Life Lessons: Graduate attorney, consultant, entrepreneur, COO. Don’t be risk averse

Chris Port of Boomi, a Dell Technologies business

Chris Port is chief operating officer of Boomi, a Dell Technologies business, but he’s worn many business hats along the way. They have taught him many lessons, one of the most important being to take entrepreneurial risks early in life. Here he shares his experiences with IoT Now.

IoT Now: As a child what job did you want to have when you grew up?

Chris Port: When I was growing up, I was fascinated with the idea of being an attorney. A lot of my family were attorneys including my two uncles, who I have always been incredibly close with. When I was young and impressionable, I saw being an attorney as a pathway to this amazingly cool lifestyle, with great cars.

When I was halfway through my undergraduate (degree) at university, I had a change of heart. It was a very rigorous degree and I gained a great foundation, but I got to the point, after completing my undergraduate, where I wanted to go and make some money and travel a little. I had thought I might return to it, but I then got into consulting before starting out with Dell. There is no question that I have come a long way from those dreams of being an attorney.

IoT Now: If you had one business lesson to share with your younger self what would it be?

Chris Port: From a business standpoint, I would tell my younger self to take entrepreneurial risks early. I think a lot of people now are becoming risk-averse, content to go through traditional pathways without really taking a leap of faith into something.

I am lucky in that I have worked with some really incredible entrepreneurs, and have been able to learn a huge amount from them. One thing that I come back to time and time again and it is something that I have realised in recent years is that building a strong entrepreneurial foundation when you are starting out sets a great benchmark for how you want your career to progress. The understanding of entrepreneurship is that failure will be catastrophic but this is not always the case. There are so many learning opportunities from the process, opportunities that fast-forward personal development and instill a sense of maturity that is incredibly hard to come by without it. Finally, if you do fall, it’s never as bad as you imagined.

IoT Now: Without naming and shaming, tell us about your worst ever boss.

Chris Port: I am lucky enough to have had a series of truly excellent bosses but there is one instance that comes to mind for this question. When I was first starting out in consulting, I had a manager who on occasion would mix up different client documents. In one particular instance he obviously used a prior client pitch with my client and just copied and pasted the company name. Unfortunately, on one slide he’d left the name of the other client. I was relatively junior when this occurred, and happened to be the only one onsite at the client’s office at the time. It was embarrassing for me and clearly morally wrong.

Now, what I look for in a boss is honesty, and someone that challenges me not only to be a better professional, but primarily a better human being. High-performance leadership teams need to have a personal development aspect that helps the team grow closer together whilst becoming more productive.

IoT Now: Which Internet of Things (IoT) use case has recently fired your imagination?

Chris Port: A trend that we are particularly seeing at the moment for the Internet of Things in terms of Covid-19 is how the spatial environment, whether in the office or on public transport for example, can be made safe through effective device connectivity. It may not be hugely glamorous (it certainly isn’t internet-connected satellites or ocean plastic efforts) but it is something that is going to change the working environment and potentially public spaces as we know them.

There is a central role of IoT devices and IoT-based metrics in space utilisation, whether it be micro-utilisation within an office to determine spatial distancing or smart video feeds that can track temperatures for employees. These systems are going to accelerate significantly in both use cases and functionality as we re-adjust to a normalised environment.

IoT Now: What has been your most memorable business travel experience?

Chris Port: I have had some great business travel experiences, and one trip in particular with Boomi springs to mind. In December of 2019 I was fortunate enough to go to Asia; Singapore and then Melbourne and Sydney. It was a whirlwind trip, meeting over 50 customers across a 5-day period. Amidst all of the travel and customer meetings, I managed to get a day to myself in Singapore, which is just such an incredible city.

This trip crystallised so many of my thoughts on what we needed to do from a business perspective in APJ (Asia-Pacific Japan). Just meeting that number of customers reaffirmed to me how brilliant an opportunity it is to travel to different geographies and experience different cultures. The trip culminated with an incredible afternoon spent with the Boomi team in Sydney, which was a great way to cap off the trip. It was an incredibly exhausting trip, but an amazing one nonetheless.

IoT Now: What lessons have you learned from doing business in other countries or organisations?

Chris Port: Doing business in other countries has taught me a lot over the years. One in particular is that you just cannot assume that what works in one geography will work in another. Despite geographies becoming more connected than ever before, there is still a huge amount of nuance that is needed for doing business in different countries.

I spent a year working in Japan and that is where I developed my understanding that there is no one solution for business: it can be very complex and different, even between two neighbouring countries, and so it is imperative that people understand the company that they are working with but also the culture they are operating in. I encourage everyone to try and spend some time living overseas if possible. It truly expands your perspective.

Despite the differences, there is also a degree of commonality and it’s here where you can find business efficiencies. It is important to not only understand the differences but also the similarities. By understanding how business operates in different countries, you give yourself the best possible chance to be successful.

Chris Port chief operating officer at Boomi, a Dell Technologies business was talking to Jeremy Cowan, IoT Now’s editorial director

Boomi is an iPaaS specialist, helping enterprises connect every system and dataset across their enterprise, linking Internet of Things (IoT) devices and edge technologies into one unified platform, connecting IoT data to applications and services that help businesses run. Chris works day-to-day to ensure Boomi’s offering can connect IoT devices, and that IoT data can be processed and stored efficiently.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

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