Below is the full transcript of my interview the new CEO of Sauce Labs — Charles Ramsey. Discover why sauce is boss as Charles reveals his vision for Sauce Labs:
Joe: Hey Charles, welcome to Test Talks.
Charles: Thanks Joe, nice to talk to you today.
Joe: So before we get started, could you just tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Charles: Sure. I have been in the Software Industry for a number of years, quite few years, started my career with IBM and went to work with Ziff Davis, after this set my way from the software business. Spent five or six years working my way to VP of sales Waterfall with Ziff, then went back to the software industry with Quest software. I was part of the Exec team there.
I’d spent a number of years with Quest Software, had a number of really great roles with them. I was part of the Exec same team, we took the company public. I left Quest in 2004, went to work for JMI Equity and have a number of this interesting assignments as a Venture Partner, worked for Configuresoft and ServiceNow and a number of great companies. Then went back to work for Quest in Austin, Texas running at a private cloud that they had made an accusation of Surgient, so I got to know that part of the business. Then I ended up running World Wide sales for Quest. We were acquired by Del. And I left in 2014, moved to Kauai to have a little bit of time away and pretty quickly realized that I want to get back into the business.
I made a connection with Toba Capital, which who I’ve known for a while. And they gave me the opportunity to look at a couple of companies. One of them was Sauce Labs. And other companies that I looked, Sauce certainly had the capability and the kind of DNA that I’m looking for. It’s a small, fast growing company where there is a transitory market, which is always interesting.
And that transitory market, along with the changes in the way people do development from legacy Waterfall to Agile. Plus the fact that the application is essentially the business now for a lot of companies is just creating a tremendous amount of opportunity for all us, both in the testing space and in the continuous integration and CD space. So it all just looks like an opportunity for me that, that was too good to give up.
I came on as the Chief Revenue Officer in Adware and the day that I came on board, they made the announcement that they were looking for a CEO. I wrote it to the board let them know that was really my job. And so we went through a whole kind of struggle [SP], process for there were ten of us in the interview in queue, and I eventually managed to get this job. And I’m extremely enthusiastic for many other reasons that I just described and many others.
Joe: Awesome so first congratulations on your new gig as CEO of Sauce Labs.
Charles: Thank you.
Joe: Out of the ten people that they were interviewing, why do you think that they choose you as the CEO?
Charles: Well I certainly have a leg up, given that I was already on board. And the interesting story on Sauce Labs is that they have been extremely successful, despite the fact that there really has not been a CEO here for two years basically, there was no VP of marketing. Jim Cerna is the CFO, and he was acting as the CEO and Steven Hazel who is a co-founder was acting as the VP of Technology.
So there was not a lot of leadership. And when I showed up, I guess if I have any skills, it’s to help rally the troops, I’ve done that in a number of occasions in my past. And so I think that the team was hungry for leadership and direction and that’s what I’m bringing to the table, and we’re doing great.
Sauce allows developers and QA testers to test against very complex environments in a cloud, so that they don’t have to setup that infrastructure on their own premise
Joe: The biggest question I always get asked by people is, “What is Sauce Labs?” and sometimes it’s hard to explain. So how would you explain what Sauce Labs does to someone that is not technical, say, a family member ask you, “Hey what do you do at Sauce Labs or what does Sauce Labs do?”
Charles: Yeah. Well it does something very important and that is, it allows developers and QA testers to test against very complex environments in a cloud, so that they don’t have to setup that infrastructure on their own premise. And the thing that is making it incredible important is that as more and more device types, more and more operating systems, and just the environments continue to get increasingly complex, a company’s ability to maintain that environment becomes overly consumptive of time, energy and money and so we take all of that away from them.
So all they need to do is concentrate on writing great code, developing the Selenium tests that will exercise that and then running them through our cloud infrastructure.
The thing that it does, it’s so incredibly important, is accelerate the time from when a portion of code is written to when it is in the hands of their constituents. And if the application is the business and if we think about Salesforce as an example, their ability to get new code into the hands of their constituency is their competitive advantage. And so what we are doing is helping them accelerate their product to their customers, it is if we are a manufacturing process or a car manufacturer and we put Teflon on the rails and we help them get that product to their customer much efficiently, more cost effectively and much more rapidly.
Joe: I definitely agree. Sauce Lab is so easily to use especially compare to what I was doing before. So in a script all I need to do is just to clear what environments I want to run against, and I just run my script and the environment is there, it’s set up, it’s configured, I don’t have to maintain it, saves a ton of times. So it’s a great, great service I think you offer.
Charles: Yes, thank you, pretty enthusiastic about.
We have some tremendous ideas and they really are around making the environment, both for web and mobile testing significantly more closely aligned the cloud customers
Joe: So along those lines, why do you think Sauce Labs stands out among your competitors, because I think more, more people actually jumping into the space? So what do you think separate Sauce Labs from the other companies that offers similar products or service?
Charles: Joe, that’s a great question. And it is one that we are thinking about quite a bit.
So we have the advantage of being a first mover and way that company was formed, it was almost serendipitous, and the founder was actually working on selenium and then realize that there was a commercial product that could be created and enabling users to be more effective with their selenium test, making them commercial. So it started out that way and the market essentially pulled us over mark.
Now that we are doing is investigating how we take the next step and what the next step looks like. I really don’t want to share a lot of that but we have some tremendous ideas and they really are around making the environment, both for web and mobile testing significantly more closely aligned the cloud customers, think about and deploy their CI stack and there is a lot of work that we can do there.
Everything that we are doing is very difficult and I appreciate that because we had some products request in my history, where we solve the extremely difficult problems in unique ways to help customers, take advantage of, in that case Microsoft and Oracle infrastructure and really leverage the investment that they had made there.
So I believe that we are doing a number of those same kinds of things here, so that our customer will better leverage the change that they are going through as they move from Waterfall to Agile. And what that means and all of the infrastructure around that, no body is really stitching in together for the customer and I believe that we are, I know that we have some plans in place that are going to make that a much better reality as time moves forward and I kind of want to leave it there.
It’s really good stuff, I don’t want let the cat out of the bag too soon, but I’m very enthusiastic about some of the . . . we have a couple of skunk work projects going on within the company and they’re supper hot, it’s very exciting time.
The area where I believe we are going to serve our customers most effectively is at the enterprise level
Joe: Awesome, I guess that was actually one of my questions. I was going to ask you, what are the some of the trends you see in testing or development space that you think that Sauce Labs will be well suited to handle? Are there any trends you see that you think are going to be big, that people are going to need a service like Sauce Labs to help them with?
Charles: Yeah, going back to my earlier comments, the area where I believe we are going to serve our customers most effectively is at the enterprise level and that is where there are significant numbers of teams with very large development projects that are business critical and where they need to wean themselves off a Legacy Environment and start taking advantage of modern Agile development technique. And we sit in a very critical slice and the whole CI infrastructure but it’s a very important one and it’s really important when you think about the terms it deliver product to the customer. And testing really changes the dynamic in terms of acceleration.
But I think more and more of the large enterprises that have used Legacy setup technologies for years are going to make that big and many of them are already are, going to make that big transition to Agile. And it is a big transition and because the environment is rather fluid, they’re going to need some help. And I want to suggest that we’re going to be in a position to assist them as they go . . . as they move their teams from one development methodology and infrastructure to another.
I hear . . . I’ve been making a lot of calls on customers, and I hear a consistent refrain that they want our help because we have in this company some real experts that can impart knowledge to them and accelerate that transition from Legacy to a new paradigm to improve the speed and quality of their deliverers to their customers.
Our plan is to be really excellent in helping our customers, manage their test infrastructure and be very successful there
Joe: I think that’s such a great vision because I worked for a very, very larger enterprise and I was involved in Shift-Left through more Agile practices, such a difficult problem because you have teams trying to get ready with CI and you have them spread over across the global, so everyone has their own environment set up, not everyone sharing information.
But when you have a service like Sauce Labs it kind of almost makes it like, it’s a standard that everyone could then follow, and you don’t have to worry about that piece. So I think it saves people lot of headaches and lot of time and you can wrap up rather quickly rather than have to invest in a whole infrastructure of that? Why do that when you can have a copy that already does that, already has things in place, and already has a successful record?
Charles: Just to carrying us a title bit further. Joe, I believe that there is a true opportunity for us to extend into areas were awe haven’t historically been, to help our customers even more. And the challenge is that they’re having with testing are also true in other areas within CI and we’re not going become a one stop shop, that is not plan. Our plan is to be really excellent in helping our customers, manage their test infrastructure and be very successful there. But there are ways that we can do that, it actual help some of the other partners and vendors that servers the whole CI infrastructure. So we’re looking at a number of areas where we can really leverage the skills that we have on our development side to help customers accelerate their ability to get brought up.
I’m customer empathetic and I want them to feel like they have somebody on their side that is going to help them be successful both in the short term, in long term.
Joe: Now you said, you spoke to a bunch of customers when you first got the new gig. Is there one or two things that really stood out to you that customers really need, like is there a one thing that you think if there is a solution for . . . other, few common issues that you see over and over again with different companies that you talk with that they’re struggling with, with the development and testing efforts?
Charles: Yes and it’s right back to what we were just talking about consistently, what I am told is we are making this transition from a Legacy Environment to Agile and what we really need from a vendor and could be Sauce Labs, or could be Travis or any other, we need help and architecting a great environments or a business. And there is a lot there but it’s a big opportunity and we are realizing that we need to take that very seriously.
Historically our product was downloaded and go and it still remains that way. You can come to our website and self-serve, download the product and if you are sophisticated with Selenium script generation and you know how to integrate us, you can do very well on your own. But increasingly what I believe is that we need to help our customers, be effective out of the box and speed that time to value and that was an area where I’m investing in this business so that . . . I take my customers very seriously, I’m customer empathetic and I want them to feel like they have somebody on their side that is going to help them be successful both in the short term, in long term. And by short term I mean they can get up and get testing quickly and the long term how do we help that really continue to execute excellence and the whole Agile development area and it, it’s a journey, it’s not just a one fix thing. And so customers are really asking us to help there.
And the other thing that has been so great out of the calls that I have with customers is they know we’re building software and software by its nature has challenges and we have our fair share, and we’re working hard to overcome the challenges that we know that we need to address and there are customers you telling us we need to address. But almost a 100% of the time I’ve had our customers tell me and I’ve been calling our customers, “We need you guys to be successful. We really appreciate what it is that you do and you’re helping us, help us more,” and that to me as a company leader is music, I mean that is exactly what you want to hear.
My organization is very focused on making sure that do not lose contact with our customer, our customer is the developer, QA tester and the folks that hands on, use the product every day
Joe: Awesome so I guess my next question is more about culture almost, it seems like you’re growing and expanding so quickly and so one of the things I think that attract me, Sauce Labs earlier on they seems to be more focused towards open source and really towards the developer/tester.
The only thing I would be afraid of is somewhat HP did when they acquire Mercury. Mercury was really focused on the user, the developer, the tester and then all of a sudden it became as big enterprise company, and they started not talking to the testers/developers, going to the people that actually write the checks and so the culture actually changed.
How do you keep the . . . what I think it’s almost like a startup vibe you have there, but also be able to service the enterprise and not forget about the hard core developer/tester that really just loves the product encoding and using it?
Charles: I really appreciate your asking me that question and it is really important that you and your audience understand that when I talk about the enterprise, I am not talking about ever going away from our user, the engineer that develop, the QA tester is the customer of our product and they own our success, and I absolutely 100% understand that. One of the things that is happening however is that in larger companies there are pockets of users that come together and out of efficiency both in terms of buying power, trading, consistency across development teams, communication flow there is a benefit in them pooling there, buy our product for all of those reasons.
And so when I talk about enterprise, by the way an enterprise doesn’t mean Fortune 100 to me, an enterprise is any company where there is a user population and as you know itself to individuals through self-service but I do need to have or enterprise where they need it, a means of getting them up and successful across the organization. And an enterprise can be any size company and if you look, quite frankly if you look at everything from Salesforce which is huge and they’re an enterprise, to lift or spelunk or any of our other prospects and customers, there can be a small group of engineers that want help coming up to speed, and for me I want to treat those as an enterprise just the way I treat salesforce.com as an enterprise.
So it’s all about the user community that users are the people that we spend our time with but at certain points there is efficiency that can be gain by having a program to help what I’m calling an enterprise and that’s . . . it’s just a very much term, come up to speak more effectively across groups of users.
So I appreciate that question, my organization is very focused on making sure that do not lose contact with our customer, our customer is the developer, QA tester and the folks that hands on, use the product every day. So I’m reminded of that all the time.
Joe: Awesome that great to hear, because I really think your brand can really have some Sauce fanatics, so I think that’s a good thing. And I think that’s what you want and also you . . . I understand you need to be able to service different kinds of companies and different types of user but it sounds like you still going to keep the focus on every user and not just focus on . . . go for the big fish, it’s going to be across the board?
Charles: Yeah, and I really not going to be interested in having an organization that is talking to the folks that have responsibility for making big software acquisitions until the user community goes to them and says, “This is the something that we need to use across the organization.” That is how we build a solid, softer foundation, and I’m very sensitive to that.
Joe: That’s a great point, that’s actually the company I worked for, that’s how it started with the proof of concept. The users all . . . we’ve multiple teams across the globe and we have a center of excellence, and center of excellence we gain all these requests from all these different teams asking about Sauce lab, so I think that’s a great point. It started from user base and then it bubbled up to the higher management. I think that usually works out really well, when it’s not coming from up high to the . . . for downward but from downward upward, almost.
Charles: Yeah I mean if you push from the top down, product or service that users don’t want to use, they were rejected and I get it, yep.
Joe: Cool. It sounds like, like you say Sauce Labs for couple of years really didn’t have hard core direction for say, so what your leadership style like, how do you step into a situation like that and so, “Okay now here is my vision” and how do you get buying for that?
Charles: Yeah its supper easy from the perspective that I am not a technologist but I understand how technology can apply to business solutions and issues.
So the thing that makes it easiest here is that there is such a clear opportunity in products, number one. Number two, we have these incredibly smart people in the organization that have been really wanting somebody to come in and help them get a focus on a goal. And we have 25 different development projects underway here for 2015 and we have consolidated that down to around five or six. And the great thing there or the development community at Sauce is that they get win, they get to get product out the door, then have this real focus, and real value to our customers and they get win. So that is an example of using focus to help a team come together and rally.
And I tell everybody there isn’t a person will say I’m planning out your podcast, this is the funnest job I’ve ever had in my career by far, I mean I walk to work and I just . . . I’m so excited to get in here every day and great team, smart people they just needed focus. They needed something to rally around and it was easy to define that and now we just start executing on pricing to get that moving forward, it’s just a sort of intuitive, I guess. Certain people have skills, and my skill is to find the focus, and help people rally and that’s what I’m attempting to do and seems to be working.
I would love to hear that from your audience, what they think of about some of the products that they see coming out here in near term
Joe: Awesome. It does seem like it really great company, a fun company, I’ve never been there, I’ve only spoken to few employees but it really shines through with everyone I’ve spoken with, I really dig Sauce Labs.
Charles: Yeah, it’s supper fun, it’s really it mends San Francisco culture and all that comes with that but really some smart people and they want to be successful. And success in this organization means something different for all the different range, sales people want to sell stuff that meets their customer needs and developers want to have a whole lot of people using their product and thinking that it’s the best and that’s what we’re focused on.
I would love to hear that from your audience, what they think of about some of the products that they see coming out here in near term. We’ve got some great stuff coming out in 2015 and anybody that wants to share, any information with me, is it okay if I give my email address?
Joe: Please that’s usually my last question is how can people find out more about Sauce Labs and how can they contact you?
Joe: They can contact me directly, either on my cell phone 949-293-2368, or my e-mail address is cramsey[@]saucelabs.com, and I am open to hearing good/bad whatever, I want to know. I really want this company to be seen as a success for our customers and a value to the industry, and I want to hear from anybody who wants to talk to me.
Joe: That’s crazy Charles, you just gave your Phone number out to the whole audience, so that’s awesome. I hope you get some good feedback.
Charles: I’m hoping it too.