Introducing Bill Koefoed, Our New CFO
I’m thrilled to announce the hiring of Bill Koefoed as the new chief financial officer for Puppet Labs. I don’t normally write about individual hires, but the role of CFO is a very special one, and it’s worthwhile to talk about what this means for our company.
Bill is the third major executive hire we’ve made this year, with Brian Stein joining us from Red Hat in March as our head of engineering, and Holly Files joining us in October as our head of customer success. In that same time, Puppet Labs has grown from 107 people to around 225, so it’s clear we really do need the additional help and leadership they provide.
When I started Puppet Labs in February of 2005 (almost nine years ago!), I had never been a developer, never worked with a developer, never been a manager, and had never worked for a manager who had helped me really understand how to do it. Those first four years were primarily devoted to learning to write code cough relatively cough well, plus learning what we should build and who we should build it for. Since we started growing quickly in 2009 — we were three people when we took our first round of funding, and are now the fastest-growing private employer in Oregon — a major portion of my life has been devoted to growing my own skills as a leader.
Leadership, which I think of basically as the ability to point in a direction and get most of the people in the room to go that way, suffices for a company up to a certain point, but then you need more. At some point you need people who can build actual plans, and then — here’s the crazy part — make sure we actually achieve those plans. Note here that "plans" are different from "goals." We’ve always been decent at achieving goals, but not always been so great at relying on plans to do so.
For example, Brian’s hire into engineering brought a new level of rigor and detail to both the engineering and leadership team. It wouldn’t be going too far to call that ability to build and execute plans "operations," but obviously it’s a different kind of operations from we normally talk about at Puppet Labs.
The decision to seek a CFO had a similar goal. We already had a great head of finance in Julie Crawford, who has done well at keeping all of the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. But we also needed someone who could would look across the whole business and make sure that we had clear goals, sufficient plans for achieving them, and that we were actually executing our plans. In other words, I wanted a very operational CFO (there’s that word again).
I wanted more than that, though. A large chunk of my job today is learning enough to stay qualified for what my job will be tomorrow, and Puppet Labs as a whole has a similar challenge. We’re growing quickly, adding people and customers and problems all the time, so the company’s ability to execute must scale with those challenges.
That’s the second part of Bill’s job: Make sure that the company as a whole is continuously improving. Part of this is about metrics and instrumentation — what are the key drivers of our business, and how are they performing? — but much more of it is just understanding how the whole company works, which parts have the most opportunity to affect overall performance, and helping to drive the needed change to make sure we’re always doing the best we can.
These were our fundamental goals in seeking a CFO, and we were fortunate enough to find someone who has those skills in spades, along with fantastic experience working directly with investors and analysts as the head of investor relations at Microsoft. There’s plenty more to do, and plenty of new kinds of challenges to figure out how to solve, and we’re happy to have Bill on the team to help us.
It’s true, word of Bill’s hire spread widely on the back of speculation around an IPO, likely because we listed IPO experience as a “nice to have” in the posted job description. To build a great company, you do have to think about funding strategies, and our new CFO will be deeply involved with that. But we are far more focused on building a long-term, independent, relevant software company than on ringing the bell at NASDAQ.
Please join me in welcoming Bill aboard, and if you happen to run into him at an event or in a customer meeting, I’d appreciate it if you’d ask him the most annoying technical question you can come up with.