October 4, 2000
In this assignment I will undertake the task of interviewing Michael Ludlow (my brother) who is the Western Regional Director of Sales with DigitalThink Corporation. The conversation was quite lengthy, so there will be much editing as I endeavor to write this in a question / answer format.
1: Please tell me about your company.
Q: Michael, what does your company do?
A: DigitalThink provides online learning, what they call e-learning, over the Internet. We provide what is called a BSP, or Business Service Provider. We provide all of the technology outsourced and hosted on the Internet. There is nothing for the customer company to install or maintain.
Q: Please give some examples of the classes that you offer.
A: Primarily IT skills like Java, C++, Oracle, Front Page, Red Hat Linux, Microsoft Certification, etc.
Q: At this point, who would you say your biggest competitors are?
A: A company called SmartForce. It is a computer based training company that provides CD ROM based training, and who are trying to move into the online space.
Q: Were you the first to use online training?
A: We were the first one built 100% for the Internet.
Q: So, would you say that being the first 100% internet based training is your biggest competitive advantage?
A: Definitely! Also, we’ve taken the best of instructor lead training. It is more engaging. We have people you can work with (online tutors), unlike CD-ROM training.
Q: Michael, how would you describe the industry environment in which your company operates, basically the external environment?
A: The environment is very dot-com-ish. About a year ago we had 125 employees and are now approaching 400 and growing at about 30-50 a month. We are growing rapidly to cover customers and organizational needs. Unfortunately, things aren’t growing as quickly to keep up.
As far as demographics and culture, we are in the “South of Market” area of San Francisco in a converted warehouse with a strong dot com type of atmosphere.
Q: What about the legal and political environment?
A: We deal with contracts with customers that greatly involve a political environment. It’s interesting because we just acquired an office space in another warehouse twice the size of the one that we are in now. They are trying to implement a moratorium in San Francisco where there will be no more conversions of these warehouses to offices. There is a major political push in that area alone.
Q: Overall, what is the biggest challenge your company faces today?
A: The biggest is one that I mentioned before. Growing as fast as we are, we are in a constant state of recruiting and training, and some of the policies are not yet in place. There are many people who try to act as if the company is still a 25 to 50 employee company when we have 400 now.
2: Please tell me about yourself.
Q: What are your major responsibilities?
A: My major responsibilities are to acquire, through recruiting, the necessary talent for sales, and to train those people. I also have to manage compensation plans, etc.
Q: So, what do you like doing the most?
A: Talking with customers & working with my employees. I enjoy seeing if I can help my employees achieve and develop in a way that they come out of an experience having learned things that will benefit them personally and professionally.
Q: What about the thing you like the least?
A: Firing people. I have to fly to LA on Friday to let someone go.
Q: Are the people you manage front line, or other managers?
A: I have both front line sales and Area Sales managers that report directly to me.
Q: About how many report directly to you now?
A: The total now is about 9.
Q: How many people through the organizational chart are below you.
A: Right now there are also 9, but it will grow to 50 by the end of the year.
Q: What special skills and talents did you bring to your current job?
A: Selling and management skills from previous jobs were the most important skills I brought with me.
Q: Other than work, what are some other ways you got these skills?
A: Leadership at church and scouting played a major role, but experience is what taught me the most.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you face as a manager other than firing people?
A: Everyone is different. You can’t just take a cookie cutter approach to management. It’s hard to find the time to devote that kind of individual attention to each person, especially at these times of great growth.
Q: Michael, when interviewing people, what skills do you look for?
A: I grill the poor people that interview with me. I interview hard. I don’t want people in a position they aren’t prepared, or suited for. I look for things like their ability to recall specific sales experiences, interpersonal skills, etc. that lend themselves to be more effective salespeople. I look for someone who looks professional, is energetic, intelligent, and who understands business.
Q: Are there additional skills required if I want to be a manager?
A: Yeah, you have to be able to read people, be patient, not overreact, and not be judgmental. You must be able to lead, coach, etc. The best sales person doesn’t necessarily make the best manager.
Q: Other than experience, what is the best way to get these skills?
A: I read a lot of books, and watched people. Managers, people I manage, etc. but I would say that experience is one of the best teachers.
Q: So, all this in mind, what should I concentrate on the most while in school?
A: Well, that depends on what kind of management you want to go into… business management, or people management. There weren’t specific classes that lent themselves to management, but the totality of many classes such as psychology, speech, English, statistics, etc. are what helped the most
1: This assignment has helped me in various ways to realize what it’s actually like in the world of a manager. After contemplating what I’ve heard, I would have to say that the most important thing I’ve learned about being a manager is how important it is to develop a plethora of skills that will contribute to my effectiveness as a manager. I also learned that there are many more facets of management that I was not aware of before. For example, the effects a rapidly growing and changing company have on a manager is much greater than I would have ever expected.
2: In response to a developmental plan… I would have to say that I have been guided by my environment to always set goals and progress to become a better person. This has been done through home, church, scouting, and school. As my brother mentioned, I hope to perfect such skills as interpersonal relations, patience, the ability to read people, not overreacting, not being judgmental, etc. through observing those around me, and especially through more experience. For example, as I have been married now for a total of a month, I am compelled to rapidly develop practically all of the skills necessary to become a manager.
3: On a scale of one to ten, I’d have to rate my interest in a management position as a 9, being very interested. The reason is because my personality, the goals and values that I have developed, and my desire to attain additional skills are somewhat parallel to those that a manager should have. Like my brother mentioned, I too feel that the leadership roles I have obtained in church and the scouting program have prepared me for a management position. In conclusion though, I would have to say that my desires to interact with people and teach them how to do things more effectively and efficiently is the strongest factor in my decision to become a manager.