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12 Questions with Dave Kilimnik

Posted @ 4:08 pm by Katherine Wallenta | Category: SolutionSet | 0 Comments

1. What’s your role at SolutionSet?

I lead our Social Business Practice. The name comes from our original focus on the use of social technologies to solve business problems. It’s different than the way a lot of firms think of social media since the typical media outlets like Facebook and Twitter play a minor role. Our work is more about adding value to business processes through social tools. Customer support communities are a good example—where a networked set of customers can answer one another’s questions and save a company a ton of money since their call center phones don’t ring.

We also do all of the Java development at SolutionSet and, consequently, some of the most complex system integration projects. We work on platforms such as Jive, Adobe CQ, Ooyala, Badgeville, Janrain, Phonegap, Symfony, and Gigya. I run the delivery of our work and manage all of the relationships with our clients and partners.

2. How long have you been with the company?

Since 2008.

3. Where are some places you’ve worked prior to SolutionSet?

Before SolutionSet I was at two startups in the e-commerce space—Intershop and Cygent. Intershop was the darling of the internet boom in Germany, and that was a nice ride. Cygent was a hot startup at the intersection of telecommunications and e-commerce, but their market opportunity fell apart during the economic shift in 2002. They got acquired by a larger firm named Convergys, where I worked for several years in professional services while earning my MBA.

4. What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Lots of things. For one, I think there is a very no-nonsense way about how we work at SolutionSet. A small team of real, talented people wins work. That same teams delivers work. We typically bring that work to market within 3-6 months of starting. Then, we get real feedback from our customers and their users about whether we were successful. Then we do it again. The tightness of this feedback loop is probably my favorite thing about SolutionSet. It’s an environment where you either get better at what you’re doing, or you disappear quickly. Customers see that and like it.

That’s probably the nugget of goodness for me. Apart from that, I’m incredibly proud to be part of my team. Some are folks I have worked with in the past; most are folks that have been assembled in the last 3-4 years of working together. It’s a team that brings their game face to work every day and I love working with them.

5. When you’re not at the office, where are we likely to find you?

I have three kids, ages 5, 3, and 1. I am usually on my living room floor, underneath a small pile of squirming children. The other thing I do to stay sane is marathons and triathlons. I like to get up early in the mornings and run, bike, or swim. Running the trails in Tilden Park is probably my favorite.

6. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut. I was scared to go into space, but it was the only thing I wanted to do until I was a teenager, at which point I started thinking about science.

7. What did you study in school?

I have a degree in Biology and an MBA. In my high school and college years I was a huge enthusiast of both outdoor sports and nature. I grew up in the Northeast, hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my family and in summer camps. That led to a strong interest in ecology and evolutionary biology, and at one point I thought it would be really cool to travel the world in this field of study. I did field work in Costa Rica and Cameroon, among other places, which was awesome at the time. I got my MBA later on after having discovered the world of software and start-ups.

8. How did you get your start in web?

In the late nineties I needed to make some money. The two things I loved were biology and teaching. I had been a kayak instructor, a biology TA, and a science tutor. I also loved me some Windows 95. So I got a gig teaching desktop applications such as MS Excel and MS Access. From there, I joined a startup that needed someone to develop a training program for their partners. So I did that and learned Perl on the job. The next job was on a J2EE based technology, so at that point I learned Java. I probably earned the equivalent of a bachelor’s in computer science from everything that I’ve self-taught and learned since I started.

9. What’s something exciting you’re working on right now?

Right now we are in the midst of the most ambitious project we have done as a team. It’s a re-build of a premium content site for sports fanatics. It has three million users and it’s built on an aging, monolithic, proprietary system. We’re putting in a componentized architecture with best-of-breed systems for content management, e-commerce, video, social engagement, discussion forums, search, and content delivery. There is a new problem to solve every single day, the client is a pleasure to work with, and the team we have assembled is stellar. It’s just fun to work on, and I also like knowing that once launched it will generate a ton of revenue for my customer and the sports fans will love it.

10. What’s your leadership philosophy?

With my team, I am a numbers and metrics zealot. There are a few key metrics by which we measure every single project, and by which we evaluate every single opportunity. This establishes a consistent language and framework for making decisions.

I teach this framework to everyone, and I drive very hard on the work that I directly own. For those on my team, I give them challenging assignments, support them where they need it, and step out of their way.

11. What’s one of your proudest moments at SolutionSet?

There have been some good ones. We won partner of the year at Jive Software in 2011, which was a nice measure of several years of hard work. I like “firsts” though—so, for example, I was very proud of launching our first major mobile app in 2010, after many of us spent three months of late nights learning the development framework during off hours. It was an Android app for Verizon business users, which is different than launching an Angry Birds knock-off to a few of your buddies.

12. What would you tell someone who wants to break into the industry?

I think there is a twenty-year runway of growth in Silicon Valley. It’s going to be a good place to be and I think that the talent pool will continue to be constrained. My formula is pretty simple—work really hard, be above average at what you do, and find an opportunity where the market will lift you. Warren Buffet famously said, “A rising tide lifts all ships.” Spotting the right tide is more important than choosing a ship to sail.  =)

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