About This Episode
EPISODE 3 features the Co-Founder of Wonderment Apps Faraz Tabibian. Faraz speaks on his past work in media/entertainment, and as a CTO. He also gives us a great look into leadership by asking the right questions, leading by example, and hiring passionate individuals. Faraz has a great understanding of creating a process that works for you rather than you working for the process. Leaving us with 5 leadership tips that are sure to spark productivity and creativity in your work environment.
Faraz’s Top 5 Leadership Tips:
Below is a summary of the Top 5 Leadership tips shared during the interview this week. Take a listen to the episode to learn more about the thoughts behind these tips –
- Lead with metrics.
- What versus how.
- Lead by asking questions.
- Have the process work for you versus you working for the process.
- Improve your hiring and recruitment processes.
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find even more Full Stack Leader episodes here:
Ryan: Hello, and welcome to the full stack leader podcast. I’m Ryan Williams and I’m here today with my business partner Fazaz Tabibian. Faraz Then I met a number of years back when we were working at the New York times together in a division based here in Los Angeles. We had a chance to re-meet up again at a startup several years later, and worked as a CPO CTO combination. At the end of that, we decided, Hey, we should start a business together.
So welcome Faraz
Faraz: Great. thank you, Ryan.
Ryan: I’m really excited that we get to do this podcast together and we’re kicking off this really amazing new adventure together. I’d love to have you share today some of the insights that you’ve learned on leadership over the course of time.
So maybe you can tell our audience a little bit about BARR and where you’ve come from.
Faraz: Yeah, sure. My name is Faraz Tabibian and I’m one of the co-founders and partners at wonderment apps.
I have. Years of experience building and architecting technology solutions in many different verticals, such as e-commerce media and entertainment and a number of, SAS businesses. I worked as a CTO and director of engineering at a variety of different technology businesses over the last 15 years.
And as Ryan mentioned, about six years ago, we decided to. Start, our agency in order to better serve companies, seeking product and technology solutions. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’m looking forward to expanding our services in the.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s been a really amazing journey. We’ve had so many great learning lessons along the way.
And, one of the best things about it is we’re on a daily basis learning how to become better leaders together. It’s been really exciting. One of the interesting parts about you is that you have gone from being a leader in a specific area, and you’ve been transitioning to another area. So you’ve historically been a CTO and you’ve become a leader really more on a COO level over the last group of years.
How has that been for you? What’s that been like?
Faraz: Yeah, it’s been a very, very interesting journey, as you mentioned, I started as a developer and, worked for a number of years, as a developer and then got into architecture and lead developments at a couple of different companies. Where I was able to, experience, leadership for the first time and, and managing a smaller team of developers.
And then after that, I was seeking the, challenges and, basically taking on jobs as a VP of . Engineering. And that was also a number of years until I felt like it was ready for. a bigger tech leadership role and I became a CTO at a startup. and that also went on for, for a number of years.
And, and also he had wonderment, and just for the past couple of years, that transformed into, more on the operations side, which. very challenging at the time because, the domain completely shifted for me from technology to operation, which came with a lumber, learning curves.
I think, in it now, I’m still learning. I’m still growing. having a lot of.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you. I’ve seen you grow a ton and you’re right. Those two specific skill sets. They really do compliment one another, but they also are very different and I it’s been amazing to watch you gain strength this new area and really be able to use your technology strength as a foundation.
And it brings up a good point, which is, you’ve had a long career where you’ve. worked as a leader in different organizations in different positions. Is there a moment you remember that was a really impactful moment, a very defining moment and you being a leader?
Faraz: That’s a great question. I think, yeah. One of the transitioning moments for me was, when I had to travel to, some of the regions that we have. our technology teams located, and I think it was about, four to five years ago that I had to travel and meet, our different teams in person for the very first time. And. we have, teams in different regions such as us Eastern Europe, India, and even just in Eastern Europe, seen, just a couple of different countries in that region.
So what was so interesting to me was how cultural backgrounds can play a pretty major role in the way that you manage different teams in different regions. So some regions prefer full ownership over their domain, and any guidance has to be done in a very subtle way or ill, almost always backfire. And in some other regions, it’s almost a requirement to define the path to success and provide very detailed instruction around problem solving and the overall support along the way.
So, knowing these subtle differences is extremely important when managing these teams and different regions as, can be a game changer, in the way that you can retain people and make sure that you set up long-term partnership, with, some of these regions.
Ryan: Yeah. That makes sense.
Another thing that came up for me. And what you were describing was the way in which you communicate a vision to these different groups. Do you find that it’s different in working in different regions, how they hear the communication of what you’re trying to accomplish and maybe you end up inspiring them to get on board with?
Faraz: Yeah, absolutely. I think the way that people get inspired. Is very different from regions when our region, people are motivated with different things and, so once again, learning the culture and making sure that you understand the culture at a deep level and trying to understand that, okay, what makes people happy about what they are doing?
And, you know, Fulfilled by the end of the day. And, it’s not just about having a job, , it’s about what really makes them feel fulfilled and accomplished. So I think that it woke up moment for me in my career that really try to understand the culture before you going to a different region.
Ryan: Yeah. And tech has brought about one of the fastest moving aspects of globalizing collaboration, of any industry that I’ve seen, where you can have different people working from different regions, all on the same project. At the same time. I know one of the basic challenges is when do we find a time to meet with a team in India? Or Bellaruse or the United States and have everyone come together and even just that specific time can be a challenge. Are there any other unique challenges about bringing people together from these different cultures?
Faraz: Yeah. There are many, many, many lessons that I’ve learned over the course of years are really around, just this exact topic, which is offshore staff. one of the other valuable lessons that I learned, around, offshore staffing, was about, the specialties around hard requirements, which in our case is programming languages and different frameworks. So it was very interesting to me that, going from region to region, Like these specialties change and add one on apps.
We have developed a formula that lets us blend people from different regions based on people’s strengths. so a good mixture of leadership problem solving and the actual execution in order to be as cost-effective. As possible by blending the right resources from the right regions. Of course there is a cultural elements that needs to be considered to ensure that people from different cultures and backgrounds can blend well together.
It’s challenging and a very complex problem, but if you, fill this piece out, You’ll be magical how this blends can exponentially increase throughput and overall performance in.
Ryan: Yeah. One of my favorite parts is having our quarterly meetings and having people from all over the world, join the quarterly meetings to, meet in one place at one time, and then seeing pictures of different cultural celebrations that are happening and different things. And then to know that This wide variety of skillsets is actually accessible for people at any moment.
And I think you’ve done a really good job of, finding a way to be out ahead of that collaboration game.
Faraz: Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a learning caravan and you’re still learning. You’re still learning about, cultures and, and how to really find the perfect balance., between the regions and cultures.
Ryan: I have a good question for you. This is a hot topic for today, which we’re just coming out of the era of COVID and we’re beginning to get back into a little bit more of a normalized work state. One interesting thing that happened at our company is that we were very decentralized in the early years of the company.
Then we started centralizing more on office workspaces. And then COVID forced everyone, not just us, but most industries to decentralize into, non confined workspaces. What’s your perspective at this point on how work has to be done and can it be done effectively, through things like zoom or Google meet or is, there something to having people meet?
What are your thoughts on.
Faraz: Talking to my other CTO friends, I think this was almost a good thing that happened to the tech companies, because we all learned that productivity can actually go higher and people can be a lot more productive and they’re not commuting, they’re not stuck in traffic a couple of hours a day.
Yeah. It’s a good mixture of work life balance. You can take care of things in the middle of your work and, feel happier about what you do. If you went from decentralized to centralized and then back to the centralized, and I think for tech and product companies,
it’s a balance, and for every company, this could be different. I think for us, if we can figure out a way to meet once a week and even a few hours a week, that should be more than enough for us to really find that space for our managers to work together and get some of the things done that can be done better in person versus.
On zoom calls, but I think eventually technology is going in a direction that there are better tools coming out every year. And, there’s zoom softwares, and all these telecommunication softwares are getting more mature. There are more mature boards that you could communicate drawn it talking a more effective way.
And. think I’ve seen some really interesting products and I think you’re just going to get, to a place to up. it’s just, it’s a decentralized, working space and I think the very start of it, there’s going to be the product and technical.
Ryan: Yeah. We’ve even ourselves been building some products lately for different organizations that are, customizing these meeting solutions and creating entirely new ways of looking at their usage.
So I think it’s a really interesting spot. Maybe, especially when VR gets more developed and we start to have more immersive office spaces in a digital landscape. We’ll see some interesting stuff
Faraz: and I’ll also each vertical. Has its own needs and requirements. And I think what’s interesting to watch in the next coming years is how, all these, different products that are geared towards different industries and verticals, can help every industry to get more effective when it comes to communication.
Ryan: Yeah. Seeing industries that never thought they could do this, having to look for solutions over the last year, year and a half to do it. And it really pushed the capabilities of what the general digital infrastructure can handle and proven that it’s actually grown so much that we can have it. So it’s actually from a technology side, been amazing to watch
As Faraz highlighted bringing people together from around the world can be a true challenge, but in today’s digital environments, there are so many technology options that allow for more streamlined and productive collaboration. As we’ve also seen with some of our past guests, the way in which a leader thinks about structuring team collaboration has many more options today than classical and office setups may have previously been able to provide.
Faraz. And I have spent the last decade exploring how to effectively create a decentralized workplace that still allows for thoughtful leadership and a connected team. Now let’s hear some tips he has on how to do all of that successfully.
Okay. So. Fry’s now we’re going to go into our top five leadership tips. That’s something I do with every guest. And I know you brought some great ones with you today, so I want to run through five things that you would pass along with your Sage wisdom to another leader. Who’s coming up the ranks. All right, let’s start with number one.
Faraz: Sure. The very first one for me. Has been a game changer in my leadership career is, leading with metrics. So, every quarter I sit down with the CEO of the company, Ryan and we come up with, our quarterly goals for the company and we make sure. Our goals are done, , in a measurable fashion.
So for example, if we are trying to improve recruitments at the company, , we would define a goal that says improve the average time to how you’re by X days, right? In some saying, improve recruitment, , something that’s implicit to be come up with, that very explicit, measurable goal that has measurable elements tied to it.
And, after the goal is defined, we set up very clear scorecards to measure the success of the defined goal at this point. All the age is this scorecard to ensure that every departmental manager is working towards supporting the company goals by reporting on structured, scorecard and data points.
Ryan: Yeah. I’ve found that to be a huge shift from leading from the gut and it provides a great place to rally people around so they can come together and see how they’re doing and how they’re progressing throughout the quarter. You’ve done a great job with that.
One of the challenges I know. How do you actually extract the data? Sometimes, because even if we figure out what we think is the most important thing to tell a story around, it’s hard to get the data, isn’t it?
Faraz: Yeah. Sometimes, the numbers don’t tell the whole story and that’s where it gets really challenging because from a numbers perspective, it looks healthy.
Right. And you’re like, oh, okay. Everything looks fine. And then. a couple of months later, you’re like, oh wow, you’re not going into the right direction in this area. , and that’s, where things get complex side. What went wrong? The numbers looked healthy so that’s basically the place that, you got to dig in a little deeper, and you feel like something is not adding up with your numbers and that’s where you get in. Ask a lot of questions and try to dig a little deeper. The surface and basically where leadership gets really complex.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s a powerful one Faraz and I I’ve developed it at a new level, working with you at one moment. We’ve seen a lot of great usage of how to implement numbers, to help guide us and guide the leadership. All right, let’s go to number two. What’s a number two tip you want to share.
Faraz: The second one is, for me, what versus how, and , I’m going to get into in depth. So as the head of operation at the moment apps, I oversee, six different departments, which are product sales and marketing administration and finance recruitments, and HR. The hard lesson that I’ve learned is the fact that your strength as a founder, as the CEO, as a COO, can easily become your company’s weakness when you’re the growth stage.
And it’s really interesting and hard at the same time. how you deal with that weakness, that’s your strength, right? Because. You want to get in and solve it and you know exactly how to solve it. And it’s really hard. And it eventually comes down to how you really deal with these kinds of weaknesses and empower your managers to come up with solutions around the issues versus you as the leader of the organization and the subject matter experts.
to constantly jump in and save things. and it, sometimes it’s really hard to just sit and witness this, but long-term, it’s just not scalable for the leader of the organization to keep focusing on the how. And the second that I shifted my leadership from how to what, I found myself less in the micro things and more in the macro of.
Which eventually really helped our managers feel more empowered. And this over the course of time becomes a culture that trickles down to the entire organization that okay. As a manager, I I want to focus on the work and really empower my team to.
focus on the how and bring back solutions to the table.
Ryan: Yeah. I think this has been one of those big changes from us having a startup that was in a garage at the very beginning to a full fledged company that has to have a lot of people contributing for it to function at the level it needs to.
And. It’s been amazing to watch that transition from the smaller kind of environment into one where we have to empower people versus, take that away from them. All right. Let’s take a look and hear what you have to say on your number three tip.
Faraz: My number three tip, which is one of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned in leadership is lead by asking questions.
it was pretty game changing for me when I was exposed to the concept of leading by asking questions, , which is really communicating and ask in the form of a question, that empowers, , your team to innovate. And oftentimes. It’s very powerful in a way that you plant a seed that can grow into something very powerful.
That’s much bigger than offering a solution to a problem on the spot in a room. So it’s all about not solving the problem in the room and just empower your team by asking the right questions and let them come back with a solution. Empowering your team to come up with a solution by offering subtle guidance in the form of questions will go a long, long way.
And that’s the valuable lesson that I’ve learned.
Ryan: Do you sometimes find that teams feel like they need to answer the question right away or have you gotten good at letting them know that they can take time to go solve things? It does that ever.
Faraz: it’s an art to ask the questions in a way that it’s an open-ended question that makes them really think about, looking at problems from a different perspective, or really thinking outside the box.
sometimes people’s right to come up with answers on the spot. I keep reminding people that look like you’re not trying to solve this problem on this small theater, I’ll let you run with it. I’ll let you have fun with it. But maybe next time, let’s keep thinking about this and let’s revisit this problem.
Different people react differently. Some people. Try to solve some of their problems on the spot and, even with that group of people, they’ll come back to it, even if they can’t offer to this solution, it makes them think about some of the challenges they’re facing that they’re not thinking about.
Ryan: Yeah. And I’ve also found this one. Special aspect of this particular point that you’re making. And that sometimes, actually a lot of times people come back with these magical ideas that are way better than what I could imagine. I didn’t even think that was possible or that was a route that could be taken and they come back and I’m completely surprised.
Of course, why wouldn’t this be better than what kind of my narrow mind could have been.
Faraz: Absolutely. And that’s how innovation gets encouraged, organizations, when you offer a solution or for your perspective to the problem on this spot, it really disables people to go and solve the problem and have their unique approach.
Because you’re almost putting a Filtered view on the way that they look at problems. It’s just very surprising, that, people come back with solutions and you’re blown away. You’re like, oh, wow. That’s really good.
That’s very creative. and yet that’s the power of asking questions.
Ryan: Yeah, this is a spot I keep growing in. It’s a really good tip. All right. let’s hear from you on what your number four leadership tip is.
Faraz: Yeah, the fourth one that I can think of it’s pretty squarely in the operation, world, which is around processes.
Having the process work for you versus you working for the process, I’ve come across. I think it’s just, very valuable in a way that, I have a process and this is supposed to be helping me.
And you’re like, oh no, it’s not really helping it’s because there is, so much overhead. that it’s almost better not have a processing place. I’ve come across many scenarios when people design a massively complicated process, which results in everyone, working for the process versus process working for you.
Right. And , I’m a big fan of simplifying processes in a way that’s understandable by everyone and communicated in a very short format versus. A complicated flow that is very hard to digest and understand by people of the organization. And the nice thing about that is everyone could do a flavor, they could add their touches and they flavors on top of that process.
And sometimes, those flavored processes are even better than the process at the very beginning. Coming up with something very simple and , let the organization have fun with it, then, maybe grow it out in the right direction. so I think that’s something in operation that, I learned that I’ve started applying.
Ryan: Yeah. In a business like ours is a series of processes that come together to create a methodology. And we literally have hundreds of processes documented that we’re constantly tweaking and learning from. And, you’re right. Some of the best ones that we’ve seen are. Pretty simple and straightforward things that they have a unique take on them , that maybe cuts huge amounts of time out of something, or they create it, but it’s coming out of that ingenuity , of someone and opening it up to them.
All right. And finally, number five top leadership tip that you want to share.
Faraz: Yeah. The last one is about, , hiring and, recruitment is one of our products , we offer a staff augmentation services and, I’ve spent hours and hours studying and learning about recruitment.
How we could really improve our hiring process. one of the lessons that I’ve learned is not settling on a higher, just for the sake of filling a seat. this is a very common problem for businesses in the growth stage that they just haven’t a number of open seats, and it’s really hard for them to fill those seats.
They have a lot of problems on their hands and it’s hard to focus on recruitment and hiring and nowadays it’s really hard. It’s really hard to find the right person for some of these, complex job roles and sometimes it gets frustrating and leaders start just hiring for the sake of hiring and , just to make their problems, somebody else’s problem.
The second that you got it, this just comes back to hunt you down in a few months down the line, because you’ll find yourself in a place that you’re constantly in the minutia of things. You’re down in the weeds and you are just focused on their house. Versus on the what, and eventually I think it’s so much cheaper and more cost-effective to wait and hire the right person for the right seeds versus rushing into, higher.
And I think that’s one of the other valuable lessons done with. Over the course of years.
Ryan: Yeah. I think that’s a hugely valuable lesson. And being a leader with someone who isn’t the right fit becomes, an extremely difficult process for both people and can really affect the team performance as a whole.
One of the things that I was thinking about around this as well, is that. It is helpful to be able to tap into. Certain resources that you can just plug in and have for a smaller period of time while you make the right hire and you see this a lot in management positions, or maybe more skilled positions like developers or things, where you can run certain resources for a short period, and then you can take your time to find the right longer-term solution.
And I think that’s a good way to think about long-term hiring. That gives you the best position for success over years versus a really short run, just to fill the seat. What do you think about that?
Faraz: Yeah, totally.We have to constantly get creative with places that we can’t find the right person for the right seat.
Right. So Pre example looking for, Director of Technology and it’s a really hard, , seat to fill. And it could take months to go through rounds and rounds of interview and, finding the right person that fits your culture, if it’s your, organization and, getting creative that, what is a good short-term solution that, can you maybe, , Hire a VP of engineering that could help you out in this phase until you find the CTO or can you maybe beef up your mid-level management layer in a way that you can survive in the short-term until you find the right solution.
So, yeah, there are some creative ways , that you could come up with in the short run, until you find a long-term solution to your problems.
Ryan: Yeah. And just to add to this one more thing, I really like what you’ve done over the course of time finding really good learners.
People who. Are just there to soak it in and understand it. I actually heard a podcast on the masters of scale, which is Reid Hoffman’s podcast, which is amazing where he had a guest house. , may have been him actually talking about, , hiring for learners and people who just, , can learn about what’s going on.
And then what I’ve seen you do really well. And our organization has gotten better and better at this is like finding those kinds of people and then pairing them with, mentors and teachers that can guide them within the specific skill set area. And they just, they tend to blossom and take off.
Faraz: Yeah, I’m a huge fan of that podcast myself and I’ve listened to a number of episodes and yeah, he’s right. , it’s less about going after some hard skills and, does this person know this programming language? Does this person know how to do this task versus assessing, , A person’s ability when it comes to problem solving innovation, communication, and being a team player.
The rest of it is trainable. If a person has the right foundation, the right attitude and the right combination of soft skill sets, I think the rest of. And this is the part that makes it difficult. And I think the rest of it is just trainable and, , anyone with the right foundation can pick up, somebody’s easier, skill sets in a short period of time.
So really focusing on, on CELTA, more foundational, attributes . Versus going after what you really want. The day after the hire, can this person do this exact thing and almost, you can never find that person that can do that exact same thing that you’re after.
But if you find the person who has the right foundation, then you can almost guarantee that, I mean, a couple of months, that person is going to be ready and.
Ryan: Great leadership is about digging in deeper and just the numbers. Additionally, as frost pointed out, it can get complex as you move from working in a black and white perspective to a more ambiguous, gray is especially relevant as you’re growing up as an organization. For early stage companies, your strength as a leader can quickly become your weakness.
As you move into a growth stage because of this, it’s vital to learn techniques, to empower your team and to empower your team. You have to search out people that inherently have the right foundations to learn and grow for us. And I have been on a great leadership journey over the last decade of working together.
And the success of that journey simply comes down to the amazing teammates that are on it with them.
Well, it’s been a pleasure to actually sit and formally talk to you about this stuff over a podcast. I know we do this on a daily basis and work together and down on the trenches, like actually bringing projects to life or putting amazing people on different staff and trying to figure out how to really make technology, available for a lot of different people, a lot of different types of organizations.
And I appreciate all of the work that you do. Really all of the growth we’ve been able to have together or the group of years we’ve been building this company. And, , it’s amazing to be able to share it here.
Faraz: Thank you so much for having me, the pleasure is all mine.
Ryan: All right. Thanks Faraz And thank you for joining us on the full stack leader today. We’ll see you in the next Episode