Meet A Minnesota Tech CTO: Jay Dorenkamp, Jamf



Thank you Tarmac for underwriting our Meet a Minnesota Tech CTO series, where we get up close and personal with Minnesota’s chief techies.

The CTO: Jay Dorenkamp, Jamf

How long have you been working in tech for and what is your technical background?

I’ve been in the software space for more than 30 years. I’ve worked on some of the lowest levels of software in operating systems to higher levels in the software stack, delivering enterprise web applications.

I graduated from Iowa State University (ISU) with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering with an emphasis in software design and development. When I started at ISU, this was a relatively new program. (Fun fact – my two sons also graduated from ISU with the same degree, and it’s been interesting to see how the program has evolved and expanded.)

After graduating, I worked at IBM for 10 years before going back to school to get my Master of Science in Management of Technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was really helpful to gain real-world experience in my technical field before going back for my graduate degree, as I was able to apply real-world issues to the coursework.

I’ve worked across many industries (operating systems, governance risk and compliance, ERP back-office software and e-discovery legal tech, among others), and have also owned my own consulting firm.

I am currently the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Jamf, a software company that helps organizations succeed with Apple; we empower them to successfully deploy and manage all of their Apple products. I’ve been at Jamf for more than three years and continue to be energized by my work and my team.

What are you focused on right now?

At Jamf, I am responsible for the software engineering, cloud and delivery and information security functions. As we’ve continued to grow and, therefore, increase the size of our team, we had the opportunity to create new leadership roles to lead these individual functions. I recently completed filling those roles and have been spending much of my time assisting these leaders in coming up to speed and getting integrated into the Jamf organization. Looking forward, I’ll be spending less time on the day-to-day operational activities and more time on partnerships, mergers and acquisitions and assisting with our artificial intelligence/machine learning initiatives.

What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?

Engineers at Jamf have broad skillsets and use development languages such as Java, JavaScript, Angular, Python and Swift based on the specific components on which they are working. We have teams focused on front-end development, back-end development, mobile applications and cloud-focused developers as well. We leverage a common suite of tools, including the Atlassian suite of products. In addition, we use Confluence for internal wikis, Jira for backlogs and sprint tracking, Bitbucket for code management and Bamboo to help automate releases. Each team is also empowered to use the tools that they need to be successful, given their roles and the unique challenges they may face. In many cases, that leads to them to build their own tooling to help them automate testing and deployments in our Jamf Cloud environment.

How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?

Our product management organization plays a key role in ensuring that our roadmap is tied directly to business value. We have a big focus on delivering business value here at Jamf and look specifically through that lens when we evaluate projects. We’ve recently introduced a new methodology that looks across several dimensions of value and then utilizes a weighted scoring system to help us pick how best to use our teams.

What is the size of your department (headcount) and how is it organized?

My team is made up of nearly 200 members and it is split into three major functions – software engineering, cloud and delivery and information security. Our teams are primarily located in our three development and engineering centers – Minneapolis, Minn., Eau Claire, Wis. and Katowice, Poland.

Software engineering is focused on all of our customer-facing products, which has grown with our recent acquisition of NoMAD (now Jamf Connect!).

The cloud and delivery team is focused on delivering our Jamf products and solutions in the cloud, with global delivery out of the U.S., Germany, Australian and Japanese regions. Information security is focused on the Jamf InfoSec vision, strategy and execution to protect our customer’s and Jamf’s precious information resources.

How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions?

As a fast-growing company, recruiting is an essential competency. First, we highly value employee referrals and have a program in place to encourage this. We work very hard to have an environment that is positive, transparent and healthy; our whole company meets weekly to share what is happening across the organization. We also take our new employee onboarding seriously – it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before! It involves a variety of activities to help new employees get up to speed quickly and understand how they directly deliver value to our customers.

We also hire staff in our three primary engineering regions, so we have a wider availability of candidates and to balance out supply and demand challenges for skillsets in certain geographies.

How do you personally keep up with the everchanging technology landscape?

I listen to my network. My team at Jamf and my colleagues in the industry are constantly sharing knowledge with each other. While tech is evolving quickly, and our tools are becoming increasingly more capable, the most exciting challenge for me is staying up to date on the ways that we allow our teams to be most effective with whatever technology they use. Much of my learning outside the office is focused on leadership, culture and how to create the most effective environment for teams to work. In this regard, some of my favorite books include “The Ideal Team Player” by Patrick Lencioni, “Leadership and Self Deception” by the Arbinger Institute and “Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman. While not a new book, one that continues to be well read here at Jamf is “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore.

What excites you about where technology is heading?

I had no idea what I was getting into 30 years ago when I decided on a computer engineering career path! It has continued to evolve and grow, and software has become more and more essential to how we work. Many problems and needs of society continue to benefit from solutions that require software. It’s just an exciting time to be in this space and only continues to become more and more exciting with applications in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the ability to truly aid humans in making better and faster decisions.

What concerns you about where technology is heading?

Technology really is a two-edged sword and, while I am extremely excited by the progress that software has made in so many areas, I do see the opportunities for misuse and misapplication. The power of software technology can be used for good and noble purposes but when in the wrong hands without safeguards, can seriously compromise our security and privacy, along with enabling online bullying and the proliferation of false information.

What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry – how could it be better?

I’m proud to say that virtually all of my 30 years in tech have been spent in Minnesota! This community is a vibrant and healthy one. I really appreciate the diverse nature of our tech businesses, spanning so many different industries and verticals. This makes for a robust and resilient tech sector.

Given the pervasiveness of software and related skills, it is essential that we continue to find ways to enlist, welcome and embrace more individuals in the tech sector. There is a place for many different roles and skills, as not everyone needs to be writing software. Diversity in technology is a cause I, as well as Jamf, feel passionate about and work towards.

What are you into outside of technology?

Photography is a growing passion of mine. I was around before digital cameras, but it wasn’t until digital cameras came on the scene that I became really interested and invested. I’ve gone through many different cameras over the years and continue to appreciate and embrace the ways that digital photography has enhanced our lives. Right now, I’m currently evaluating my movement from DSLR to a mirrorless full-frame camera.

I also love outdoor summer AND winter sports, like skiing, snowboarding and wake sports, along with biking, hiking
and snowmobiling.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Kudos to TechdotMN for helping connect people within this Minnesota tech community. I really appreciate the work you are doing and the value you are creating through these efforts!


  • Jeff Pesek

    Thank you for the kind words there Jay, to you for taking the time to share, and to Tarmac for underwriting it all.