The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Phil McKinney

April 09, 2024 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 87
Phil McKinney
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
More Info
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Phil McKinney
Apr 09, 2024 Season 1 Episode 87
Chris & Zoë

Today we chat with Phil McKinney, a successful business person and innovator who has been the CTO of HP and the CEO of Cable Labs.

We explore Phil’s career journey from starting as a software engineer and working on projects such as the original Mac, biometric security, and computer graphics, to leading the innovation program at HP and creating products that earned HP a spot on Fast Company’s list of the most innovative companies.

He shares some of the lessons and insights he learned along the way, as well as some of the mentors and influences that shaped his thinking.

Phil talks about his views on the difference between invention and innovation, and how he learned to communicate and collaborate with different roles and functions within an organization.

Join us for this inspiring interview with our friend Phil McKinney.

The question we would always ask in a pitch session was,
“Will this play in Iowa?”
Doesn't matter whether it plays in Silicon Valley or in New York.
Those are bubbles.
If you're looking to have a broad impact, you need to have an understanding of what people are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

Phil's Links: 


Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!

We'd love it if you connected with us on LinkedIn:

Make it a great day.

Show Notes Transcript

Today we chat with Phil McKinney, a successful business person and innovator who has been the CTO of HP and the CEO of Cable Labs.

We explore Phil’s career journey from starting as a software engineer and working on projects such as the original Mac, biometric security, and computer graphics, to leading the innovation program at HP and creating products that earned HP a spot on Fast Company’s list of the most innovative companies.

He shares some of the lessons and insights he learned along the way, as well as some of the mentors and influences that shaped his thinking.

Phil talks about his views on the difference between invention and innovation, and how he learned to communicate and collaborate with different roles and functions within an organization.

Join us for this inspiring interview with our friend Phil McKinney.

The question we would always ask in a pitch session was,
“Will this play in Iowa?”
Doesn't matter whether it plays in Silicon Valley or in New York.
Those are bubbles.
If you're looking to have a broad impact, you need to have an understanding of what people are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

Phil's Links: 


Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!

We'd love it if you connected with us on LinkedIn:

Make it a great day.

Machines made this, mistakes and all...

[00:00:00] Chris: Hello, and welcome to the Impostor Syndrome Network podcast, where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't. My name is Chris Grundemann, and this is the Phil McKinney episode, which I'm sure you're going to enjoy. Phil is a successful American business person. Uh, now I'll pause there because you may be saying to yourself, I thought this was a show about technologists and you're right.

[00:00:31] Chris: So I'll continue. Phil became the CTO for the network and server provider business division of Hewlett Packard in 2002. He then served as CTO of HP's personal systems group from 2005 until 2011. And while they're at HP, he founded the innovation program office, which led to a lot of really cool innovations coming out.

[00:00:50] Chris: It was focused on fostering new technologies, products, and services. That IPO group, as they called it, was responsible for just a really ton of, of really cool products. And it actually earned HP a spot on fast companies list of the 50 most innovative companies three years in a row. So that's pretty fantastic.

[00:01:07] Chris: And then after retiring from HP, he authored the book beyond the obvious. And then became president and CEO of cable labs. Which is a non profit cable industry research and innovation lab based in Louisville, Colorado. That's where I met him. And you know, as I think you can see here, in other words, for at least the last two decades and arguably going back a couple more than that, Phil's business has been the business of technical innovation.

[00:01:33] Chris: Now I'm sure you see the connection.

[00:01:38] Chris: Hi, Phil. Thanks so much for joining us. Would you like to introduce yourself any further to the Impostor Syndrome Network? 

[00:01:44] Phil: No, Chris, I think you did a great job, and it's actually great to see you. It's been too long since, uh, we've connected. 

[00:01:50] Chris: It has been, yeah, for sure. And I do kind of want to just start right there at our intersection, which I think is also a great way, I think, to frame at least some of your expertise for folks who may not already be familiar.

[00:02:01] Chris: We met when you were hired as the CEO of cable labs. I was working there at the time on IPV six and SDN. And in 2012, the year you joined, I was actually awarded inventor of the year, uh, which I thought was pretty cool, but was actually just the beginning of my education on the topic. Uh, the couple of years I spent working for you and learning about innovation.

[00:02:19] Chris: Was really awesome. You started multiple programs. I was able to help with some. We conducted some marshmallow building trials, some Lego robot competition, some really fun stuff to kind of get the wheels spinning. And one of the things that really stood out to me of the many things I learned from you and your book and your leadership.

[00:02:34] Chris: What's the difference between invention and innovation? And so I think maybe if you wouldn't mind just laying out kind of how you see those two words, those two topics, those two ideas as separate and distinct, that might be a great place to kick off the conversation. 

[00:02:47] Phil: Well, the way I define innovation, and if you go out and you do a Google search for innovation and look for a definition, there's a lot of different perspectives, but my perspective.

[00:02:57] Phil: Is innovation, our ideas made real, they've actually delivered. They're in the hands of customers, whether that be consumers, businesses, whoever the target beneficiary of that idea. Invention is much more in the idea. There's the raw idea. You know, you get that inspiration while you're singing in the shower to, you run a bunch of experiments.

[00:03:24] Phil: Does this idea make sense? Yes, it makes sense. It actually works. Wow. This is really cool. So you got the invention side of it, solving the problem, but the innovation is, is now how do you package that all up and take it to market? How do you actually put it in the hands of, uh, of customers, put it out into the market, Let it go, see where it flies and, and sit back and, uh, see the benefit and enjoy the benefit of what you've invented.

[00:03:50] Chris: Yeah, that's fantastic. And I think it's pretty fair to say that you've made a career of innovation, which is actually getting those ideas out there in the world for, for folks to touch and play with and use and make their lives better. 

[00:03:59] Phil: Well, and I've been at all ends of it, right? So early in my career, you know, I started my career as a, I'm a software engineer by training.

[00:04:08] Phil: Went, did my first round in Silicon Valley and starting in 1984, I wrote some of the code that was in the original Mac, did a bunch of work at Intel, and then actually ended up doing work in security where we had to literally invent. Early stage, early time efforts in biometric security, specifically fingerprint devices for a company that I was one of the senior executives in called ThumbScan.

[00:04:34] Phil: So that was raw science. That was really kind of my first exposure to rather than just cranking a code and creating a cool app to run on a Mac or run on a PC, the ThumbScan work was really the hard science. Of image image high speed pattern recognition and all those kinds of things and that's now Technology that's still used by certain three letter agencies within the government So that was kind of my exposure to it But I was always on the tech side and not really what I would call In the product side get it, you know turning the idea Into a product, but post that experience and post my early years in Silicon Valley, I really got bit by the bug of being able to see the end to end going from the raw idea all the way to the product and that resulted in.

[00:05:25] Phil: You know, I won, I'm trying to remember what it was, 1986. I won product of the year at Comdex, a show that doesn't even exist anymore. I'm definitely aging myself. And then that just kind of lit the fire of, it's not just about the idea. You got to put it in the hands of customers. You got to solve. Real problems, not a solution, trying to find the problem, understand the problem, solve the problem, deliver a solution to that problem.

[00:05:55] Phil: And that's where I really got bit by the bug. And, you know, now I'm almost 40 years of that being the entire focus of my career since then. 

[00:06:05] Chris: Yeah, awesome. I want to put a pin in that because I think that transition is really interesting, but even before that going like all the way back to the beginning, I'm wondering, you know, even those first few jobs, right?

[00:06:13] Chris: When you got in there doing some software development, some product development, that kind of work. And like you said, your first kind of tour in Silicon Valley, where was the impetus behind that? I mean, why technology at all? Why get involved in coding and stuff? I mean, obviously, Yeah. Um, looking back, I think, you know, the late seventies, early eighties, when maybe you were kind of figuring this all out and going out on your own was a different world than today.

[00:06:33] Chris: It wasn't such an obvious choice to get involved in these kinds of things. 

[00:06:36] Phil: Well, it actually wasn't because my first career choice was for architecture. So. I grew up in the South side of Chicago. High school that I went to did not even have a computer. They didn't even have a computer terminal. Never saw anything related to a computer all my years in high school, but they had architectural courses and I was really big into drawing and blueprinting and did very well in it and I thought that was what my career path was going to be.

[00:07:09] Phil: And then I had applied in my junior year as an early application to the architecture school at the University of Illinois at Chicago and got accepted. And then they reached out to me and offered me a set, what they called Saturday program funded by the National Science Foundation. So I was one of 20 students in all of Northern Illinois to be selected.

[00:07:31] Phil: So basically I went to college on Saturday. So nothing like your senior year in high school doing five years of high school in a, in a sixth day of the week, doing your freshman year in college at the same time, but that's where I got exposed to computers for the first time was in the Saturday program and absolutely just got bit by the bug.

[00:07:51] Phil: And through that process, I'll be at, I started my architecture studies. I really got swayed into the computer side and I actually combined the two. So my focus. Early in my career was all around computer graphics. So being able to take what you used to do by hand with vellum, ink pens, lettering, all those types of things early in my career to the role that I saw this vision of computers really being able to be the tool that they've now become.

[00:08:22] Phil: I jokingly say though, I was one generation too soon in that effort. So I never really got to leverage my, my background in my studies. In computer graphics and computer graphics animation, which is really what my focus was. And focused, you know, purely on software products, those types of things is where I ended up.

[00:08:43] Phil: So started off in architecture, got my first exposure in the Saturday program at the university of Illinois, Chicago, and got bit by the computer bug and. Never look back. 

[00:08:55] Chris: Yeah, it makes sense. And I think that's a similar story for a lot of folks, right? Whether, whether that, you know, happened 10 years ago or 40 years ago, I think a lot of us kind of got sucked into technology.

[00:09:04] Chris: It was almost, almost not a choice where once you, once you see it, if you've really got the, you know, if it grabs you, it grabs you, I think in some ways. 

[00:09:10] Phil: Well, and I think also, I think, you know, my advice that particularly like when we bring the interns, you know, we have 20, 25 interns a summer here at cable lab, so.

[00:09:21] Phil: At HP, I'd have 200, 250 interns for the summer on my innovation teams. And the advice I always give to the, to the interns is, is early in your career is the time to experiment. Try lots of things. Don't get locked in on one thing. I thought I was going to be an architect. That's not where my passion really, you know, got ignited.

[00:09:41] Phil: It was, it was, you know, once I saw that potential and ultimately for me, the passion took over and, uh, albeit I completed three years at the university of Chicago, I never graduated. Because some of my early work, I was a research assistant to Professor Masillo at the University of Illinois. Some of my work got published in journals, even as a junior undergrad.

[00:10:08] Phil: And I got recruited out of college before I finished because I was working in a new area that there weren't any expertise. It's kind of like what we're seeing today with all the early AI experts being sucked out of academia or, you know, any of the technology trends. If you time it and you happen to be at the right place at the right time, you get, you get sucked out.

[00:10:29] Phil: I got sucked out and never looked back. And, you know, one of the things I focus on. My career, look, my career then looks a lot different than my career now. And the benefit of that though is, is, you know, being a lifelong learner, you know, never sit back and just think you're going to do the exact same job.

[00:10:48] Phil: Year after year, technology changes way too fast. Innovation accelerates keeping up. I'm telling you. You know, I'm, I'm kind of at the back end of my career compared to most people. And I get tired just trying to keep up with all the changes that are going on now. 

[00:11:03] Chris: Sure. Yeah. And that causes some resistance as well, I think, right.

[00:11:07] Chris: Just the pace of change. And I think in general. I was going to say humans, but I think life in general is kind of conservative, right? I mean, we, you know, when something works, you kind of want to stick with it. You know, innovation is hard and not just because you got to come up with the ideas, but that second piece, which is getting other people to realize that this is actually easier, better, faster, cheaper, whatever it might be versus the old way.

[00:11:28] Chris: Right. And there's all kinds of books about this and things like that. So I'm curious about kind of getting back to that point and kind of diving in there a little further after thumb scan. I mean, Was there a moment or was it a series of events or like, how did your mind shift from like, Hey, I want to be in doing the code, doing the science, like this stuff's exciting to actually the way to make a difference is to evolve this into more true innovation and actually getting this in people's hands.

[00:11:51] Phil: Yeah. I think that the shift from post thumb scan for me was, is a little bit of the frustration of having been on the science in the invention side to then seeing others, leaders, executives within the organization fumble the ball. And not translate it, right? There's nothing worse than being a technologist sitting there with this really great idea and it not surviving.

[00:12:17] Phil: And so for me, that frustration led me to say, you know, something, the way to fix that is for me to get to that, to be part of that front end. And I was the beneficiary of a very early mentor, Bob Davis. I like my books dedicated to Bob. I speak about him a lot of my podcasts. You know, Bob now is a long retired as a bus school bus driver in Phoenix, Arizona.

[00:12:42] Phil: But when he first hired me, he was the one who recruited me out of college to leave college and come to work for him. What he did was he says, look, you can be a great software engineer. And I was, at the time, what I thought were pretty good chops in the, in the software space. But he says, you really need to think about it from an end to end perspective.

[00:12:59] Phil: So he put me on a rotation. So I spent six months in sales, six months in marketing, six months in finance, six months in IT, literally rotating me through the entire organization to build out my experience and my expertise and to be, have enough familiarization So I could translate what we were doing on the technology side, so that the CFO can understand it and that the marketing team can understand it, that the sales team can understand.

[00:13:28] Phil: And I think that's a skillset that we don't invest enough in with technologists is helping them prepare the fact of all the parts of an organization they need to interface with. And if you can't expect them to understand what you're working on, you have to do the translation to their language. And that was a skillset.

[00:13:48] Phil: And I tell Bob this all the time, right? I'm like, I can't pay back the investment he did in my career early on to really kind of open my eyes to that. And that had by far the biggest impact in my career over its 40 years. 

[00:14:05] Chris: Yeah, that is very, very interesting. And I kind of two pieces that really stand out to me.

[00:14:10] Chris: One is this thing I've been thinking about lately, which is, I guess you'd call it the ivory tower problem, which doesn't, you don't necessarily have to be a wizard off, you know, 300 feet off the ground in a tower somewhere. It can also happen to engineers, I think, and really, I think the, the, the challenge there is my world doesn't match the world I'm actually trying to impact.

[00:14:29] Chris: Right. And so if you're, if you're an emperor and you always spend your time in the palace, you may have no idea what's going on with the people in your, in your cities and in your countries. And if you're an engineer and you never get away from the keyboard and out from behind that, that monitor, you may have no idea how other people are, are, are living their lives and using the kind of tools you're working on.

[00:14:46] Chris: Right. 

[00:14:46] Phil: Exactly. Exactly. And that, and that's, and that's where, you know, a lot of people have a, have an opinion on sales teams or product management teams or whatever, but they can be that linkage to what's really happening feet on the ground. At HP we used to always refer to this. When we were working on totally new technologies, new concepts, new ideas.

[00:15:09] Phil: The question we would always ask in a pitch session was, will this play in Iowa? It doesn't matter whether it plays in Silicon Valley or plays in New York or plays in Boulder, Colorado, where I'm at, right? Those are bubbles. Very unique edge case bubbles, right? If you're looking to have broad impact, you need to have an understanding of what, what people are really dealing with on a day to day basis.

[00:15:38] Phil: I remember one project that we were working on at HB and got into this conversation with the product teams. And the product teams were pitching this, you know, and, you know, they knew exactly that, you know, the customers would love this thing. And I'm like, I'm not, I'm not so sure. Who'd you talk to while we did this survey or we ran this focus group here in the valve, like those are all biased.

[00:16:03] Phil: You got to go talk to real customers. So I grabbed. The handful of these people, we hopped on a plane, we flew to a remote city, got out, walked to the nearest Starbucks. I walked into the Starbucks, it was a lady sitting at the table. I said, would you mind, we've got, I'll pay for a second, for your second cup of coffee, if you give us five minutes, when I talk to you about what we're thinking and seeing what you give us your opinion.

[00:16:27] Phil: And it was an eye opener. The team just really got their eyes open that what they think is cool, what they think is neat, what they think is going to have big impact doesn't play in Iowa. And you don't know that, you know, by reading a spreadsheet or reading a market study, you got to get your butt out of the chair and you got to go engage.

[00:16:49] Phil: You got to go, go face to face. You know, I talk a little bit about it in my past, uh, in the podcast about, uh, you know, gorilla testing, right? It's walking into the bar and just finding someone sitting at the edge of the bar and walking into a Denny's restaurant, go places where you normally don't go. You are not the test market, your family is not the test market, and your friends are not the test market because they're just like you, they don't qualify.

[00:17:20] Phil: You've got to get out and go and talk to people who you normally would never talk to, to see what you're working on. If you're, and I'm talking about if you're coming up with the technology that's broad based, but this also applies to businesses, right, not just consumers, but businesses. Two fans of my podcast or two brothers outside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they were in a little machine shop.

[00:17:41] Phil: What the heck? Why do they listen to my podcast? Right? Because it's all about inventing. They want to, they invent all kinds of really cool little things at their little machine shop. And they want to, you know, they've been listening for more than a decade on the podcast, right? But they're different than, you know, others that are, you know, Procter and Gamble team listens and the Pitney Bowes teams listens to the podcast.

[00:18:07] Phil: They all come from different backgrounds. You got to talk to a lot of players out there, not yourself. Don't think you know, or that you can project yourself to be like your customer. You got to talk to your customer. Otherwise you're, you're going to, you're, you're innovating in an area that is just totally unknown.

[00:18:26] Chris: Sure. Yeah. Yeah. And I can see that. I mean, just to kind of ground that back for folks who may be listening, who maybe are just not necessarily entrepreneurs and not necessarily running businesses, but, but working, you know, in their field and digital infrastructure. And sometimes your customers are internal to your own company, but again, getting up and going and talking to the guy in HR or the lady in finance who is going to use the tool you're building or, or putting together, I think it's just important 

[00:18:50] Phil: or the guy on the machine shop floor, right?

[00:18:53] Phil: Nobody ever, nobody ever thinks about the factory floor or the truck driver who's delivering your product. Right. And don't even think, you know, who's going to use it because it may be a downstream benefit. So someone in finance may use the tool. But the downstream benefit is, I don't know, scheduling the truck drivers, right?

[00:19:12] Phil: So the truck drivers get impacted. They may not use the tool. Think about the entire value chain, who ultimately gets the benefit and look for those insights because that's where innovation value can have a multiplication effect within an organization. It's not just, Hey, can I make this tool really easy so finance can put in things.

[00:19:33] Phil: This thing that they're putting in is going to impact scheduling trucks downstream. If I can figure that out, that's a multiplication effect of the benefit. 

[00:19:41] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. That's super interesting. Those are where things get really exciting for sure. The other piece that I thought was really interesting and kind of the way you described.

[00:19:49] Chris: Bob Davis is kind of, you know, taking to the organization and doing the doing the rotation and things was, you know, not just the idea of going out and talking to the folks, but also, I think there's something there about how you talk to them. I think you talked about, you know, you have to say it almost in their language.

[00:20:03] Chris: And I think that's a really key piece of just communication flat out, whether it's around innovation or anything else. I've found that to be really, really true. If you want to talk to somebody, you And maybe this is obvious when you look at it at the level of languages, you've got to speak their language.

[00:20:17] Chris: Um, but languages are nuanced and it's not just that you have to speak English or French or Spanish. It's that you really need to understand kind of their perspective and be able to couch it in their terms. Or, I've just seen people talk to each other and not even, neither one of them, it's obvious that neither one of them knows what the other person is saying and they'll talk for minutes.

[00:20:32] Chris: You know? 

[00:20:32] Phil: Well, and particularly when it comes to some new idea. So you've come up with this new idea and you're pitching it to try to get support better go pit You got it at some point. You got to pitch it to the CFO because you're gonna need cash You know to build this thing right and then you pitch it in the CFO.

[00:20:51] Phil: It's too expensive We don't have it in the budget, right? All of what, what I refer to as the innovation antibodies, the pushback you get for every type of innovation antibody. There's actually a response that the innovator can use, right? Understand for instance, the CFO, not a bad person. Their job is to de risk financial risk to the organization.

[00:21:17] Phil: So if you understand their role and you can empathize with it, then how would you convince the CFO? It isn't by logic. It's by saying, well, I need 100, 000, but if I get 10, 000 now, I'll do this and prove to you that it's valuable. And then I'll come back and ask for 25, 000 to take it to the next, right? You de risk it by chunking it down so that the CFO sees the proof points as it goes.

[00:21:44] Phil: And the CFO goes, okay, great. Here's 10, 000, right? You understand those conversations, not just by using logic or arm twisting or berating them to align and. And agree with what direction you think the organization should take or that they should back your, your technology project or whatever it is. It's understanding standing in their shoes.

[00:22:09] Phil: Why, what is their role within the organization and how do you help them achieve that objective while supporting your work, making that connection. Goes a long way to getting the support you need for any form of innovation, any form of technology deployment. Inside of any organization. 

[00:22:28] Chris: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

[00:22:29] Chris: I can definitely see that one thing I know that's in your resume. That's really fascinating to me is maybe a little bit outside of the normal career path is you were on the board for the computer history museum for, for quite a while. I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about kind of how that came to be.

[00:22:43] Chris: And, and you know, what, what is, what is the board of trustees? What do trustees do for the computer history museum? What, what does that role even entail once you get in there? 

[00:22:50] Phil: Yeah, so the Computer History Museum is the premier museum for the history of technology in Silicon Valley. If you've never been there, I would strongly encourage you to go.

[00:23:02] Phil: Starts when you first enter the main exhibit hall, starts with abacuses. On computes and HoloRith punch cards. HoloRith was the predecessor to IBM. Goes all the way through everything from Cray to DEC to HP, et cetera. I got involved with the Computer History Museum when I was at HP as the CTO at HP. And part of it was as the museum reached out because they were looking for things from the HP archive to be donated.

[00:23:34] Phil: So Bill Hewlett and David Packard, when they founded HP in 1938, had enough foresight to collect and keep some of all pieces of the HP history throughout all the years. So it's all the way back to meeting notes from, you know, from the very, very early days. And so the museum reached out in those discussions, they were keenly interested in having someone from HP represent HP on the board.

[00:24:02] Phil: So when I first joined the computer history museum. I was actually representing HP and HP support for the computer history museum. Subsequently, even after I retired from HP, I stayed on the board for many years until I relocated to Colorado. And then being a long distance trustees just doesn't make sense, but the trustee basically in the case of a museum or, or any kind of a 501 C3 charity, the rule there is really to act as the board of directors.

[00:24:32] Phil: Like any board of directors for any organization. So you're approving the strategic plan. You're approving the budget, those types of things. But in the case of me at the computer issue museum, it was also the linkages between the fact that I, for many, many of my years on, on the board at the museum, I was also a senior executive at HP, so for instance, we took the, uh, the entire history archive of DAC, which HP had acquired.

[00:25:03] Phil: And we gave that to the museum. So if you go into the computer museum, you go to the main exhibit, everything from the early PDP 11, PDP 4, that entire part of the museum was a donation from HP. HP donated the original source code for the HP 3000s, you know, to use that as coding examples that, and you can go to the website, you can download all of that today.

[00:25:28] Phil: But the museum, I think, plays an important role, particularly for younger, newer generations to kind of see where the technology has come from, but also to see the acceleration. You look from the early years, vacuum tubes, univacs. Et cetera, to where transistors, to microprocessors, to now AI and others. And you see that acceleration in one place.

[00:25:54] Phil: I think it's a great learning opportunity. And it's also just a, a great reminder of the industry that we all embrace. 

[00:26:02] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. Uh, definitely something worth, worth checking out. I like that contextualization of it, of being able to see the exhilaration kind of hands on there. That that's a really neat way to look at it.

[00:26:11] Chris: I hadn't thought of that before, but you definitely do see that there. 

[00:26:14] Phil: Well, at the computer history museum, we put together a program. This was early on at the museum and I got involved in this a little bit where They bring classes into the museum and they bring innovators from the valley in order to actually pose problems to the students.

[00:26:33] Phil: And these are grade schools, junior high, high school students, and they do it, they'll do it with pairing. So they'll do a class in East Palo Alto, which is a very rough part of the valley. Um, a lot, you know, high percentage of population in poverty. Okay. So they'll bring a class from East Palo Alto and they'll pair it with a, with a class virtually somewhere else in the country and even the world.

[00:26:59] Phil: And they run these programs together. And, uh, but it's exciting because you can show these kids. The progression of technologies, and then you can pose them a problem that doesn't really have a technology answer to it, but it gets them to think about, Hey, if so and so invented something that had this huge impact, could I invent something that could change the world?

[00:27:23] Phil: Could I do something that would make. You know life better for me or life better for my friends or for my parents or whatever And it's it's trying to Ignite that spark that there's nothing special about any innovator You know it we all have the ability to be highly creative to invent and to change the world We just need to step out and just do it, not wait and deal with self doubt, step out and take that risk.

[00:27:55] Chris: Yeah, I like that. And that's actually great advice. I think the more and more people need to hear, I think, is being able to just kind of get out of your own way and just try it, just do it. Speaking of doing things and accomplishments. I wonder, you know, looking back at your career up to now in any way you want to categorize it, what would you say is your greatest achievement so far?

[00:28:15] Phil: My family, that's an easy one. You know, I've got three kids, five grandkids, my wife and I jokingly tell everybody life is all about the grandkids. Yeah. My kids, my kids are definitely feeling like second class citizens because it's all about the grandkids. So, yeah, I mean, that, that, that, that's the easy answer that everybody expects you to give.

[00:28:36] Phil: Yeah. If you were to ask that same question about my work career, you know, what do I, you know, what did I achieve? I don't know. I don't think there's there's actually one thing right? In fact, I do get this question I especially got this question when I first came to cable labs, right? Wired magazine did an article on me when I left HP, right?

[00:28:57] Phil: Cause drove, it drove a new cycle, but in the years later they followed up and others keep asking me like, you left HP, you're retired and then you went to the cable industry. What, what were you thinking? Right. Type of a thing. But, and I tell people this, I, you know, it was just back in Silicon Valley, we have an office there and the media alley always asked, I'm like, look, I said, HP, great company.

[00:29:24] Phil: Bill Hiller, David Packard, they knew how to create a culture. That's where I got really schooled in the importance of culture to an organization success and innovation culture specifically, I said, however, coming to CableLabs and the support from the board of directors in the way the industry operates, being the CEO of CableLabs is by far the best career, best job I've ever had in my, in my entire career.

[00:29:49] Phil: It may not be as high profile as some of my others, but where you can have impact and leveraging your skills and see the impact of your work. Build great teams. Bring people together and help them to achieve something they never thought that they could achieve and see that satisfaction in their eyes.

[00:30:10] Phil: Nothing better. 

[00:30:11] Chris: Awesome. Awesome. That's fantastic. Well, I think no surprise. We barely touched on anything in your career, but we have run out of time for today. Phil, do you have any projects or causes you'd like us to know about? And maybe I'll actually insert myself here and say that I'd love to hear a little bit about hacking autism and, and what's going on with that project.

[00:30:29] Chris: Yeah. 

[00:30:29] Phil: Yeah, so Hacking Autism at HackingAutism. org is actually a non profit I started when I was at HP. Um, it was an HP what we called cause marketing project. It was HP, we, we would pick one or two causes that HP would get behind. Autism was one. And so that would have been October of 2010. When I retired at the end of calendar year 2011, HP asked me to take the hacking autism work with me.

[00:30:58] Phil: They would continue to support it, but they felt it would have broader appeal to not just be confined within HP. So we took that out. We, uh, hacking autism focuses on three areas. One is, is therapy. So the, the, the development. Of new kinds of therapies, particularly therapies for early die to be used at early diagnosis.

[00:31:21] Phil: If you diagnose someone with autism early at a younger age, therapy actually brings a bigger benefit. The other is technologies. We focus primarily on technologies for the nonverbal part of autism. So giving those without a voice, a voice. And then the third is employment neurodiversity hiring programs.

[00:31:43] Phil: So we were the first to actually start neurodiversity hiring programs that are now starting to get a lot of traction. Uh, we worked with Microsoft, Pepsi, HP, um, a bunch of organizations. Tony is a who, uh, runs a, a rising tide carwash in Florida, um, is we've partnered with him and he's done a phenomenal job.

[00:32:04] Phil: His brother is on the autism spectrum, so hacking autism, you can check it My daughter, who actually was the inspiration fracking autism. Is a speech language pathologist and she specializes in working with kids on the autism spectrum and the charities run by her and I together.

[00:32:25] Chris: Awesome. That's great. I think there's phenomenal work going on there and it definitely touches our industry and technology, perhaps more than some others for whatever reason. Those two things kind of go hand in hand, right? The, the logical and rational kind of technology focused mindset tends to end up somewhere on that spectrum in a lot of cases, or at least be adjacent to it.

[00:32:41] Phil: Well, I would, I would argue where we are all on the spectrum, right? We're all, we're all, we're all a little weird in our own way. And you know, like here at cable apps, we, you know, we're, we're now, when I got here, we were about 130 people. We're, we're 240 now here and we have a neurodiversity hiring program.

[00:33:04] Phil: And we, we bring people in that are on the spectrum, software engineers, PhD scientists who are on the spectrum, right? The key though is, is organizations need to think differently about how you manage them, right? You can't force them into the traditional management structures and command and control and those kinds of things.

[00:33:27] Phil: And what we have found is, is by having a Neurodiversity Hiding Program, it significantly improves the organization. One, it exposes people inside the organization to people who think differently. And thinking differently in the innovation and the invention side is absolutely critical. You want to find people who don't think like everybody else.

[00:33:49] Phil: Who better than finding people? So I, I argue, I speak on this a lot that I believe hiring people who are on the spectrum across the what in the entire range of spectrum is thinking diversity and thinking diversity is actually critical. For invention ultimately leading innovations that have impact. 

[00:34:08] Chris: That makes a ton of sense.

[00:34:09] Chris: I think, uh, you know, once, once you think it through the idea that having a mind that thinks differently, being an asset is fairly obvious, at least, at least to me, a 

[00:34:18] Phil: lot of organizations won't make the change to manage the different. And that's where neurodiversity hiring programs and thus why. Those on the autism spectrum, those are on the kind of the mid to more severe end of the autism spectrum, have an 80, 8, 0 percent unemployment rate in the state of Colorado on average across the country.

[00:34:38] Phil: It's 80. 2%, 8, 0. 2%. It's crazy. You can't take, and you see the number of people who are being diagnosed with autism is exploding, right? And you take them out of the workforce. It's going to have long term effect on businesses. From the standpoint of finding people to work. And I think people look for just the neurotypicals, which is what we're called right to, you know, people who look, feel, taste, smell, act, think just like us, and I think any business, whether it's the local restaurant or a.

[00:35:16] Phil: High tech firm missing out on opportunities to take advantage of a community that is looking for employment that thinks differently and can be a major contributor to success. 

[00:35:30] Chris: Awesome. Hear, hear. Well, Phil, thank you so much for sharing your story with the imposter syndrome network. And thank you to all of our listeners for your time, your attention, and your support.

[00:35:39] Chris: If you found this episode insightful or interesting, or even just entertaining, please consider paying it forward by letting others know about this show and the great guests we have on before we totally shut things down. Phil, I am curious. I have one more question for you. I know that your career has gone pretty dang well.

[00:35:54] Chris: I would have to say, I think where you've ended up is pretty awesome and the things you've accomplished along the way, but if you could open that, you know, trans dimensional portal and whisper something in younger Phil's ear, what advice would you give to your younger self just starting out if you could 

[00:36:07] Phil: Don't let fear hold you back.

[00:36:10] Phil: Fear, fear of failure is one of the biggest handcuffs. In my view, fear stands for false evidence that appears real. We let negative talk in our head, take any kind of potential risk and turn and blow it up into this, you know, this major fear and five, my one piece of advice to a 25 year old Phil is don't let fear Stop you from trying something.

[00:36:36] Phil: Don't let fear hold you back from doing an experiment. Don't let fear hold you back from jumping into something new. 

[00:36:44] Chris: Awesome. I love it. We'll leave it there and we will be back next week.