Maynard Webb on eBay and fixing your career (Q & A)

The man set to secure the network website selling nearly 14 years, has become one of the most respected voices in Silicon Valley. He has just written a book about taking control of your future.CAMBRIDGE, MA - Maynard Webb is a fixer.

When Webb was asked to take control of the computer failing eBay operations in 1999, the company was in full-scale crisis. The young then, growing site had become the poster child for dot-com instability because it has suffered a series of failures. CNN teams, as Webb remembers, were parked outside the offices of eBay, waiting for the next headline-grabbing incident.

Nearly 14 years later, eBay is a mature society (at least by dot-com standards) and Webb is considered one of the elder statesmen of the Silicon Valley. He left on eBay a few years ago and is now a member of the board of directors of major companies like and asYahoo and small like LiveOps. It is also an angel investor in Investment Network Webb, and it is still occasional entrepreneur who now works with his new startup, outside counsel.

Last week, Webb was on tour for his latest project, a book he wrote with co-author Carlye Adler called "Restarting work."'s New book, available this week, is a kind of self guide -support for workers in the era of cloud computing. asks just this type of worker are you and what do you want to be? It traces the career of Webb security guard IBM for the fix-it guy eBay to his current role as eminence grise young execs technology. CNET met Webb at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square to talk about his career and the book. following is a revised and condensed this interview:

Q: Why did you take this task eBay and what was the first thing that you need to meet there?
Webb: I thought it was a problem really, really hard that really needs to be fixed, to be honest with you. I was in an ideal gateway to the top guys there CIO, with a lot of positives, but I was still just the guy there IT. At eBay, technology would make or break the company. And there was a question of technology massive. Instead of being scared of it, I saw it as something that would be massively happy to correct. I thought eBay had good head as well. But I joined because the problem was big and gnarly and ugly and I thought I would find a way to fix it.

But you could be a scapegoat, too.
Webb: It is always true. The most difficult things that you most likely in them. But I never think that way. I was like, I want to do. I often have people tell me that I was an idiot, whether set up my network investment or joining eBay, because there are many people who could solve this problem, but he fled ... I went in and getting ready to shoot CNN in the parking lot every time we had a problem. It is not for the faint of heart. But I thought it was so important that I felt needed more than anywhere else I went.

What was the first big challenge?
Webb: What about trying to maintain this site? The first night I was there ... (CEO Meg Whitman) wanted to tell me all analysts so she could say that I was there to solve any problems. That Friday I had to return to San Diego to say goodbye to my team there and back on Monday morning for the day analyst, the site crashed for 10 hours and Meg just said, "Go ahead and remedy. " It's a long story about it, but he came back, and she would announce, "Maynard here and everything will be fixed," and I said "Why not say," Maynard here, it will get better. "And she said," By the way, you can not go home now. "

On Sunday evening, we had a great dry run on how to do everything. As we walk on the dry run and the next day is the day of the analyst, the site crashed and Meg as "Maynard you solve this problem with the team and the guys who know something must be fresh and tomorrow, you go home. "So at 10 o'clock, I returned to the NOC (network operations center) and we got back on the site and we crawled out of there at four in the morning . presented in the next day analyst.

That was the first day of work.

And then?
Webb: Not only do we have system problems keeping the site up. I asked the question, "When is that we lack capacity?" and they said, "What do you mean?" And I said, "Headroom. I know we're growing and I know that we can not keep our site now. But when we hit the wall? "And they were like, you know, nobody has ever asked us this question. And they came back in three days and said," We have about three and a half weeks until to exhaustion of the capacity. "I do not know if you know it or not, but this is not a good answer.

So I would say throughout the year we were getting our arms around you go on eBay could be developed as quickly as possible ... So we had the SWAT team working on current problems, we had a team working with Sun (Microsystems) on hardware issues, we have been updating and implementation of high availability clusters on the current architecture, we have developed the next generation architecture and code base to deploy, and we've been working on a backup plan in case. The traditional way to solve this problem is to stop making changes because of changes evil at all. And we felt the Internet, you can not do that. So, we have increased the pace of change and development at the same time we tried to do everything this.Today, there are many sites dealing with scalability issues.
Webb: The way I see it is that most sites do not have to deal with it, because very few of them are relevant. If you are concerned, almost all of these people have problems scaling fast. You saw with Twitter. Salesforce had their own problems of scale. It is a sign of success. But it is painful, and you have to understand how to fix it quickly.

So, who is now in danger of having this moment on eBay?
Webb: Take a look at Instagram. Look at what happened with Netflix Christmas Eve. I'm sure nobody expected that Netflix on the eve of Christmas AWS (Amazon Web Services) would go down and Netflix has not been able to provide images streaming on the most important day year. I would say that everyone has rapid adoption of the virus on an infrastructure that has single points of failure, whether your database or your servers. I have always stressed the importance of obtaining a distributed architecture so that if something is not broken all broken.

Is peak capacity that companies are unable to plan?
Webb: Well, I've always been very happy when our marketing group come up with something like: "We'll have a day free list." And that day you were like 6x your volume. And it would be like capacity years in advance. I would like to try to build and architect ways to let that happen. And there are ways to cope, it's just a question of cost. What capacity do you have before you Need it Someday, years eBay has been fixed after all, we had a Polish site that was just a small set of servers without much traffic. Pope's car he drove as a student went on sale. Well, this site had never seen this amount of traffic. Whoom! And it was, we did not have that in our model.

Whenever you have a site which is on the side of the consumer, and you have the viral adoption, something can happen. Twitter had a ton of questions. Now they are much better today, if you think about it. You do not see the Fail Whale all that often, so there is a lot more than the volume it was.

I want to turn for a second to the companies involved with you. You are on the boards of Yahoo and Salesforce. Start with the most difficult business, Yahoo. What was the biggest challenge, Webb: You probably know that there have been tons of press about what is coming in and out of Yahoo.

I picked up a little of that.
Webb: One of the things that the council was committed not to talk to the press about it. We implemented a policy in this regard. If you want to talk specifically about Yahoo or Marisa, we must go empty with them first. They do not want us to speak as directors ... I think it is fair to say, at the end of my book, I talk about the next 15 years. I'm talking about creating your own plan, and I do not think it was just to tell people to create a plan that I was not willing to do. And I say, I want to identify and mentor, and contribute to growth, more than two to five changes from the business world. I joined the board of Yahoo last year because they used to be and I think they should be again. But we have work to do to get there.

What is Salesforce? This is a success story. But what is the biggest challenge there?
Webb: I'll tell you this: When I came in '06, many people have told me that his best days are behind him and that the cloud was oversold. But (CEO Marc Benioff) has done a good job staying humble and so the team there. And as good as things are at the moment they know that nothing is guaranteed and businesses must ensure that when they are successful and the wind is at their back they are not too far away themselves. Currently, Salesforce really, really well. But it is time to be even harder on you and make sure you continue to develop your growth and continue to grow.

They always say that companies make mistakes that ruin their seed when they are at their peak. So what are the risks there?
Webb: Things I'd probably talk to Marc, but not about you.

In your book, you describe four types of worker: business man, the worker disenchanted, "the CEO of your own destiny", and budding entrepreneur. How many times have you had each of those?
Webb: I started my career at IBM and I thought that I would be there for life ... loved and thought I would never go anywhere else. Since I left IBM, I spent most of my time as CEO of my own destiny, if I worked for myself or worked for my company, I have never sold control after leaving IBM. I would say the people that I worked for would have thought that I was the man business, I've never given any control, because I knew I had to build a network ... I do not spend a lot of time as an employee disillusioned because it is a scary place to be, to be honest, because it means giving someone else control your destiny and you feel like a victim. I spend a lot of time in the book of guidance and talk about how not to be there because it is not good for your career or your enthusiasm.

So how can you get out of this?
Webb: We must teach people how to take care of themselves and that there is safety and not hang in a model that is dated ... Nobody wants to be disenchanted. No. 1, take an honest assessment, take control that's your thing to fix, not the company, including you may need to leave the company if it is not right. Your value system, the value system of the society, if their view of your value is not aligned - n ° 1, is it repairable? And if this is not the case, where would you go? And how do you find a way to be engaged and constructive ... I just wish people would be aligned with what their dreams are and what they do. Where people in trouble is that many people feel stuck with where they are and where they want to be, and you are more in control and what we believe.
"I just wish people would be aligned with what their dreams are and what they do."
- Maynard Webb

As an investor, what kind of business are you looking for?
Webb: In general, I am looking for companies that are doing something that I've been exposed. I am looking for pattern recognition in the cloud or mobile commerce or Internet. I bought many things as CIO. So I'm looking for team space, the size of the space is, and I do not know anything about it and the fact resonate. Therefore, it is the team, technology and space.

So what does a contractor have to do to impress you?
Webb: First, I need to know what they are motivated by. When someone just wants to make money, this is not what I'm motivated. When people really want to make an impact in the world, I fall in love quickly enough with these people ... and how are they really engaged? They seek to return the company very quickly or will they be upset if someone takes control. You can build something that is going really well, someone comes along and offers to buy it, then you gotta go build it again or you have to be part of a large infrastructure. So I'm looking for people who are trying to build something big for a long time. Now, the problem is that there are not many who do it all the way.

So you're not interested in people who seek to overthrow.
Webb: Well, back or simply the lifestyle to be cool and be an entrepreneur. I am looking for people willing to do 20 hours a day it takes to build something, create something and feed it into something that is about him.

Is the consumer tech industry tech'd? You're not looking for the next widget, the following application?
Webb: I think the large data holds considerable interest. And I think cloud and mobile are also very cool. I'm not as interested in an application that I am a system. It is very rare that I would most hardware software because the software, you can simply move faster.

What was more difficult, fixing eBay or write a book?
Webb: Different problems. EBay fixing was more difficult, but more natural for me. Writing the book was about me somehow ... I do not like things to be on me. It was very uncomfortable for me. I am frustrated by the cycle to get the book so I thought it would be fun to start a business faster than the book and leave the company ... I thought and thought about mentoring ... Then I found a team and I started a company called outside counsel. It will become a new name and we are running. And we are moving and people are happy and we were before the book was released.

Young entrepreneurs should model themselves after?
Webb: If they were truly visionary product, I would say that Steve Jobs or Benioff. The problem is that there are very few people. And what worries me is that Steve was able to get away with a very different behavior because it was so bright and I think there are very few people who are just brilliant. I think Zuckerberg has done an incredible job. Maybe Larry at Google. Find a pace that suits you. I really want to warn people not to choose one ... Do you then see these icons to see which one of these things for you and then model your own in your own brand.
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