Learning new things and trying to be flexible: Dave McCrory – Episode 70

Shaggy Dave McCrory
Corporate Dave McCrory
Corporate Dave McCrory

This week we talk with serial entrepreneur and alpha geek Dave McCrory, CTO of Basho. We talk about his career, transparent management, being a leader, and keeping up with new things at any age or level. Basho makes a distributed No SQL database, which we don’t talk about at all in this podcast. Disclaimer: Geek Whisperer Matt has now joined Basho, which happened after this podcast was recorded.


  • Started out by hacking a computer game
  • Dad made him go to Dale Carnegie courses
  • Putting together computers gave him hands-on experience
  • Computer consulting in college was an early business
  • First run at business was too secretive with “the idea”
  • Next run was more inclusive and open and turned into an ASP
  • First lesson: manage people as people, with empathy and trust
  • Learning the difficult lessons of hiring and firing
  • Pivoted the company after meeting with VMware, deciding that this virtualization thing was going to be big, and that VMware’s current plans were to manage everything with Perl scripts.
  • That company later merged with another.
  • Second lesson: don’t work with people when your gut tells you not to
  • Wrote a book, Advanced Virtualization, with VMBlog’s Dave Marshall, but still wasn’t doing much on social media or in the community. But saw the value of blogging with David.
  • Started a second company which became Hyper9
  • At that point, Dave wasn’t a much of a coder, but he felt like he needed more insight into what his engineering team was (and wasn’t) accomplishing.
  • Third lesson: If you push too hard in the wrong way, you can lose trust and all of your political capital with boss and your team. (John’s aside:
  • Kathy Sierra
  • Learned the value of social media from Andrew Kutz  – reach and connection
  • Virtuous cycle between tweeting and blogging
  • Introduced the concept of “Data Gravity” in a blog post, which resonated with many
  • Started with Ruby, started following Ezra Z, who was working at VMware
  • The GWs wonder if HR ever can’t figure out what to do with Dave – where does he fit in the org chart?
  • Evidently not, because Dave mostly answers by talking about his hiring philosophies
  • Dave then leaves VMware to take on an executive leadership role in engineering at Time Warner Music
  • The scene: Dave, sitting alone in an empty half floor of an office building, with an entire team to hire and process to create and product to build
  • Part of this journey: learning new things, and trying to remain flexible – in what you do and how you do it.
  • Usually, the younger people are willing to try the new things more than the older people, and that’s usually how the younger people break in to something that was usually done by the older generation.
  • Using community to figure out new things: participate in conversations with alpha geeks or just watch them talk
  • Blogging can lead to speaking engagements (or if not, you can be submitting abstracts to speak) – get on a plane and take advantages of these opportunities
  • Last lesson: be transparent as a leader. Transparent about what’s going on.
  • Dave also shares a lot of his work and personal life on social media – more personal on Facebook, but also on Twitter
  • There are some things that just about anybody could share, and you could start a conversation, certainly movies or some shared interest like that.
  • We end with a rumination on doing your own thing and not worrying about being in a box.
  • You can find Dave at @mccrory and http://mccrory.me

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