It’s told that tech businesses flourish because the product solves an unmet need. Others again would argue the opposite. When a business performs well, it inspires innovative products. To our new Vice President of Engineering, Sai Venkat, Traction Guest is characterized by interdependent relationships that take shape through the conscious effort of every single employee working toward shared goals.
Sitting down with Sai Venkat, one quickly realizes that he is a person who leads with uncompromising conscientiousness. For the past 20 years, he’s followed his heart more than anything, sticking to what he loves: technology innovation.
Despite his core belief to “always do the right thing,” he says he falters when it comes to his pastime and guilty pleasure. He’s got a weakness for cars. Fast cars, with engines that purr with V8 ferocity (and unfortunately get terrible gas mileage). When it’s time to unwind, he heads out on the I-90 towards the Cascade mountains, listening to music and mulling projects around in his mind. Switching to an electric car is very high on his priority list.
I’m excited to share this short interview with this immensely inspiring individual.
Can you give us a little background on where you come from and what attracted you to Traction Guest?
I have spent my entire professional career in the US. I’m a busy-body, always working on something interesting or undertaking entrepreneurial projects. Mostly, my focus has been on engineering and software management. I was able to sharpen these skills at top technology companies like Akamai Technologies, Amazon, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Groupon.
My most recent position was at AWS where I managed the product & technology integration for a company they acquired in Italy, jumping back and forth between the two countries.
I came back specifically for the position at Traction Guest. I immediately fell in love with the team. Throughout my interaction with CEO Keith Metcalfe and CTO Cameron Wiebe, there was electricity in the air. There was such a clear sense that the whole team is pulling in the same direction.
There is real potential to create technology that makes a significant impact and to lead the entire Visitor Management category. The role ticked all the boxes for me, a high-growth product space with unique technology challenges coupled with an amazing team building opportunity, it doesn’t get better than that.
What other experiences in your professional career played a role to make you the software engineer you are today?
At the start of my career, I had to make a difficult choice. I was offered a very lucrative role at Lehman Brothers in New York, and I decided to pass it up. On Wall Street, technology is a “second-class citizen.” I wanted to be in a “technology first” company.
A year down the line I was offered a job at Akamai Technologies, one of the world’s biggest CDNs (Content Delivery Networks). I spent 8 years with Akamai and later was responsible for building and operating billion-dollar scale digital commerce platforms at Amazon and Groupon. Along the way, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about solving hard technology problems and using that technology to help the business & product succeed. I don’t think I would have been even half the software engineer I am today had I gone down the Wall Street IT route.
How has your experience at these large multi-national companies prepared you for the position of VP of Engineering?
My knowledge of cloud-based services and products fall very closely in line with what Traction Guest is doing. Even in big corporations, I’ve found myself leading small to mid-size entrepreneurial teams that quickly grow in size and scale-up as the product space matures.
I see similar passion and alignment in Traction Guest’s teams. It holds the promise of becoming a giant in the VMS industry.
You’re responsible to grow and develop the engineering team. What do you need from this team to strengthen the platform as we scale for enterprises?
I hate to sound cliché, but “team spirit.” I cannot overstate the importance of team culture in running a successful team. Not only is it critically important to your execution, it is also how you attract and retain top technical talent.
I want to tap into that shared sense that we’re doing something really special. As a team we need to grasp the needs of the enterprises Traction Guest is dealing with – the product is something really unique. These days high-velocity software delivery is as important as high-quality software development. I will look to inculcate a team culture of quality and speed, and also ensure the team is having a lot of fun in the process.
A big issue for the cloud-space is security. What expertise do you bring to the table in this regard?
Security is a top concern in this day and age and has been at the forefront of every environment I’ve operated in throughout my career. To give you an example, half of what I like to refer to as “the useful internet” runs on AWS these days. An almost tangible sense of security consciousness permeated everything we did at AWS. Whether it was the software we built, the operational procedures we followed, or the security testing and penetration testing we performed. Security is paramount. It is why enterprises and customers trust Traction Guest with their data. Maintaining a security-first culture is definitely an area I’m looking forward to continue building on in everything we do.
You worked on the Amazon Fire 1 phone. What was your experience of working in such close proximity to Jeff Bezos?
My team and I were building cutting-edge features for the Silk browser which was Amazon’s custom browser on Fire devices. The Fire phone had Jeff’s personal hand in it throughout. He was closely involved in setting the project strategy and direction, and the team would have regular program reviews with Jeff and other senior leadership. Jeff is extremely detail-oriented and customer-focused. His hands-on interest in what we were doing was super motivating for myself and for everyone else in the team.
It’s clear that Sai Venkat’s mix of passion, experience, and vision is a perfect fit for the position of VP of Engineering. If you feel his sense of purpose and passion resonates with you, why not check out our careers pages and see if there’s a position that could ignite your inner innovator.