Inside the Innovator’s Mind: A Conversation with David Porter
For this segment of our Inside the Innovator’s Mind series, we interviewed David Porter, a principal engineer with Rackspace Technology. Read on to learn what inspires him to innovate and the kinds of demands he encounters.
How do you find time to innovate?
I believe innovation to be an iterative process — the result of trial and error. I often have ideas that spring up for any given challenge, but those ideas tend to be built on a foundation of understanding of the underlying problems/systems. When a new project comes in, or when we work to improve on a given program or system, most of my innovative ideas come through discussion or tend to be practical next steps.
How do you keep up with new technologies?
I tend to learn about and implement new technologies through business projects, when and where the opportunity arises. For example, we wanted to try a chatbot to aid sales chat in 2018, so I learned a great deal about such tech while implementing the options that I had available. Much of my learning is done on the job.
Who or what inspires you?
Tenacity and discipline inspire me. I believe that the difference between a normal employee and a billionaire is will and determination, and that very few people are truly inspired.
What is your approach to solving big problems?
Teamwork and thought go much further, in my experience, than isolation. No one can tackle the biggest problems alone.
How do you manage failure?
Observe, learn and try again. Failure isn’t an end, but a new beginning, in my opinion.
Getting to know you
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted, and still want, to be an animator. I love special effects and animation, and the underlying tech we have to produce such amazing material.
What do you do now?
More than anything, I help people accomplish their desired goals. Whether that is through software development, project planning/management, brainstorming, or administrative tasks like getting people access, virtually everything I do is meant to help people meet a goal. I am very proud to be a helpful, useful person.
Is it what you imagined?
No, I didn’t imagine that I would distill my work to something as simple as being helpful, but I am very happy with the outcome. Helping others is a rewarding activity, and I feel blessed.
A day in the life
Do you have a morning routine at work? What is it?
The routine is somewhat in flux during quarantine, but generally:
- Login and work through email
- Review calendar and try to plan out the day
- Try to clear some email/tasks off my plate to set a productive tone
What types of demands do you encounter?
It really varies, but I get a lot of questions about ideas, how to accomplish specific things, how to interact with other people. More and more, I am asked to help produce data/facts and to inform others.
Which roles/people do you interact with the most? How important is this interaction?
I interact with many program/project managers who are responsible for systems of projects. I believe these interactions are critical so that I can help support them and their endeavors. These people tend to be the true tip of the spear, and I believe it is my job to be the best I can be for them.
What do you like about working with customers?
Being helpful is what it is all about, especially when it comes to customers. Helping a customer accomplish a task in an effective and timely manner is its own reward!
What’s the highlight of your day?
Smiles and laughs from other team members, especially when in celebration of a job well done! I often try to lighten murky moods in meetings, and I have no problem with flattering people when it will make a difference and instill a sense of happiness and optimism. I believe this tendency of mine is often the most valuable, helpful thing I can do.