Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Calix’s Michel Langlois on Software Development at ScaleDecember 23, 2019
Michel Langlois, Chief Development Officer at Calix, explains changes in practice and attitude that allow companies to take software development to a larger scale.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
And my best advice will be line up right away, not just the investment thesis, but what's going to go. Say: ‘When I have no choice, something needs to go. And by the way, I propose we put this thing on the back burner.’ The moment you do this - is where the tantrums start, because now you're forcing trade off and you’re forcing a change of things.”
- Michel Langlois
Michel gives a sense of where he has come from. How he got started in the business and where he has been over the years.
Michel was leading the main area of basically running the internet over at Cisco with 6000 engineers under him. What are some of the things that really stood out from that time working with John Chambers and people at Cisco?
How did he find talent?
That time Michel was acquiring companies. Was it one a month at one point?
Michel then went to a smaller company to step in, not a small company, but Juniper, to add software quality in a new way. Michel comments about that experience and transformation.
Now with Calix, it's really interesting what Michel is trying to do with the Edge. He describes his role within the company, what he is trying to do with product development and the business problems he is trying to solve for the company.
What is Michel seeing about the next generation of technical capability in leadership in the valley and what's his comment?
What are the three things that people should think about?
Michel spends a lot of time in Silicon Valley. And yet he doesn’t seem to have gotten trapped in the echo chamber that we hear a lot about. Has he kept his perspective and his sanity?
Who or what has been a major influence on Michel’s career?
Jeff Kavanaugh: Welcome to this episode of the knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Today I am extremely happy to be joined by Michel Langlois, Chief Development Officer for Calix, leading network provider of cloud and software platforms, systems and services. Welcome, Michel.
Michel Langlois: Hello. Glad to be here.
Jeff Kavanaugh: To give context to what you're doing, Can you give people a sense of where you've come from? How you got started in the business and where you've been over the years?
Michel Langlois: How I got started is interesting. I'm holding up these days to see I saw the first generation of PC ever showing up. I was at university at the time. And I remember that vividly the day where I didn't have to carry a bunch of cards to put in the machine for batch processing. So came a PC, and you can imagine the first installation a PC and Microsoft. I was fascinating at the time was like, for the first time I feel I could essentially control this environment and do different things with it. So I was born in the late era the early days of the PC. And at the time, you couldn't even call my profession, Computer science. We were electrical engineer that happened to have now a computer on the desk.
Michel Langlois: So I got started like that. But you have to understand my approach of software programming at the time put aside the language that they all disappear and I learned a bunch of dinosaur language, Fortran, Pascal, you name all those things I did all of them was there was so much constraint on the resource of CPU memory, and that you have to program the processor in such a way that you were really efficient. So I was born in a generation where the best engineer could literally squeeze a program in half the size of the mediocre one. And also so also my limitation that I wasn't bad, but I was far from being the person that could basically do a program in half the size.
Michel Langlois: So it give me a bad days about my skill to see, "If I want to come to stay in that business, what do I want to do." And I realized I was more interested in solving the algorithm, organizing the work than writing the machine, but you have to remember, I was born at a time where resources are scarce. You have to be really understand the implication of your code on what it consume, and it does. And that's something over the years that when I started building larger system, I feel we have lost the plot. I was missing the generation of engineer that could realize that the consuming capacity resource, they can do trade off, they could do different thing, and I will argue it became too easy for them to it just another one Meg of memories who cares and we'll add another one if we blows that. So I was born into these age were you were landing on the moon a program, and he had like I don't know 60K of memory that's it. And you have to come back, so amazing time if you want.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Absolutely, and as I understand that you got started in Canada?
Michel Langlois: Yeah started in Canada and act like any Canadian. I needed to find a sector so I went into the telecom. It was the early days where voice was king, so I was working at Nortel, I work into SS7 type of technology, which gave me by the way all the basis to understand mission critical, fault tolerance, patching, upgrade. A lot of the concept of the mainframe to some extent came from that time with a little bit of flavor of distribution. And it's a fascinating I can fast forward to now is I still approach failure on the network the same way I approach it three years ago. And so I don't depend on my ability to look at the code to find the problem but more my analytic to see while if it's failed, what could have contribute to that? So it's a system view versus new.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Root cause.
Michel Langlois: A root cause, if you say.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And then you joined Cisco.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, and that was almost by accident. I wasn't in a company where in one point of time, mainframe, bridge, gateways old technology that were essential to connect computer to their data system were born, happened that we hear one time that this little technology called Routing and Switching. Why don't we partner with those guy in which was the time we were bigger than them and we thought it would be maybe a good idea to woo them or buy the code, and didn't happen. But what's happened is I must have said something intelligent enough, or that they invited me to say, "Why don't you come talking to us." And from there landed the support in digital in Silicon Valley.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You were there during the true Crossing the Chasm days.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, look, I lived the bubble days, I live the crazy expansion from the internet. And the web changed everything in terms of disruption. So you can imagine you get the period of time where it's the golden age to be in the networking space. Everything is centric on your business, the valuation is crazy, which at the time, I didn't even appreciate that. I thought I was a good manager, but ultimately wasn't too hard to motivate people. If you say I'm going to give you stock, and then one day you could be a millionaire. It's Silicon Valley, remember that's the dream come true. But I used to say to people is my niche, huge group, the opportunity to have huge budget, but I never understood constraint. It was really easy. You were just asking for what you need, and you were getting it. I know you were acquiring what you cannot do and it was crazy time.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And then the bubble burst.
Michel Langlois: And the bubble burst. And when it happened, it was interesting, it was my first time where I remember sitting, "What's happened to us?" And I can tell you that it wasn't that we didn't have the data to show that there's something bizarre happening with the business. It was just, it was so much half mark, that we didn't know what to do with it. We thought, is it a blink? Is it more systemic than that? Is it an epitome if you want? We never seen it, and everybody around us we're just saying, "Forget about it and move on." So we were not prepared for that. But what was interesting is when the bubble burst, your revenue go from 42 billion to 12 billion, you have to do layoff. You started to say, "How do we reconstruct the business?" At the time I remember, "Was there an after life after the bubble?" What become the value of networking, if ultimately wasn't just enabling the web? So we have to go back to the fundamental of what it is, and rebuild the business.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, it certainly came back over the years. And then you were leading the main area of basically running the internet over at Cisco with five, 6000 engineers under you. During those days at Scale, what was it like trying to create product development? So essentially, that's a big part of what we're talking about today is product development and how hard it is, especially as you think about software. What are some of the things that really stood out from that time working with John Chambers and these people at Cisco?
Michel Langlois: I think without knowing any other time because look, the terminology wasn't really established, but we knew there was a network effect. If you build something in the network, essentially, you can replicate that effect across enterprise service provider, consumer if you want, because there was a network element of connectivity everywhere. You couldn't get to your business or your traffic without that network element. At the time, the strategy we would taught, we would pursue was, "Why don't we build a platform?" And the reason we did the platform versus other place is we didn't want to always have to compete to say we have the best box if you want. Because this industry was defined into price performance and density. Everybody was building their own chipset to achieve the scale of the internet, etcetera.
Michel Langlois: But it's a difficult business because there's always somebody that had a better system at the time. It's like a race car if you want, then you have the best for this year come the next generation after you're the tail versus the front. So we took an approach to build software as a platform with the idea that if you build it once you leverage across multiple product. So when somebody was asking me what's the most important thing for me in large software development, it was a reuse.
Michel Langlois: If I cannot figure out the reuse of that piece of code, I used to call everything illegal. That legal is custom made for one purpose, its value is not that great for me. Because I don't get the multiplier I want, so everything became legal, which led into component, which led into [wounds 00:09:35] the component and ultimately, can I create a system where one day I don't have to build it myself. Which at the time was not really conceivable because you have to go back 20 to 25 years. Networking was not even taught in school. IP protocol were science when you know it's magic, you go into those [crosstalk 00:09:59].
Jeff Kavanaugh: So how did you find the talent?
Michel Langlois: We had to train them, we have to basically... I remember the days where I say, where was my onboarding with my own team. So imagine I come from Quebec, they don't even know where Quebec is. And they say, "You coming in Silicon Valley to do what? To teach us what to do? And I say, "Pretty much because I read all the book from you guys." I guess I can probably play their language. But my onboarding was, how do I start, show me the architecture, show me the diagram. And I remember somebody said, "Read the code." I said, "What you mean read the code?" Well, it's all in the code. So we don't have documentation, we don't have note it's triple knowledge. If you're smart, you'll figure it out of the system work. So that was my first mission. But you have to imagine at the time that code was five millions of lines of code.
Michel Langlois: So that aspect of triple knowledge was interesting in one way because if you could make the club to understand the logic, you're getting trust and respect right away. So it was a lot more immersive for people to see if I cannot graduate to that level where people now know, understand logic, I figure out by myself, I figure out by having the right people. I have no chance to ever write a single line by myself.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What's a crucible? You run, they got let you get through it and you survived?.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, exactly, you were essentially plunged into this survival of the fitness. But then when you graduate, then what was interesting and there was not really a sense of limitation. People will allow you to touch area, as long as you don't break the code, or you don't break the ability to build it. If you were doing those mistake, you were out, there was no HR process other than the code is our intellectual property, preserve it, nurture it, think about what's going to come after. So I find the engineer at that time, despite they were a little bit hard to work with, at concept of survivability, their intellectual property needed to be transferred. So they were pretty good to document in the code, not in documentation or PowerPoint on anything like that. That for them was ways. So like I said, you go from Turbo new age to community of interest to hope. Now suddenly, you're a company that acquiring company, and they want to integrate a bunch of things into this.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That time you were acquiring companies was it one a month at one point?
Michel Langlois: Well, over the 15 years I was there. There was 120 acquisition and some were small boutique where you were acquiring this new speciality, a piece of code, easy to integrate, it's usually something that was no overlap, down to you acquiring company to have a large code base too. And then it was essentially how you merge those things. In fact, what became the brand? I remember people were asking me, "How do you define a platform? Is look and feel?" So in my world, I do not have a user interface. In fact, the CLI, the command interface was the same tax for people to understand how to program the system. So, think about it you load a networking years, the command you type tell the system what the year is going to be. So, we created the business around something called a CLI, the Command-line Interface that was literally like a mainframe green front if you want.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In all those business units ran off your-
Michel Langlois: In all those business have to learn a common syntax. And our customer had to learn how to program to this, and in fact, one of the thing we did well at the time is it was so complex to learn networking, that we decided to create an academy to train our customer. The goal literally to glue them to that user interface. So for them if somebody was asking me, what is IUS? Oh, that's the CLI and they say no, IUS is all the brain, the control plane, the data plane, the manage-
Jeff Kavanaugh: You essentially ran 80% of the internet for a while.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, that was interesting. Well, I used to joke. I was at a time where a few company could do these things, or in the right place at the right time, if you want. We don't have really market to protect like the IBM at the time that could have done the same thing with you know, but I used to say, "Yes, we carry 80% of the traffic with the drawback that probably melt down every network in the world." So then it's the spider man analogy with great power become great responsibility. So I used to say to my engineer for a long time we got away with failure in the network or because we were claiming IP is best effort. I never committed to deliver your packets, so don't blame me. But as IP became centric, and by IP, I don't mean Intellectual Property. I mean, the internet back at protocol when it became the language to carry all type of traffic, the notion of mission critical change.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That's when I got to know you. And you had to [crosstalk 00:15:20]
Michel Langlois: Yeah, I had now to re-educate folks not only to write system, to write protocol that do different thing in different form factor or place in the network. We had to change a little bit about the notion of failure in the consequence of there was failure because there was two consequence. If it fails, it impact traffic and impact revenue. But also how complex is it to restore? Because you can not just do the trick of what, reboot. Remember those days of just reboot it, and I never guarantee that I was going to up anyway. So it changed a lot in the way into how do you do redundancy? How you do failover or you do an approach where if some system screw up, there's no fallback scenario. So it became more than just the protocol to connect. But the technique to basically build highly available system-
Jeff Kavanaugh: In the hill.
Michel Langlois: Yeah. And to be able to see that if they fail, how can I restore around it, or ideally this could not impact the rest of the traffic. And there was different ways to do this. You could do it through hardware redundancy, you could have it through two brain that will communicate to make sure they're still there. But the complexities was not simply into developing the technology, but making essentially these new notion of availabilities, serviceability to a level where essentially you can recover from, on failure.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Let's fast forward a little bit. You then went to a smaller company to step in, not a small company, but Juniper to add software quality in a new way. Can you come comment about that experience and transformation?
Michel Langlois: Well, it was interesting because ultimately the way I describe that period of time, if you like Star Wars there's the good guy and the bad guy. The trooper versus Darth Vader and etcetera. So imagine when the Darth Vader comes to Luke Skywalker and say, "I'm going to be your commander-in-chief now, transition the other side. You will let me know if he fall." What was interesting is my goal was to some extent I remember the founder telling me, whatever you do, make sure you don't make the same mistake that you did before. And from another side of the company is, whatever you do make sure we are as successful that you were before.
Jeff Kavanaugh: This is a little context, essentially you went from Cisco the Darth Vader, the Empire to the Rebel Alliance.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, exactly.
Jeff Kavanaugh: The Juniper, which is the high end niche provider.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, and, which has essentially made less product itself to be the high performance company that we do it in the different ways we do it the right way. What was hard in that context was not to understand potentially all things to come. Because I mean what's interesting when you have execute that scale is there's an element of processes that you know, you're going to hit the wall, if you don't change your methodology or your approach, you hit the limit of how you can assemble thing let's say in the factory. Then there's a human factor how you organize your work, then there's an organizational structure that you have to think about. So a lot of what I could see. I could see I'm going to step into the same problem of the past which is good, because I've been there done that, I've seen that movie.
Michel Langlois: What was hard is how do I describe that in a company, which I've yet to hit the wall, even if they don't know they're that close. And that's why, I don't know by look at destiny when I reach out for you is, I needed a third party to physically present data and analytic in such a way that people cannot see I was bias into my old religion. I was embracing the new, but I could demonstrate to really smart engineer that there's some need to do what we're going to do.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Once again, you're listening to the Knowledge Institute where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas, and share their insights. We're here with Michel Langlois, Chief Development Officer at Calix. Yeah, Michel, I remember stepping into that building with you, and you just wanted this very, almost a scientific, at least objective approach to let somebody know that they're about to hit an iceberg that they can't quite see.
Michel Langlois: Yeah. And it was interesting. So I remember when I first asked that question, tell me what's broken. And you can imagine, and Darth Vader breathing in my big mask, and I'm five, seven, by the way, I'm not the big Darth Vader, not Jeff. Nobody will tell me the truth, "We don't have any problem." So I say, "Okay. Change the approach and change your question." I remember the day I said, "Okay, if we don't have any problem, how are we going to do that four times the volume?" The moment I asked that question, which is turn it around to see, I remember the 3X. Remember, we used to say if we're going to be successful beyond our aspiration, let's build right now what is going to take to have three times the number of product, three time more people, three time more capabilities.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And the other thing that you had was four releases per year, and not one yet.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, and we're going to basically build everything at the same time four times a year to a pace of innovation that nobody can touch.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And the reason I'm highlighting this, even though it's a few years ago is, it's not often that there's something at scale a $4 billion company, is as large be yet not such a behemoth. And literally at that point where it's hard to get it right. And yet you can still look down, and see all the moving parts.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, and it's hard also, it's our human nature to see the success that the company I was joining was search depth. You don't want to feel that you need to change recipe. You have to be really gutsy to say, "It's time to change." When everybody is saying no, no, let's write it for another 10 years, we have that room to go. But it was interesting when we changed the question, we start seeing different response. And the problem became now that we have so much input of what is not working, that how you organize the work. And remember I was getting pages and pages of broken thing, then you're like, "Well, how do we start?" Then we're like, "Okay, what we're going to do a voting system or stack rank system."
Michel Langlois: And then you guys came, and remember the dialogue to see why don't we group pain point, bucket the pain point to see, if I said there's 60 category of things I could do, where's the best return for the buck? And I remember we group things into big circle versus small. We had different color code, and ultimately, what was interesting is when we start showing to people based on our analysis, we're going to start there versus the easy thing. Everybody might be surprising and say, "I make totally sense."
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yeah, and I think the reason I bring it up business so much the case study thread, as much as you had some of the most intelligent engineers I've ever seen working, who like to pick apart arguments. So the level of logic and rigor that was required. And I think the big takeaway, at least I remember from that period was that there was so much about the people side of this, that you did things so that people behaviorally and psychologically, would get onboard as much as for the logic and accuracy of it.
Michel Langlois: Yeah. So it was interesting because he didn't play the way I thought. I thought that I needed first to get the engineer on my side. Because remember I'm Darth Vader, and see if I don't get the trooper in backing the mission, ultimately they're the one doing the work. So the analytic we had, and also the way to group the data give us a ways to convince them that there's basis to do what we needed to do. Or personally I made the mistake was I thought we were aligning across the company to do it. And ultimately, it wasn't a case of misalignment of the end state of the mission, it was the duration of the mission. Because the problem is you have to look at large system they get into pain point. It's like a human buddies, how many time you go to the doctor where the doctors say, "Take your medicine." By the way what I mean by taking the medicine is the moment you feel better keep taking your medicine.
Michel Langlois: So the challenge I was having more like we started to see its brutal. We have to stop the factory, rethink the factory, rethink the approach, the model, the processes, but the year after on a three year plan, the patient start to heal. So management traditional ways of thinking is to say, There's another shiny object to chase. Why do we resurrect all this to death instead. That's the tough thing, is the will to finish the job. And even with the engineer is, "Why don't we go back to the old habits, I'm out of the emergency mode, feeling am healing laying. But I don't want to change anything." So ultimately, you're back to emergency mode after a period of time. And we spoke about this, I remember we talked like that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, I bring it up, because what impressed me the most about the way you handled that was you kept going to the board in ways that kept reinforcing it. So even after they were healing, they did it long enough that it really took root.
Michel Langlois: Yeah, look I think in insight, the upper management and the board, buying in the story is critical for success. Because ultimately, you have to resurrect investment in order to do it, and you have to sustain it. The inside, I don't have at the time is I thought that if management is onboard, upper management, and the troopers are buying into we're going to have a better life after we do these things going to be painful, I thought that was done. What I forgot is there's something called middle management there, that I didn't necessarily anticipate how they're going to react to that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yes, good old middle management.
Michel Langlois: Yeah.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Fast forwarding it a little farther. Now with Calix, it's really interesting what you're trying to do with the Edge. Can you describe the business problems you're trying to solve for the company? And then also your role within the company and what you're trying to do with product development.
Michel Langlois: Ultimately, I'm in a company that's a piece of the networking sector called the broadband. So broadband used to be called the last mile. Essentially, last mile, it used to be what connect you from your home to a central office or head, and where after that, the rest of the network connect you to your content. So the last mile always been challenging because depending on the physical layer, will it be Cox or VDSL, or fiber, or mobile, it dictate your experience to some extent. Depending of the size of that pipe, you'd get different capacity, different speed, different reach. What's hard in the broadband environment is you have to build it in the city and outside the city. So ultimately, you build network, and the infrastructure that takes decades to build. So you have to build equipment that last a really long time and live up there, they're not in that data center.
Michel Langlois: So when I went to Calix the approach was interesting for me to say, my mission wasn't just to try to reinvent, take the recipe from bigger company, and apply it to the smaller, learn how to compete in a world of open source and the world of commoditization and world and [inaudible 00:26:49]. How you basically change the approach of differentiated value, was more around the service provider themselves are in a crisis, because they have defined that value is strictly as a plumber. And the plumber, you don't really have a choice by the way, depending where you work, live and play. And you'll get what I'm willing to invest, because ultimately you have no place to go. So for a long time, their view of the consumer you at home was essentially a connection, then you pay me monthly. And what I'm trying to do is to decide when you're willing to pay more for more bandwidth, and not a lot of alternative to change vendors.
Michel Langlois: So for them, the consumer was not really you, it was the device you were connecting. Their association become, and the internet service provider connecting your device to the content. It was never an association about who are you behind that device. Fast forward now is, wow. For me having to connect 67 of your device at home doesn't tell me anything about you until I know when you doing with your persona, the time you use your device. Are you a consumer doing amazon shopping? Are you somebody working at home? Telecom user. Are you doing mission critical transaction banking? You name it, is now it's not the device that I'm looking at. I'm trying to figure out the persona you are at the time, what you doing. And ultimately, if I can figure out how you use your device to do what, at the time of the day, how often. I start having all the analytic about you.
Michel Langlois: But service provider never went there. To some extent they led the over the top do this. So what's interesting in my business is we start for the first time to realize that the notion effective communication service provider is going to fade, it's going to be less about the plumbing, but more about the value that you feel compelled to give them your business, and you have few choice. You can either give it to the retail, go buy your own equipment and plug it. You're going to go over the top, the Amazon or the Google to provide that experience for you. Or you're going to visit and say, "I would like one aggregator of it, one person to call to say, "Make it happen in my house, I want a smart home, but I don't want to be the IT person to do it."" And that's a crisis they have to live now. If they only try to compete on price performance density, how prudent and capEX efficiency, productivity gain if you want. It's not going to give them any consumer association.
Michel Langlois: So we're trying to redefine the business model of the service provider. In the process. if I can figure out who's going to win in the future, which services they're going to do, you can imagine then the problem is do I build the right solution for them? So I can use into imagine an end state of a new class of service provider, then I can redefine my portfolio in the different ways. And what's great is I'm only focused on a piece of networking called access. I don't have to protect other business. So if I had to start again, from a clean sheet of paper, I wouldn't protect my market, I wouldn't try to limit what you can do, I will try to end up into the best solution and then back away into, how do I get you there from where you are and to the new?
Michel Langlois: So imagine now you have to rethink the portfolio, you have to rethink the approach. And as still now have to compete with people way bigger than me. So I don't have my big 1000 people, am down to few hundred. And then in that new world, I have to look into how much I can leverage the industry. How much I'm willing to not just partner in the sense that you do something for me, but I keep my name on it is, am I willing to share the pie for bigger success as a new success based model? And then after that is, I'm willing to commoditize myself to a point that my value is not to try to build everything as a single vendor solution, and lock you in. So I'm dealing with different level of complexity.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I want to talk about people for a second, because Silicon Valley is often about the IP or about the software. What are you seeing to understand in the past, even for some of the FANG companies like Facebook and Google and the others, redid mentoring for some of their technical talent leadership because they were small companies. What are you seeing about the next generation of technical capability in leadership in the valley and what's your comment?
Michel Langlois: So observation because look I had the luxury drive generation of people if you want, what's different? I think, if I go back, let's say early days in the valley 30 years ago, because there was no written book that you just reuse the recipe. I think this engineer or a little bit like the first explorer I tried to create to see the new world. They hear there's a new continent if you want its urban legend, but you know, I need to jump on the boat and I need to go across. And by the way, the moment I go, there's no coming back. I need to land. So I think they were more capable to take complex problem and try to figure out a solution because they will ultimately engineered that like to solve.
Michel Langlois: The next generation where I see right now it's interesting is I like their ability to question everything. So ultimately, they are less interested in to solving but, "Why are you asking me to do that, by the way." I get a lot more into because I do skip session. I do meet the boss. And the question I get from the young people tends to be more around the business side of it. Don't get why we did that. Can you tell me why we didn't get the return you thought when you excite us to build it? You went with no projection? How come we not achieving this? And by the way, why is the sales people not working harder to sell this.
Michel Langlois: I will have never have got those question with the older generation, I will have got more question into need more resource, more capacity, this and that. So I think there's a freedom of talk, they're much more inclined the business. What I may question is do they have the will to do the hard work, and stick around. They're a little bit more entitle in terms of, "Well, I've done my part. I'm out. I'll see you Monday if you want." So, interesting.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I want to bring things to a bit of a close. If you had advice for people that are listening, especially in similar situations, some leading and transformation or they're leading a product development organization. What are the three things that people should think about?
Michel Langlois: When you hear somebody tell you what do you do in the first six months of camp and you build the plan, the 90 days plan, I will say, go do that. Because if you're coming from outside versus inside is a different dynamic. You have one chance because you're neutral to people that are going to tell you the truth if you position your question the right way. So you have to do all level of management and employee and talk to the customer and the people that that use your product like I said do that first. You'll probably going to find out is, it doesn't take you six months to figure out the broken toy if you want. Then the challenge becomes how you going to make the argument to do it, you go to the board or you go to the upper management, get the funding and get the structure that allow you to do the work.
Michel Langlois: And my best advice will be line up right away, not just the investment thesis, but what's going to give, because a lot of people are going to say, "Well, it's okay if there's no new money, we're going to do it." But it's much more powerful, you could say, "When I have no choice, something needs to give. And by the way, I propose we put this thing on the back burner." The moment you do this is where the tantrums start, because now you're forcing trade off and you forcing a change of thing. But I will encourage do that. The third thing I will do after that is can't do it alone. Get benchmark with the industry, get partner that are going to do the work become global is critical. Look as much I like collocation, and everybody's in the same place impossible to run it this way. I'm after the best Island. I'll be honest, the best style and half of them cannot even live in the valley. It's too expensive is the way is done, valuation is crazy. It's like living in New York, or San Francisco.
Michel Langlois: So ultimately have to find the best Island where they are, motivate them and also create a culture with that. So I will spend more time on the culture. And then last advice, get rid of the toxic right away. You will know the toxic people within your first six months. You will fall into the believe they mind change. And I'm telling you they will never change. I should have done way better in this area than think that with passion and commitment and lallouette's or the Great Migration where everybody is running the state beat in the same way they're going to flow? They are not. Take them out and do it fast.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, that happy note. Well great things in a little bit. One question it gets personally, you spend a lot of time in Silicon Valley. And yet you don't seem to have gotten trapped in the echo chamber that we hear a lot about. Have you kept your perspective and your sanity?
Michel Langlois: What was fascinating for me is the people that will do the right thing for a company versus the right thing for themselves. I've seen two path for people, grab the mask first and only keep it for yourself, or breathe and share it and make the rest of the group happy. There's a big difference between reward compensation success, depending if the egos, if you're a leader that about yourself versus about look I was born into what's the mission, let's make the right thing happen. Do it right the first time as opposed to be opportunistic into trash the other person to get into it. The thing in the valley, which I will say is, look, there's always somebody smarter than you, the moment you can figure out that it's much more into how you convince somebody smarter than you to join you, and to be part of the journey. That's the reward for me. Success, you expect compensation.
Michel Langlois: It's the valley as his own dynamic and interested if you want it, it's like a obscene community where everybody knows what everybody does. But on the other end, there is an attribute of innovation that I've yet to be copy from Silicon Valley, and I think part of it was embrace risk and change and disruption. So as long as we don't lose that will do well, but it's a little bit different. It's not as easy as you get the big VC funding and you get found 100 million and you guarantee it to our smart engineer. It's more and more see people choosing company into the mission and built it to last, as opposed to do cash out mercenary move to the next one. So changing, which is good.
Jeff Kavanaugh: One question to wrap up who or what has been a big influence on your career? And why? On your.
Michel Langlois: Well, I think it's great if you can find a mentor of some sort. At the time, I didn't know the term, but there was always somebody that will help me to understand the temperature of the group. Where do you go basically the connector if you want, you find this mentor that connect you to the rest of the fabric and has nothing to do with title by the way, don't fall into the title is the mentor. Well, they can expose you to a ways of thinking, way faster than training or whatever. So find your mentor and also listen to the leader that can create passion, get the elixir it's worked for great CEOs at the time.
Michel Langlois: I remember I taught a lot of this thing was religion. Yeah, it's just noise. I'm an engineer, but they shaped my principal. Now that I'm a little bit older it's amazing how much I can go back to some of the principal I had during the Chambers days, the Cisco days, the way they hit the wall at Juniper and so on, and the service provider at the time that were dominating the industry. It shaped your thinking because it was always fascinating to see when it wasn't about them. I really have seen fantastic CEO that were just starting with the I, it was the company put the customer first shareholder value, all of this is that shape you because ultimately what I learned is, it's great when the business goes well, it's bad when you impact family.
Michel Langlois: And until you are not capable to admit that every time you have to take a human action on giving a pink slip to somebody. It's a knack of a failure that you didn't deliver on your commitment to them. That's hard. And I hope that you never become a casualty of wars where some of my colleague at the time said, "Get rid of that, we won the war." But there's a human factor that you have to be able to make sure that everybody benefits if you want.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Michel, thank you so much. If people want to find you online, could you maybe give them your email address?
Michel Langlois: Yeah, as long as you can spell my name is email@example.com. And or send me something on LinkedIn. I love to talk.
Jeff Kavanaugh: It'll be on the show notes as well. Everyone you've been listening to the Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas, and share their insights. Thanks to our producer Catherine Burdette, and the entire Knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing
About Michel Langlois
Michel is a senior executive with extensive expertise within the networking and software industry. Over his 30+ years in the field, he has developed skills that span networking technologies, large-scale software development, technology and market strategy, acquisition integration, distributed engineering sites and partnership.
As Chief Development Officer at Calix, he focuses on disrupting the entire access networking space with Software Defined Access (SDA) architecture, SW platforms and best-of-breed systems for fiber, copper, mobile/wifi distribution, smart home managed services as well as leveraging Cloud-based analytics and SaaS model.
- Connect with Michel Langlois: LinkedIn
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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