Rich Chang

Jimmy Tomczak’s depth-interview with Richard Chang, Chief Executive Officer at NewFoundry

Define what you do for NewFoundry right now.

My role is to guide what we’re doing for the future. We’re in a building phase of catch up so it’s my job to balance building for the future versus building for now. I connect and oversee everything from new business to the engineering side of things — web and mobile specifically. I spend a lot of time making sure everything we create is useable and functional.

So in connecting and overseeing everything, you must have some experience in hiring top talent. What does that look like?

We have very high expectations of people we hire. There are three main traits I’m looking for in a developer: First, can they code well? Second, do they have a good design eye? And third, are they actually good product managers? They can be the best coder and the best engineer but if they don’t understand what’s going to make the product viable all the way to sale then they won’t fit here.

How is working for NewFoundry different?

We want our employees to have a voice. The way we structure our office encourages networking and co-working. And when we engage with a client, we build a specific project for the specific need.

How will NewFoundry’s workplace look in the future?

We’ll be a lot bigger – thirty to forty employees. Everyone is happy and enjoying the fruits of the labor in the workplace. Given that, there’s no reason why anyone should have to work forty hours a week. We could be known for our twenty-hour work weeks.

Where will we see the most change as we move towards the workplace of the future?

We continue to see a blur between work and life. We are no longer a nine-to-five society. Tech is everything. In that space you’re working non-stop. Customer service is key if you’re in this business. With everything global, instead of asking, ‘What is a workday?’ we can ask ‘What can you accomplish?’ Employees then consider for themselves, ‘Did I get it done?’

How are employees of the future treated?

Even now, here at work, I want people to make mistakes. Those mistakes are the future breakthroughs that will build our business and change the future.

What will the physical workspace look like?

It’s the people, not the walls. Big corporations will always exist but entrepreneurs and the youth of today are our future. Right now even, some kids have their own companies at fourteen years old and sell them for millions of dollars before they even graduate high school. In the future we won’t have offices as they are today and there will be a lot more collaboration between companies. Co-working spaces are a start to that process.

That’s a great point. What’s the future of education?

There’s a lot in education that has to change. Kids are basically coming out of the womb knowing how to use an iPhone. In fourth and fifth grade they’re already learning how to code. By the time they graduate from high school, that’s eight years of experience they already have. It used to be you graduate high school, go to college for four years, and then you try to get eight years of experience. Then you’re 30 years old and just got those eight years in. In the future, a senior in high school already put in those eight years and they’re already ahead of you. Should they go to college or enter the work force or start their own company? This is going to be an interesting dilemma for schools that offer computer science. It’s already happening today.

How do you think physical devices will affect all of this?

Hardware will be huge. Right now, software is limited by the hardware we’re able to be on. We’re constrained by form factor. As devices get smaller, CPU and battery increase, and form becomes seamlessly integrated we’ll see so much more happen.

Do you have a specific example?

Think about the MP3 player – originally your digital jukebox. I look at my original iPod — so much bigger back then. Eventually the technology will be integrated into hardware. So take a heads up display for example, like on Google Glass. Soon we’ll be able to add that to any existing hardware.

What do you think that will do for how we consume information?

The future isn’t just about how to better find information – soon the standard will be me not required to even remember it. I’ll just know where to find it when I need to find it. That’ll have such a big effect on time management and even work-life balance in the “office” of tomorrow.

Think about how people used to make calculations in their head. Now we whip out our phones for even the simplest math. People will have to be like a Swiss Army knife with information. Google’s pierced that veil – we can do better search — but even that’s not the best of what could be done. Something as simple as me trying to find a phone number and I’ll look it up on my phone. With something like Google Glass, it can just be right there.

How do you look for and find innovation? What is your lens?

I don’t consider myself as a major innovator in regards to products. I like to see myself as an innovator as to how companies are run and how employees are treated. That’s why I started this company. I was tired of the way I’ve seen employees treated…How I’ve been forced to treat employees at prior jobs. If I had to say innovation for product and software, I would say Scott, Chris, and Kyle are much more innovative in that particular sense. For me, I can be an implementer of those ideas, but they are truly innovative.

What’s the best question you’ve ever been asked?

Really, the best question anyone can ask themselves is, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’

It could be as simple as, ‘I just want to skate along and do the bare minimum.’ That’s acceptable as long as you understand and embrace it and go that route. I think that’s the question that everyone needs to ask but I feel like there’s a lot of people who can’t figure out the answer. But eventually the person answering the question has to get to that point where they stop asking and do.

Some people say, “Oh, that’s really hard to answer.” But honestly, you have to answer the question no matter what. You can answer that every day. Even when you graduate from high school, “What do you want to do?” “Well I want to go to college.” Well, when you get to college, “What do you want to do?”

When does that happen – that ‘What I’m doing with my life’ realization?

If you’re in your twenties and you stop and change your jobs or roles completely every two years, that’s five times that you can completely reinvent yourself or get more experience before you turn thirty. And that’s a big deal.

What’s the worst answer you’ve seen in response to that question, “What do you want to do with your life?”

“Whatever my parents want me to do.” Then what? Too often people don’t think for themselves. “Why did you go to engineering school?” “Oh because my parents wanted me to.” What do you say to that?

Rich Chang Google Glass