CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.

John Ellis: The "never disrespectful, always irreverent" bestselling author of The Zero Dollar Car.

November 14, 2022 Episode 90
CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.
John Ellis: The "never disrespectful, always irreverent" bestselling author of The Zero Dollar Car.
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

John is the Founder & Managing Director of jte Consulting, the global management consulting firm that serves clients in the world where transportation, consumer, connectivity, and software intersect. 

As a former executive at Motorola and Global Technologist at Ford Motor Company, John led or participated in teams that built many of the innovations we see today in connected vehicles on the ground and in the air. Since then, he has helped cities and organizations understand how technology is affecting the way our streets, sidewalks, and curbs operate, now and into the future. 

John is the best-selling author of The Zero Dollar Car, a former adjunct professor at University of Notre Dame, as well as a former translator in the 1992 Summer Olympics.

In our conversation we talk about John’s childhood experience, the value of learning a language, how he maximised his opportunities at university, and his international career. While John insists he’s a software guy and not a car guy, his experience and worldview only seem to get more relevant to our mobility industry each year. I was lucky enough to be in the audience when John first delivered his Zero Dollar Car speech that spawned his book and his professional speaking career and I’m delighted and proud to be able to introduce him to you in this episode. 

 

If you enjoy listening to my guests career stories, please follow CAREER-VIEW MIRROR in your podcast app. 

You can contact John via LinkedIn or email: John@jte-consulting.com  

Buy his book The Zero Dollar Car at www.johntellis.com 

Why not follow us on Instagram @careerviewmirror where you can see a directory of all our episodes and comment on those you have enjoyed? 

 

This episode of CAREER-VIEW MIRROR is brought to you by Aquilae.  

Aquilae's mission is to enable Fulfilling Performance in the mobility industry.  
We use our very own Fulfilling Performance paradigm to identify what steps you need to take to enable Fulfilling Performance in your business.  

We leverage our Aquilae Consulting arm for business topics and the Aquilae Academy for people topics. 

And, once we're agreed on the way forward, we work alongside you and your teams to enable Fulfilling Performance and achieve your goals. 

I explain Fulfilling Performance in more detail in Episode 60 of CAREER-VIEW MIRROR which is a short Side Mirror episode. 

 

Email: cvm@aquilae.co.uk 

Episode recorded on 17 October, 2022 

John Ellis:

We have user manuals or product manuals for products. What about having a user manual for how people should engage with me, like specifically if they work for me?

Aquilae Academy:

Welcome to Career-view Mirror, the automotive podcast that goes behind the scenes with key players in the industry looking back over their careers to share insights to help you with your own journey. Here's your host, Andy Follows

Andy:

Hello, listeners, Andy here. Thank you for tuning in. In this episode, we're celebrating the career to date of John Ellis. John is the founder and managing director of JTE Consulting, the global management consulting firm that serves clients in the world where transportation, consumer connectivity and software intersect. As a former executive at Motorola and global technologist at Ford Motor Company, John led or participated in teams that built many of the innovations we see today in connected vehicles on the ground and in the air. Since then, he's helped cities and organisations understand how technology is affecting the way our streets, sidewalks and curbs operate now and into the future. John is the best selling author of The Zero Dollar Car, a former adjunct professor at University of Notre Dame, as well as a former translator in the 1992 Summer Olympics. In our conversation, we talked about John's childhood experience, the value of learning a language, how he maximised his opportunities at university and his international career. While John insists he's a software guy and not a car guy, his experience and worldview only seem to get more relevant to our mobility industry each year. I was lucky enough to be in the audience when John first delivered his Zero Dollar Car speech that spawned his book and his professional speaking career. And I'm delighted and proud to be able to introduce him to you in this episode. If you enjoy listening to my guests' stories, please could you do me a favour and click the Follow button in the app that you use to listen to your podcasts. This helps our podcast grow so that we can continue to share the wealth of experience that our guests have amassed during their careers so far. Hello, John, and welcome. And where are you coming to us from today?

John Ellis:

Good morning. And thank you so very much, Andy, for having me, coming to you from Chicago, Illinois, in the States.

Andy:

Fantastic. Thank you so much for for joining me. It's an absolute pleasure. I first saw you speak and I'm sure we'll talk about this. I first saw you speak at the Asset Finance Conference and it was very, I was very privileged to be there and having read your book, I was delighted to see that that is the opening of the book, where you talk about how you were invited to do that and it was really great to see behind the scenes there. So we'll talk a bit about that. But first of all, I'd love to start where your journey started please. Where were you born?

John Ellis:

Born in Chicago in the in the mid 60s. I'm a child of the 60s.

Andy:

Very good. And tell us a little bit about growing up, your family situation, please.

John Ellis:

Yeah, so let's see. I'm the first of six, mom and dad lived in a three bedroom, sort of bungalow style on the south side of Chicago. Both were city workers. My father was a city engineer, mom was a Chicago public school teacher and believed deeply in education. So you know, the the hallmark of everything was going to school, making sure homework was done, being tested, you know, sort of getting it right in school, sports were important, but school was the most, most important thing.

Andy:

Now, it sounds a very wholesome, very wholesome start. And I have the benefit of having read your book, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I particularly love the fact that it's a blend of biography, and industry insight, and really cutting edge visionary thoughts around the industry. So it was a great blend. But as someone who enjoys these conversations that talk about people's lives as well, it was a really great fit. So I've just got to tow the line between making sure that I don't skip over stuff that I already know and make sure I bring it out for my listeners. So that lifestyle you had first of six, anything you want to say about being the first of six. I mean was there a big weight on your shoulders there?

John Ellis:

Sure. I mean, it was three boys and three girls and my father was one of two, my mom was one of three. And my father was a first, my mom was the youngest, but from the beginning it was very much everything was new for me. So you know going to school, what what needed to happen, going into music, going into just everything. I was privileged because I was the first to, you know, be able to trial my dad on anything. He was, as an engineer with six kids being a city worker, he had a lot of side jobs. And I, you know, from an early age, I was able to trail along and start learning about tools. And you know how to change motors in washing machines and how to instal hot water tanks and how to how to change out you know, I was working with him in a blast furnace when I was 10. So, being first was pretty cool. It was a privilege. At the same time, I got almost all of it, and I can look back and my youngest brother, who's 10 years younger than me, got none of it, he got the music, and he got the music talent and all that, but none of the same trailing along with dad, and being along with that kind of stuff. So it was good. I mean, it was fun. It was neat. And it's, you know, stayed with me all my life

Andy:

And it really stood out. I thought it was great when I read about that. And you sitting alongside your dad and having this hands on firsthand experience of this engineering that he was doing. Yeah, as recently as yesterday, I read a quote that said, no child has the same parents. And I'm paraphrasing it slightly. And I didn't even go into detail. But how I interpreted it was, of course, our parents have completely grown each time or they changed or their circumstances are different. So no two children have the same parents. And you've made that point there. And let's hope that your youngest brother got something out of having all those siblings that you wouldn't have had, you wouldn't have had at the or not in the very beginning. So how were you at school John, how were you as a student?

John Ellis:

I was above average, I was good. But I was in retrospect, I was lazy. Things came easy. I wasn't necessarily that caught up in getting the straight A or the 100%. Notwithstanding right my father's withering look when I'd come home and the grades would be not where they could be. But I enjoyed school. I learned with each level right grammar school to high school to college to grad school, I with every transition, I learned a bit more how to study or, or how better to learn. Certainly, you know, kindergarten to eighth grade, it was a chore you went to school because your parents told you to go to school. High school was you know, it was interesting. I was learning something, college was really fascinating. And then grad school was like where I really was like, darn, I actually want to learn this, I want to understand this. And the A is not the A, the A is somebody else telling me, at least as far as I'm concerned, you've learned the material, right? So lazy early on, grown up, gotten better at it. And today, you know, passionate learner just love to consume and understand and connect the dots.

Andy:

It's great. It's like that to begin with, you need the grades just to give you some feedback. As you're saying you need the parents to take you there and make you go. But boy, does that change when you discover the joy of learning for itself. And you just want to be that reference to say, okay, yeah, now apparently I've got this now or I've learned something.

John Ellis:

Right. And it's funny, my kids always to this day, like, they struggle to they're mimicking me. I can see it. I'm trying to tell them it's okay, at the same time, push and shove but funnily enough over the summer, I always read, I'll read five to seven books in in a three month summer and nonfiction, I try and read something historical or economic or business something that's going to challenge me. And my kids are always like, do you have to read? Does your boss make you read? Does work make you read? It was as if this was mandatory. And in this past summer, my my my one daughter who's gonna is a senior this year, read three books. Now they were fiction, but she on her own sat and read. And I just said to her, I said, So what do you think? She said, dad this is amazing. Like it was she finally understood the joy of reading. Not because a teacher told her not because it was a requirement for school, but because she found joy in what she was reading. So I mean, as a parent, I can only like hope that happens to all my kids.

Andy:

Yeah, that's I can totally relate to that to that one. So you had this very this formative years where there was a level of expectation. It sounds really, really positive environment that you grew up in. Am I getting that right?

John Ellis:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was I was blessed. My father worked a lot. So he wasn't always home. But when he was home, he was a presence.

Andy:

But there was a strong appreciation for education and a level of expectation that you would work hard. And you said that withering look from your dad if your grades weren't there. Now, there was one part of the book where your dad said when you were I guess, in the later part of your education where your your father pointed, I think was your father pointed out that the the same credits you can do you know you cost the same college regardless of how much you do. And you took that to heart and really lent in at that stage.

John Ellis:

Yeah, no, I, I mean, I am super proud of what I did in college I am I'm pleased beyond Punch. But at the same time I sit here and I look back, and they're often those dreams like, I should have studied political science and only done 12 credits a semester. Because it was a lot. I mean, it was a lot. And you're right. He did say that that first semester when he was choosing credits, you know, his comment was whether you take 12, which was the minimum or 21 or 22, which is a max, the tuition remains the same. So if the tuition remains the same, why wouldn't you take as many credits as you possibly could

Andy:

get value for money out of that programme

John Ellis:

Yeah, yeah.

Andy:

So that resulted in you coming out with a phenomenal qualification. So just tell that tell me and the listeners, what you what you managed to do in that time.

John Ellis:

Yeah. So through a combination of, I mean, in the in the States, we have something called Advanced Placement, it's the opportunity to take college credit classes in high school so that before you even go to college, assuming you can pass a qualification exam, they'll give you credits, so they apply for credit. So the combination of that and showing up with a little bit of chutzpa and being able to force some teachers to test me, I was able to start my freshman year with already having a full freshman year worth of credits. Then I stayed five years with my father's idea of maxing out. So by the time I was done, it was funny, it was my senior year, so my fourth year, it was September, and I wasn't ready. I'm sure, most students, I wasn't ready to graduate. I mean, I was having a great time. I was besides school, I was just enjoying being at school, and was with the guidance counsellor, and I can still to this day, remember, she's like, well, you know, you actually have enough credits to graduate with two actual degrees, like, okay, great. And I'm not really processing what that means. And then she says, she, I don't know, she took a, she took a moment. And then she says well you know, if you if you actually did a few more things, you could probably graduate with three degrees. So, you know, that looked to me, like, oh, my gosh, this is an opportunity for me to stay a fifth year, I wasn't so much concerned about three degrees, I can avoid graduating for a whole nother year, I can stay in the womb of the school, I could stay here, oh my gosh. So I can remember the conversation, I called back to my parents. And I explained to my dad that I wasn't going to graduate and, and I had planned it out in my head. I was like, Okay, I'm not going to graduate this year. But before you get upset, understand that when I do graduate, you're gonna see me get three degrees. And so my dad's like, Excuse me, tell me more. And so I went through the whole Dad, you just gave me the whole economics. And so I went through it one more year, but I get an extra day. So I was using the argument against him, which is basically, I can pay for another school year, but then I'm getting a whole nother degree, which normally would take four years, and I'm getting it in one. So yeah. So on in May of 1990 I graduated and was called out, you know, the only student to have ever received three degrees simultaneously. And it's still it's if we can put it in quotes, it's a record, I guess it's still to this day, the record at the university, the only one foolish enough to take all the credits, do all the things stick around for as long as I did, and actually walk away with three degrees.

Andy:

And did you have to get up three times? Did they do it, was your name called out three times?

John Ellis:

No, they called my name out once. But then they made it a point of pointing out that he's going to be walking around with three degrees so yeah. So they gave me three I got three, three, whatever you call it the degree holders as I walked off the stage. Yeah.

Andy:

I was in awe when I when I read that. So

John Ellis:

again, it'd been in retrospect, it's it is impressive. And I will accept that that compliment from you. But at the same time, it's like, wow, like, you could have probably had a totally different college career. If you had study something a little less more, you know, a little less rigorous than engineering and the sciences and spend only four years there

Andy:

yeah, we can always find something to regret if we work hard enough. Yeah. So before we move on from there, I actually want to go back a bit and talk about languages and another thing that resonated with me in your book, was you had a pen pal when because this was probably before email when we were certainly before social media and you, like me, had a pen pal who you wrote to. And that had a huge impact on you didn't it?

John Ellis:

Yeah, it was a student that came to live with us first before I became a quote unquote pen pal. Yeah. My freshman year in the Spanish class as I as I always tell people, I misunderstood the question. I love him dearly and thankfully for my misunderstanding, we have a almost 40 year relationship now. But one of the instructors came in and asked about a willing person willing to take a Mexican exchange student for three or four weeks. The school I went to was a religious school and they had a sister school down in in Mexico. And yeah, I raised my hand and offered, talked to my parents, they were cool with it. And so yeah, we hosted Ricardo. And yeah, it was just it was super cool. April and May of my freshman year, he came and lived with us. And as I always, you know, today, in retrospect, tell people, right, it was, it was a super shock to the system. I mean, I grew up in a very traditional south side of Chicago, the people I would see the people I would talk to looked like me, sounded like me, talked like me, right? I mean, we got our news from the radio and the TV in terms of news and newspapers, there was no Internet, there was no nothing, you know. And so my whole worldview was very, very limited to that which I had been studying. So European history. But you know, the European history is, you know, way before the 20th century, 18th 17th 16th century, very little in the way of Latin America, very little in the way of politics, right. I mean, I was the very typical American who, you know, speaks one language and knows one culture. And so having him come and live was super eye opening, and super incredible. And yeah, it's now 40 years we've been together and friends and deep friendships and family and but it was a pen pal after that. So I mean, pen pal, probably doesn't, you're right. He was a pen pal later, but it was really a family. It was a family relationship.

Andy:

Yeah, that I've just made the leap because I liked that bit of the story and I had a pen pal, or I had a relationship that started as a pen pal and then I went to visit and for me, that was the time when I was say, 16 17 years old and I went over to France and stayed with a family who didn't speak, the parents did not speak a word of English. And I was forced to speak French. And I was got to know him and his friends. And I suddenly realised what the point of learning a language was that I could have fun now with different people. And the penny dropped. And then so it was really yeah, very powerful

John Ellis:

To this day, I will I'm often called upon by the local high school to talk about, you know, the power of language. And one of the things I will tell students is learning language is learning culture. I mean, at the end of the day, learning language is learning culture, and when you when you learn that culture, you realise they're just like us, I mean, at a level, they're just like us, human beings put their pants on the same way, you know, et cetera, et cetera, all the same, but that's so powerful. And when you can, when you can traverse that barrier, there's nothing better than a smile on the other person that like when you can tell, or they can tell a joke, and you can understand it, right? That moment is just, it makes everything it makes all the beatings from the teachers that you're missing out the conjugation, it just it makes all of that worth it. There's just there's no description in the world, that just how incredible it feels that you've suddenly mastered's the wrong word but you've you've you've, you've accomplished the ability to be able to share a very conceptual thought in a different language such that the other person understands it, but not only just understands it can laugh with you if it was meant to be laughed at. Or cried with you if you if it was meant to be cried at, right?

Andy:

Yeah, no, I totally agree. You've just remind me that that first moment where you make them laugh is it's truly special.

John Ellis:

It is very special. Yeah. So for all of you, listeners, if you haven't picked up a language, on behalf of Andy, myself, we encourage you strongly. It's never too late. Right? It's never too late.

Andy:

Although I think it gets harder.

John Ellis:

Oh, no, that's true. But it's never too late. But it does get harder. You're right. It does get harder. Yeah.

Andy:

So don't wait. Don't miss it. Don't miss a chance. And Spanish was one of the degrees you came out with wasn't it

John Ellis:

I did yeah. I was I was it was I was lucky enough to be able to do that. So yeah, a degree a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature funnily enough. Yeah.

Andy:

And Computer Science and Math.

John Ellis:

That's correct.

Andy:

What a what's the word? Polymath. Just a very broad spectrum. Okay, so you came out of university with these three, three degrees and what happened next? How clear were you on what you want it to do then and where you want it to go?

John Ellis:

Yeah, you know, as I said before, that September of would have been my fourth year, my first senior year, the expectation would have been at least in the States, you you'd begin your career planning, writing your resume, beginning to figure what you're gonna do, you know, interviews, et cetera, et cetera. And given that I was given the gift of a fifth year, or I chose to take a fifth year. So now my fifth year comes up, and there is no six year this is like you got you have to leave. So in that September, yeah, I guess I got friendly with the career office. And funny enough, the woman who was running the office was the wife of the man who had done the foreign exchange programme. So I was I was friendly with her already friendly with her husband. So it was it was very, I was probably maybe too comfortable with her. I mean, she's a she's a professor. But I was maybe too comfortable with her because I can still distinctly remember when I showed up, and I had a two page resume. And she says, this is you know, you can't do this. It's just gonna be one page. I'm like, why? Well, that's just the standard, like, so if you're telling me that a 30 year veteran, a CEO is going to show up with one page, come on. No way. And she's like, Well, no, no, but they have a lot more experience. I'm like, Well, look at this. This is not just this is not just BS experience, I actually have all this that I want to express. So she finally acquiesced helped me cut it, and it was it was a tight one and a half pages. But I You know what I didn't I didn't know. I mean, going into going into that first semester of college as a fifth year. I thought I might go to grad school. So I was taking graduate entrance exams to GRE, I thought I'd go to graduate school, maybe I was gonna study because I really loved the idea. I mean, my computer, my computer science, computer engineering, and my Spanish language. I loved the idea of translation. I love the I don't know what it was. But there's something in language and the ability to represent language in a mathematical construct. I was reading a book at the time for school called Godel, Escher, Bach. And it was about the magic of art, music and math, and the ability of how language kind of ties all them together. So I didn't I don't know so I was going Gradschool that I was going to take the I was gonna take the bar, I was gonna maybe go to be a Marine, I wanted to be a Marine and be a JAG, be an attorney that, you know in the military. I was, you know, as I mentioned, in the book, I had this huge, passionate in religious pursuits. I was thinking maybe I maybe had studied to be a priest, maybe I'd be a priest, maybe be a missionary bringing waters I had this idea of being an engineer and long hair and, you know, sandals and hanging out in South America. And so I had all these ideas I was pursuing and, you know, Sandy McGuigan, who's the career counsellor was was super great. She's like, you know, all those are great. They're all excellent. And I don't, I don't discourage you. But all of them right, are basically punting on the decision to work, on the decision to grow up for a period of time. So can I encourage you to fill out the resume, pursue diligently interviews, and however it works out, it works out, but at least you've got all your bases covered. So that's how I ultimately ended up getting getting an interview. I mean, I was gonna go I wasn't necessarily thinking about working, but, you know, she pushed it, which was great.

Andy:

Sorry, John, what did she mean by punting on the decision to go, did she mean, they were sort of like the wider you kept it, the less you were actually making a choice?

John Ellis:

Yeah, no, it was in her view of the world right, going to grad school, I mean, cuz she did go to grad school. So in her view of the world, going to grad school is your you're gonna, okay, you're kind of punting on, it's like, you still want to stay in school John. And if you're going to do this, like you still want to stay in school John. So like this is all those decisions were in the lens she was looking at, viewed as still wanting to stay in school. And she goes, it's time to move, it's time to leave school, it's time to to go out. It wasn't that she was dismissing any of them. She was just pointing out that right, great on all of them. And if they work out great, but you're you're talented enough that you could have another choice, which is to actually have a job opportunity. And now you can equally weigh all these opportunities, as opposed to four opportunities to just stay in school albeit on different paths. Now you have a totally different opportunity. And now you can truly balance them out. So that's where her head was in that space.

Andy:

Right? There was a whole dimension you hadn't yet experienced that she thought

John Ellis:

would be beneficial. Yeah.

Andy:

And that led to an interview.

John Ellis:

Yeah, I know, it was it was it was hilarious. I had done a few different things. And then I can still remember that Friday morning, I get a phone call. And she's like, Yeah, I need you to come in for this interview. I'm like for who? She was telling me and she told me the company and I knew who the company was. It was Motorola and I'd worked with their products for my engineering thesis. But I didn't I didn't it was gonna be the very first interview. Like I had no suit. No, no, no dress and she like I have already figured it out. So and so at your fraternity house. You can borrow that jacket and a tie here and you can get a shirt and my husband's got a tie. So like I showed up, she gave me the tie from from her husband, Professor Maguigan and I tied the tie and then went into the interview with a shirt of mine, a jacket from a brother and a tie from her husband. And sat for an interview a couple hours later.

Andy:

And there was a reason why this was so last minute?

John Ellis:

Well yeah, she at the time. So this is like right late 80s, it was during the late 80s, Motorola was on a tear, and Valparaiso had been trying mightily to give up Motorola to show up and be a corporation on campus. And so this was the first year that they had agreed to do it. And she was committed to making sure that the recruiter got a full deck of qualified candidates. And I guess I don't remember exactly what it was, but somebody something had happened and a slot open and it needed to be filled, and she was not going to let it go to waste. And again, fortuitously, it all worked out, because that is ultimately where I ended up. But yes, that was the interview.

Andy:

Yeah, I remember you saying you hadn't actually wanted to do this. But she said, Well, look, John, you owe me. Yeah, I let you I let you have the extra half page on your resume. You can do this for me. And you can go and fill that slot.

John Ellis:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Andy:

I love the irony of that. And then it obviously went well.

John Ellis:

Oh, it went fantastic.

Andy:

But I think am I right in remembering that it was because you were actually quite intrigued by what they were saying, it wasn't about whether they liked you or not. It was you actually thought hang on this could be quite interesting.

John Ellis:

You know what it was? It was, it was I mean throughout the course of these next few hours, there's going to be a constant me saying, Wow, I just had a lot of chutzpah, a lot of like, I maybe just didn't follow the normal procedures to the interview, which was to, you know, be it's not that I wasn't respectful. It was, it was more I was I was I was a little forward. And I was, you know, they were asking me questions. And so I mean, I answered them politely. And I answered them in completeness. But then I turned around and I pushed on them as like, Well, why should I want to work for you? Like I made them try and sell the why. And in retrospect, it really was because I didn't know enough about it like I hadn't, because it was such a short, short window. I didn't do any research. So I didn't even know what part of Motorola was hiring. I didn't know what they were looking for. I just knew it was software engineering and software development. And so it was it was a bit bold, but at the same time, it was intentional to like, Okay, help me sell me on this. But again, that's now a new, it's a new technique that I was it was tell me why, like, sell me. It's all great for me to tell you about why me but now sell me on why you? So yeah,

Andy:

I love that. That is really important, I think in approach, a mindset towards the mutuality of the row, the interview process. I'm just gonna make one point, which is me jumping around. And I think this is probably a symptom of me knowing some stuff that I don't normally know about a guest. But when I'd read the book, and I read that you'd come away with three degrees, computer science, math and Spanish, I thought my first reaction was, Wow, that's quite broad. And then I thought, no, hang on a minute. This is this is like perfect, because it's computer science like that language, you know code is like language of math. And it's it's really all fits together. It isn't it is broad, but it makes sense. You know that you've got math on one end, and you got Spanish on the other and you've maybe got computer science in the middle where you're speaking the language of computers. But

John Ellis:

Yeah, at least that's what I was telling myself to keep it to myself. It sounds good. It sounds good.

Andy:

Yeah, I was sold.

John Ellis:

So there you go. Excellent. My parents were sold. That's what was really important at the time.

Andy:

I was so sold, I thought it was my insight so there you go, which is perfect, isn't it? Now then, here we are. You've done the Motorola the first interview that you hadn't really you're doing it as a favour and they offered you a job and you went?

John Ellis:

Yeah.

Andy:

And how was your experience then?

John Ellis:

I mean, it was great. You know, I did my interview in February, you know, they gave me a callback to the interview in February and, you know, received a job offer. And I spent March and April, trying to figure out what I was going to do. This is of my senior year of my last senior year. And I can still remember just very distinctively with the he's a friend today but he was a friend then and he was a spiritual advisor at the time. You know, I had deep thoughts about you know pursuing a religious life, a very deep thought and I was at this time except, you know, super conflicted about really where I wanted to go to, I mean, Sandy Maguigan, the career counsellor's words really were echoing in my head, which, and again, for what she wanted to say, right, there's a broader world than just staying in the, you know, almost like the cocoon of the educational world. And so, you know, I spent a weekend with him, and, you know, deeply was questioning what to do next. And you know, I can still remember his words, he's like, this life will always be here, you really need to go and work. And the reason I say that to you, John, is because through that process, and only that process, can you truly discern what should be next? If this is meant to be, you're going to come back a more stronger, more balanced, more practised, technical person with a spiritual life, and if it's not meant to be, then you've also answered that question. So, you know, he was very supportive. And he's like, you know, there's not a problem to put your studies and your pursuit on hold, it will always be here if you wanted to come back. And so with that, I was like, great. And so I told Motorola, I'd take it. And I wanted to have a bit of a summer. And so yeah, I started July 30 1990, was my first day on a Monday, I walked into the campus of Motorola as a newly minted software engineer working for the big man.

Andy:

It's very good advice. I like that, it was very genuine thing to had your interests at heart in saying that.

John Ellis:

Well, at the same time, I mean, now now, almost 32 33 years later right, it makes perfect sense, right? Regardless of what angle you're going to do, if you're not fully you, you're not going to be able to give fully of yourself. And so being able to answer that question, Who are you is, is a necessary step to becoming a full person, meaning a full ability to deliver fully of yourself. Again, that's born of years now, but at the time, thankfully, he was able to sit there and tell me that and guide me that way.

Andy:

Yeah. And that was a very significant role, you were considering, a life role for yourself that you were considering with him. I think, a lesser in a sort of lower level, just something I don't know the answer to, but is younger people starting out unless you've actually tried stuff, you just don't know, whether you're gonna like it or not. And that's why I always ask my guests what roles they had visibility of when they're growing up, What did mom and dad do, and, you know, family members, so you can see where they might have got some influences from but it does sort of troubled me a little bit that you can encourage people to follow their passion and do their thing. But if they have no other experience of other things they compare, they got nothing to compare it to really so. Did you think when you got to Motorola that this was the right place for you?

John Ellis:

You know, even even now, at the tender mid 50s age that I am I don't know that I'm fully, you know, fully aware of what's right or wrong in terms of the grand scheme of things. So back then it was it was a great salary. I didn't even realise right 90s I didn't realise the role that cellular was going to play. I didn't, I didn't realise any of what of what that was. And so it was fun. It was a good group of people. It was challenging. I was getting paid for it. I was able to use what I had learned. But I did what I do, which was I'm I'm well, I'm I'm a technical I'm a I have a huge, soft emotional side. So unlike many of the people I was working with, I went and sought out other people, I would seek out all sorts. And so in that first, probably three months, I just, I learned and I saw and I was like this is interesting. And so it was good, then it was right then. But I don't know that I never I wasn't necessarily intentionally thinking about that. It just it didn't feel wrong. So by definition, it was

Andy:

Yeah. And you'd already reached that point where you right. could be curious for its own sake and learn for the sake of learning and enjoy that as a way of being. You mentioned, for example, in your interview, you were kind of not your average interviewee and I was going to ask you, did you stand out? Did you behave differently than your colleagues? And yes, you you did, it sounds like you you metaphorically sort of walked around, well maybe not even metaphorically, but physically wandered around and

John Ellis:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think I wrote about it in the book for a bit but I just where I lived, I lived at home, it was a 40 41 42 mile drive. And with traffic the way it was, I'd usually be up and out by five. And so getting to the office hours before anybody else. I mean hours, some of these people didn't show up until 8.30 or nine. I was like I had the lab fully to myself. So I did you know what my dad so just pulled back on those life skills, I was like, How does something work? And so I was learning, you know, I'd set myself every day a goal, like I was trying to learn how a piece of hardware worked, or how does the power work? And so it was today, we might call it systems thinking you know bigger understanding, how do I fit into this piece? What do I do, but I was truly trying to understand like, what this thing was that I was adding my small bit of software to, and trying to push myself to learn more, so that what I delivered could be better. It wasn't really an intent, today it's an intentional playbook, back then it was just the thing I did. And it was beneficial. And now that I've understood that I've captured it, and I continue to use it as a skill. But back then I was just, I had three hours to kill and reading the paper didn't seem to be the right thing to do. So I literally was going to the lab every day and spending the time to try and learn and pick things up.

Andy:

Yeah. And reading about that and hearing you say it, it's no surprise that you got as far as you have, because of all that extra you were doing. Were you imaginative in that role. Were you, I'm not sure if this question works or not. But I'm just thinking of the visionary side of, you know, the book's very visionary, the ideas that you share, in that, and we'll talk about that in due course, but did the art side of your bringing and education helped you maybe be able to leverage your imagination and see how products could work together? And in making things?

John Ellis:

To a degree yes, but probably I mean, two immediate observations just came back to mind as you were asking the question. One is, I certainly became more of a pain in the ass to those around me when you know through because of of again, Spanish literature, it's in Spanish, but you're learning how to write spending a lot of time writing and in the pursuit of writing, I'd go and destroy a document, like, where's the comma you know, I mean, just I was almost pricklyish in terms of the things and people would give me all sorts of grief. And, and my retort back to them was listen, you go to a compiler, and you'll get your errors thrown all the time, just pretend this as a human compiler, if this isn't something we're going to use to read and preserve, then why are we wasting our time writing? So if it's worth the writing, we should make it right. Right. I never was taught that in an engineering that that came from the art side, but to your very specific point about the creativity or the imaginative. It wasn't so much in how to design products, but as in trying to understand how they came together and worked and then being able to explain them. So again, we're jumping in timing, but I spent a lot of time quickly because of Spanish language in front of customers. And the requirement then to be able to speak to them, explain to them share to them what's happening, why it's happening. These things were all born from that creative, imaginative side. How to tell a story. So this is the problem. But I'm not going to tell you the maths and the science, we're going to we're going to figure out a different way and analogy, we're going to figure out a different way to share it or explain it to you. Certainly that does, when we when you when you talk about imaginative or creative, certainly Steve Jobs comes to mind or Johnny Argent. Never was I in that camp, never, even to this day, I'm not necessarily in the camp of product design. But the ability to understand how dots connect, and then to be more importantly, to explain that to the opposing side so that decisions can be taken, right that that part right there. That's creative. For me.

Andy:

It sounds like a really powerful blend of skills and competencies that you had and sort of full disclosure from my side, I'm on a bit of a mission to promote liberal arts and any imaginative, creative learning that you do, how powerful it can be in business. And we need not just the math side, but we need and the sciences, but we also need people who think differently as well.

John Ellis:

I might just add to it that the colour you just said is it is certainly to think differently. But I honestly believe that many of the artists and I use that term just in quotes, artists, there's no concept of failure per se. Like you're pursuing art, you're trying something sure you might not hit it. But that's not failure. That's that's growing and learning and moving on. Right? They have a very different perspective of the world. And you need that element of being unafraid. Because the world is absolutely filled with failure. And unless and until you're doing something that's challenging you or you're going to fail, like you're not truly full. So the artistic part of that world teaches you how to pursue without feeling like you're failing. It's just part of growing and learning and being able to better express the music or the art or the picture or whatever it might be

Andy:

brilliant. Yeah, yeah, you've added to that, I hadn't, you know, thought about that specifically, but you know, thinking of someone learning a musical instrument, or as you say, learning a language, they just the number of times you slip up, and you just go again and go again and go again. Until you get it

John Ellis:

Right, until there's that laughter right, that smile on the other side of the table. makes it all worthwhile.

Andy:

Really cool. Well, thanks for going there. It was a bit of a work in progress question, but it was interesting. How did the journey progress then through through Motorola despite you being difficult, maybe or, you know, pretty high standards, high, high, high standard expectations?

John Ellis:

Yeah, well, I mean, a combination of of spending all that time in the summer of 90 in the early part of the fall of 90, coupled with my language skill, Motorola had won a contract with Spain, Telefonica for the in anticipation of the 92 Olympics, and they needed some in ground support. So, you know, this, this started my pursuit of travel, which to this day, I still still love to pursue, but I found myself in Barcelona for six or seven weeks working with a in country team. And my time at Motorola was defined in the infrastructure business was, you know, constant travel, constant development, constant work. And in delivering these, again, back then it was it was interesting. It was fascinating, but it was never viewed as life altering. I mean, it's just it was, as my wife says, it's just cellular, Gosh, darn it, like, it's just well, because I'd be on these phone calls, you know, at the time when we were dating, and she'd be like, I'd miss a dinner because I'm on a on a customer support call. And she'd be like, it's just cellular. It's just cellular. And I'm like, Yeah, but you know, and today, of course, looking back at it, in my house, we only have cell phones. Now we've gotten rid of the landline. So it's not just it's just cellular, yes, it is just cellular. And it's life, you know, it's a life changing kind of technology. But back then it just, I never never had that perspective. It was just it was just something else. And it was something on the side, it was just not integrated the way it is today. So it's just it's hard to explain. I was telling some some young kids in high school we were going through this, they just they cannot grasp what it was like to have 19 different pieces of equipment on my desk and a phone and voicemail and voicemail was the newfangled thing and like fax machine, like, they just have zero concept of what this was all all like, and it's just fascinating to think about it. But the journey was great. It was learned a lot and continue, you know, continue to pay. So it was really, at the time, I was always giving grief to my friends on the on the mobile device side. Without us you're just a very fancy and heavy

Andy:

So you travelled a lot with the role and sometimes away paperweight. for a few weeks at a time. A few weeks, a month at a time. Yeah. There was one story where a particular buy or you learned some skills from some of the teammates you were with about how to treat people?

John Ellis:

Oh, yeah. So I mean, the bar unfortunately doesn't exist anymore for those who are who are active listening. It was called Massey Mass and it was in Barcelona. But yeah, there was a, Motorola at this time, the field engineering team was pulling a lot of former Her Majesty's military men and women who had done military service by headspin specialised in electronics. And so they were pulling them out and they were putting them in the field and, and I got friendly with them. And it was near on my first assignment, it was near to, I don't know, maybe early December, so into the holiday spirit. And I could just still remember myself, Martin Hunter, Dan. Again, there's about six of us. And we went for an afternoon pint and it was a long afternoon. And the bill comes and I'm thinking trying to do the calculation, 10%, whatever, blah, blah, blah. They're like, Oh, no, pay like double the bill. And tip. And I just could not understand what they were doing. And this went on, like, we did this three or four days in a row. And I just was like, guys, this is an outrageous amount of tip, like, maybe the bar bill's $100. We're giving $200. It just was just an incredible amount of money. And then that Friday night, because this is maybe my first week in town that Friday night, they're like, Okay, we're gonna go to the bar. I'm like, okay, great. We show up and the bar was just slammed. I mean, there was just nobody. Nobody was was no just no seats. And so they again, I can still remember he pushed me forward. He says, Stand up, you're the tallest guy and look for him, wave your finger. And I did and he saw us and he gave me the five. And then he came and found us. And then he found us a table. And sure enough, they attacked me. They're like, you treat them well. You tip them well, they will turn around and make it make it so that you always get something in return. I mean, again, I'm 23 And it makes sense today in my mid 50s, but back then it was like, wow, that's okay. That's that's pretty genius. Genius. Yeah, exactly, exactly. I don't I don't tip 100% anymore. I tip but not not that not nearly to 100. My bills are a lot bigger. But yeah, it's just it is the, you know, treat people nicely do the right thing, especially if I'm on a business trip, if I'm gonna be at a place regularly. It is nice, where they get to know you and they get to know who you are. And they, you know, they just yeah, they treat you nicely, right? They just do a little bit extra, they make sure that the coffee is always full, or they just they just, it's just, again, it's the service industry. And people respond well, when people acknowledged them through through right through through means so

Andy:

yeah, and respect and yeah, I enjoyed that. enjoyed that story. What is there more Motorola that we should dive into?

John Ellis:

Oh, my gosh, I was an expat in China for a few years. I was an expat in Ireland for a few years. I did a an expat.

Andy:

Let's do China. Let's because that's always the exotic.

John Ellis:

That's the exotic one. Yeah.

Andy:

From a from a European or US perspective, certainly. And the most challenging and it was some time ago, it wasn't it was it was 93 or 96. Yeah, so that's a very different China than the one

John Ellis:

Oh, in fact, yeah, I was just, I was doing some work just last week with a friend of a colleague, and we were talking about our time, he had been in China, but he was in China like 2012 to 15 or 14 15. So totally different. But yeah, I was I had the chance to go over with Motorola so, you know, 1989 was June, June of 1989, was the uprising, and most most western businesses pulled out after after that. Motorola stayed and because of that, in, in sort of the 92 93 timeframe, Motorola was given an opportunity to bid and won and was doing a whole bunch of infrastructure work. So a whole bunch of us were sent over. So it was like 100 expats were sent over to basically build, train, teach and get China self sufficient. It was a 20 year vision to become completely self sufficient in terms of delivering, managing and understanding the technology, the servicing, the offerings. So yeah, moved over an end of 93 and stayed until the middle of 96.

Andy:

And how much of a culture shock was that?

John Ellis:

Massive, I mean, sure, I've now spent a total of two, two and a half, three years, grown you know, spending time throughout Latin America and Europe, where I spent spent an extended period of time in Spain, I was just off being a translator at the Olympics so I had done

Andy:

Let me just pause. We can't just let that go, throw away line, you were a translator at the Olympics. Just go into

John Ellis:

Yeah, ok, we'll pause on China. So in one of the that. trips in Spain, I had met this woman, Maria Teresa, and I became friendly with her and she was her father was French, her mother was Spanish. And she, you know, we were chatting away and having fun. And she was telling me that she had just recently signed a contract to be a translator with US mission to the Olympics. I'm like, that's the thing. I guess. Again, if I were to step back and think about it, of course, it's a thing. But at the time, I didn't know this. I'm like, wow, that's a thing she does. Yeah, I'm like, I would love to do that she goes no all the positions are full. But then like, a day later, she comes back, she's I was talking to a good friend of mine, she is with the actual Olympic commission. And assuming you can pass tests, she'd love to have you like, Okay, let's go, again, that chutzpa. Okay, let's go, what do we need to do? So there was an in person written test and an in person, you know, an actual translation into an actual interpreting test, I passed both of them and was offered the opportunity to be to be a translator. So, you know, as I remember it, I sat down with my folks at Motorola once I got this and I said, Listen, I know that this is kind of a strange thing, but I want to take, I want to take some time off. And they're like, What am I it's like, I'm gonna take a leave of absence. And I'm gonna go do a translation in the Olympic Village. And they were like, no, no, we're not going to do that. We don't we don't we barely give time off to people. But we're not going to do it for somebody who only has two years. And I said, Okay, great. Well, then, in that case, here's my resignation. And they didn't want me to resign because I was again, I was the only one who spoke Spanish and this engineering problems like 400 people. So my, my, my bosses were so good. They worked, it went up to the Vice President of the division, but they were all they kind of had a private meeting and they came back and they said, Listen, you have a lot of overtime because at this time they were paying overtime. So this is the this is the world we lived in, right? They paid over time. I mean, this is bi corporate America, they paid overtime, I had a lot overtime hours left that they hadn't paid out, they said continue to continue to work the overtime, accrue it, we'll draw it down in terms of your time off. And then when you get back, we'll continue to will basically be building an account of how many hours you owe back to us in overtime that we will not pay. So in essence, I was able to leave, like, I don't know, early June and come back end of August, not work, get paid for it, and basically live in Spain and be a translator. And it was like, it was amazing. It was fantastic. It was It was spectacular.

Andy:

It does sound and it's a really good example of how you operated and how you thought. When you were telling that story again now I just thought it sounds a little bit more like what I'm hearing that younger people in the workplace want to be able to do. It's the kind of freedom that younger people want to they expect to be able to get with their employers and you were demonstrating you were sort of piloting that or pioneering it 20 odd years ago.

John Ellis:

I'm glad that's how we're gonna frame it.

Andy:

Yeah, not oh, my God, what an absolute management nightmare that you were. No, very cool, very cool. Let me take a moment to tell you about our sponsor. Could you use some additional experience resources who can work alongside you and your team on a flexible basis to help you achieve your priorities. I started Aquilae in 2016. And since then, we've worked internationally with established automotive OEMs, EV startups, fintechs, and insurance companies to achieve their unique mobility goals. Aquilae team members are highly experienced senior leaders with complementary areas of expertise who've run businesses and divisions internationally in our industry. Because we've all had many years experience of operating in the industry ourselves, we don't just advise our clients on what to do. Instead, we tend to work alongside them delivering their specific projects. We're happy to develop strategy, and we're equally happy to then get involved delivering the plan. Mobility businesses are all about people, processes and technology. We leverage our Aquilae Academy for people development, and Aquilae Consulting for those wider business topics. To give you some examples of the sort of work we do through the Aquilae Academy, we work with CEOs and their first line to develop cohesive leadership teams. We create continuous learning environments for leadership development, we develop bespoke programmes to improve the performance of specific teams, and we provide one to one coaching for high performing individuals. To give you some examples of the sort of work we do through Aquilae Consulting. We help create paperless digital end to end customer journeys for direct consumer finance and subscription models. We conduct strategic reviews. For example, one client asked us what's the best financial services structure for each market we operate in. We produce feasibility studies for new market entry, we advise on and support regulatory applications. We help design, implement and monitor regulatory compliance procedures. We run tenders and vendor selection projects, we conduct end to end operational reviews to improve effectiveness and efficiency. If you're looking for some help with people or business topics, and you like the idea of having some additional very experienced resources, who can work flexibly alongside you, please get in touch with me for a conversation. You can email me directly at andy@aquilae.co.uk. Okay, let's get back to our episode. Back to China. Sorry, I wasn't going to let you get away with that

John Ellis:

No, no, no, no, that's fine. So in terms of the culture shock, right, I mean, I it was striking. I had never been to Asia right. So I showed up with this idea of, I'm going to learn the language. And I'm going to start like I had just done all that I'm going to do all this I'm going to immerse I'm going to do all this stuff. And the reality was strikingly different. Just it was. It's hard to explain, but in the when I showed up in late 93. So it was like, what was that October, November, December timeframe. I think there was a total of 5000 foreigners in Beijing.

Andy:

Wow.

John Ellis:

There was one foreign bar, which was called Frank's place. And it was right across the street from the People's Congress. And it was the place where all expats went. And it was unique. He was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but his wife was Chinese. And I found out later that it was her brother or some family member was was a member of the PLA and an investor in the bar, which is why he had the very first licence for this this foreign bar. But it was super super. I mean, I was meeting Brits, Canadians, New Zealanders all it was just that we were just a collection of well this basically say collection of Westerners, regardless of your country or your business were all thrown together. Black and white, colour was not an issue. And it was sort of us against them for a while and then it was like us and them and then it was just it was just super. You know, today that camaraderie doesn't exist. There's, it's just so westernised. I was over recently, there's just there's not the same. Like we would go to the embassy part of these five or six embassies they would offer because there was no places to go. There was no foreign bars, the embassy military attache is where we host parties. So like the Americans, the Marines would host a party in the in the Marine barracks, and the Canadians would host it in the Canadian barracks. And to join it to come in, you had to have a Western passport. And then like, I was drinkin Molson for like 10 cents a bottle. Because of, you know, import taxes, nothing of that it was just, you know, it was just it was, you know, Western Germany existed back then. So like, there was the Western German Embassy. It was just so, so interesting, and so different. And I, you know, I'm just, if I have any regrets, one regret is I did not force myself to truly, truly, truly learn Chinese. I mean, I have a moleskin with 100 phrases. But you know, we're working 50 60 70 hour weeks. And it just, it was I never threw myself into learning the language and culture, because it was so unattainable. Like, in a Western language like even German there is a way to transcribe it, understand it, find it, there's a sense there's a sense of similarity that I could make leaps. And it was not that in China. And so it was different, but it was beautiful. I mean, I loved my time to this day was absolutely spectacular. Fantastic. Really, really life changing.

Andy:

Yeah. So John, China, you did China, where else did you find yourself?

John Ellis:

And then I did a five year stint in Ireland. Yeah, right over the water from you

Andy:

yeah. But also so I mean, Americans love to connect with Ireland don't they. That's my might be my very high level you know, there's just seems to be a very strong attachment.

John Ellis:

Yes. Yeah.

Andy:

Was it special to go there?

John Ellis:

It was special. Number one, I mean, for sure. It was special. It was shocking, right to have come off this, my time in Spain, which had been, you know, four or five years earlier, my three years in China. And then to come to Ireland was like, just

Andy:

From China to Ireland, that is

John Ellis:

was just shocking, right? And then to be thrust in and again, not have any understanding of the politics and history. And right, what was going on, you know, the Irish government and what was happening between North and South, you were starting, you know, the EU, we were just all of the common currency. Like, I mean, at the time, there was no common like, all those things were at the forefront of my time in Ireland, and it was just it was super fascinating and super interesting. And I guess that a very stark difference similar, more similar to the States in terms of the people, language, etc. But just shockingly different. And it was so it was a nice juxtaposition from where I had come from Yeah,

Andy:

It would take a while to think of a greater contrast I think than 90s Beijing to Cork

John Ellis:

to use cork Ireland because again, that was the you guys was it was a call the tiger right? The Irish Tiger. I mean, it was just the economy was blowing. UK economy was blowing, just that whole that whole upper western Europe economy was blowing out, the EU was spending inordinate amounts of money on road projects and infrastructure. It was it was very, very, very cool. Very cool.

Andy:

And in terms of your wife, was she with you on these travels or who were you not married yet? Or

John Ellis:

no, no, we weren't? No, we weren't. I'd known her or I should say I always like to say I met in quotes but I've known Karen since I was one year old.

Andy:

Oh, that's cute

John Ellis:

yeah. Her, her dad and my mom went to grammar school together. Her mom and my mom went to high school and college together and we grew up a few miles apart. She went to school with my sister's like, I've known her for a very, very long time. Her mom this newfangled thing called AOL email. I can remember in 93 when I was going to China, she says, I got this new thing. I'm gonna if you're okay can I can I write you? I'm like, oh, yeah, sure. So she kept me abreast of things that were happening at home and yeah, so no, we she and I started dating in 98. I came home fancy enough for Patrick's Day St. Patrick's Day and ran into her in a bar. Next thing you know, we're talking and we've been talking ever since. So it was. Yeah. So she moved out in September of 98 and spent the next year and a half with me.

Andy:

Good, good, good. So back to work back to the professional journey. Were these and you are doing all the hard work. I'm going riding roughshod over my usual chronological approach. So thank you for thank you for hanging in there. These roles Spain, and then and then China, then Ireland. Were these still Motorola?

John Ellis:

Well, they were they were absolutely, yeah.

Andy:

And tell us how the Motorola did you stay with them after Ireland? What happened next? And

John Ellis:

yeah, yeah, so moved home at the end of 99 and stayed with them for another another 10 years. Was in infrastructure group through left left, the traditional cellular infrastructure group moved to something at the time, this newfangled technology called Idin, which was this push to talk technology, it was this fancy. Nextel was the name of the carrier, you'd see it with all the plumbers and electricians and all the blue collar workers having it, the ability to push a button and instantly talk like a walkie talkie. But it was also a cell phone. Now, I did that for a few few years with Motorola. And then I ended up in the mobile devices business unit from 2005 to 2010. And started doing stuff in again, this big systems thinking, it was the the ability to start thinking about these products as more than just a phone, right? It was a computing device. And so what would you do? And how would you do it? So I was proud to be a part of the team that did the first figured out how to do the first over the year updating. So we did today, we take advantage of all this. But we did the first Linux on a cell phone, which you know, today is your your Android and your Apple are all based on that right? We did the first updating of software, we did the first application downloads, which today is the app economy, right? So was part and parcel of the team that did much of actually almost all of that work in the mobile devices unit across the board. Right, the first app store, the first downloads, the first updating the first SDK is the first developer and really became interested again, that that idea of trying to understand how things work, became fascinated with the bigger picture, like how does this play a role in and so got very comfortable learning about ecosystems, learning about the technology to allow someone like you Andy to write an application for a product that I've built without knowing my product, right? That whole space happened between 05 and 2010.

Andy:

So very much at the beginning of a lot of things that we take for granted, now.

John Ellis:

Correct

Andy:

When you said when you sat down with your sort of spiritual guide early on, and then you talked about you need to know yourself, before you can really give yourself, is there a point in your career where you started to be really clear on who you were and what you were looking for, and felt that you were owning it and making choices to get closer to what you wanted? versus what the business wanted you to do or what the next exciting thing might have been? It doesn't matter if there wasn't, but I'm just curious whether that happened?

John Ellis:

Yeah, it happened probably, well, maybe it just happened probably more than this number, but distinctively at least twice, in maybe, well, maybe three times at Motorola, the first one was in China on the Great Wall of China one night, and really came to realise that, you know, I can be a spiritual person without having to pursue a spiritual, necessary spiritual life in terms of a religious life. And so I made a decision in the 94 timeframe to to not to not go back. And so I formally resigned and withdrew from religious studies. It was probably the first one where I knew what I that that's not so much I knew who I was, but I knew who I wasn't going to be. Right. So by the process of elimination. The second one was, it was a hard one. And it was in and around the 2002 maybe 2003 timeframe. And that was where I had been on this technical track where I was a individual contributor and on the engineering track, and was getting ready and putting my book together to be, you know,our promotions were predicated on technical accomplishments. And as you went up levels, the accomplishment requirements were more, right, the endorsements were more etc. And so I was doing, you know, it was pretty much like the military, if you stayed in grade, you got the promotion, but then it came a time where it was really now this is where we distinguish, quote, unquote, the men from the boys. This is where it really comes down to it. And I did the first book and I received it. And then it was working on my second book for my next promotion. And it was really like, I was good. But there was a lot of people better than me. And I began to realise that this kind of engineering work this this was not passionate for me. I liked it. I was good, but I wasn't great. And I wasn't deriving passion. So it's a formal process to withdraw and move yourself off the tracks at Motorola at that time. And so I did that. But it was a it was a, because once you've done it, it's really hard to go back. This is kind of a you don't return once you've made the decision. And so I made that decision. And it took a long time to come to that decision. But then I did. And that's the second time of like, great, I like tech, I'm good with tech. But I like business. And I want to talk about the business of tech. And I want to figure out how tech can support business and it was just, I want to be a conveyor of the tech, not necessarily the, the progenitor of I don't need to create it. I can create other things around it within respect to how it's delivered and how its consumed. That was a huge insight. And then the third one was, was really probably, and I think it will say it was there was was in in around the time when I was at mobile devices, which was this whole idea of everything before a bit about Motorola, Bill, Bill, Bill, sell, sell, sell Motorola. And suddenly we're faced with this idea of this is a computing device. And maybe maybe our role is to make it so that Andy follows can build something and put it on our product. And so began this journey of combining technical understanding with business understanding and saying Great, how do I how do I enhance the business of the thing that we've just built. And that was a whole that was passionate. That was where I suddenly was like, Holy crap, this is the entire world, my entire journey has been focused on getting to this point, this point where I can take, I understand how it works, I understand how the network works, I understand how the business works, I can get to somebody like Andy and say, Andy, you should build. And if you build, then a business can use what you've built on my thing, and I'll sell more of my thing, you'll sell more of your thing, and the business will be able to do something with it. That was a huge, huge insight. And the beginnings of the idea of this will say the app economy, the ecosystem economy, the world that we live in today,

Andy:

I think that's brilliant, lovely that you and you're so clear on those three different moments when you had those thoughts. And this idea of the convergence of everything you've ever done, and that happens to a number of my guests, they'll find themselves and they get so excited, and I've had it myself where you suddenly realise hang on a minute looking at this role I'm going to do I'm going to be able to use everything I've ever done. Right you know, going back to where I started, it's going to feature in this next this next phase.

John Ellis:

Yes, it's my opus. It's my opus

Andy:

Let's be really grand about it. And why not? Why not? Okay, so we are an automotive podcast that as my friend Mike Wetherall christened us he said, where we're about humans, not machines. So that's why I obsess around the career story and

John Ellis:

hang on a second, you're an automotive podcast? I'm not an auto guy, what are you talking about? oh, man.

Andy:

I just sometimes I take huge liberties with my guest list, but not really because of course, you are the guy who wrote The Zero Dollar Car and that has got automotive in it. And more than that, you more than qualify, because you've also spent some time at Ford. So for any automotive listeners who are still with us and

John Ellis:

They've probably gone by now.

Andy:

Yeah, that's fine. You know, it's not compulsory.

John Ellis:

It's their loss.

Andy:

Exactly. It's not compulsory. So you also spent some time at Ford. How did the transition come about to go from Motorola to Ford?

John Ellis:

Well as with all good careers, right, you gotta be fired. This is this again, going back to Sandy McGuigan and Professor McGuigan at Valparaiso where you need to open up you need to get out of the cocoon. I had spent 20 years at Ford er Motorola and I was in a cocoon, I was loving it. At the same time, I was also very aware that I probably needed to leave, I needed to do something different. My passion was beginning to wane. And but I just couldn't be motivated to go figure it out. And so yeah, I you know, it came to be that by the end of that 20 year time, Motorola was changing, and I was given papers to walk. And it was probably the best it was best

Andy:

Did you think so at that time? experience ever.

John Ellis:

Oh, no, gosh no, gosh no. I mean, I had four kids young. I was unclear what I was going to do. I'd never you know, thanks to Sandy, I had chosen working over these other other thing. I had done some advanced degrees. I mean, I was qualified, but I was like, Oh my gosh, I need to what am I going to do, right? There's the immediately what am I going to do? And you know, having 20 years in a big corporation, you get a you get a safety net. And so in the course of that safety net, I began to figure out what I wanted to do and I began consulting. And I had created my consulting company at the time Ellis and Associates just to do things, you know, little stuff I was teaching in grad schools, I was doing some cultural training. And so I began to consult and an open source in software. Towards the last few years of my time at Motorola I'd become very proficient in in open source in terms of what it was and the business of open source and how it was a game changer for for product development and companies. And so I found myself doing consulting work. And as with every, and I try and do it today, I mean, people reached out like, Hey, I can't give you a job, but I can give you a gig. Do you want to do want to take a two month assignment? Do you want to do something here, right. So through the course of some very good friends, and some very good contacts and colleagues, I was able to build a book and do some consulting work, plus the safety net, try and figure out what I wanted to do. And it was in the course of doing that work, that Ford found me and asked me if I would write them a paper on the connected car, basically, the business of the connected car. So this is the this is moving into the end of 2010, early part of 2011. And you know, the idea of connected car was just new term, just coming into the pylons. So I said, Sure. And I wrote them the paper, they liked it. And so then they offered me offered me a job. So that's that's how it came to be.

Andy:

And what was it it Ford where you came up with this genius, I thought genius comment that you told them if you're not getting people complaining about me, saying that you should fire this guy, then you should fire this guy. Which seemed to me absolutely perfect. You can't loose

John Ellis:

Again, that chutzpa going on there? Right? I mean, that? Or was it hutzpah right? The er just, yeah. Yeah. Later in life, and it was at my time at Ford, when I was trying to write up some rules, right at Motorola, I had come across this idea of the concept of the ability of writing yourself a user manual, right? So we have user manuals or product manuals for products. What about having a user manual for how people should engage with me, like, specifically if they work for me? And so I began diligently the idea of trying to write down things like like, if you if you are working for me, what should you know? Like, how should you how should you know me so that we work best together? And one of the things that I was able to distil my hutzpah comment into was, you know, never disrespectful, always irreverent. It was just, you know, the idea of tradition for traditions sake, chafed me. It just really bugged me when someone says, Well, that's how we do it, or that's what it's like. But even back to Sandy. Well, John, you should only have one page, right? It was just, I didn't I had never distilled it. But it was always it was a level of irreverence to this, this sort of tradition. And being able to be respectful about it. Right. So never disrespectful, but always irreverent. Always asking challenging pushing. Yeah, so when I, whenever when we were talking about it with, you know, throughout the interview process at Ford they're like, Okay, so what do you think? I'm like, I'm telling you right now, this, this is like, you're you're committing to change, and I'm there for it. But change is hard. Change is painful. Changes, change management's pain management, that's the new phrase, today, people are gonna start complaining. And you guys have to be prepared that people are going to be complaining, right? So and these complaints will take many forms, I didn't realise what forms they'd take. Like today I have much, much more insight. But these complaints will be profound. There'll be complaints about anything and everything just because again, change is hard. Yeah.

Andy:

I'm smiling so wide, because that never disrespectful, always irreverent is brilliant.

John Ellis:

You can use it

Andy:

Thank you. That is, I love it. I love it. It really resonates. What a strapline and it is a great intro to a question around traditional OEMs. So like the likes of Ford, and then we've got all these new disruptors, got so many new brands coming in a lot out of China, some from the West Coast of the US, and what are your thoughts on how the task that the traditional OEMs have to to transform compared with the tasks that the new entrants have?

John Ellis:

I mean, there's there's lots of different, you know, ways we could we could slice that question or better yet the answer. I think, again, in terms of irreverence, what I would say to people today when asked is the the auto industry today doesn't have a car problem. They have a business problem, business model problem, a business problem. You know, this idea of integrating software into a product and being able to change the product characteristics over time. Right? That is, that is so such a fundamental change to the way in which products have been built historically. And unfortunately, it just, it's still seemingly not 100% there across all the OEMs. Right. I mean, if you super interesting, I was just doing some consulting work this summer doing some more research and, you know, was able to pull up a story for Tesla to Tesla has been doing software updates, right, since 2012, when the first Model S came out. And I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I think I think they've done something like 70 major software releases since 2012. And the Model S in 2012, is able to take all of them. Now, some of the features are are not applicable, right, because they don't have the underlying hardware. But then Tesla this summer just did a major programme called a head unit upgrade, you could go in spend $2,000, and buy a brand new head unit that would change your 2010 Model S, it would be equivalent to in terms of head unit experience to a 2022 model s, I was talking to another OEM and they're like, why would they do that? Why won't you just go buy another car? And I'm like, they did it because it was additional revenue, someone's not going to buy 100,000 50,000 70,000 We're not going to buy another car just for the head unit but then this company, this person becomes so much more loyal. Like there's so much more capability that they're now able to take advantage of additional revenues that they're able to buy into from software updates and others it was but it was just it was it was flabbergasted, they, they were just so floored, that that would be something you would even even contemplate, right, they just like the 2010 models, we don't even talk about them anymore. I mean, we might have some parts in the part bin way in the back. But we don't even like they're not it's not even in our catalogue anymore, right? This this whole model. It's just, it's so fascinating. And so what I always tell people is Tesla's not a car company. They're an energy company, software company. They're a software company dedicated to energy and are choosing very different form factors to deliver the experience. One's a car, one might be a roof, solar energy, etc. But there are software first company, they think like that. And when you are a software first company, just everything changes. And that's that's the challenge that the traditional OEMs are facing is they just, they have leadership problems, because they don't have leaders who have historically understood software and understand what software first made. So again, lots of different ways to slice it, it's going to be an interesting challenge over the years, but that but that's why we have these new incumbents or the new people coming in, you'll see when you look at leaders, they bring some auto people but a lot of them are VPS offer from Apple. I was over pay big they come from a software company, and then they're going to come over and figure out how to deliver that inside of inside of a vehicle.

Andy:

It's fundamental, is they talk a lot about paradigms and the impact a certain paradigm has on every single downstream thought and action, you might take and brilliant example, if if you think like a software company versus if you think like a car manufacturer, you're gonna have to you can't just, you can't keep up with it with all the behaviours, you can't just change all your actions, trying to spot you have to change the fundamental paradigm. Or, you know, that's why they're so different. Very interesting. And I told you I spent a couple of years at Tesla myself and totally support your description of what they are an energy company, software company, who happens to to be in cars. How do they is there's something traditional OEMs can can do change the leadership change their somehow change their paradigm?

John Ellis:

I mean, it is I don't I don't suggest for a moment that it's easy, right. But I think we're seeing it now as we begin to see Volkswagen try and spin out right, it's what is it called for tour of the CDI, whatever their whatever that mix been out is right? We see BMW trying to spin out we see for trying to split the company into 40. And the traditional it is, it is not easy. I don't know necessarily how best to do it. But I do know that it is you know, if you don't have the leaders that have the experience, you're not this isn't something you can get consultants to just consult you through. You know, the Ford I can just stay with Ford because that's where I'm at. I mean, I can make the same comments to the rest of the industry. But you know, Jim Farley is a fantastic individual right solid marketer understand solidly the business of the traditional auto space. His board again, solid, but none of them have the experience. And none of them have hired in the experience necessarily to do this wholesale change. And so, you know, months, what I would experiences is there's I think there's a big middle that has done it just the same way over and over, they've survived management changes, they've survived executive office changes, they've survived, like, they've survived by shipping product. And I think that's the middle that needs to really fundamentally grasp this. They've got to be given reasons to and they've got to be given a roadmap to and I think we're, we're a long way from that, in terms of seeing this into the automotive. So I'm not really sure how it's gonna roll up and roll out. But I know that the standard course of action is probably not the right course of action.

Andy:

It's not binary is there, there's not it's not all good in the new world and all bad in the in the old world, there's a lot of fantastic things that the traditional OEMs bring.

John Ellis:

No, absolutely. But I think I think we have to recognise that being capable in terms of a manufacturing sense, right, being capable in terms of delivering right form, fit and finish is a skill, it cannot be the skill. And being able to marry that with an approach that does have software as a software first model, right is super, super powerful. But the structural changes to the business that this entails, right? Like your idea of a tier one, tier two, tier three. I mean, it's just fascinating. When I when I when I talk to people, Tesla if you tear Tesla apart, it has product from Bosch or Conte or or Visteon, I don't know, like I'm just, but it has it buys from the traditional supply chain that other OEMs buy from. But where it is different is it has very specific requirements about what kind of software those tier ones or twos will put out there, namely boot software only. And then most of the software is written by Tesla like 96, 7, like it is an incredible percentage that's written, owned, managed, delivered by Tesla. Compare that with three or 4% from the OEMs. Because the most of it comes from the tier ones or twos. And I think just this experience this summer right with the chip shortage, where you never saw Tessa complaining about the chip shortage. Now, of recently, they've complained about supply chains when they were their numbers. But early on, they weren't complaining. Instead, they were trying to figure out okay, great, what chips can I get, let me rewrite my software and re qualify it for those new chips. And we're just gonna keep moving forward, right? They were a software first company and they recognise what role hardware played, and they were able to adapt and move because of that software first. Those are the capabilities that fundamentally the OEMs are going to need to survive. They're hard to acquire, they're hard to achieve. And so again, it's it's not binary. But I think there are some key characteristics that we can point to for sure, in the successful model that are absent today in the traditional

Andy:

Thank you for that. John, let's talk a little bit about model. The Zero Dollar Car because it would be wrong not to explain a little bit to listeners what that idea was and and it's fun to talk about how it crystallised for you, which you do at the beginning of the book, you explain how it was kind of the pressure of a situation that brought it all to a head, it sort of came to you on a phone call that you know the title if you like, so please tell me a little bit about that.

John Ellis:

Yeah, it was I don't know, September of 2015. I think anyways, and our good friend, right, Edward Peck had reached out to me to talk a bit. I was as I as I said, right, never never disrespectful, always irreverent. And so my my big tagline throughout my time at Ford was I'm not a car guy. I'm a software guy. And I work at Ford. I thought that was irreverent, but respectful. A lot of people in the auto industry thought that was deeply disrespectful. Because again, like you're a car guy, you should be a car guy because you worked for Ford. But it because of that I was getting a lot of people you know, once I left Ford you know, who would call up and say hey, now that you're not in Ford can you talk to us about more about that, or, and so Edward was of that mindset, we will be talking through stuff and and again, like everything, I should have known that there was a big finance industry and that there was a show for the fight. Like I should have known these things, but I didn't. So he's going on and explaining it. We were talking about data and others and and I was just I was riffing with him. I was like, you know, you know, this idea of Google this idea of and why are they coming into it? What is this going on? And like there after certain things and I began highlighting stuff that I had written about at my time at Ford and at my time at Motorola, which was, you know, the the motivation, like what their motivation was and What was underpinning their motivation? And as we were talking through it, right, you know, he was he kept calling it free. And and I'm like, no, no, it's not. It's not free, like angry, like you're giving of yourself. It's not free. There's a different word for it. We were going on it and like, it's, it's $0. I was like, $0. And he's like, Oh, wow, okay, that's pretty cool. I'm like Yeah, we tell you what we could talk about the $0 car. And so that that's where the framing came from. It was I was trying to get across that, you know, in this in this space free has some serious implications. And it's not free, there is an actual transaction. The transaction, though, is $0. Because there is not a monetary consideration, but there is a value consideration. So thus the inspiration. Again, as with everything, right, all the threads coming together at one point in time, and it kind of popped. So yeah, that's that's where the, that's where the title was born from the fundamentals were all there in place. But that's where the title was born from, was that conversation with Edward.

Andy:

And it led to a very energising and energetic performance from yourself at the IAFM conference that year, and I was there. so privileged to see it firsthand. And the premise was that for all the data, all the sensors that we have on our cars that are able to share information from you know, whether it's the weather, or the road surface, or all these other topics, if we can monetize that in the same way that you know, Google are monetizing our eyeballs, if you like, if we could do it in the same way, you could potentially discount the lease rate of a car, if I signed over great, you can take all the data from all of the sensors on my car. And each time I do that, you reduce the lease rate for me until theoretically, we get down to zero $0. But it's still a it's still a business case, because there's enough data being generated that can then be sold on to food companies or whoever needs that information.

John Ellis:

Well and again, looking at what Tesla was able to do and has done right where they they literally released features. years after the hardware's been in the marketplace with brand new value, right, the child left in the backseat right the occupancy one they literally understood that there were sensors and they could bring things together in a completely different way and create new value. And people liked that value. And again, some some features, they sell some features they just give to keep the value proposition going. But we could imagine a world you know, five years afterwards, new data packages could be conceived and sold right and again, new opportunities and new value. So it is truly the opportunity where there's a different view of what that product is what that what that car is it's not the $50,000 one time sell. My model of ship and forget is the potential of being something of ship and remember, right and the ability to interact with you and offer you continually offer you Andy value as I see it, taking the heavy lift, being able to sell things and offer you something in return.

Andy:

It was such an exciting thing to hear Tesla customers talk about the fact that their cars were getting better overnight. And you know, they've had this car a little while. And now it's better than the day I got it. And you don't have to explain that to anyone. It's never happened before in the cars that they've bought previously. It's, it's like your phone, it behaves like your phone. And it does. It's exciting when you get an upgrade and your phone starts to do new stuff. Well imagine if your car did that as well. So that

John Ellis:

what's so interesting about that, which you'll appreciate having been at Tesla for a period of time and being a car person, so did some work this summer for another, another OEM. And they we were out for dinner. And they were explaining to me that their neighbour was a staunch Toyota customer, staunch like, that's all they bought. They love the high quality. They love the product, high quality. This past summer, they left Toyota and they went and became Tesla family. And he was shocked the the guy I was working with was shocked. And he started asking him what do you think about what did you do? 30 something years is it there's a Toyota customer 30 something years now he's gonna Tesla customer. And so he went to ask him and he's like, you know that some of the form fit and finish? It's not it's not 100%. And the answer from this person was you're right? It's not, I can deal with that. But the car, the software is like change. I've already had it three months, and it's already better than it was the day I bought it. And so there they had just suddenly changed their perspective of value proposition from form fit finish to the experience, and I'll take the form fit finish impairment so that I can get the experience right. That is so profound, it is such a big deal. And this person says Holy crap, now what do we do? Like, that's what I sell. I sell them form fit and finish. I'm like, maybe not anymore. I don't know what you do. Because if people are willing to leave form fit and finish, because of the software experience, I don't know what your answer is.

Andy:

Yeah. And that wasn't even one of the measurements that used to exist in trying to work out what do customers prioritise, is it safety? Is it performance, is it comfort, is it build quality, there was never a software update, it didn't exist, and it comes in and comes becomes the primary.

John Ellis:

Right? Well, it's not even software update is it because again, software updates are not for software updates sake, it's for new value, new features, right? At the day that you lock a vehicle, you lock the feature set, and that's the feature set of that vehicle, right, and it stays that feature set. And I can remember many of the old time you know, you know, traditional Ford folks would say to me, you know, if they want a new feature, they can buy a new car, like that was that was literally the answer was like new features will go into new cars, they don't they don't go out and the cars that are already out there, like those are sold, those are gone, we're worrying about the next new thing.

Andy:

Yeah. And you start to put when a model reach has run out, you start to put more features on for the same price so that the older cars still get sold and so on. You mentioned this idea of are you a ship and forget company or a ship and remember, if I've got that, right, and that was really something you were keen to convey the importance of in your book, and what a fundamental difference is between being one or being the other, and you can't just casually start becoming a software focused company without taking on the responsibility to be a ship and remember company. Now please say a little bit more about that.

John Ellis:

Yeah, without trying to over over become a Tesla fanboy, right. They're the epitome of ship and remember, I mean, but your Apple, like your cell phone, like ship and remember is the ability that the entity in question that built the product, right, remembers the device and continually touches the device and updates and keeps the device fresh. And, and keeps the device you know, you know, basically continuing to have value with you. Right? It is the it is the inverse of the value is only in the hardware to now the value is there's some value in the hardware, but the true value the continuing ongoing value is found in software and the ever changing and ever evolving software experience that is manifested inside that hardware. So ship and forget is your traditional, I build a product I ship and I forget about it. And that has historically been the definition of what the OEMs were all about, especially the OEMs you know, that sold through sold through a franchise model right. They they'd literally truly sold it and forgotten about it.

Andy:

Yeah, wholesale the car

John Ellis:

wholesale, got it out to the to the dealers and maybe dealers remembered you right, your name and a mailing box, and they could send you some paperwork for a hey, here's an oil change. But there was no true knowing no true remembering of the ship and remember. So it's not casual. It changes

Andy:

So not something to take on without consideration and everything, it changes the business model, it changes, you know, your revenue recognition, for example, just one example is like your revenue recognition do you do I mean, I can remember deeply when Motorola was being challenged by Apple. And and lightly and the the parts of the example you gave, which I people began looking deeply at Apple that you know, they'd sell a device for $600, for example, and they'd only revenue rec $300, whereas everybody else in the industry was revenue recognising the fullness of the revenue. And the reason they would do that, then is they would have these revenues in thought was insane because I've got a friend who's bought a new reserve, right? It's an accounting approach. And then they draw down over time, as they were continuing to fund software development effort and their argument, their logistic arguement was this product, yet, we cannot recognise the full revenue of the product because the the full value of the product is only recognised over the years as we continue to add dishwasher, and this dishwasher will send her an SMS when it's software to it, right? That's a that's a massive fundamental change to the economics of the business, then the idea of being able to ship a minimum viable product, for example, the terms of minimum viable generally is a negative, like, oh my god, we gotta go fast enough. You know, this is like, what's the minimum finished. And I'm thinking, I don't, my dishwasher beeps. And product to get to those to satisfy the need, and then we're gonna continue to evolve it over time. It totally changes when you choose hardware, right? I can remember just countless exercises trying to figure out the hardware, make sure that we maximise the hardware choice for the vehicle, because it's going that's annoying enough because I really do not need to know when to be out in the marketplace for 10 years. And in the world I came from, you'd be like, let's look at our let's look at our silicon charts. Let's look at what the expectation of of capabilities are in the supply chain in three years time when we're going to ship this product. Let's spec that. Because I'll be able to build software over time and I'll be the dishwasher is finished. Because when I want a clean cup, able to ship stuff over time. So ship and forget versus ship and remember it is dramatic radical thinking radical change from the business, the business operations, the thought process, the management, the customer outreach, I mean, everything has to change for it to work. And if you're looking at the dishwasher the light indicates if there isn't one in the cupboard, then I'll open the dishwasher. And, you know, I don't need to know that it's finished whether it's still going or if it's clean, right, exactly. I don't need and I certainly don't need an SMS from it to tell me that I've finished so. And you talked about an army of sofas being mobilised by packers I guess and conducting an attack potentially on a you know, this miri bot which I knew nothing about but just this was, you know, I guess a bit crazy this internet of things, we seem to be getting a little bit like everything has to have connectivity. And that was interesting.

John Ellis:

Yeah. Just all that was was a precautionary tale to you know, be careful when you connect something. I mean, again, everything we just talked about in terms of ship and forget to ship and remember it was more about the business. But now there's the actual right, hey, if you're going to enable the thing that you're going to build to be connected, then you have a very strong obligation to make sure that it you know that it is continually secure in such a connection. And the example that we gave them mirirobots and others. I mean, today we're we're in 2022, I mean, the book, I wrote the book in end of 16 and published in 17. Right, that's five years ago. And in these five years, we're just seeing ransomware attacks and malware I mean, we're just we're seeing consistently right just torrential, the ability to take bots and just do denial of service and shut down, you know, shut down things like today, we are way more aware of what's what's out there. And sort of the negativity that can come with mal mal configured, or mal developed devices who now have connectivity on them. But you know, it wasn't, it was just an it was an added thing. Like, Oh, I gotta be connected. So I'm going to be connected not really deeply understanding why you were connecting, and then doing all the necessary things around securing that connection.

Andy:

Yeah, I think very, very helpful thing to just make people think a little bit before they stick connectivity on on their sofa, or whatever. We're coming towards the end. And I just wanted to we've done a slightly different episode, because there's so many different topics I wanted to jump into and take advantage of your expertise and thoughts on John. So thank you for that. What are you doing now? Tell us a little bit about your where your career has come to and what you're doing now. And yeah, how can people get in? You know, what sort of things are you helping people with if they want to get in touch with you and things like that?

John Ellis:

Yeah, sure. So after leaving Ford, you know, wrote the book, was doing consulting work and basically helping people in the digital transformation, you know the idea of understanding what's going on and business transformation, technical product transformation, was able to secure some work with a with a leading city that led me to be able to sell my company. So I was able to sell Ellis and Associates at the end of 2018 to a West Coast company in the United States called Lacuna Technologies. And what we do, and I'm still with the company, so I still do, I still have a full time job day job with Lacuna. And what we do is we build open source software that helps municipal governments around the world to better manage the public right away. This idea of understanding fleets understanding software, understanding open source understanding digital transformation, there's there's a whole story behind it, I won't I won't bore your listeners with but there's a there's a burgeoning business going on in terms of helping government to better optimise the trillions of dollars of concrete that have been poured in physical infrastructure and to optimise it in a way through the lenses of safety, equity, financial, fiscal responsibility, etc. And on the consulting side, I still I create a new company called JT Consulting. And I still I still do talks, I still present, I still connect with people around digital infrastructure, digital ideas, digital transformation. I do short term gigs, long term gigs, etc. You know continue to my passion is to teach my passion is to share my passion is to, to explain in ways that help you consume it and then be able to do something with that.

Andy:

Yeah, so use your language and communication skills to share what you're very curious about and have deep experience of. Well, thank you, John. Thank you for joining me. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you think I've really missed a trick or missed an opportunity to get another golden nugget

John Ellis:

another another golden nugget

Andy:

yet another yet another golden nugget

John Ellis:

I mean, you know, it's not a golden nugget and this was just for you, but I don't remember. I think it was in the book. I was the first ever American escort for the Rose of Tralee. I think that was in the book. Maybe? no?

Andy:

what say a bit? I can't remember that.

John Ellis:

okay, so

Andy:

Oh, yes, it is.

John Ellis:

Yeah, they host the Rose of Tralee which is both the song and it in so they've did it now the competition where they look for the Irish rose represents a woman who represents the Irish rose. And so they have a worldwide competition to bring, you know, 33 women representing the 33 counties, including including Northern Ireland, and they are coming together for a competition every year. And again, my irreverence, no my hutzpah, I put forward to be an escort and each of the girls gets assigned a male escort for the week. This is a person now for those of you who are thinking dirty, this is just someone who's there to dance with them, buy them drinks, make sure that they have a dancing partner and keep an eye on them as they're, as you know, spending time out and about in Chile. And I was fortunate enough to be be assigned the limit rose. So yeah, you can find me I was featured in Maxim magazine. How about that? featured in 1995? My picture shows up in another nugget. There we go. Another nugget for you, Andy, another nugget.

Andy:

There's Larry Page as well. That was a pretty cool flex as my kids would say.

John Ellis:

Oh my gosh, yeah.

Andy:

Just say share what happened there.

John Ellis:

So in the I don't know, it was some period 2013, 14 timeframe. And, you know, we get a phone call and I you know, someone tells me Hey, we're gonna put you under, we're gonna put you on a team, Larry Page has come into town. And I was going to come into the office. And I just I couldn't, I couldn't understand why Larry Page was coming. And we were spending so much time I won't go into all the other all the issues with it. But I just kept trying to be respectful, but be very, like kept challenging people what you're getting all google eyed over Larry Page, but like, do you understand why he's coming to town? I can remember, I finally got myself kicked off the team by basically saying at the time, it was the, I can't remember the name of the person Dan something was a CEO of GM at the time. And I said if that person came in, you know, the CEO of Ford Motor Company, said you should tell him everything. Like you, all of you would say this guy's gone crazy. He's nuts right. But this is Larry Page. You're not saying that. In fact, you want to show him hydrogen plants that we haven't even shared to the world yet. They really wanted to open the kimono. And they're like you don't you don't understand like. I've met Larry Page. I know Larry Page, I'm telling you right now this is there's some of the reasons why Larry Page is in town. Anyway, fast forward and long story short, I get invited back to the team and I get to get invited back to be a presenter and I show up in a pair of jeans and a dress shirt. And others were in shirts and ties and sport jackets and others and they're like, you know, I got I got the the evil eye from the EVP. He's like, you know, this is this is like what's going on? Like, trust me, Larry Page. I know you guys don't believe me. I've met Larry Page, I know Larry Page. He's gonna come up in jeans and gym shoes. I'm telling you right now he's gonna be in jeans and gym shoes. Sure enough, about an hour later, Larry Page shows up. Black t shirt, black jeans, converse gym shoes. And like he had on a Gap jacket. I mean, this is Larry Page. It's not a Gap jacket, it's some other probably $1,000 sport, but it's a it's a it's a cotton sport, you know, think that you were over? Yeah. But he was wearing gym shoes. And everyone looked at me. And they're like, really? Like I told you. And then sure enough, a little bit later, we're presenting. And I make a comment to him. Like, Larry, you don't remember me potentially. But I was part of the team that was doing power management on the first Android and he says yes, the Linux kernel. And he remember once I gave him enough to do he remembered. He didn't remember me per se. He remembered the project. Remembered the effort. He remembered the briefing. He remembered what we delivered. So yeah.

Andy:

Very cool.

John Ellis:

Small world, small world.

Andy:

Finally. They listened well they didn't listen. But they realise that you were right.

John Ellis:

I don't know if they really did. Yeah, but yes, yeah.

Andy:

Thank you again, then John. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you want to one.

John Ellis:

Love it. Thank you.

Andy:

And I look forward to staying connected.

John Ellis:

And yeah, look forward to doing this again. Soon, yeah,

Andy:

thank you very much. You've been listening to Career-view Mirror with me. Andy follows I hope you found some helpful points to reflect on in John's story that can help you with your own career journey, or that of those who lead, parent or mentor. You are unique. And during my conversation with John, you'll have picked up on topics that resonate with you. A few things that stood out for me were that he was one of six kids. And he acknowledged that he had an experience with his father that certainly his youngest brother didn't get. The practical education he got with his dad fixing things but still a very educationally motivated upbringing. Having a Spanish exchange student and the impact that had, the value of learning a language, the fact that his dad said it cost the same however many units you sit, so you might as well make the most of your time at university and he came out with three degrees computer science, math, and Spanish. Accidents like the Motorola interview only came about because of doing a favour for the woman who offered CV advice, his curiosity at Motorola getting in hours early to miss the traffic. And when he was there wanting to understand how the products worked that his software was going to serve. That wonderful strapline he shared never disrespectful, always irreverent. On joining Ford and leading transformation that he told his bosses if people aren't calling you telling you to fire this guy, you should fire me. Do you want to be a sell and forget or a sell and remember business. If you have chips on your product, you'll need to adopt all the sell and remember behaviours. You can contact John via email and his website or via LinkedIn. And we'll put a link in the show notes to this episode. We publish these episodes to celebrate my guests careers, listen to their stories and learn from their experiences. And I'm genuinely interested in what resonated with you. Thank you to all of you for sharing your feedback. Thanks also to Hannah and Julia, who as part of the Career-view Mirror team here at Aquilae work so hard to deliver these episodes to you. This episode of Career-view Mirror is brought to you by Aquilae. Aquilae's mission is to enable fulfilling performance in the mobility industry. We use our very own fulfilling performance paradigm to identify what steps you need to take to enable fulfilling performance in your business. We leverage our Aquilae consulting arm for business topics and the Aquilae Academy for people topics. And once we've agreed on the way forward, we work alongside you and your teams to enable fulfilling performance and achieve your goals. Thanks for listening

Welcome, family and education
A pen pal and the power of languages
Thoughts after leaving University and an interview with Motorola
Joining Motorola as a Software Engineer
Time out from Motorola to become a Translator at the Olympics
Expat life in China and Ireland
Move back to the States with Motorola
Being clear on and owning his career
From Motorola to Ford via his consulting company, Ellis and Associates
Never disrespectful, always irreverent
The Zero Dollar Car
Ship and forget versus ship and remember companies
Wrapping up and takeaways