- Business Insider is proud to announce the 11 winners of the Up and Comers Award, honouring the lesser-known heroes in the enterprise tech world.
- The award was created by Okta in conjunction with Business Insider, with help from Twilio.
- It honours the people who are leading important projects at companies with popular apps and services.
The tech industry has created more than its share of the rich and famous – from billionaire founders and investors, to CEOs who lead rock-star lives.
But those people didn’t do it on their own.
So in honour of the unsung tech heroes who make their companies successful, Business Insider worked with Okta, with some help from Twilio, to create the Up And Comer Awards.
We began with Okta’s 2019 Business at Work report, released in February. Because Okta offers an identity service that allows enterprise to manage employees access to other cloud computing apps, Okta has an inside view of which apps are successful and growing in popularity.
We asked the companies behind the most popular and fastest-growing apps and services on the list to nominate an Up And Comer. This person had to be someone responsible for an important internal project, but who was not a founder or chief.
We received two dozen nominees, with our panel of judges selecting a winner. That panel was comprised of Business Insider’s Julie Bort, Okta President of Technology Hector Aguilar, and Twilio Chief Product Officer Chee Chew. Judges scored each nomination on four criteria: the nominee’s technical chops, the innovation of their projects, the impact those projects had on their companies, and the ingenuity of the projects and the person.
Here are the winners.
No. 11: Vicky Volvovski: Helping people automate work
Name of winner: Vicky Volvovski
Title: Head of Platform and Core Product
Tenure at company: 4 years
Fun fact: Volvovski runs a food blog called Things I Made Today, created after her husband teased her she never cooked the same recipe twice. She started it as way to keep track of her recipes, and it became a passion project.
Why she won:
Zapier is a popular platform for workflow automation, connecting the apps that people love to use. Volvovski leads the core product, which hosts integrations for more than 1,400 apps.
She came to this company-wide leadership position from a technical support role, where she built Zapier’s first internal issue tracking system. That system helps the company maintain the health of thousands of integrations.
Her work is one reason why Zapier has been profitable since 2014, and in 2018 said it was on track to do $US50 million in annual recurring revenue. It is currently used by over 3 million people.
No. 10: Jason Mills: Taking the pain out of expense reports
Name of winner: Jason Mills
Title: Director of Product and Customers
Tenure at company: 8 years
Fun fact: When Mills isn’t working he’s competing in ultra-marathons, running races longer than the standard 26.2-mile marathon – often double or more the distance.
Why he won:
As director of product and customers at Expensify, Jason is responsible for the relationship between users and the product. He and his team have helped the company grow to over 60,000 customers worldwide.
Mills joined Expensify as employee number 15. The mobile app uses photos and AI to take the pain out of expense reports, and now connects with 98% of US banks and credit cards to automate reconciliation, as well as a growing roster of international banks. It also automatically tracks receipts from travel companies like Uber, Lyft, and HotelTonight.
Mills oversaw integration of Expensify with Okta, which verifies the identity of people submitting and approving expenses.
Mills and his teams also oversaw four big new features, known as Track, Submit, Collect, and Control. Expensify hopes these features will encourage people to use Expensify as part of their everyday workflow.
Expensify’s new take on the once-hated expense report is why, just in the last year, the company gained 10,000 new customers and one million new users.
No. 9: Katie Guzman: Helping project managers manage everything
Name of winner: Katie Guzman
Title: Product Management Lead for Growth & Adoption
Tenure at company: 3.5 years
Fun fact: Guzman performed as a tap dancer on a cruise ship as a child.
Why she won:
Guzman is responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and success of product programs focused on monetisation, first experience, ease of use and internationalization at work management tool Asana.
Most recently her team lead the launch of Portfolios, a new addition to the Asana Business product, its enterprise-tier plan. Portfolios is a tool for project managers and leaders that oversee many initiatives. It gives them a global view of their whole domain, providing a real-time, high-level progress, and team member comments, on all their projects.
Since launching Asana Business and Portfolios just four months ago, the product’s financial metrics have well outperformed the initial targets set by the team by 25%, the company says.
She’s also responsible for the upcoming Workload feature launching later this year. It will help leaders optimise their team’s workload and schedules.
All of this helped Asana become the project/task management tool of choice for 60,000 paying organisations, it says, and millions of people.
No. 8: Stephen Franchetti: Showing how IT departments can boost the business
Name of winner: Stephen Franchetti
Title: Vice president of business technology
Tenure: 1 year
Fun fact: Franchetti is from Scotland and proudly points out that his homeland was recently voted the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guide.
Why he won:
Although he only joined IPO-bound workplace chat tool Slack a year ago, Franchetti brings more than 15 years of IT experience to the role, coming from Workday and a long tenure at Cisco before that.
He’s responsible for Slack’s internal IT, including business applications, IT service management, and all core IT services.
Franchetti is best known inside Slack for his “Slack on Slack” program, whereby the company uses its own product to run the business. His team built numerous integrations with other software and AI bots that automate tasks.
For instance, his team brought in analytics tool Looker and integrated it into Slack, creating a tool known internally the ‘Slack Analytics Studio.” It now delivers over 150 self-service business data reports.
Employees told Slack they loved “Slack on Slack” and the other ways IT was supporting the business. When Slack measured the program it discovered impact such as helping the sales department to better identify leads.
No. 7 Joel Rennich: Bringing Apple devices into a new world of identity
Name of winner: Joel Rennich
Title: Director, Jamf Connect
Tenure at company: 1 year
Fun fact: Rennich spent a decade at Apple as an Enterprise Systems Engineering Manager, helping enterprises use Apple products.
Why he won:
Joel Rennich is the Director of Jamf Connect, which helps organisations handle employees logins/passwords/identities on Apple devices.
Rennich may be best known as the creator of NoMAD, an open source project released in 2016 that helps make Mac admins’ lives easier.
In October 2018, Jamf acquired NoMAD. The free and open source products remain so, while the commercial versions became Jamf Connect.
Jamf Connect, run by Rennich, helps IT administrators secure and manage their fleets of Apple devices without having to use Microsoft’s ubiquitous identity product Active Directory (AD).
In other words, Rennich is helping Mac users remove the need to use AD, and bringing Apple devices into identity clouds like Okta, all without Apple’s help.
No. 6: Oded Gal: Putting videoconferencing on steroids
Name of winner: Oded Gal
Title: Head of Product Management
Company: Zoom Video Communications
Tenure at company: 3 years
Fun fact: Gal shares an office with Zoom CEO Eric Yuan. The company’s philosophy of frugality means that even the CEO shares office space.
Why he won: As the profitable startup gets ready to become a public company, Oded is responsible for leading product management.
Gal came to Zoom from Blue Jeans Network and was formerly the head of unified communications integrations at Cisco WebEx.
One signature product Gal’s team developed was Zoom Rooms, Zoom’s software to power large, sophisticated communications systems for conference rooms. But his team is constantly upgrading all of Zoom’s wares and launching new ones, across the entire product line.
Indeed, Zoom introduced 218 new features last year alone, including scheduling and digital signage extension products.
Zoom has taken the video conferencing world by storm with its freemium service that can be used for video, voice, content sharing, and chat runs across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.
It hosted 5 billion meeting minutes in February 2019, has triple-digit YOY revenue and user growth, brought in $US330.5 million in revenue for its fiscal 2019 and 7.5 million in profits.
No. 5: Dane Hurtubise: Helping companies bring employees on board
Name of winner: Dane Hurtubise
Title: Vice president of platform and partnerships
Company: Greenhouse Software
Tenure: 6 years
Fun fact: Dane loves Kraft Mac and Cheese so much, he can down a whole box in under a minute.
Why he won: Hurtubise is responsible for Greenhouse’s partner program, which has quickly zoomed to 265 partners and is one of the reasons for the company’s success.
He came to Greenhouse in 2015 when it acquired his startup Parklet, an employee onboarding solution that had raised $US2 million in funding and landed customers like Lyft, Twitch, Pinterest and Sony.
Parklet has since become Greenhouse Onboarding. And Hurtubise has gone on to turn Greenhouse into a platform that is currently adding over 20 new integrations with partners per quarter.
Over 3,000 customers currently make good use of these add-ons, which range from managing candidate travel to AI-assisted employee assessments.
Over 75% of those partners get customers leads from Greenhouse, too, with Greenhouse collecting a referral fee when its partners close the deals.
No. 4: Michelle Dunlea: Giving social media teams superpowers
Name of winner: Michelle Dunlea
Title: Senior Director, Product
Tenure at company: 4.5 years
Fun fact: 13 years ago, Dunlea took a vacation from her home in Ireland to Vancouver as the first stop of what was supposed to a year-long world tour. She fell in love with the city and never left, and now works for the Vancouver-based Hootsuite.
Why she won: Michelle climbed the ladder from product manager to joining the executive team this year. She runs the main Hootsuite product, a popular social media management platform used by over 18 million people and 4,000 enterprise customers.
In 2018, Dunlea’s team delivered several new products. One was called Inbox. It uses AI and bots to help social teams stay on top of their interactions with customers.
Another is “Predictive Compliance,” for companies in heavily regulated industries. It alerts employees of potential compliance issues while they are writing their social media posts.
She’s also known as a thoughtful leader who’s helped the product and engineering teams work more closely together.
No 3: Prem Ananthakrishnan: Helping companies manage virtually unlimited cloud data
Name of winner: Prem Ananthakrishnan
Title: Vice President of Products
Tenure at company: 4 years
Fun fact: Ananthakrishnan speaks five languages.
Why he won: Ananthakrishnan has 18 years of product development experience at companies including AppSense, Juniper, and, most recently, Cisco where he rose to lead a product portfolio doing $US500 million in revenues.
Today he’s leading Druva’s products as it creates a whole new category with partner Amazon Web Services, which it calls “data as a service.”
Druva brings data management to the cloud to help companies save money on their storage, using techniques like cutting down on the amounts of duplicate files stored.
The upshot is that his products at Druva promise virtually no downtime and infinite scale of storage while saving companies money.
That’s why more than 4,000 global enterprises are storing more than 100 petabytes of data on the cloud using products that Ananthakrishnan oversees.
The company also says it’s on track to hit a goal of $US100 million in annual recurring revenue.
No. 2: Renaud Boutet: Creating a smaller price for big data
Name of winner:Renaud Boutet
Title: VP of Product Management
Tenure at company: 2 years
Fun fact: Boutet, who has multiple engineering/computer science degrees, told everyone in college he would never work in software or finance. But he launched his career at a software startup that created an aggregation engine for financial markets.
Why he won:
Boutet joined Datadog when it acquired the company he founded, Logmatic.io. He now leads a large team that built a new Log Management product for Datadog from scratch.
Log data is the information a computer records about its activities, and which holds the secrets as to how a company’s apps are used or why they break. But in all of that huge amount of data, it’s hard to pick out the important parts that are worth paying attention to.
His team created a log management product that turns logs into charts and graphs.
And it uses a uniquely affordable business model it calls “Logging Without Limits.” Instead of keeping everything and asking customers to pay for huge amounts of computer storage, the product lets customers analyse unlimited amounts of data, view it live, and then decide what to keep and what to ditch.
The product has been a hit, gaining thousands of customers within a year after it launched, the company says.
No. 1: Tamar Bercovici: Master of the database that powers the company
Name of winner: Tamar Bercovici
Title: Senior Director of Engineering
Tenure at company: 8 years
Fun fact: Although she’s known for mostly wearing grey, the signature colour palette of her wardrobe, her guilty pleasure is Bravo’s fashion reality show “Project Runway.”
Why she won: Tamar led a project that grew cloud storage company Box’s database from a single host architecture storing hundreds of millions of records to a highly distributed service storing hundreds of billions of records. Today it serves upwards of a million queries per second at peak times, with over 99% uptime.
This allowed Box to create its own Box File System, and is a key reason for the company’s 70% gross margins and its growth to $US600 million in annual revenue, the company says.
She’s also become a role model for other female engineers speaking at tech conferences like @Scale, Grace Hopper, and Velocity.
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