Name: Dale Ferrario

In order to kick things off in the Interviews section of the website, I thought I would start with myself:)  The About page has a good summary of my background.


What tools and tricks do you use to find work-life balance?

I have a number of different tools and tricks that I will cover in blog posts on the site. Let me talk about just one here.

What was really important to me as my kids were growing up, was to be home for dinner. That is challenging for high technology companies as many of the engineers in particular work late and come in late. So meetings were often scheduled late in the day. If these meetings resulted in work needing to be done before the next day, you were stuck having to work late.

What I did when this happened, and to some degree whenever I had a lot of work to do, was to come in early. It meant I missed seeing my kids off to school, but in exchange, it allowed me to be home for dinner – to find out how their day went, help with homework, read them a book, etc.

How do you prioritize your work?

This too will be the topic of a number of blog posts. So let me again mention just one thing in this space.

I am good at the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule). I make sure that I spend time on the things that are important and not those that are not. This really means you have to be brutal at prioritizing. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything that you would like to do, so you have to pick those that will have the most impact.

Granted there are just some things that you have to do. I, of course, do these, but everything that is not required is prioritized.

Tell me about an example where you had to let someone go for underperforming.

I don’t want to use anything too recent as it might offend someone. Let me go back a bit and talk about a senior engineer that I had. This person came to my group from within the company with very good recommendations. Everyone that I talked to thought that they would be a perfect fit for the role that I had. So I hired them to fill the role.

As we got started, I realized that while they were great at their previous job, they were not great for the role that I had hired them into. They were not happy. I was not happy. All of the skills that had made them successful previously, focused on short-term personal deliverables, were not what was most important for this role. Actually just the opposite. The role was to plan and manage large projects lasting many months with a number of people involved.

In retrospect putting them into this role was a mistake. And it hurt everyone.

In the end, I did not have to let them go. They made the decision on their own to look for and take a different role that better fit the skills and experience that they had.

If you had to give advice to someone setting up a team in another country, what would it be?

I would have to give them three pieces of advice.

  1. Learn the culture. Take a class that will help to understand the cultural differences between the country that you are in and the country that you will be setting up a team.
  2. Hire a great manager. The person that you have lead the team should be able to deal with the cultural differences, meaning they translate from one culture to the other, and in both directions.
  3. Define a clear and self-contained charter. This will allow the team to operate as autonomously as possible, minimizing the need for continual interaction.

What was the most difficult transition that you made in your career?

Moving from first level to second level manager – for sure. It was the first time that I had to manage through others. The experience that I had as a program manager helped, but I did have real challenges understanding at times when I asked for something, that did not get done in the time frame that I expected.

The root cause of this is that I was not asking in the right way. I would ask them to do something, they would decide where it fits in their priorities, and off they would go continuing to execute. What I needed to do was ask them to do something, ask when it would get done, and what would be delayed as a result. What I needed to do was discuss the priority in order to align expectations.

Do you have any book recommendations that you would like to share?

Yes, a few. Let me just pick three.

  • The Phoenix Project
  • Getting Things Done – review coming
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – review coming

What are the one or two things that you want to tell me that I didn’t ask?

I have two things top of mind. You did not ask what motivates me. And you did not ask who from the business I respect.

I am very self-motivated. I do not need anyone to tell me I am doing a good job. I know when I am and I know when I am not. What gets me up in the morning is working with great people to have a material impact on the company – through technology. I don’t actually care what function I am in. I have been in engineering, IT, and customer support. What matters is whether I doing something that really matters!

As for business leaders, I have a few.

  • Scott McNealy – from my days at Sun. The list of reasons is long, but around a common enemy and doing what is right.
  • Elon Musk – for being smart and gutsy enough to go after incredibly hard problems, and for his showmanship along the way.
  • Steve Jobs – not because I think that he was a nice guy or good to work for, but because of his willingness to minimize and focus on a great customer experience.
  • Jeff Bezos – for his focus on operations, careful expansion of what Amazon does, and his commitment to the customer.
  • Mark Zuckerberg – for his thoughts on taking risks.