’re gonna talk about today is his transition from CIO at Facebook to Woven and what led to that journey. We’re very excited to hear about both your journey at Facebook and then post as well. 

Mayank: Of course we have Marina. Marina is a well known tech executive as well and she’s had more than 30 years of corporate leadership experience encompassing all aspects of IT and business. She’s been the global CIO for high tech companies including NetApp and Palm, and has an exceptional background in implementing the digital strategies that a lot of us just talk about. Marina’s experience includes implementations on enterprise analytics, E-commerce, CRM, ERP, OnPrem, cloud solutions and basically anything you can think of – she’s been there and done that successfully. I will now keep quiet since the community is excited to hear from you guys. With that let me pass it off to Marina.

Marina: Great. Well, listen I am extremely excited about doing this with Tim. Tim and I have known each other for ages. Been colleagues and friends and confidants. I just have tremendous respect for him and what he was able to do in his career, I think his introduction is modest frankly. He went from being software engineer, software engineering leader to IT to being a CIO to now being entrepreneur, CEO and founder. Very few people actually experience this in their career so I think it’s just absolutely amazing. Tim maybe you can add a little bit of color to this journey. I think it’s pretty incredible. Focus on your transition from being a corporate leader and CIO to founder.

Tim: Well, first off Marina it’s an honor to be here with you. I can’t imagine a better person to do this with. In terms of my journey to CIO. I would often think earlier in my career that it was accidental. Now I wonder if it was providence. I always wanted to be a CEO and I figured I would get there by becoming a software engineering manager and then a director of software engineering and then vice president of engineering and then I’d become CEO. That’s all I needed to know. I had no idea all of the things that were missing from that plan that I was able to realize as the CIO. My journey into IT actually started at a startup.

Tim: I worked at a very early software service company called Portera Systems. Portera Systems was a professional automation technology that chose to be hosted way back in 1999 when this was definitely not the way that things were done. One of the challenges that we had as a business is that, we had decent technology, a good application but we had a lot of issues with running it in our data centers. I was asked by the CEO to help with that. That exposed me to many sides of technology that up to that point as an engineer I just had taken for granted. Infrastructure, networking and even to a certain degree business applications. That was what exposed me to IT. I enjoyed the challenges and so I chose after helping Portera Systems solve a bunch of infrastructure issues to stay focused on infrastructure. That’s how I landed at KLA-Tencor where I was given many different responsibilities ultimately which led to promotion to CIO again. From there on, I think you accurately represented the rest of my time.

Tim: I’d say couple things about my journey that are worth sharing. A big part of my success in my career has been the fusion of two sides of my brain. One is the technical side. I’ve always been a very technical leader and that has helped me greatly but the other is business. I’ve always been a student of business, I’ve been very interested in the business side of things. I was very curious about that as an engineer. It was that side of things that I realized was missing from my career plan as I got more involved with product management, product marketing, sales. I started to realize that there’s a lot more that makes a company go other than just building a product.

Tim: One of the things that really made this CIO role for me really, really valuable was that the CIO is a position within an enterprise that has full purview into all aspects of how a company is run. From that I was able to really learn a lot of different aspects of business which both helped me as a CIO but also in the roles that I carry now. Long winded answer to your question but that’s how I got started in this crazy endeavor of IT.

Marina: Well, listen specifically being a CIO of Facebook is not for faint hearted, you got 20,000 employees that know how to do your job better! I’m just joking, but it’s a highly educated, highly technical employee base. 

Marina: How different was it for you to go from being a CIO of KLA-Tencor which is a great company to trying to herd cats at Facebook? How were you able to create a value that’s recognized as strategic value by both company employees as well as executives?

Tim: It was, to be quite frank, night and day. The way that those two companies are run and they’re both fantastic companies, is very different from each other. I like to describe KLA-Tencor as one of the best managed businesses in technology. It’s in the semiconductor industry and for those people that know that industry you know that they have business cycles that are two to three times the rate as everybody else. The saying was, if you’re not in a down time, you’re planning for the next one. That creates a certain management discipline and organization that is necessary to be successful in that type of company.

Tim: That’s a very different problem than what a company like Facebook had or has, where Facebook was constantly facing growth. Innovation is a core part of the company. The culture and the way that the company is run is a key part of the experience of the company so there are very different environments. I had to learn how to adapt going from one to the other. I’d say one thing that helped is that my background, being an engineer and having worked at companies like Silicon Graphics, I was quite familiar with the very innovative type environment. That part of it actually felt more natural to me. I was able to build rapport with the engineering organization because I was technical, I could understand a lot of the challenges and the objectives that that side of the organization had. Engineering in Facebook is really one of the most important functions at the company if not the most important function at the company.

Tim: The other thing that made me very successful at Facebook was the discipline that I learned at KLA-Tencor. What I brought into Facebook was the fusion of the two. KLA-Tencor was very execution orientated, very much about keeping track of all your projects making sure that you’re managing all of your budget effectively. I came into Facebook at a time where that discipline didn’t exist. Certainly in the IT organization and even in many parts of the company that was what was needed. It was very easy for me to establish that which in turn helped me build trust with the business side of the company.

Tim: I used the technical relationship that I could build with the product organization to understand what was important for engineering. I’d say probably the biggest breakthrough for me initially came from realizing that my success at Facebook was not going to come from my ability to manage every single issue. That was definitely the case for me at KLA-Tencor. That was the kind of company where that was necessary. Failure is not an option at KLA-Tencor so you will basically manage your risks so that you have none. At Facebook the mantra was very different. Move fast and break things. Fortune favors the bold. What are you gonna do if you’re not afraid.

Marina: Anthem for, this is an anthem for a CIO professional, right? Break things. (Laughing)

Tim: Exactly, exactly.

Tim: I had to learn to accept risk, I had to learn to move quickly and most importantly I had to learn to build the staff for what I was going to need 12 to 18 months out, if not 24 months out as opposed to solve the problems that I just had from six months ago. I was fortunate that I had learned that lesson very, very quickly. As a result of that I was able to build a very good team within the first year. It was really the biggest and most important leadership lesson for me coming into Facebook – it was the importance of having just a solid staff that can take care of a lot of the issues for you and learning to set guidelines and guideposts but let people make their own way. That sometimes involves making their own mistakes, most of the time that means leveraging the fact that they are closer to the day-to-day issues, to make their own decisions. As long as they’re doing that within the guideposts that you’ve outlined you find ways to empower your team and clear roadblocks for them.

Marina: Tim, you and I both served as directors on public company boards. I usually get two different questions from my peer CIOs. First question is, how do you prepare yourself? How do you make yourself more attractive so boards are interested in actually recruiting you as a board member? That’s question number one. Question number two, how can a CIO be most effective in interfacing with their individual board of directors? How can they create a language that the board members will understand.

Tim: Yeah I think those are two fantastic questions that have very different answers. I think in terms of making yourself attractive to the board, we are in a state now where there is definitely a renaissance, not just for the role of the IT organization and the CIO, but of digital transformation. There are so many other issues related to that whether you’re talking about managing the transition of the workforce toward a world that is more technology enabled through AI and big data and other things. Or if you’re talking about the risk that you face with a business that is more reliant on technology or certainly in a world of information security and the protection of digital assets.

Tim: All of these are changing the demand that companies have for technology leadership. The board is one of those places where that demand is just growing. Most board members today are either CEOs or CFOs, ex-CEOs and ex-CFOs. Occasionally you have something like a marketer or a salesperson who’s in the boardroom. There’s not a lot of technology leadership in the board. That creates this opportunity for IT leaders to provide value to the board. Because IT is so pervasive across multiple industries, it’s like, financial leadership and executive leadership. There’s broad applicability in that.

Tim: The first thing that people can do to make themselves attractive is to be known for what they’ve been able to accomplish in their industry or in their field particularly in bringing technology to solve business issues and to solve business problems. It’s probably the biggest difference that I notice between product development, engineering, leadership and IT, is that IT as a technology function is a business function. It exists to achieve a business thesis. Whereas product organizations and engineering organizations exist to create something that a business will then create value out of. Whether that’s through sales or services or a combination of both.

Tim: When an IT leader has that track record of accomplishing something for a business perspective with technology, or transforming an already digitized industry much like I faced with Facebook. I mean those are the things that put your name on the map, to be considered for these roles.

Tim: In terms of being better prepared to interact with the board. It has been one of the many learning experiences for me serving on the board. So fascinating to see the world from the other side. The questions like what does a board member think of the IT organization? What does a board member think of the CIO? What do they wanna hear from them? I would often get the feedback that when I was presenting to the board that I was being too focused on detail and not focused enough on the things that were important to the board. Once I became a board member myself I could fully understand this.

Tim: As I mentioned before, the board generally is not staffed with technologists so there’s a whole bunch of education on the basics that as CIOs we kind of overlook, we kind of just expect that everybody else knows this stuff. Knows our acronyms, knows the importance of something basic like a network or a firewall. I learned that you have to take the time to educate. The other side of it that I also learned is how important it is to see IT more purely through the lens of business. What is the role of the function? At Viavi for example, that is a corporation that has been going through a pretty significant business transformation in terms of the structure of the business by, first the divestiture and then acquisition.

Tim: The IT organization has been front and center of that strategy with a major systems transformation to upgrade the PRP, the CRM basics. Also to facilitate acquisition of other businesses to make it easier and faster for Viavi to grow through acquisition. This has been what the board has wanted to hear about. It’s not the details of the ERP project but really what’s that going to enable on the other side and how we’ll feel confident that more of the business processes are automated in a way that will not only lead to efficiency but make it easy to accept growth through acquisition.

Tim: That’s just a small example of how you can excel in front of the board. Understand your importance to the business, describe your function, issues, needs, the status of things to the board. This has to be done through the lens of what is the business thesis that you’re accomplishing. The more that CIOs can do that, the more effective they will be when they get in front of the board.

Marina: Tim, I’m very interested to find out more about your new endeavor, Woven. I love the logo. I can see that logo is a halo around your head, looks great. Please talk about the business and also why did you decide to start this business? What is the value proposition of the company? Maybe a transition from being a corporate executive to now being an entrepreneur, CEO and founder of a startup?

Tim: Also, great set of questions. I’ll start with saying that my long term career objective has been to start and run my own company. It was a very difficult decision for me to move on from Facebook but a key part of that, what motivated me to do that was the realization that I’m never gonna be the founder and CEO of Facebook much as I would have loved to. That was somebody else’s baby that they had created. If I was going to accomplish this I was gonna have to make a painful decision to at some point leave the company. Woven is in the business of time. Time is the most valuable asset that we have as individuals have but that’s also true for organizations. Time is the most valuable asset that organizations particularly knowledge based companies have.

Tim: Woven which is, our initial product is a calendar, really a calendar enhancement to G-Suite – a technology that helps individuals and ultimately will help organizations spend time on the things that matter the most to them. The genesis of this idea actually came from Facebook. When I started working at Facebook, the reason that they were looking for a CIO in the first place, was because they were having a lot of problems with Microsoft Exchange and the calendar. They were concerned that if the basics of email and calendar didn’t work what did that mean if the company was gonna go public in a few years. Maybe they should hire a professional to deal with those issues. That’s what motivated them to hire me.

Tim: Their problems were essentially due to environmental factors. Facebook is a very high paced, high growth environment. It was very Mac heavy but the most important thing is that, as I got into the details of this space, I realized that the calendar is really built on a technology that prevents it from realizing its full potential. That despite the fact that time is the most important asset that we have it really doesn’t exist in our enterprise architecture. There isn’t really an enterprise time management system outside of the calendar and the one that we have, the calendar, takes a lot more time than it provides back. It’s not really a productivity system, it’s a productivity drain.

Tim: We see this because people who are really busy have to hire full time professionals to do nothing other than to manage their calendars. That to me just smelled like a ripe opportunity to disrupt technology that a lot of people had taken for granted. That’s what created Woven. It’s not an easy task.

Marina: Tim, just to be clear. This is focused on the enterprise world and corporate world not consumers, Correct?

Tim: Well, one of the very interesting things about calendars is that while we have 24 hours in the day, we spend half of that time at work, we spend the remainder of that time at home. That’s exactly the difficulty in creating this approach. Do we need to think about it as purely an enterprise solution or a consumer solution? Woven is built to address both but our go-to-market starts with the individual. Woven is a product that today we make available to busy professionals. Future versions of the product will be tailored more specifically to the needs of the enterprise.

Tim: There’s some other technologies that are like this, Dropbox is one of my favorites to compare ourselves to. It’s another technology that can be used in both circumstances. We feel that one of our differentiators is our ability to help bridge both worlds. The needs that the individual has, taking care of their personal time but also the needs that they have within a corporate or an enterprise setting accomplishing the objective of the organization.

Marina: Can you talk a little bit more, if we were to get Woven, how much will the quality of life improve for a busy professional?

Tim: Well, it’s actually something that we’ve been focusing a lot on the last couple of months. This week we’re releasing several new features to the product that directly address this in very visible ways. In fact I have a video comparing what is it like to do something with Woven versus just the traditional calendar environment. The first way that people really experience the value of Woven is just in their own efficiency. I, like many people, live my life off my phone. I’m constantly running round. It is a very difficult device to use to create a meeting with, so most of the time I don’t. I wait until I get back to my desk. Woven’s mobile product makes it possible to create even the most complicated meeting, like a board meeting with three taps or less. It’s very simple for me to schedule, to create the meeting, get all the participants in there. Find a time that works for everybody or even if I don’t know exactly what the time is proposed times and let my other board members provide feedback on that and move on.

Tim: That’s a very simple example. Where the product starts to get even more exciting, is that it understands the different kinds of ways that you spend time. Woven understands when I like to have my coffee with outside people like board members or potential customers or potential employees. Woven understands when I like to have my team meetings and how we like to structure those things. Woven understands when I like to do date night with my wife. When I ask it to do those things it can do most of the work of forming automatically.

Tim: As it does so it starts to build up an accounting of how I am spending my time which allows me to then get insights after the fact. What am I doing? How am I spending my time? How does that relate to what my objectives are? The last thing that is really different about Woven is that it’s a collaborative technology. People can share information with each other as they’re creating an event. Today that’s for simple things like, let’s find the time that works for each other but tomorrow that can be things like the agenda or what’s the prep work necessary for this meeting? What’s the follow on actions that we need to have? Because Woven understands the kind of events that people have on their calendar, it can take actions on their behalf. 

Marina: All these is fascinating. Good luck to you with roll out of this product to customers. We’ll stay tuned!

Marina: Listen, we got a number of very good questions from the Pulse Community. The first question is, what was your toughest learning experience as the Facebook CIO and how did you overcome this, if at all?

Tim: Yeah. I definitely had many learning experiences. I’d say the toughest parts were really the importance of setting the guidelines for my organization but not the detailed rules. At a company like Facebook that is growing, that is very dynamic, it does not benefit from a centralized command and control that other organizations need. That was a difficult learning experience for me to realize because I had come from an environment like KLA-Tencor. I had come from an environment where failure wasn’t an option where it’s really important to make sure that you have managed every single risk. I found myself putting in place processes that were designed to ensure that we didn’t screw up but they were creating enough additional work that they were slowing us down. I had to really change course within about six months to a different leadership style. That was only possible when I had really, really strong people around me.

Tim: I spent the next six months recruiting an amazing team many of which are still there, to run a lot of the issues that I had to deal with. Then we started to focus more on longer term strategic issues that would basically define what those guidelines are. We learned that our number one business objective was the productivity of the workforce. We’re gonna make that workforce more productive, not just by making the IT staff work better but really re imagining it. To reimagine it, we were gonna have to re-engineer. That meant that if we were going to achieve that we were gonna have to start bringing technology into the organization.

Tim: The best technology that we could possibly get was already right underneath the roof of the facility that was Facebook engineering. How do we encourage Facebook engineering to get in? As we started to make those transitions and updates we started to produce impact and results for the business that really built confidence that we were moving in the right direction. That helped us get the additional investment that we needed to grow and the rest is history. The hardest part was learning that that wasn’t going to come from me managing every single risk but rather by inspiring my staff to achieve things that they didn’t even realize they could achieve on their own. 

Marina: Actually the next question, you’re really well positioned to answer and I see that as a trend actually. What are your thoughts on how tech-led companies are emerging IT and engineering functions into one single leader and what are the pros and cons of doing so? I think you’re really well positioned to answer that question.

Tim: Yeah I’ve seen both. My world of Facebook started with IT being part of an engineering function and then it wasn’t and then it was. Even there we went through all three transitions. I think, let’s start with the cons. Why you don’t wanna do this. IT and engineering in technology companies really have very different thesis. The engineering thesis is very much about building a product that is of value, that is scalable, that is in some cases, many cases is reliable, that can do things that people have not experienced before. That requires a mindset of allowing people to be creative, to think differently and to really be focused on the technology.

Tim: Whereas IT often involves other things which don’t really benefit from that mindset. Starting with the basics securing the environment, making sure the employees have productive systems, that they have a stable network, that they have all the infrastructure that they need. Often times these companies go through a lot of acquisitions so there’re technology issues around that. These theses even though they’re both technical they have really different objectives. Usually if you put them together in the same organizations, one of those objectives starves in favor of the other. That can lead to ineffectiveness in the organization. That’s one of the reasons I’d say you don’t wanna do this.

Tim: Let’s go to the other way, what are the pros. When you have a company like Facebook or Google or Salesforce or Twitter, Pinterest, Pure Storage. All of these are companies where, they differentiate themselves based on technology. For them to have internal systems that are somehow second class or ineffective or not as strong technically as the product that they are building it’s almost like saying okay I’m a designer, I make really fancy clothes but I’m gonna show up in shorts and a T-shirt. I’m not going to put or create an impression for my customers that gives them confidence in my product.

Tim: By combining the IT organization and the engineering organization you create the ability for the IT organization to be built and run with the same level of quality that the engineering organization is. The second benefit is that often times, there’s a need to connect both the internal view of things and the external view of things. Just take like a customer, Facebook has two billion users, it has six million advertisers. It has many, many customers. For it’s internal organization whether that’s sales or marketing to have a suboptimal or disconnected view of those digital assets only hurts the business.

Tim: By combining engineering and IT you make it a lot easier to have a single architectural view of how information should flow both external to the corporation and internal to the corporation. At the end of the day, I think, this comes down to leadership though. Where does the IT organization report, will they get their support both financially but also the attention and focus that it needs from its leadership. That may or may not be with the engineering organization. I think it’s more dependent on the leaders of the company that it is on, that one structure is inherently better than the other.

Tim: Personally I have a bias for it. As Woven gets larger I would rather have my IT organization exist within engineering. I also would make sure that we have a leadership that understands and respects both sides of things. As long as that exists in a cooperation I can see that being successful.

Marina: Couple more questions. Next one, how did you as CIO of Facebook engage with startups? Now it’s probably relevant, now you’re on the other side but when you were in the seat how did you leverage innovation coming from startups?

Tim: We did a lot with startups. There are many companies that we worked with and helped to build their products. One example is a company named Rypple. Not to be confused with the blockchain company. Rypple was acquired by Salesforce and became We worked directly with this startup, providing them intimate access to our engineering leadership, our HR department. What they gave us was a product that works. That was a very symbiotic relationship. As the product became more successful we helped introduce them to other companies. We helped introduce them to Salesforce actually and that’s what led to their acquisition.

Tim: That was very successful relationship. Metrics is another example of a startup that we worked with, and was acquired by Microsoft. They did a lot of analytics on workforce productivity systems. Calendar and email analytics for example. Really they provided us access to a technology that we could build on our own but why do it when there’s someone else out there who can do it just as effectively for us. They were gonna be responsive for us.

Tim: What made these relationships successful was founder and CEO relationships with myself or with somebody on my staff. That also went along with people who were very interested in learning and saw Facebook as an opportunity to fine tune or find product market fit. Some of the challenges that it created for them is that they’d have to understand what was unique to Facebook and what was going to work for the rest of the world. Which when the company was younger there were less of those things. It’s more difficult now I think for startups to do this. At the time that we were growing, we were able to work very closely with startups because we still looked like the rest of the world.

Tim: The last thing was just investing in good companies. Good engineers, good technologists that were doing interesting things. I’d say for the most part, those were the most successful relationships for us and they also led to success for us in terms of business outcomes for the company.

Marina: How did you mitigate the risk of startup potentially failing and you having a product that is no longer supported by a vendor? Have you had that happen to you or? How did you mitigate the risk?

Tim: Oh yeah. There were probably three or four start ups that I can think of that went under during our time. I think that we had gotten to the point where we were so used to moving quickly and evolving our technology that the concept of a startup disappearing was really not a show stopper. We knew that we could move beyond them, more disappointment when it happened. I think the bigger risk was when start ups would get acquired that the technology would get into a zombie state. It would be still there, still functional but it wouldn’t get the same level of attention and innovation that it was when it was run by the start up.

Marina: Last question Tim. What technologies are you most excited in 2019 and what companies should CIOs be watching?

Tim: Well, I think 5G is gonna be a game changer. 5G both dramatically increases the bandwidth that we’re going to be able to get to wireless devices but it’s also going to change the types of devices that we can get on the network. It’s one of the reasons why I’m really excited about Viavi. They are very involved in helping companies with their transition to 5G and to help them take full advantage of the opportunity that that represents. I think even for startups, it’s going to pave the way for even more sensors, for more connected devices. For more interactivity between traditional devices and these connected devices. I’m really excited about that.

Tim: I think that some of the challenges that it is also gonna create is much more emphasis on security. I think security is going to continue to be a major challenge for us the more devices you connect, the more complex that’s going to become. I think there’s a ripe ecosystem right now for startups that are focused on security and some of these emerging areas whether you’re talking about areas around, IOT or Robotics or just generalized computer automation. There’s gonna be a lot more emphasis on the security of those technologies over the next few years that is gonna require solutions that don’t yet exist.

Tim: Obviously I’m very excited about enterprise collaboration software. I think that we’re seeing that the suite is facing a lot of competition now from other technologies. Whether we’re talking about Slack or Quip or Notion or Dropbox. These are all alternative ways for people to collaborate. If you look at the millennial generation and the generation behind them they think about connecting with one another in very different ways than the Gen X’s and the baby boomers do. Notions of files, email, traditional calendars are very different for a younger generation.

Tim: I think we’re going to see a very significant disruption of the role of email in particular over the next decade. That’s one of the things that we’re really excited about. I think the last thing is more on a personal front, I’m very hopeful about technology in the medical industry. I think, particularly a lot of AI which allows you to see patterns in data sets that are difficult for humans to achieve on their own. I think many of those patterns will be applicable in the context of healthcare. 

Tim: There continues to be an incredible motivation, a growing motivation for them to finally digitize, which they’re now starting to do and I think that that’s going to have a disruptive effect. 

Marina: Well thank you so much. I think it was really interesting to learn about your journey. Thank you very much for your time

Tim: It was a pleasure.

Tim: Thank you.

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