From Board Rooms to Highest Mountains: Lessons in Leadership
A discussion with Jeff Dossett, Impinj’s Chief Revenue Officer, about his career, life lessons from mountaineering, and his leadership style.
Jeff Dossett is the chief revenue officer at Impinj. In addition to his 35 years of executive leadership experience at global companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo!, Demand Media (now Leaf Group), Porch, and GOOD Worldwide, Jeff is a committed volunteer and passionate advocate. He provides student mentorship through the Buerk Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. He is a former trustee of Seattle Girls' School and served on boards of several start-up companies. Jeff is also an accomplished high altitude mountain climber who has summited Mount Everest twice. In 2004, he became the third Canadian in history to successfully complete the “Seven Summits.” He has used his climbs to raise awareness and funds for the fight against HIV / AIDS.
What led you to Impinj?
I've always been attracted to transformational technology opportunities. Early in my career, I worked for Toshiba Information Systems Group and my team played an important role in introducing and scaling the adoption of laptop computers – first by mobile business professionals, and later by consumers. One of our close partners at that time was a relatively small, but important, software company called Microsoft. When partnering with Microsoft to bring exciting operating system and development tool innovations to our portfolio of Toshiba laptops, I got an inside look at the fast-growing impact of software on the productivity and creativity of knowledge workers. I joined Microsoft in the early ‘90s to help drive adoption of Windows, Office, and later Enterprise Server software and then transitioned to focus on online ecommerce and services as the internet was exploding. I was fortunate to reinvent my career multiple times over 18 years at Microsoft. Fast forward to 2017, when I joined Impinj. Having learned about Impinj's vision of Boundless IoT, and its mission to connect every thing, I was once again compelled to join an innovative company that is growing and driving adoption of an Internet of Things technology. Impinj is the industry's preeminent innovator and leader of RAIN RFID which is expanding the internet’s reach by a factor of 1,000 — to apparel, packages, pallets, airline baggage, medical supplies, food, and so much more.
I know that mountain climbing has had a big impact on your career. Can you tell us how it's influenced your approach to leadership?
Sure! This is the experience that has had the greatest impact on how I approach my career and my leadership of teams. In the early 2000s, I paused my career at Microsoft to pursue my newfound passion for mountain climbing. What had started as an interesting, albeit daunting, way for me to raise funds to support an important local charity, evolved into a full-time mission to climb the highest mountain on every continent. Almost every day, I call upon an aspect of my climbing experiences that inspires and guides my leadership of teams. It’s hard to synthesize all that I learned during my years of climbing all over the world, but here are six key lessons. I learned:
- the value of setting and pursuing big, bold goals to challenge oneself or team. My personal “Why?” became “Live Life Inspired”.
- the importance of crafting a detailed plan that translates big, bold goals into challenging, yet attainable milestones. I learned that even the highest mountain on Earth is climbed one step at a time!
- that mental preparation is the most important aspect of readiness to take on a bold goal. As hard as I trained physically for each climb, I trained harder mentally to prepare myself for any personal health or technical obstacle I might encounter along the way.
- to always “keep 10% in reserve” mentally and physically. You never know when you or your teammates will be called upon to face and overcome an unexpected challenge.
- the power of positivity, in part to set a tone for my personal attitude and motivation, and in part to influence how I would “show up” as a member of a team. In the face of sudden or enduring adversity, we get to choose whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution.
- when under intense physical or mental pressure, it is essential to focus on what one can control. Too often, too much mental or physical energy is consumed on factors or conditions we cannot control or change.
Can you tell us how you think about technology and why you are passionate about it?
Early-on in my career, I embraced opportunities to advance adoption of technologies that have the potential to change the way people work. For me, it is not just about the technology itself, but rather it is the interplay between people, process, and technology that continues to fascinate me. I’m particularly interested in helping companies drive digital transformation initiatives which seek to elevate a company’s performance in a fundamentally enduring manner.
I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why”, “Leaders Eat Last”, and more recently, “The Infinite Game.” Building upon the work of James Carse, author of “Finite and Infinite Games,” Sinek advocates that as leaders, we have a choice to adopt a finite or infinite mindset. With a finite mindset, we approach our work as if it was a sporting game to be won or lost. That is, we seek to understand the rules of the game and it is our aim to beat opponents – by crossing the finish line first, achieving the highest score, or otherwise definitively winning the game. Sinek suggests that many businesses play a finite game, focused on short-term market gains and shareholder interests, when in business, there’s rarely such a thing as an end-game winner. Sinek’s point resonates with me. In reality, the rules of the game of business are constantly evolving, and the goal line is repeatedly redefined.
At Impinj, I'm guiding toward an "infinite" mindset where our definition of a truly successful business is one where a succession of leaders play an infinite game and in doing so, build something sustainable and enduring for the benefit of all – employees, customers, shareholders, and the communities in which we live and work. I see this play out with the digital transformation initiatives that Impinj supports as well. Our customers are seeking data and insights that enable them and their teams to continually adapt and optimize to changing factors inside and outside of the company.
Who has been instrumental in your journey to get to where you are now? How have they influenced your leadership style?
I've been fortunate to work with, and for, some incredible leaders and teams. These people and experiences have strengthened my commitment to being a lifetime learner. One particularly influential leader is Joanne Bradford, with whom I worked during my 18 years at Microsoft (and subsequently at Yahoo and Demand Media). She once shared her perspective that most people were "wired" to only seek inputs and experiences that reinforce what they already know or believe in order to feel safe and in control. She encouraged me to “feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable" part of every day. Doing so, she explained, requires a mindset that actually challenges our innate desire to feel safe and in control of our lives. I've tried to honor her advice by seeking out and engaging in opportunities to learn what I don't yet know or understand, or to place myself in situations where others have different knowledge or experience that challenges what I know or believe.
How have you used your success to give back to your community?
I acknowledge that I have been very fortunate in my career and therefore I feel it is my responsibility to give my time, resources, or both to people and organizations seeking to make the world a better place. Earlier in my career I most often sought out organizations working to leverage technology to assist in delivering upon their missions. However, in the last five years I have shifted my focus to support organizations that are providing essential safety, shelter, and food services including Mary’s Place Seattle, Habitat for Humanity, Northwest Harvest, Treehouse, and Jewish Family Service of Seattle.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2022
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vice President, Strategic Communications
Jill West leads Impinj IoT technology adoption marketing initiatives across numerous markets including retail, healthcare, and supply chain and logistics.
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