Level Up Leadership: Alex Lintner

Listen to the podcast (FULL TRANSCRIPT):

Level Up is designed to help you get to know the leaders of Experian and gain insight into the skills needed to grow your career.

You can subscribe to The Level Up Leadership podcast on iTunes, Google PlaySoundCloud and Spotify.

Most recently, we spoke with Alex Lintner, Group President of Experian’s Consumer Information Services. In this role Alex is responsible for overseeing Experian’s US consumer credit bureau and the Group’s Consumer Assistance Centre (MCE).

Here are a few takeaways from our discussion with Alex:

Diverse perspectives help bring out the best ideas.
Alex loves to surround himself with people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Diverse perspectives help drive innovative ideas and projects. Here are ways to expand your world:

  • Intentionally build relationships with people from different backgrounds (e.g. age, gender, occupations, ethnicity)
  • Spend time learning about different cultures, ideas and art (e.g. books, music, podcasts, documentaries)
  • Travel to areas to experience different cultures or learn a new language

Encourage intellectual conflict.
Alex loves debate and letting the best idea win. Intellectual conflict is a key for innovation and success. Here are a few ways to encourage healthy debate on your team:

  • Encourage team members to challenge your ideas – and thank them
  • Ensure that only ideas are criticized – not people
  • Some people don’t want to challenge ideas in a meeting. Allow them to challenge ideas by email.

Say yes more often.
Saying “yes” more often is actually one of Alex’s top three pieces of advice for success in your career. Here are a few things you should consider saying yes more often to:

  • Work that puts you out of your comfort zone and challenges you
  • Opportunities to expand your network or your travels
  • Projects that may teach you something outside of your field
  • Attending company events to help you build more relationships

Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
If you are always trying to be heard, there will be no time to listen. The next time you want to be understood, ask yourself these questions, then make the extra effort to understand first:

  • Have I asked this person for their point of view?
  • Am I keeping an open mind?
  • Would it improve our work to hear what everyone in the room has to say?

Strategy doesn’t move mountains; bulldozers do.
Alex believes that business is not about the idea itself, but getting that idea done—and done well. It’s not enough to talk about what you want to do; you have to have the ambition, tenacity and grit to execute your ideas. Here are a few things you can do to build your just-do-it mentality:

  • Ask advice from a business leader that you respect. One brief meeting can save you tons of time and frustration.
  • If you hit a wall when trying to pursue a project, find a creative solution to get around it (or under it)
  • Know your why. You need to be passionate and gritty to get big projects done.

We were so happy to have the opportunity to chat with Alex for Level Up.

Check out interviews with other Experian leaders.

Full Transcript

Mike: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Level Up Leadership podcast. My name is Mike Delgado.
Patty: My name is Patty Guevarra.
Mike: This podcast is designed to help you get to know the leaders here at Experian and also gain insight into leadership skills and traits needed to grow our careers.
Patty: In this podcast, we’ll talk mentorship, career navigation, handling rejection, work/life balance, mental health, diversity and inclusion, and so much more.
Mike: Alex, thank you so much for being with us today.
Alex: It’s my pleasure and my privilege.
Patty: Alex is [inaudible 00:00:45] president of consumer information services at Experian North America.
Mike: Alex, we had a chance to talk with some of your colleagues about you and your leadership style. I want to share-
Alex: Oh no.
Mike: I want to share some of the words that were used to describe you. Decisive, nimble, boundary-less, articulate, genuine, caring, transparent, a growth mindset, very quick in determining risk, and then something I want to ask you about, Neil said that, “If you were to scratch his white color, you’ll see blue,” speaking to your work ethic. I really love that quote.
Patty: I love that. Yeah. That one’s really good.
Mike: That’s something I want to talk to you about, your work ethic. Where does that come from?
Alex: More than I enjoy winning, I hate losing, and whenever I see any risk, I can roll up my sleeves and I can get involved and work with the teams. I actually enjoy it. The risk with roles like this is that you become detached from what actually happens on the front lines, what actually is being done to make our customers happy, to work well with other teams, whether it’s another BU or another function within the same BU. Getting down in the weeds and getting my hands dirty, if that’s the right metaphor to use for [crosstalk 00:02:11] Neal is describing, is my chance of making sure I don’t get detached. I never want to be detached. I actually think it’s the fun part, to be involved on the front line. I wish I could do it more, but people tell me to get the heck out of the way because they know how to do it better, and they’re right. They’re better subject matter experts, they know how to do it, and so I don’t do it much, but I can if I need to or if I really need to just scratch my itch.
Patty: It sounds like you don’t mind being hands-on. How did you transition from being an individual contributor to a leader? Did you mind having to delegate your other responsibilities to other people?
Alex: I never had the ambition to be in a role like this. I never had planned to be in a role like this. I got by encouraged by a couple of mentors who’d say, “Hey, Alex. You’re an approachable guy. People listen when you say something. You should try leading a team.” Then I think my first team was three people, and that went okay. People kept encouraging me, and so I got to this like the Virgin Mary to her child. It wasn’t my plan. I would say it’s actually a good plan to have no plan when it comes to your career because things happen serendipitously if you display the right behaviors. I’m not saying I had all the right behaviors, and I’ve made my share of mistakes, but if you generally have the right behaviors and you apply yourself, you learn how to say yes a lot more often than you’ll say no.
Alex: You learn how to respect everybody. You collaborate well, and the people are going to show you your opportunities. They’re going to guide you there. It may not be what you may think of when you sit at home with loved ones and have a glass of wine, but it will be a good thing. That’s how I got here. I just ended up here because people encouraged me and coached me and taught me, and I’m trying to pay that forward. I’m trying to do that for some of the people on my team as well. They may have different ideas about who they could be or what they could do. I don’t want to call out and single out anybody, but there’s a guy called David [Huzinga 00:04:31] on my team. I don’t know that he ever had the ambition to do what he does now. Sometimes he says, “Alex, it’s really hard.” I say, “Yeah, it’s really hard.”
Alex: But he does a great job, and he extends himself every day. I admire him. He’s fabulous. I don’t know where he’s going to end up, but it will be a great place because he has that right mindset and he listens to coaching, not only from me but from people who are closer to him than I am. He gets the work done, maybe not the first time, he has a really hard job, but the second or third time because he corrects his mistakes. We have hundreds of people in CIS who are like David. He’s not the one example. It’s a group of hungry people who are refusing to lose. I told you earlier I hate losing more than I love winning, and that shows. Did I answer your question or…
Mike: Yeah. Definitely. We’re good.
Patty: Yes. Yeah. Since you didn’t really have being a leader in mind, you didn’t have the ambition for that, what kind of skills did you hone in on to make sure you were a good leader?
Alex: Well, you guys have hard questions so [inaudible 00:05:51] ahead of time to prepare for it.
Mike: Yeah. I’m curious about if you were giving advice to a young Alex.
Alex: When I was younger, people called me cocky. Today, sometimes it wasn’t on your list, so maybe I need to continue to work on it. But today people say, “Alex has humility,” and that that’s one extreme to the other. It’s basically because I watched other people who were maybe too secure in themselves. That gets in the way. I dialed it back and I dialed it back, and today my normal natural has become… I assume nothing. I am friendly to everyone. I know the guy who cleans our courtyard here. I know the people who work in the kitchen. I know the people who are the cooks back in the kitchen by name. Sometimes I know their family. I know their dog’s names.
Mike: That’s so cool.
Alex: I don’t know if it’s cool, but it’s just I’m not better than anybody else just because I have the privilege of being the steward of CIS. I’ve learned that because I’ve watched other people being servant leaders that sort of… I want to be like those people who I’ve observed. But that wasn’t the question. How did we get to that?
Patty: It kind of answers it partly, but what skills did you hone in on to become a good leader?
Alex: Yes. Great question. The first thing I would say compassion for your customer. I think you always have to keep in mind, “What are you doing here, and who do you work for?” For us in CIS, it is clearly we need to be aware that we don’t sell credit information to lenders. We represent the consumer in front of the lender. We are a B2B2C business. We need to keep in mind that we need to do right by the consumer and by the lender, not only by the lender. That compassion, I have learned. How do you do that? You need to just remind yourself that you need to be focused on who you really work for, what is it you get out of bed before every morning, and what is it that you do? For CIS, it means 1 million credit decisions every single day made based on our data, and that score or credit report that we issue represents an individual in a small, a medium-sized, or a large financial decision.
Alex: Maybe I was just [inaudible 00:00:08:09]. I used three examples. Maybe I just want to get a flat screen television to watch March Madness. Maybe they want to get a minivan because they have a new addition to the family, and that’s required now. Maybe they make the largest financial decision that any family makes, which is, “I’m going to get a mortgage.” That’s a big, longterm investment. We need to represent people in that moment, and that is the compassion that I’m asking every CIS employee to have. That is something that I’ve taught myself over time. Remember every day what you do when you sit in some audit meeting or HR review meeting, and you may not think this is about the customer, but if you remind yourself why you’re here, you apply the right criteria to every situation that you’re in as a business person, and I think that’s a good thing. Then you never get distracted, and you just stay focused on, “What’s the real goal here?”, which is, “Be the best at serving your customers.”
Patty: [inaudible 00:09:14] answer.
Mike: Two other adjectives people gave for you was innovative and data-driven, and actually several people said data-driven.
Patty: Driven. Yeah.
Mike: Sometimes in business you have to make decisions and you don’t have enough data, and I’m curious how you navigate those periods.
Alex: I think the real art is when you get on with your career and you get into the later stages of your career is to have the courage to make this decision in the absence of perfect information. You will not always have all the information you would like to have. I’d like to see more data to make a decision and know that it’s the right decision, but sometimes you don’t have the luxury. You sometimes don’t have it because you don’t have the time to get the information, and you sometimes don’t have it because we don’t measure it and nobody else does. Competition sales, I don’t have it. You’re not allowed to get it or you just don’t have it. I think it comes down to instance, and instincts are honed over time.
Alex: Instincts are honed by other decisions you’ve made in the past that have gone well and decisions you’ve made in the past that have not gone well, and obviously, you start leading over time to this type of decision with a little pattern recognition involved there, this type of decision, “If I go this way, it’s more likely to go well.” There are situations where you don’t rely on having made that type of decision before. In that case, it comes back to your values. We have spent money in CIS on things, so situations that I’ve never been in before, and what I could not draw from experience or even a pattern of similar decisions, which [inaudible 00:11:05] say, “What’s the right thing to do?” Then you just go back to, What do you believe as a human being is… What’s the right thing to do?”
Alex: I think the consumer centricity, the compassion for the people who you serve is what I lean on heavily. When in doubt, I say, “Let’s spend the money and make the customer happy, and they will pay it back. Not now, maybe not even this year, but at some point,” and I just believe that. I don’t overdo it, but I believe it, and therefore I do that. Hopefully, I’m right, but it’s just a judgment call. There’s no data behind it that I can point to to support why I know that that’s the right thing to do, except I believe it with all of my heart.
Mike: I think that’s really crucial too for anybody who’s going to be an innovative leader. Part of innovation means there isn’t a case that you can refer to.
Alex: Absolutely. That’s what innovation is all about. You do something nobody has done before in our industry, by the way. Innovation is one of those things that scares people sometimes. “Innovation, I have to be the next Thomas Edison. I have to have a PhD.” It’s actually not like that. There’s some examples that I use to illustrate that. One of them is you get in the car now and you look at your fuel gauge. There’s a little arrow on there, and the arrow points to the side where you gas tank is. If you rent a car, it used to drive me nuts. “Where’s the gas tank?” I have to fill it up before I give it back at the airport or I pay $10 a gallon [inaudible 00:12:39]. Somebody came up…
Patty: Just with an arrow?
Alex: Paint. It’s just paint. It’s been invented before. It’s been used somewhere else, but nobody used it there. It’s an innovation. People need told, “You don’t need a PhD.” Or the other example that I use, I have two daughters and a young son, and [inaudible 00:12:57] we had three kids in three years. I used to check [inaudible 00:13:00] we like to travel. I used to check at the airport, and I carried all the suitcases. It was hard before there were wheels. As far as I remember, wheels were invented by Fred Flinstone. They’ve been around for a long time, but somebody came up with putting wheels on suitcases.
Patty: Wheels on suitcases?
Alex: It changed all our lives. Now the little kids, they can…
Patty: Do it themselves.
Alex: … scoot their own suitcases because they don’t have to carry the weight and they just scoot along. Life has gotten so much better because somebody applied something that already existed in another part of our lives to a new application. This was a 747 pilot, by the way. Richard Plath is his name, the 747 [inaudible 00:13:39] Northwest airlines, which doesn’t exist anymore, but the wheels on the suitcase still exist. Richard Plath came up with that idea just because he watched people like me…
Patty: Struggling?
Alex: … struggling. That’s what innovation is all about. People applying their common sense to, “What goes on all around me? What isn’t easy? How could I, with my knowledge, make it easier? Then if you tinker a little bit and if you stay with it, the example that I always give is I think it took 800 tries or something like that [inaudible 00:14:06] the number, and I don’t have it in front of me, but a lot of tries, hundreds of tries to come up with the light bulb. That’s Thomas Edison. He didn’t give up and try number one or two or 10 or 100. He kept going because he saw the problem with gas burning, and he said, “There must be a better way. There must be a better way.” He came up with the electric light bulb. Same is true for Richard Plath who invented the wheels on the suitcase. He kept trying. He tinkered in his garage. Innovation is a lot about tenacity and not being constrained about what is. You can look outside of credit services to come up with an innovation for credit services, and that’s what we try to teach people.
Mike: [crosstalk 00:14:46]
Patty: Do you have a kind of anecdote or anything you can share with us where you had be tenacious at some point in your career?
Alex: Well, I had to be tenacious, you know? When I walked into the door here, we had… Some people before I ever got here had started thinking about, “What do we need to do to upgrade the technology for CIS?” That project then became known as R8. I gave it the name. I’m very proud of the name because most people don’t understand it, and they always. Then I get to explain it, and it’s a car story. I like car stories.
Patty: Yeah. I always like the car.
Alex: You know? It’s like the car. You know what? That’s a car. Okay. I’m impressed. There you go. [crosstalk 00:15:27].
Mike: I don’t. I’ll ask [crosstalk 00:15:28] later.
Alex: See?
Patty: My boyfriend’s a car guy. Yeah.
Alex: In the the Audi R8, there was an innovation that made it perform better than that class of cars for 20 years. It was the first car that had it, and so I could call it… I said, “Our technology has to be like that.” We came up with this proposal, and we didn’t do a good job. I didn’t do a good job explaining that to the powers to be of, “Why are we going to spend $25 million on this?”
Mike: Wow.
Alex: That’s a big decision internally. I think the SPC case took somewhere between six and nine months to get through, and there were other people who should take much more of the credit, Vijay Naagar and others who carried this ball forward and helped us revise the story. We were so convinced [inaudible 00:16:20] we actually started working on it, but we had the tenacity to go back to SPC, that’s the operating mechanism at Experian, to get that much capital granted, to go back and re-explain, “Why are we doing this? Why is it the right thing for our customers?” I think at the end of the day we went five or six times before we did a good job. That’s tenacity.
Mike: Wow.
Alex: You’ve just got to recognize you are not strong enough, whether it’s to climb a hill or whether it’s to run a marathon or whether it’s to get a business case through. We weren’t strong enough, and we had to improve over time, but we believed in our idea, we had tenacity, and we eventually got it through.
Patty: Gritty.
Mike: That’s a really good story. It was really good.
Alex: The rest is history. Yeah.
Patty: Yeah.
Alex: Like I said, I’m not taking credit. Vijay, Chris Platt, when he was still a finance leader of CIS, they had that tenacity. They deserve all the credit.
Mike: Part of being innovative is bringing on new technology. That is crucial, and that takes a lot of tenacity, a lot of work to change systems, change technology, but another big part of the innovation is leadership and bringing on the right talent. I’m curious, what do you look for when you’re bringing in people for projects and teams?
Alex: A former mentor of mine has taught me that one of the greatest skills of a leader is to seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. When I interview somebody, I look for that. I look for somebody who can listen. As you know, our product leader now is Greg Wright, and then if you look at his behaviors, he would exemplify that. He he sits down with you first to say, “Okay, what’s going on? Tell me what’s going on.” He listens to all the opinions in the room, and he first seeks to understand. Then he can obviously add value [inaudible 00:18:14] a great journey line.
Alex: That’s what I look for in innovation because people will bring ideas to you where you’re going, “Never heard of it,” or you don’t understand it, and you just don’t want to admit it, or you’re going, “Why are they so passionate about it? Is that really big?” You really don’t know. If you’re not open minded, you will limit the organization’s abilities to innovate to what your belief system encompasses, which is much smaller than what an entire diverse organization encompasses. This open-mindedness, I think, is a big skill, and that’s what I would look for for anybody who was involved with innovation.
Patty: We spoke to Neil about your leadership style, and he shared this funny story about a plastic bulldozer. For everyone listening, Neil told us that at monthly staff meetings Alex gives away plastic bulldozers as a reward for just being innovative, being a good worker, et cetera, et cetera. Can you tell us more about why you did this and what that means to you for employee morale, why that’s important?
Alex: Yeah. It’s only for my direct reports. I only give it away to my direct reports, and it comes from a saying that I used, that when you’re in a leadership role, that decision that you normally make is, “What are you going to do as an organization?” You don’t make the decision on how you’re going to do it. Sometimes you’re involved with press releases on some big things, especially if it’s sensitive. Then you will get involved in the how, but normally you only decide what to do. I’m going to call it for a minute… that’s setting the strategy. The saying that we use in CIS is, “Strategy doesn’t move mountains, bulldozers do.” The plastic bulldozer is essentially a recognition of somebody who got something done that was hard. It was moving a mountain.
Alex: When somebody did something extraordinary, and CIS is large enough of an organization that there are people doing extraordinary things every month, and I just pick out one example, and I talked for three to five minutes about it and say, “This person is going to get the bulldozer of the month because they did this, these were the obstacles, and they deserve it.” Then everybody claps, and we move on with financial statements. It gets much more boring after that, but it’s just my recognition of, “It’s not only the idea. It’s actually more getting the idea done that’s the art in business,” and my personal opinion, is the art in life, because ideas are a dime a dozen. You can sit in a bar with your friends and you can say, “We should do this. We should do that.” [inaudible 00:21:01] you all go home. At the end, it was still Mark Zuckerberg who invented social media. We all said, “Man, it’s so hard to coordinate.” Didn’t we all say that at some point? But it’s one person who got it done.
Mike: That’s right. I think that something interesting that Neil talked about too is that you love debate, and I think it’s very cool that you love to be challenged. You can share a position on something, something that the business should do, but you invite people to challenge you. I love that style of leadership, that you’re open, you’re letting your ego go, and saying, “Please. [crosstalk 00:00:21:38]”
Alex: I just park it. I don’t quite let it go. Yeah.
Mike: But can you talk a little bit about that? Because I think that’s a really cool culture you’ve developed.
Alex: Look, I just don’t think I’m always right. I know I’m sometimes wrong. My children, my wife, they’ve all taught me, “Hey, you’re not always rights.” Certainly, if you just walk around life with open eyes, you know that you’re not always right. I like a debate. I like intellectual conflict, presenting different points of view. If you think about what we do more broadly here at Experian with the diversity, it’s not about the things that are at the surface, “What gender are you?”, sexual preferences, ethnic background. That’s all so superficial. What that brings with it from in the person inside is a different point of view.
Mike: That’s right.
Alex: A different perspective because they have a different background, they have a different journey line because of who they are. We should embrace all of that, and then we should let the best idea win. The idea of intellectual conflict…
Mike: That’s right.
Alex: … conflict [inaudible 00:22:39] it’s just, “Put them on the table. Let’s debate. What is the right answer? What is the best answer for us as a business to take on a challenge or take advantage of an opportunity?” That’s what I try to do. I think that Neil himself… Since he’s brought this up maybe, maybe I’ll call him out here. I remember one time Neil had made a proposal to me about how we can improve costs at our MC in Dallas. I thought it was a silly idea. He said, “Look, I think there is about 140 projects. They each would yield this much. It’s the behavior on the type of call that we need to alter, and each of them will reduce the handle time this much.” I said, “You can’t run…” Maybe it wasn’t 140. Maybe it was 70. It was a lot of projects. “You can’t run this many projects and expect that they all come together and they yield this result. Neil, you need to think about it.”
Alex: He just looked at me and said, “Well, I believe this is the right thing to do.” I said, “Neil, you’re going to be measured by your results.” I walked out, and there was no more debate. Neil just went ahead and did it with his team, and there was his monthly steering committee. I think two months later, I walk into [inaudible 00:23:55] and he has a big smile on his face, doesn’t say anything, he’s not a boastful person, and there were these team leaders who I had never seen me before. MC is a big organization, who then said, “I want to tell you about my yellow belt project.” I listened to… I don’t know, it was six people who explained there, and then Neil said, “Any by the way, these were only six. We actually had…”, whatever the number was. He added up the numbers. All of a sudden, we had saved $6 million in handle time in MC. I thought it was the wrong idea.
Alex: I actually thought it was really silly. I told him in front of people [inaudible 00:24:33] really silly people, and I was wrong, but I don’t prevent him to do something that he has conviction from, he has great expertise from, and he went ahead and did it. The result is incredible. That’s the behavior I want to encourage. I don’t want to be the guy… the hippo opinion, the highest paid opinion in the room. It’s so limiting in an organization like Experian when you have so many people with so much potential, with so much know-how, with was so much expertise with so much passion for the customer. Why would I ever stand there and with my convictions limit all of that potential? I don’t want to do that.
Mike: I love that. What a great example, mentoring up people, and also causing innovation to come up even though you don’t see it.
Alex: Yeah.
Patty: I think a lot of leaders could have reacted poorly to their workers going behind their back just to do it anyway even though you said no.
Alex: Behind the back, I don’t think he went behind my… He wasn’t hiding it. He was just doing it anyway…
Patty: [crosstalk 00:25:38] Yeah.
Mike: [crosstalk 00:25:38] Yeah. Yeah.
Alex: … though I disagreed. That’s okay. By the way, there are examples where people do something where I disagreed, and I end up being right. That’s okay too. Go for it. If you have conviction, go for it. Because at the end of the day, in business, if you bat… A baseball analogy served by a German, very dangerous. If you’re bat 0.7, you would have the biggest statue erected at Ballpark X for you because nobody has ever batted 0.7. You only need to get seven out of 10 right. In business, you don’t need to get 10 out of 10 right. People need to understand that. You do need to recognize that when you swing and miss, it was a miss. “I need to stop spending money,” or, “I need to correct your swing,” et cetera, et cetera. But you do not need to have the expectation of yourself nor the expectation of the people that work for you that you need to bat 100 because it’s completely unrealistic in business and in life.
Patty: Just real quick because we are running a little bit short on time here, when I was discussing with you possible topics for today’s session, you did say that you had three pieces of advice for how to have a successful career. I’d like to hear it.
Alex: Okay. Well, I always tell people say yes more often.
Patty: Okay.
Alex: In my own career, I told you that people encouraged, mentored me. The first time I got a leadership role, it was something that nobody else wanted to do. I grew up in Germany. At that time, Germany was still divided in East and West. For all of you guys, you are so young that you only remember this from the history books, but that was still my lifetime, and I was already working. I worked for Ernst & Young at the time, and they said, “We have this job in East Germany.” Now you got to remember at the time that was not a pretty place, and West Germany was a very pretty place. Nobody wanted to do that. I said, “I’ll take that project.”
Alex: It was an accelerant into my career. I was very lucky, like serendipitous. The wall came down while the project was still going on. It was this unbelievable national celebration. It became fields where a thousand flowers bloom. It was just an incredible time in my life in general, but also an incredible time in my career because I had the courage to lift my hand when all the established guys who already had leadership titles said, “Yeah. Uncomfortable. I’ve got family. I’m not going to do that.” [inaudible 00:27:55] say yes more often.
Patty: Okay.
Alex: The second thing is respect to everyone, and it certainly pertains to diversity, but it doesn’t only pertain to diversity. It pertains to people who have different style, people who share different convictions and who actively debate you regularly on the same thing because of it. You may not like it. It’s very uncomfortable. Still respect them because they’re in their role for a reason. It’s the hardest thing, but I’ve seen careers take a turn if they don’t do that because at some point you’re going to say something about that other person that people will hear as you threw them under the business, because that person will make mistakes. They will bat their 0.7 like everybody else. Do not do that. Respect everyone.
Alex: The third thing is if you want to be a leader, learn how to lead people. People need to want to work for you. I believe leaders get elected, not appointed, and if you want to grow your career, learn how to behave so that people want to work for you, not they have to because you got appointed. They say, “I want to work for Alex,” or Emil or all the people I named earlier. That’s where you want to get to learn that skill. It has nothing to do with your functional skill. It has nothing to do with your subject matter expertise. It’s all about your behavior towards people who work with you. That’s my…
Patty: Really good advice.
Alex: … two cents.
Mike: [inaudible 00:29:29] We’ve got actually one question [inaudible 00:29:33] Alex, and they said they would love to hear your advice on how we can lead better and attract more talent to our teams.
Alex: Well, that’s a really hard question to answer without having the context of, “Who’s the question from, and what’s their circumstance?” I’ll tell you a little story here. Ravi, my engineering leader of a core engineering team, Ravi came to us from PayPal and has an unbelievable track record from PayPal. I think he was there for 12 or 14 years, and now we have the privilege of having him here. He came here, and I had doubts about whether our engineering team was strong enough to support the journey that we wanted to go on. He went through, and like Neil earlier, except he said, “No, you’re wrong. I actually think these people want to learn, and we just have to provide them the training.” We did, and he was right. He also then said, “Though I said that, we are missing skills, engineering skills, that we need to build a platform like Ascent.”
Alex: It’s a very hard thing to do. We have a thousand concurrent users on it. They go through one petabyte of data. It’s hardcore engineering, what we do now. I said, “Well, it took me long time to find you. It’s very hard for us to get people out of Silicon Valley where these people are a dime a dozen,” i wouldn’t say a dime a dozen, but there’s [inaudible 00:30:53] a very healthy talent pool, “but you can try.” He took our offices in San Jose that we inherited from 41st Parameter, an acquisition [inaudible 00:31:04]. He made it a beautiful office. He made his first hire with a gentleman named [Mowid 00:00:31:09]. If you go to that office now, it’s a flourishing place with engineers who work on the hardest engineering problems because he had a vision for, “What does a great place to work for engineers with that specialized platform engineering type of skill need to look like?”
Alex: He put it into place and now people want to come and work for it. That would be my advice. If you are looking for those people, keep the end goal in mind. What does it need to look like so people want to come here? Then work with tenacity towards that goal. If you’re right, people will come. He was right. If you go out there, you get blown away by some of the technology that we’re sending out.
Mike: That speaks to the attribute of being a visionary, knowing what you want.
Alex: Yeah.
Mike: Yeah.
Alex: As a business leader, you need to have vision because you are the architect of the business, and it’s like an architect of a building. If you can’t draw it, you can’t ever build it. You can’t just start building. You need to be able to draw it. You need to know what the components need to be. The same is true for a business leader.
Mike: I think what’s been really cool is hearing you talk about this. It’s really interesting because it’s like I’m hearing the art and the science, leading an organization. The science part is the data, things you’re getting day to day, but then a lot of it is the art, how you’re maneuvering, how you’re inspiring teams, how you’re getting the right people in place, your gut instincts, your experiences that have taught you, and then being open.
Alex: That’s a good summary. There’s definitely an art to it. If you around to all the leaders here at Experian, everybody has their own style and the own art. It works for everyone. It’s congruent within their style. I have my own, and Craig Boundy has his own, and Justin Hastings has his own. Every one of them applies their art very well.
Mike: That’s excellent.
Patty: Great.
Mike: Well, thank you so much, Alex, for your time. This has been [crosstalk 00:33:05].
Alex: Thank you for inviting me. I’m privileged to be here.
Patty: We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of Level Up.
Mike: If you’d like to see a summary of today’s show, you can go to the Experian blog. The short URL is just ex.pn/levelup.
Patty: If you found any of the information today helpful, please consider supporting us by hitting subscribe or leaving us a review. Thanks for dropping in and giving us a listen, and we hope to see you again for our next episode.