The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 104

Leading across different orders of magnitude & high-leverage communication

with Kit Colbert

Oct 19, 2022
We sit down with Kit Colbert (SVP and CTO @ VMWare) and discuss his experiences, lessons, and approaches to leading across different orders of magnitude PLUS his approach to high leverage, high ROI communication at different scales. We cover his perspectives on lessening execution risk and creating stability through change, letting go of being a “technologist,” navigating the dilemma between macro and micro granularity in leadership, and building an innovation system.
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ABOUT KIT COLBERT

Kit Colbert joined VMware in September 2003 (following an internship in 2002) and currently serves as senior vice president and chief technology officer. He is responsible for ensuring VMware’s long-term technology leadership through research and innovation programs, with the primary goal of positively impacting and shaping the future of VMware, its ecosystem, and its customers. As CTO, Colbert will shape the technical vision for the company, and the transformation to a cloud and subscription-centric R&D organization. His oversight includes advancing research and development efforts, overseeing the VMware Engineering Services team, the Design/UX team and the company’s ESG commitments.

Prior to September 2021, Colbert served in multiple roles, including VMware’s Cloud CTO, General Manager of VMware’s Cloud-Native Apps business, CTO for VMware’s End-User Computing Business, and as the lead architect for the VMware vRealize Operations Suite. Colbert joined VMware as the technical lead behind the creation, development and delivery of the vMotion and Storage vMotion features in VMware vSphere.

"What I try to focus on is, what's the outcome or the benefit that I'm looking for? And, you know, leaving the “how” as much as possible up to them. But I'm also open to being challenged and I find oftentimes that I don't really fully understand the space and the way that they do. And so I'm saying, ‘Here's kinda what we want and here's how I think we should do it.’ But then they'll say, ‘No, that doesn't make sense here. You know, here's how we should be really be thinking about.’ And so that back and forth actually creates a better solution in the end.”

- Kit Colbert   


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SHOW NOTES:

  • Kit's Leadership Leap from 150 to 2300 People (2:05)
  • How guardrails lessen risks and create stability through change (4:24)
  • How to prepare to increase your scope and lead larger teams (8:21)
  • Identifying existential opportunities and getting ahead of foundational industry changes (12:38)
  • Letting go of being a “technologist” & relying on others for technical insight (16:08)
  • How clear communication is one of the highest leverage, highest ROI things you can do as a leader (18:27)
  • Framework to prepare your communication plan at big team moments (21:56)
  • Balancing the dilemma of micro and macro granularity in leadership (26:11)
  • Strategies to guide and influence people to your desired outcomes (28:18)
  • How to operationalize innovation and build an innovation system (33:23)
  • Rapid fire questions (37:53)

LINKS AND RESOURCES

  • Atomic Habits - This breakthrough book from James Clear is the most comprehensive guide on how to change your habits and get 1% better every day.
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