Prodity: Product by Design

Join Kyle Evans as he interviews Russ Hawkins, the president and CEO of Agilence, a leading data technology company, on the Product by Design podcast. Russ has spent over 35 years in the technology industry driving change from the inside, and he shares his experience on how external change can require internal change to bring organizations to their full potential. 

From reassessing company values and assets to understanding the competitive landscape, Russ reveals his secrets to success. In this informative and engaging podcast, Russ also speaks about his passion for building companies and spending time with his family and two Irish doodles. Tune in to hear why having an aligned team is crucial for any small technology company and how to navigate change and uncertainty in business today. With recommendations on biographies and wireless headsets, this podcast is perfect for professionals looking to transform their companies and achieve their goals. Listen now to the Product by Design podcast with Kyle Evans and Russ Hawkins.

Russ Hawkins:
Russ Hawkins is the President and CEO of the leading data technology company, Agilence. Russ has spent over 35-years in the technology industry, helping established organizations and
small start-ups reach their full potential by driving change from the "inside."

Links from the Show:
LinkedIn: Russ Hawkins
Books: Teddy Roosevelt
Links:,, noahpinion

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[00:00:01] Russ Hawkins' Business Journey
[00:03:56] Developing effective company strategies
[00:08:30] Reassessing Company Capabilities and Personal Growth
[00:12:14] Lessons from diverse work experience
[00:15:41] Setting Goals & Adapting in Business & Life
[00:19:49] Overextension and Cutbacks: A Warning Sign
[00:23:56] Staying Nimble in Business Landscape
[00:27:39] Effective CEO Onboarding Strategies
[00:31:25] Team Collaboration and Evaluation
[00:35:34] Building Alignment in Organizational Change
[00:39:13] CEOs and decision-making in teamwork
[00:43:06] The Evolution of Data and Analytics
[00:47:24] Optimism in AI and Setting Goals
[00:51:32] Balancing Passions and Responsibilities
[00:55:00] Guest Recommendations for Further Learning
[00:59:10] Book and Tech Recommendations

What is Prodity: Product by Design?

Fascinating conversations with founders, leaders, and experts about product management, artificial intelligence (AI), user experience design, technology, and how we can create the best product experiences for users and our businesses.


Kyle Evans 00:12
Welcome to another episode of Product By Design.
I am Kyle Evans, and today we are joined by Another awesome guest, Russ Hawkins.
Welcome to the show, Russ.
Russ Hawkins 00:13
thank you.
Thank you so much for having me
Kyle Evans 00:49
Well, let me introduce Russ briefly, and then Russ, you can tell us a little bit more about yourself, but Russ Hawkins is the president and CEO.
Of the leading data technology company, Agilent.
And Russ has spent over 35 years in the technology industry helping establish organizations and small startups reach their full potential by driving change from the inside which I'm we're excited to talk about because I think driving change is a critical part of any business and driving it from the inside is I have personally found very very challenging at times.
Kyle Evans 01:02
So excited to talk about your experience Russ and some of the things that you are working on and have worked on.
But before we do that, why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Russ Hawkins 01:15
Well, first of all, thanks for having me
I think it's it's a great opportunity for me to talk a little bit about Agilent.
And by the way, the name is Agilent, so it's a contraction of agile intelligence.
Part of those 2 together, you get Agilent.
Russ Hawkins 01:48
And, you know, Agilent is the latest company that that I'm running, but it but it is 1 of 3 startup companies that have that have run.
But, you know, going back in in in history, I'm from Boston originally and come from a long line of Boston firemen.
And my career is based on the fact that I love to talk.
And I love to I love to try to convince people to see things my way.
And my sainted mother used to say that I could talk a dog off a meat wagon.
Russ Hawkins 01:54
And so that's kind of ingrained in my head over my whole life.
As I
Russ Hawkins 02:28
said, I grew up in Boston and I was not a wealthy family.
And what I saw in terms of career was an opportunity to essentially run my own business by being in sales.
And so much of my early background is in sales.
I ended up working for what came to be various iterations of AT and T, the telephone company.
And was right around the time back, and now I'm now I'm aging myself here back in the eighties when the company was being broken up.
Russ Hawkins 02:50
As it should have been.
And that change, which was really an external change, not not changed from the inside.
This was clearly changed from the outside.
With the government essentially breaking up the company at the multiple pieces.
Turned out to be a great great opportunity for me because in this disarray that resulted from the breakup.
Russ Hawkins 03:45
I got to just sit around and ask questions and and to execute on my ability to talk and and my desire to drive the business.
And so for about 15 years, I worked in a variety of capacities at AT and T through a tumultuous period in their history.
This external change required internal change in this case, and I got a front row seat in kind of the repositioning of a major company in the US.
As the years progressed in the nineties, what I was noticing is that in the run up to the year 2000, the tech industry was just bonkers.
It was just going crazy and I got recruited.
Russ Hawkins 04:05
I had an opportunity to go out and and be the sales vice president for a small startup out of Connecticut.
That was in the data communications business.
And, you know, I absolutely loved it.
I loved the the smallness of it compared with coming from AT and T.
And what I especially liked about it was that you could impact the company.
Russ Hawkins 04:53
You could affect change very quickly by understanding where you want it to go and then helping the rest of the company to understand why it made sense to go there and then working together with them to to lay out a a plan for change.
And so that's kind of become my modus operandi over the years.
This is a first company that I was recruited into as a sales VP was a company called Paragon Networks.
They were a data communications equipment company.
And, basically, what I did was go in with open eyes and engage everybody, whether it was the team or our competitors or customers and try to understand what what was the the true underlying value proposition of the company.
Russ Hawkins 06:00
And then based on that proposition and the technology assets that we had, working with the team to to build a new strategy.
And so with Paragon, we we went from selling to connect branch offices and banks to providing connectivity for wireless networks because they were a big and growing area back in the nineties and the technology that we had turned out to be relatively easily adaptable to wireless networks.
And the growth vectors in wireless were much, much more aggressive and interesting than handling, you know, bank branch connectivity.
And so it was really an engine for growth and it opened my eyes to the to the opportunity to kind of reassess companies and to work with the existing teams to to change the strategy and change the go to market and change the goals and objectives of the company.
And Subsequent to that, I've I've done it 2 other times.
Russ Hawkins 06:32
My second company was a company called it started as Infinicon.
So pretty hard name to say and has has some pretty unusual meanings in foreign languages.
Anyway, I Without going into all that, I changed the company's name, the Silverstorm.
It was a high performance computing company, and basically did the same thing.
Most high performance computing companies time, we're focused on government and on academic environments.
Russ Hawkins 07:17
And I basically threw that out the window along with the team.
And decided to focus strictly on sub segments of business.
So oil and gas exploration video rendering and financial management or financial concerns where the 3 areas that we changed our focus on and made that company very successful.
And both of those companies were successful enough to sell to large public companies for for an interesting number, for good numbers where everybody, especially the team, were able to make money, and and the investors also were able to make money and be happy.
Agilent's is my third company.
Russ Hawkins 08:02
When I arrived here was originally a specialized hardware company.
They made network video recorders.
And we did that business for a couple of years, and then I decided that we really did need to go through a process of reevaluating what our value proposition was, what our technical assets were and how we could leverage those in the market as it existed today.
And so that we made a major pivot in the business to data analytics and and we haven't looked back since.
And so since then, we've been aggressively pursuing a data analytic value proposition for retail and restaurant chains.
Russ Hawkins 08:45
These are large operations.
And today, we have have more than 200 retailers that are using our product.
And this past year, we grew by about 16 percent in terms of new logos and new recurring revenue.
And I think we can improve all that as we move forward and expect to be able to grow in the 30 percent to 40 percent range as we move forward.
And all of it is a result of kind of reassessing what the capabilities of the companies that I've been involved with are, engaging with the team to try to under stand their views of what our values were.
Russ Hawkins 09:08
And then looking at the external market to see how they fit and what kind of use cases and value propositions we could bring to our target customers.
And that process has been 1 that's served me well over the years.
And we're still kind of mid play here with the Agilent's business.
You've brought up a whole bunch
Kyle Evans 09:36
of points that I want to kind of dive into because I think that there there's some really good ones that I've been I've been making some notes for us to kind of dive into a couple of them.
But before we do that -- Right.
-- I I want to to ask, you know, obviously, I was you know, you do a lot within some of the companies that you have been working on and are working on currently outside of the office, you know, before we dive into a whole bunch of these other topics outside of the office, what what else do you like to do?
Russ Hawkins 10:03
I do have to say that building companies has become my enduring passion, but I I am very devoted to my family.
I have a woman that I've been married to for over 30 years and 4 kids.
All of them are off the payroll, which is a gratifying thing to me, and contributing members of society, which is quite what I'm quite happy about.
And I'm now a grandfather.
So my family has been very important to me.
Russ Hawkins 10:35
I've been a lifelong pet owner.
I have dogs and I enjoy spending time with them.
But I but I would say the 1 thing outside of outside of building the company and actually it's it permeates that as well as, you know, having a personal commitment to continuously learning and continuously educating myself about about not only business, but about the world and people and how it works.
A big reader I'd like to get exercise, and so I walk about 6 or 7 miles a day
during the season I golf and ski.
And I keep pretty bitchy overall.

Kyle Evans 10:45
That's awesome.
What kind of dogs do you have?
Russ Hawkins 11:24
Well, the 2 dogs that I have today are Irish doodles.
You may have heard them in the background there, a little bit.
And for that, I apologize.
They're they're on a unique you know, the the world that is is increasingly populated by by doodle hybrids hybrids And I kind of accidentally fell into this, but their their combination Irish setters and miniature poodles and they are the funnest 2 dogs that I've ever had in my life and we just they they go with me on my walks every day.
They're They're just they're just a joy to have around.
Russ Hawkins 11:31
And, you know, I've got a lifelong experience with dogs.
These these 2 are my seventh and eighth dogs in my life.
So it's it's been great.
Kyle Evans 11:43
That's awesome.
The the the doodle hybrids are are definitely becoming quite we actually just we have a 6 month old golden doodle who is now How are
Russ Hawkins 11:44
you doing?
I'll get
Kyle Evans 11:55
it correct.
So we and he we have a a 12 year old golden retriever and now AA6 month old golden doodle.
So, yeah, super super fun dogs.
Kyle Evans 12:10
Both the golden retriever who is in surprisingly good health.
And now the the very very young golden doodle who I I will say, like, super fun super fun dogs.
So that's awesome.
Oh, yeah.
Kyle Evans 12:11
That's great.
Well, congratulations.
Russ Hawkins 12:13
They're great.
Kyle Evans 12:36
Well, we have a whole bunch of different things to kind of dive into.
And, you know, I'm interested you know, first off, on, you know, some of the different things that you've learned across the different companies.
Because, obviously, you know, you've worked from really, really large companies like AT and T all the way down to really small companies like you were talking about.
Kyle Evans 12:50
What have been some of the highlights and and challenges across these different types of companies and across the different industries they that you've seen, both you're working with really, really large organizations and really, really small ones.
Russ Hawkins 13:51
Well, there's there's there's so many things we could talk about.
1 of the first things I guess I would mention is don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something.
I spent 15 years at Lucid Technologies, 1 of the largest, it was 1 of the versions of AT and T, but started as AT and T, when AT and T information systems ultimately became loosened technologies.
And when I was making the transition to a very small company, my my company, Paragon Networks, had only 10 people when I started there, eventually grew it to about a hundred and 35, but you know, at 10 people, the 1 of the 1 of the people was was the founder.
And the founder didn't believe that I could make the transition to a small company and basically told me that I should not consider continuing with the interview that I it's probably pretty clear that I wouldn't be able to to survive or or certainly not thrive and most likely not survive at a small company.
Russ Hawkins 14:14
And I summarily ignored him and have proven that that, you know, my instinct was was more important than than his opinion.
And so 1 of the things I've learned is to take people's opinions with a grain of salt and make your own decisions about things.
And I think think that's good advice for for everyone.
That doesn't mean don't listen.
I think you should listen.
Russ Hawkins 14:42
But you know, you really have to have your own set of goals and your your own set of skills and confidences and and you have to believe in yourself.
So that's that's 1 thing that, you know, across my my career, I've I've come to to hold to be very sacred.
1 of the other things that I've learned is it's it's all about the team.
It's all about the people.
Russ Hawkins 15:03
My basic philosophy is that if if you take care of the team.
And by that, III don't mean gratuitously.
I don't mean being, you know, just raises or things like that or paying.
I mean, listening to people.
I mean, engaging people in the the process and engaging them in both excluding the opportunities and the challenges.
Russ Hawkins 15:28
If you do that, you'll have people that are committed to the business and committed to doing what's required to make it a success.
And that is, in most cases, meaning, taking care of customers.
So if you take care of people, they'll take care of the customers And if the customers are taken care of, then the shareholders are gonna be taken care of.
And so it's kind of a closed loop.
Take care of the people, take care of it.
Russ Hawkins 16:00
They'll take care of the customers.
The customers will take care of the shareholders.
And, you know, we are in this for not not just the the glory of doing it, the shareholders will take care of the team.
The shareholders will take care of the people.
So it's a closed loop of success that I've seen work again and again And it drives my perspective of making sure that the team understands where we're going and participates in both deciding where we're going and how we're gonna get there.
Russ Hawkins 16:31
And by getting that kind of buy in, you can can you you can kind of speak with 1 voice as a company and you can move toward achieving the objectives that you want.
People really do wanna be part of something bigger than themselves.
GOLs are extremely important as well, and I believe this by the way, in both business and in life that it's important to have goals.
And I do mean that in a plural sense.
You you have to have big hairy goals, big things that you wanna but you need a lot of smaller ghouls too.
Russ Hawkins 17:15
Even if it's just, you know, having having a good discussion with your son or daughter or engaging a new employee.
1 of the things I like to do is be part of the onboarding process of people.
We're starting to get to be a large pretty now.
But I take the time where the hundreds, not not in the thousands.
But I like to take the time to to meet with new new employees usually in a group and tell them about what the goals of the company are and how we got to where we are and and solicit their input on the validity of those goals and and try to try to encourage them to be aligned around what we're all about.
Russ Hawkins 18:00
And so that's been a very, very important part.
The whole people, customer, shareholder, people kind of closed loop and and being sure to always be setting and reevaluating goals.
You know, on the downside, the technology can be a harsh a harsh master and sometimes you can be in situations where the market, the environment is changing so dramatically that you find the company out of step.
And so that can result in, you know, disappointing results it can result in disappointed customers and disappointed
Kyle Evans 18:01
Russ Hawkins 18:34
But even though that's a problem and a kind of a negative.
These are great learning opportunities and and and ways to I guess build on your own humility.
Make sure that you stay humble, that you you react to the world rather not in a negative way, but in a positive way.
Learn for what you've done and do better.
Probably the biggest single challenge that I've had is when I've got caught in 1 of those situations and we've had to do layoffs.
Russ Hawkins 19:43
And so probably the worst experience I've had in my life is having to lay off people in the company and and to handle those kinds of conversations with with directness and clarity And so if so now I have a no layoff policy, which basically means that I'm never gonna let myself get ahead of myself I'm not gonna get out over my skis as they say in skiing.
And and so I've changed to moderating my growth expectations and it requires me talking to the existing team and telling them maybe we're not going to hire as many people as we auto and that might put a little pressure on them.
But the the end result is more security over the long run.
And I'm quite happy to talk about our success at Agilent's during the pandemic.
We were able to move through the pandemic despite significant challenges without ever having to lay off any people in the company, and
Kyle Evans 20:06
that's something that I've learned that that I wanna never have to go through again.
That's that's really incredible.
And and I'd I'd love to touch on that just a little bit more because, I mean, we see right now lots of companies going through that, you know, especially in technology.
You know, a lot of companies have kind of like you said overhired or overextended themselves.
And are now cutting back significantly.
Kyle Evans 20:08
And for me, kind of
Russ Hawkins 20:08
like we
Kyle Evans 20:56
mentioned, that is a sign of and to put it very frankly like poor management where you've you've overestimated your growth, you've overextended yourself, and now employees are kind of bearing the brunt of that where now you have to make significant cutbacks.
And, you know, tell us more about how you know, how you view that and and, you know, how kind of how you're handling that.
Because to me, that sounds like really, really exceptionally good management, but also a really difficult thing to do in order to find that right balance of being able to not have to go through some of those challenges, but to bear kind of some of the pain of it as you're as you're growing and doing it in the right way.
Russ Hawkins 21:18
III agree that right now we're in a, you know, a a down recycle in in terms of the big big tech companies.
Many of them did did add too many people and they did it too quickly.
Some of it, I think, was false analysis.
So I I think the root cause there for some of the leaders of those companies is is false analysis.
Russ Hawkins 22:13
Exacerbated by, you know, really truly extraordinary conditions.
So I don't think the managers of the big tech companies, are dumb.
I don't think that they are were born with these kinds of faults, but I do think that they did not analyze the situation correctly, especially the impact of the pandemic.
So you see a company like Zoom or even Amazon, you know, they the the the pandemic was uncertainty.
And in that uncertainty, many companies, my company, for example, which was focused on the retail business, we immediately saw a negative impact from the pandemic.
Russ Hawkins 22:45
And we saw our customers' revenues dropping dramatically over the first 6 months of the pandemic, whereas companies like Zoom and Amazon saw huge increases in the demand for their products and services.
And the analytical mistake they made was that the idea that this was gonna continue forever.
So they got ahead of themselves.
They hired too many.
I don't think they did it with any kind of, you know, malice or you know, I don't think they're quote bad managers.
Russ Hawkins 23:22
I just think they're bad analysts in this scenario.
As far as far as my approach, My approach is always to be a little bit conservative.
Now some people, you know, my my background is in venture backed companies and I've I've frankly, I've gotten knocked around a little bit for not being aggressive enough, for not telling too too broad or too aggressive a story.
About how the company could grow.
I've I've usually tried to moderate what I think is possible and to be a little cautious about overspending.
Russ Hawkins 23:37
I'm very, very focused on the dollars.
I'm very focused on cash.
You know, a lot of people look at P and L, they automatically everybody looks at balance sheet.
These are important things.
But cash is king as the old saying goes.
Russ Hawkins 24:33
And if you focus on cash and you adopt a little bit of a conservative perspective, You might not hit the highest high that is possible, but you'll still hit a pretty good high and you'll be be being conservative on the cost side.
And so when inevitably things change and sometimes they change for the worse, And in the case that we're seeing today with companies like Zoom and Amazon is that, you know, the demand didn't continue at the at the level that was indicated during the first year of the pandemic.
And so now they're finding themselves as we get back to some kind of market equilibrium here.
They're finding themselves behind the curve and needing to adjust.
And so I guess the other lesson is to have a little bit more of a long term perspective and to,
Kyle Evans 24:56
you know, go a little slower when when you're growing.
I I think that's really really great advice.
Obviously, you know, think not just short term, but long term, you know, what what is this going to look like?
And being a little bit conservative, obviously, but also, you know, will will this last forever?
Kyle Evans 25:01
And the answer is probably almost always no.
It's not going to be this way forever.
Russ Hawkins 25:22
Well, it definitely is always no.
The only question is to what level is it going to sink or potentially rise or to what extent is it going to stay the same.
But stay the same option is is I'm not I can't predict the future.
And and if I could, I wouldn't need this job.
So if right, So we know it's gonna change.
Russ Hawkins 25:40
We know there are gonna be challenges.
We know there are gonna be opportunities.
And so staying nimble, staying flexible, developing options.
And that's another point that I'd like to make is, you know, I I always like to have options.
I always like to think about options, and I always like to encourage my team to have options.
Russ Hawkins 25:58
You know, the pathway that we're on today is not the only options.
There are other options to execute on and it's good practice, it's good hygiene to consider options on a continuous basis and reevaluate the option that you've chosen against those other alternatives.
Kyle Evans 26:25
Yeah, I think that's really, really good.
Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about how you go about that.
So as you're reviewing these things, as you're considering, you know, the path that you're on, you know, the potential path that you could be on, how do how do you do that?
And because I think that's a really important thing.
You know, not just continuing on a path because you're on it or because it's the way it's always been done, but you know, what are the potential things that we could be doing?
Kyle Evans 26:36
And and you kind of mentioned this, you know, coming into companies and evaluating what you're doing and then making pivots kind of like you you did at at silver it was Silverstorm.
Russ Hawkins 26:39
Well, actually, all 3 companies Yeah.
Kyle Evans 26:44
and agile I I keep wanting to say it in chileans, but I know it's
Russ Hawkins 26:47
Agile Intelligence.
Agile Agile.
Kyle Evans 27:07
You know, the companies you've been, you know, coming in and making these pivots and making these changes because you're evaluating these potential options.
Kind of walk us through what that looks like to you, how you encourage your teams to do it, and then how you go about making some of these changes as you evaluate these different options?
Russ Hawkins 27:39
I've had the the benefit of coming into these companies when they were already going concern.
So I kinda parachute in as the new executive officer and and my my pattern and what has what has worked for me has been to to even even with the investors who have hired me is to tell them, look, III really don't know your company.
I I this company that you want wanna hire me for, I'm not sure about it.
I don't know enough about it yet.
Russ Hawkins 28:11
And so as I would tell the people that are hiring me, you know, my approach is to come in and for the first 3 months or so to just to learn, just to be a sponge.
And soak up as much information as possible.
And so typically, that includes 3 constituencies in addition to the investors.
So when you're interviewing or being considered for a position as a CEO like mine or really any position, I think.
You have an opportunity to talk to the hiring managers you talk to.
Russ Hawkins 28:45
In my case, it's been the investors.
And see, you have a pretty good understanding of what their objectives are.
And so then what's worked for me is to come into the company, take a few months to understand what's going on.
And that First means talking to the team and and pretty much talking to everybody, getting around to all the groups, understanding what their perspectives are around the company's assets.
And again, the value proposition, the value that we bring to the customers that we serve.
Russ Hawkins 29:25
Also, to understand what they think isn't working and and understand you know, whether the whether their view of the strategy is is is aligned across the organization.
The second group that I wanna just talk to is I wanna talk to my customers.
Wanna talk to the company's customers.
And so I've made it a part of my kind of personal onboarding is to get out and talk to as many customers as possible.
Usually, I talked to a couple before I've come onboard these companies, but I I do make an effort to go out and certainly talk to the top 10 percent of the companies, maybe a few others randomly in terms of their size.
Russ Hawkins 30:16
And then finally, and this is the thing that has in some cases made people scratch their hands about me as I I go out and talk to my competitors.
Typically, what I've done in the first couple of months is rung up the CEOs of the companies that I compete with and asked to have an opportunity to meet with them and talk a little bit about, you know, our perspectives are our our individual perspectives and our individual companies, but also usually trying to talk about how there are things that we have common interest in.
So you know, usually your competitors are, you know, providing a similar value proposition and, you know, delivering similar use cases to the customers.
And so in some sense, we have some alignment around some of the things we want.
We we want customers to consider our software.
Russ Hawkins 30:43
Whether they buy my software, your software is a different question of whether we want them to consider this type of software.
So I found that to be very useful in understanding the landscape, understanding the competitive landscape.
Almost always I learn some things that are gonna me compete against that company.
Almost always, I'm probably sharing some things that are gonna help them compete against us.
So so the data gathering and the understanding is probably first step from my perspective.
Russ Hawkins 31:15
And then once I've once I've gathered all that information and I understand the assets that the company has and what the team's perspectives, customer perspectives, and, you know, competitive challenges are gonna be.
Then I then I that it's a question of, you know, kind of green lighting the the or green fielding rather green fielding the options.
And that's collaborative process.
And it has to be done with the management team and maybe the extended management team of the company.
And and that's really as I said, a greenfield that's okay.
Russ Hawkins 31:42
Well, what are the things we could possibly do?
And let's let's purposely develop a set of options about directions that we can take, goals that we can aspire to.
And then once we've kind of you know, greenfield of these things.
Once we've kind of got a list of possible ways to move forward, let's do an evaluation and an assessment of likelihood of success in those areas.
And again, this is a collaborative process with the team.
Russ Hawkins 32:09
It it not only helps you craft a better strategy, but it engages the team in a common effort.
We we are engaged in a common enterprise.
That that is the fundamental thing about a team is that we are trying to achieve certain goals.
So so let's go through a process and agree on the goals that we're trying to achieve.
Let's make sure that that is tempered by reality in terms of the environment that we're in.
Russ Hawkins 32:51
And then let's figure out the best option that we can execute on or that we can attempt to execute on against the the the various possibilities that are out there.
And then once we've once we've we've done that, let's go let's go full force on achieving that option, achieving the goals associated with that option.
Without being overly blind to possible things that we hadn't noticed.
In other words, always be ready to adjust and evolve and to to make corrections in in your pathway.
And so that process is what I've done in all 3 companies.
Russ Hawkins 33:30
In many ways, it's a continuous process.
On an annual basis, we we check we check ourselves, we discuss our goals, whether they're reasonable, we check our plans and the go to market that we're using.
And we adjust if we have to or if we think it's necessary.
And so I find that to be a very effective way of not only centering on a most likely pathway to success, but also reinforces that we work as a team, that we're that we're 1 team that we're engaged in a common enterprise
Kyle Evans 34:04
and that everybody has an ability to impact our results.
I think that's really good.
And especially bringing in all of those different aspects of it.
So, you know, the the, you know, competitive landscape, the customers, the team, all of those different areas, may get a really compelling case.
How do you use all of that to really kind of drive some of the changes, especially when there are, you know, big shifts in either what the company was doing, you know, from what the company was doing before or from what the teams were doing before.
Kyle Evans 34:32
Because often that can be a a difficult thing if if you're shifting from, you know, really 1 big focus to another big focus, you know, even with all of the information or or, you know, the new vision and strategy, you know, making a a big change can be difficult for certain people or certain groups if especially if, you know, they they may not be completely sold.
So how have you managed those, especially if it's know, a more difficult transition for for certain people or certain groups?
Russ Hawkins 35:05
Well, in a word imperfectly, It's it's it's it's it's it is very hard.
Changing companies is a very very hard thing to do.
And the, you know, it it it again comes right back down to people from my perspective.
So If if you go through the kind of process that I described, you are gonna surface a couple of things.
You're gonna surface whether you're aligned with the external environment.
Russ Hawkins 35:38
In other words, you're making decisions about the goals and strategies that you're going to execute on, tactics that you're going to execute on, you have to have an understanding of the environment and is that environment going to be supportive of what you're trying to do?
After that, after you're convinced that's the case, then it really becomes a people issue.
So change management is about people management.
I am not going to be able to change the company by myself.
Russ Hawkins 36:05
I have got to have an aligned organization that is aligned at the senior management team that is aligned at the extended management team and is aligned at the at the foot soldier level.
Everybody needs to be working in the same direction.
And almost certainly, when you are making major changes in strategy, you will have pushbacks.
From people.
And and these are welcome and expected.
Russ Hawkins 36:56
Now if those pushbacks are you know, commentary about environmental things or external issues, then those are very valid things to discuss and and to move forward and to address and those should drive changes or, you know, tweaks in the in the strategy that you're going down.
But if they're not that, if they're if they're of what I call religious ideas that, you know, you've got team members that are not aligned with the strategy, then you have to then you have to address those situations.
And so you really have to make sure that the people are all that we are all rowing in the same boat.
I think it was Congressman, Lewis, that said that, you know, we are we all arrived here on different boats, but we're in the same boat now.
So let's figure out how we're gonna move forward.
Russ Hawkins 37:23
And by the way, if you don't wanna be in the boat, then then you should then it should get off.
And and, you know, and I I don't don't mean jump into the ocean.
I mean that, again, people are the most important.
So even people that are not aligned, with the strategy or aren't believers in the direction that we're going, this new direction that we've decided upon.
If they're never gonna be believers, then it's then it's time for them to move on to do something else.
Russ Hawkins 37:41
And it's my job to help them see that and to help them achieve their goals.
But My philosophy with people is that I want you to achieve your goal.
I hope your goal is aligned with mine.
And if it is, we're gonna be very happy and we're gonna work together well.
Russ Hawkins 37:58
If your goal isn't aligned with mine, then we need to address that.
And what that basically means is that we need to find a place for you to achieve your goals and and that almost certainly is outside of this company.
And so so let me help you do that.
And So that's a tough thing.
Well, it's not really that tough actually.
Russ Hawkins 38:33
I think I think helping people find what what they wanna do is an important part of team development.
It's important part in ensuring that the team that you have inside the company understands that management is gonna be supportive no matter what it is you wanna do.
We want you to be here because you wanna be here.
We want you to be here because you're aligned with the strategy that we're executing on.
And if that isn't the case, then then you'll do better and we'll do better if you move on to something else.
Russ Hawkins 39:03
And so It's 1 of the hard realities, but I think it's it is a key for success in any small technology company.
Many of the things I've described are talking about getting input and talking about, you know, valuing what people have to say and how they operate.
But I don't want to, you you know, mistake that for that the running a business should be a pure democracy.
It is not a pure democracy.
Russ Hawkins 39:30
It should have elements of of support and consent.
It should have elements of democracy in terms of people being heard.
But at the end of the day, the CEO's job is to make decisions the CEO's job is to be, you know, kind of a benevolent participant in the democracy and to overrule things when they're when they're not aligned with the overall strategy and goals.
Kyle Evans 40:32
Yeah, III love so much of what you said there and and definitely agree with it.
I I think that, you know, having the right level of dissent is is critical in any organization because I think having everybody constantly agreeing on everything obviously doesn't give you the right level of input up and down the chain, you know, being not being able to see the areas that, you know, you may be blind to both as executives and as managers and and whatever level.
But also understanding that it really is about caring about people that, you know, it's not just a matter of everybody's got to be aligned or, you know, get out It's a matter of, you know, caring about individual people and people on the team, and and that's ultimately what you know, a company is, and it it's about the people.
And and just because, you know, at some point, somebody may not be fully aligned anymore.
That doesn't mean that, like you said, you gotta toss them off the boat.
Kyle Evans 41:14
You know, we we can still be humans about these types of things.
And help people find the right places.
Whether that's on the boat in a different place, on the bus in a different places, people have said, or a different seeded area from place that is more aligned with, you know, what they could be doing and what would be beneficial for them in the company.
And, you know, being very human and empathetic about all of these things so that it's, you know, a very beneficial thing for everybody involved, for for the team, for the company, and for the individual.
I think that those are important things because at the end of the day we're we're all people and we're companies made up of people.
Kyle Evans 41:47
And so III think that you you've hit it on the head where it's it's important to have all of those things.
And at the end of the day too, it's important that we recognize that we have to make decisions, and that's kind of what leaders are there to do as well.
And so we may not all agree, but think it's an Amazon thing of disagree and commit, and that's kind of what we do at times too.
We may not agree, but we'll disagree and we'll commit, and we'll move in in the direction, and we'll make things happen.
So I think that that's those are some really, really good points.
Kyle Evans 41:47
Russ Hawkins 42:03
think and I think you said that very, very well.
Said it extremely well.
Disagree and commit is a is a very succinct way of of describing it.
You know, we we want conversation.
We want pushback on things.
Russ Hawkins 42:38
We want people to express themselves.
As long as there it is in the context of achieving a common goal and executing on aligned strategies.
So I think you said it very well and I I completely agree.
If if all I have surrounding me or people that are gonna tell me that I'm right, which unfortunately is a situation that exists in many companies.
I mean, we could look at some of the the recent things are going on with companies like Twitter and and others.
Russ Hawkins 43:04
And, you know, you you need pushback and you you need kind of creative challenges among the team that makes you stronger.
But if there was a fundamental alignment on on the long term goals and the strategies for getting there, then there's an opportunity for for people to find better situations.
Kyle Evans 43:22
I'm I'm curious because we've touched on this a little bit, but you know, you've talked about data and analytics and the importance of it, but how have you seen that change over the course of your career?
And, you know, how how do you leverage that now?
Russ Hawkins 44:10
and, you know, where where do you see that going into the future?
Well, so the world is a wash in data.
And in my career, we've gone from essentially this is pre Excel properly.
You know, when I first started, we we worked everything out in in the long hand on pieces of paper and, you know, adding up numbers and So the amount of data that we were working with was very limited and our ability to manipulate it has been very limited.
And over time, the first, the invention of the spreadsheet as well as the growth in the amount of data that's available and the technologies that are available to manage that data.
Russ Hawkins 44:34
So I'm talking primarily about database technologies.
These things have just exploded and and truly exploded exponentially.
A lot of people use the word exponential to describe things that are multiplicative, you know, it's 2 or 3 times as as many.
The the the the amount of data that is now created on a daily basis is is just mind boggling.
It's it's even hard to express.
Russ Hawkins 46:00
Now the tools that are available now to manage that data in terms of database technologies and data lakes and and Snowflake and all these other different kinds of approaches have dramatically changed the relationship between an individual and the data.
The challenge and the 1 that Agilent is addressing is trying to make it easy for the average way person, for the average individual in a company, to take advantage of the data that's in those companies without having to be a data scientist themselves.
So I think what we've seen is you know, a very, very, very technical aggressive evolutionary process in terms of database technologies and the the amount of data itself.
And the ability to make that, to democratize that, to make it available to the average person has been much slower.
And I think increasingly now we're seeing techniques that are developed being developed and evolved that are allowing that to happen much more easily where an individual can either in natural language or in simple mathematical equations be able to articulate clearly what it is they want.
Russ Hawkins 46:40
And the data technologies themselves and and you know, increasingly we're seeing machine learning and AI help in this area.
I mean, machine learning and AI have been around for a long time.
But I think we're finally seeing that breach the kind of last bridge or breach, you know, to to bridge the last breach between the average person's ability to make to create value out of data.
Again, without having to be a scientist or be a technologist themselves.
And I think that has been the last frontier It still is the last frontier.
Russ Hawkins 47:18
And we're getting closer and closer and closer to it, largely because of the evolution that's happened in technologies, I I left out the commentary about the the Internet and the connectivity, the ability to immediately be able to get clarification about what terms need, about what's available in terms of resources.
I mean, these things have changed our lives dramatically in in ways that we don't even fully understand ourselves.
But I like to think of it as that that bridging of that final gap between the data and the average person.
And I think we're getting very close to getting
Kyle Evans 47:31
You know, we've touched on a lot of technologies there and and kind of across everything.
But is there anything particular that you're most excited about either, you know, in the near future or you see kind of coming down the road?
Kyle Evans 47:32
Russ Hawkins 48:06
I think I think it is in the area of artificial intelligence.
I I am not a believer in in I'm not worried about artificial intelligence personally.
I think a lot of people are worried about it.
They're worried about the so called sentient creature that, you know, the the idea that that a robot can eventually think independently.
That is I think not possible personally.
Russ Hawkins 48:52
I think computers, excuse me, databases, what's happening is where we are These are inanimate objects.
These are things that we act upon.
They do what we tell them to do that may include learning things, and they can learn things.
But even things like this this new chat, GPT, for example, This is a a technology that people are worried about.
They're worried about they're worried about, you know, the 2001 space oddity space to Odyssey rather with, you know, the computer refusing to open the pod bay doors for the for the spacewalker, and I I may be referencing something that you're not really that familiar with.
Russ Hawkins 49:22
But, you know, the idea that the computers are gonna take over the world, and then they're gonna turn against us.
I think is a is a pipe dream.
I don't think that there it's ever gonna happen.
But I but at the same time, I do believe that through things like chat GPT and the other advances that are happening in the AI world today, that these tools are becoming more and more and more usable, and they're usable to make our lives better.
They're usable to make our work easier.
Russ Hawkins 49:39
They're usable to make our insights clearer and our lives better.
And I for 1AM very, very optimistic about the future and about the kinds of things that we're going to see in the AI world as we move forward.
Kyle Evans 49:53
Definitely agree.
What advice would you give to anybody just starting out.
Obviously, you've, you know, you've been through a lot of companies, a lot of different areas.
Kyle Evans 50:00
You know, for for somebody, you know, new starting out, you know, what what advice would you give to them?
Russ Hawkins 50:27
Well, I think the first 3 words I would say is goals goals goals.
And I mean that very broadly.
So you have to understand what how you wanna use your life.
I mean, the reality is is we only we're only around once people and these are these are a little bit cliched, but my personal view is that you have to have goals.
Russ Hawkins 50:41
You have to be guided by goals.
That see advice I've given my own children.
And those goals have to cover there's multiple goals covering a wide range of things.
So there's personal goals.
There's business and life goals.
Russ Hawkins 51:09
There's relationship goals.
I think it makes great sense for people to spend some time to really understand the goals that they wanna execute on, the goals that are meaningful to them.
It's gonna be different for every person.
And even by the way, if the goal ultimately proves to not be a valid goal that that you change it sometime in the future.
The simple fact of having a goal today sets you on a direction.
Russ Hawkins 51:32
It moves you forward.
It allows you to put 1 foot in front of the other, which is really existentially.
All we as humans, I think, really need is the the ability to move forward in life and not to get stymied and not to be overwhelmed or depressed by the world.
It's have a goal and move toward.
Be willing to change that goal but continue to move toward it.
Russ Hawkins 51:52
And so that's 1 of the fundamental things that I think you have to have to make things work.
And that can be applied, you know, in in the kind of the grand.
What do I wanna do with my life kind of situations?
But it also can be applied on a very, very macro.
Like, what is my goal for talking with you folks today?
Russ Hawkins 52:09
And what is my goal for the rest of my day today?
And how do I want it to end?
And what do wanted to do.
So so I think goals are very important.
I'm not a I'm not a proponent too much of advising young people just do what you love.
Russ Hawkins 52:34
I'm I'm not sure that is good enough.
I I think it's good to know what you love.
And if you can align your goals with what you love, then that's fine.
But for me personally, I I goals are what I had and it's brought me into places where I've had to do work that isn't what I love.
And I and I and that's where I think the problem with with that recommendation or that advice.
Russ Hawkins 52:57
If if you're only doing what you love, then you never stick anything out, that provides challenges.
My view is that you have to you have to pay your dues.
You have to kind of work your way through your life And you've got to be responsible for yourself.
I'm not I'm not a fan of people being drags on society.
Russ Hawkins 53:27
Your minimal objective is to be supportive of yourself and to not not be a a drag.
Not not not have somebody else have to support you.
You you need to be responsible for yourself.
And then once you're responsible for yourself, then it's a very, very small leap to become responsible for others, which I think we have to adopt as at least I have adopted.
I am as responsible for other people's success as they are for mine.
Russ Hawkins 53:54
And certainly, I am as responsible for their successes I am for mine.
And so that doesn't always come with doing things that you love.
Sometimes it's important to do things that you have to do to achieve the goals that you've set out for yourself with the hope that at some point there'll be a convergence between what you love and the goals that you've set for yourself.
So that's I think that's that would be my beginning my beginning recommendation, my beginning advice.
Kyle Evans 54:23
That's that's great advice.
And even the things that you love have aspects of it that are are gonna be less than glamorous.
So even if you do find those things that you love doing, which probably all of us have, I know that there are things that I love and impassioned about their aspects of it that I do not love to do.
So there will always be those areas that are the work of the the the things that you love.
So I I think that's that's really great.
Kyle Evans 54:38
Russ, this has been a really, really great conversation.
I feel like we could dive into each aspect, and I have multiple aspects of this for for a lot longer.
But are there any things that that you wanted to add before we kind of wrap up that we talked about or didn't get a chance to talk about
Russ Hawkins 54:53
I think we covered a lot of great stuff here.
And as you can tell, I would be happy to talk for hours.
This is my both my blessing and my curse.
I I love to talk.
I love to discuss philosophical items and and I love to build companies.
Russ Hawkins 55:05
So No.
I think I think this has been great, and I've really enjoyed the opportunity to chat with you today.
And hopefully, there's some value in in what I've have to say.
Kyle Evans 55:28
I think this has been absolutely great.
I think we've touched on some really, really awesome some point great points.
And and like you, I love talking about all of these things and and diving into both the the philosophical side and then how how you actually accomplish some of these things.
So this has been a really great conversation.
I have a couple 2 kind of wrap up questions.
Kyle Evans 55:36
But before we get to those, where can people find out more about you, the things that you're working on, anything else?
Donald Berwick: Well,
Russ Hawkins 56:10
you, of course, confide me on on LinkedIn, Ross talkins, Agilent's will get you there.
Of course, I am interested in people knowing about our company.
Agilent's, Agilent's, put those 2 together, and It's Agilentinc dot com is where you can find us on the web.
And we'd we'd love to have you visit us and and see what we're all about.
As far as me personally, I'll be happy to give you my personal email, which is r hawkins at agilent inc dot com.
Russ Hawkins 56:14
We will put the best place to get a hold of me.
Kyle Evans 56:32
put all those in the show notes as well so you can check those out in the links.
Russ, let me you mentioned at the very beginning that you love reading So I definitely wanna ask if you've read or watched or listened to anything recently that you wanted to recommend.
Russ Hawkins 57:05
Well, you know, I I've I'm a huge fan of a couple of authors there is a there is a podcast or I guess it's more of a it's more of a blog post that I like.
It's a a blog post called no opinion.
It's run by a guy by the name of Noah Smith, N0AH, opinion.
No opinion.
And and he talks this is something that I've recently been been looking at, and he talks about mostly about economics.
Russ Hawkins 57:26
But it's about applied economics and the way the world works.
And I've I've found many of his insights to be to be really, really beneficial.
I'm also a big reader of biographies.
I think biographies can be very, very illuminating I'm getting close.
I'm I'm at Ronald Reagan now.
Russ Hawkins 58:13
I've been reading the biographies of American presidents in order starting with Washington, and I'm up to Ronald Reagan.
And I have learned so many things and frankly gotten a lot of context about politics that have made me much less worried about our political situation today than than some people in in today's world.
The stresses on American politics have been significant throughout the history of this company.
What happens on a day to day basis, what what we're experiencing today may seem overwhelming or you know, just really deeply concerning.
But the reality is is that we've had these kinds of challenges over the course of our history.
Russ Hawkins 58:33
And I've found that biographies are a great way to learn not only about history, but all about also about personal decision making and and personal leadership and the way the way people approach their lives that I've found very rewarding.
That's really great.
Is there
Kyle Evans 58:36
is there 1 that you found particularly insightful or good?
Russ Hawkins 58:51
In terms of biographies?
Well, I I'm a I'm a huge fan of Teddy Roosevelt, and I love the fact that he he listened to his own counsel.
Despite being, you know, he was a very wealthy guy.
Russ Hawkins 59:17
So he he's very different than I am in terms of the way that he started out his life.
But, you know, he he basically used his financial independence to pursue lots of very broadly valuable things in terms of the world.
He's a creator of the national parks in the United States.
He's he was a reformer throughout his career.
I just I just love his personality in the way that he operates, and I would recommend it.
Russ Hawkins 59:34
There's a Robert Caro might be a little bit too heavy for everybody to start with, but there's a there's a 3 volume, there's a there's a 3 volume set of biographies from him.
I think it's Robert Carey.
I may have that wrong.
But anyway, he's a great he's a great read.
Russ Hawkins 59:37
Those I those are some
Kyle Evans 59:58
of the first ones that come to my mind as well.
III have read those as well, and they are very, very good.
Actually, I think I've just read I'll I'll have to double check the the 2 books I've read on Teddy Roosevelt, but highly recommend as well.
Very, very intriguing and and engaging reads.
So awesome.
Russ Hawkins 60:09
And somebody who had a courage of his convictions did what did what he thought was right even if it was sometimes not so politically correct.
Russ Hawkins 60:10
Kyle Evans 60:19
And last question, any products that you have used recently that you've enjoyed or maybe not enjoyed?
Russ Hawkins 60:36
Let's see.
Well, I've been experimenting with wire wireless headsets, not, you know, iPhone wireless headsets.
And what I've learned is that I can go to T.
Maxx and I can buy a pair of wireless headset that work as good as iPhone.
Russ Hawkins 60:48
For about 15 dollars.
So the fact is I lose these things so often that I can I can afford to lose a 15 dollar item, but not a hundred dollar item?
So that's that's that's been a happy thing for me.
Kyle Evans 61:09
We we get we get a lot of mixed reviews, especially on the AirPods.
So, like, we get people who love them and hate them coming in and reviewing them.
So, definitely, the Bluetooth earbuds are, like, we we get a lot of love and hate of people Well,
Russ Hawkins 61:21
I they fall out of my ears.
I don't know.
I think I have deformed ears or something, but but so I I find myself losing them all the time.
And and so the the fact and I can replace them for 15 dollars.
It's a it's a huge bonus for me.
Russ Hawkins 61:23
Kyle Evans 61:48
Russ, this has been really great conversation again.
Appreciate all of your insight, especially with the experience that you have over over your career and the companies that you have been with and all of the different things that you've done.
So this has been, again, a really, really great conversation and appreciate all of the time and the insights that
Russ Hawkins 61:58
you have shared with us.
Well, thank you so much for inviting me, and I I've enjoyed the conversation and really appreciate it.
Really appreciate the opportunity.
So thanks, Kyle.
Kyle Evans 61:58
And thank you everybody for listening.
We will talk again on the next 1.