Chad Caswell is the CTO at Zubie, a Bloomington-based IoT connected car company that came out of Best Buy in 2012.
How long have you been working in tech for and what is your technical background?
In college, I learned about something called a “web page” from my accounting professor. I was intrigued by this strange new concept, and he was willing to invest some time teaching a number of us students “HTML.” Within an hour, I was hooked.
Later that year, I started a small company with a roommate and we secured a number of contracts to build websites for companies. My roots are in software development and I’ve enjoyed working for a number of product companies. I have been leading software teams for 18 years and building and managing SaaS products for 21 years at various companies. I also earned my masters in Information Systems from Northwestern University in Chicago.
What are you focused on right now?
Team Zubie is finalizing the launch of our next generation device – an IoT gadget that connects to the OBD-II port under the dash of vehicles manufactured on or after 1996. Our newest device will connect over an LTE-M network, which is optimized for IoT use-cases and enables expanded network coverage. This device is leveraging Amazon’s IoT framework, which includes numerous benefits including improved device management, configurability, security, and scalability. We’re also investing in additional capabilities around data analytics and enhancing our mobile apps.
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
The Zubie platform was born in the cloud and consumes a number of cloud APIs. We tend to favor PaaS services over IaaS solutions, although we have a mix of both. We operate services on both AWS and Google and we offer a robust external developer API, which supports a number of solutions ranging from customers’ internal IT applications, Zubie-partner mobile apps, and hundreds of IFTTT integrations. Like other software development teams, we use many of the “usual suspects” for our developer tooling. Some examples include GitHub for source control, JIRA for managing work, and Slack for team collaboration and platform monitoring.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
Zubie’s business is built on a subscription model. We set annual growth targets and quarterly business objectives for teams and individuals. To ensure we stay aligned with our collective goals, we hold all-hands meetings every two weeks. Our executive team meets every week to solve important issues that may be surfacing and also review the health of our enterprise pipeline. My direct leadership team also meets weekly to track team level progress and we review specific scorecard metrics for our technology and operations initiatives.
What is the size of your department and how is it organized/managed?
I am responsible for our Product, Operations, Engineering, and IT Ops groups. We have two office locations – one in Bloomington, MN and the other in Charleston, SC. Our Product leader is responsible for defining the what and the why for our platform, while our Engineering team manages the how and heavily influences the when. Our IT Ops team supports our cloud operations and also serves as a point of escalation for our customer support team, which is managed by our Operations group. While we employ quality assurance engineers, we believe that everyone is responsible for the quality of our product, regardless of role.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions?
We work with third-party recruiting firms and also do direct recruiting using LinkedIn and our employees’ professional networks. Regarding retention, I believe in self-directed teams – professionals need the latitude to bring their creativity each day to solve complex problems. This idea breeds an ownership mentality and teams either feel proud and successful in their work, or they choose to move on to other endeavors. It is also important that work is grounded in core values, and we hire people based on these core values.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
I’ve set up Slack to subscribe to multiple news and blog feeds. I also find LinkedIn and Twitter to be great resources for staying current on technology news. Lately, I’ve enjoyed reading the daily Morning Brew email newsletter @ morningbrew.com. I also appreciate the Rands Leadership Slack – an active community of technology leaders from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
Technology continues to enrich our quality of life. Working at an IoT company, I have appreciation for how that sector will continue to mature and add value for businesses and consumers. In the fleet space, our platform’s relevance and value is expanding across multiple use-cases. When technology reaches that point, you know you are on to something valuable.
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
Like most of my peers, I have a growing concern about the amount of detailed information being collected by companies about individuals. At Zubie, privacy and security is part of our conversation each day. As technology leaders, it is vital we earn our users’ trust.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry – how could it be better?
Generally, MN is technologically progressive. Specifically, I’ve benefited from the work that MHTA is doing to drive increasing advocacy for infrastructure and leadership development. I’d like to see even more opportunities for public-private partnerships to see all boats rise as we continue to make MN a thriving technology hub.
What are you into outside of technology?
When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my wife and three kids. We love traveling to new places that we are all experiencing together for the first time. Some of our favorite adventures are cross-country road trips to tent-camp, hike and explore. We’ve been to several national parks over the past decade and will be heading to Banff and Jasper this summer. The most memorable getaway for our family was our trip to France and Italy last summer. I also love downhill skiing and playing the acoustic guitar.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m grateful to live and work in the Twin Cities. Minnesota is a fantastic place for growing thriving businesses; the opportunities are vast and I am optimistic about our future. I’ll also add a plug for Zubie: we have a fantastic team and I’m excited about our growth. We are always eager to work with great talent, so please reach out on LinkedIn with any questions.