How Tech Visionary Michael Morris Found His #SuiteSpot

Ever wonder what makes a true visionary tick? I do and I know I am not alone. That is precisely why I interviewed fellow Boston College Eagle, Michael Morris, General Manager of TopCoder, who is hands down one of the most driven and visionary leaders I know. Take a listen to part of my interview with him for my forthcoming book, The Suite Spot:

On Career Path + Vision:

“Whether it was tinkering with my brother’s Basic computer at age 6, or developing software that had a significant impact on people’s lives while at Boston College, I always knew technology was the future and specifically my future. I have never desired to do anything else. In 2000, the high technology industry was king: I became employee #80 of a high tech consulting company called Tallan, which quickly grew to 650. Software was my passion, so as Tallan advanced, so did my career. In a short time I was managing business activities across the Northwest Region of the US. Then, the inevitable happened: Tallan was acquired at the height of the dot com bubble. Here’s the most important lesson I learned: it is very difficult to find great technology talent. Recruitment and retention are the real “ones and zeros” of the technology industry.…..It’s already evident that what we’re doing at Topcoder has changed the world and there is still so much we’ve yet to do. The drive to find a better way of doing things is what keeps me going, every day. ”

On Interviewing:
“If a candidate can’t demonstrate some degree of clarity for the next five years of their career, it’s a red flag. I am looking for potential hires to have a passion for what they are doing and where they are going. That passion has to align with the mission of our company, management and culture.”
On Negotiation:
“You have to be able to define the value of a situation by asking yourself, “What would happen if we didn’t do this? What are the other options? What would it mean to us if a competitor did this instead?””

10469696_10204428307290389_436817988041883586_n M.M. Factoid: He & wife Jessica have 4 fabulous children.

On Risk:

“You must be willing to take risks. The real key is the ability to evaluate them. First, ask yourself what is the risk of doing nothing. Second, determine the risk of getting “no” for an answer. Are you concerned with the fear of rejection, or can you take that “no” and turn it into a “yes?” I believe that “no” is actually the second best answer someone can give you, the best being “yes” and the worst being “no answer at all.” ”

On Strategy:

“You have to have great communication skills to be a successful strategist. You have to be able to understand what others are thinking and feeling. I credit my Boston College liberal arts education with helping me become a versatile manager who is able to relate, socially and academically, to others.”

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On Developing Talent:

“Find someone you can look at and say, “This person is going to become more skilled than me and I am going to help them achieve that.” A leader’s greatest responsibility is to recruit, mentor and empower people to reach their ultimate potential.
I encourage my Teams to always establish a direct line to the person at the top of a company, whether it’s a strategic partner or a client. I want them to spend time with that person in order to build a relationship and to clearly understand what is important to them, as well as what they need to solve. Organizations can be complicated, but goals and objectives should not be. If you have a line to the top you will quickly know if your goals and objectives are aligned with your leaders’ and the company’s.”

1391920_10202434905176582_929217972_nOn Decompressing:

“On Fridays around 6 p.m., when things are slowing for the weekend, I make a deliberate, mental shift to turn my work-self off. Software never sleeps; it’s a 24/7 job, but the time I take to recharge makes me a better leader. I have an incredible partner (that’s Jessica, my wife, to the left) at home, my wife, who is honest and forthright. When I am not giving the family the time that they—or I—deserve and need, she helps refocus priorities. I have learned to recognize the signs when I need to really break off to avoid burnout. When our children start playing sports or activities, I want to help coach and be there for as many events as possible. The time is quickly coming when my work travel will be dictated by their schedules and I welcome it!”
On legacy:

“Crowdsourcing for cloud development is here to stay. We were early out of the gate and are so close to making it the new “global norm”. It’s incredibly exciting to be driving an evolution that will forever be a part of history.”



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