Where do I fit in? This question is central to the tech industry. It’s applicable when defining roles, building teams, launching start-ups, growing existing companies, looking for new challenges and seeking to make a meaningful impact that betters people’s lives.
Dirk Elmendorf has a wealth of experience in these areas. These days, he mainly spends his time working on Jobward, an organization he founded to help job seekers navigate the hiring process. Back in 1998, he co-founded Rackspace. In-between, his resumé is peppered with experience building successful start-ups.
The common thread running through Elmendorf’s career is that success comes from finding people who fit — be they leaders or new hires — and emphasizing that everyone has a part to play. “Team building is essential in the modern era of business,” Elmendorf said. “Teams give a company opportunity, because you’re not relying on one person to be great at everything.”
Build Teams with People Who Fit
On the latest episode of the Cloud Talk podcast, Elmendorf and Rackspace Technology CTO Jeff DeVerter explore more deeply into nurturing this right-fit approach to team building, delivering insights into:
- The vital nature of teams within any modern work environment
- Ways in which technology has changed how modern companies must compete
- Examining your own skill set and where it fits into a company
- Finding a balance between deepening mastery and trying new things
- The importance of using industry figures to get businesses on-side
- Deciding when to leave a company — including one you founded
- How individuals can impact the real world and improve lives through tech
It’s a candid discussion, but then Elmendorf prizes openness. “Conversation is sacred — it’s important to be open and trusting,” he said. “With every team I’m involved with, I try to build psychological safety into it. No one should need to worry about what someone will think or react should they say something — work is hard enough without having to be concerned about all that!”
Elmendorf’s approach to hiring and collaboration is similarly open-minded. He values the ideas and skills of those in his organization,— regardless of where they come from. At Jobward, a recent designer hire said he’d failed out of film school, but he turned out to be an excellent storyteller. “Finding the stories of people we’re working with and translating that into software is something I can’t do,” said Elmendorf. “All of a sudden, this designer’s ‘other’ skills — those beyond specifics he was hired for — matter.”
Arguably an even bigger lesson surrounds the first company Elmendorf founded. “Rackspace is a perfect example of why founders aren’t the Alpha and Omega of everything. We founders did not come up with Fanatical Service — that came from an early hire, and yet has been essential to the company’s success,” he said. “This highlights how teams matter. Recruiting people who add value matters. Your finest ideas are more about the ideas you recognize than the ones you have yourself — being able to curate the best of them, regardless of where they came from.”