“Whether it’s in the back seat of an uber, a cat nap in between meetings, or taking a walk around the block by yourself, you need to take the opportunity to step away and recalibrate. When things seem particularly stressful, the natural instinct is to work harder to get through it, but in reality, taking your foot off the gas will often yield better results.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Ziegler the CEO of Logicworks
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in Brooklyn Heights when NYC was a very different place. I got mugged twice in front of my apartment building. I went to Saint Ann’s, followed by Edward R. Murrow for High School, then Binghamton, then Wharton. Private, Public, State, Ivy. On some level I’m a combination of all of these things in that my parents were liberal educators, I’ve felt poor at times and privileged at others. If there’s one thing I learned from it all it is that I like to connect with people of all backgrounds. I read biographies, love watching long-form interviews like Charlie Rose, the Actors Studio, 60 minutes, and other similar shows.
I was a computer nerd for most of middle school and junior high school (first computer was a Commodore 64) and then was a math major in High School. I was very lucky to find that Management Information Systems (MIS) was an available major at Binghamton, which meant I was one of the few people who had a sense of what I wanted to do with my life relatively early on.
After interning on Wall Street as a systems analyst, I learned that I wanted to be in the action of business instead of hands on keyboard. As a result, during my senior year of college, which was mid-dotcom-boom, I passed up a Big 4 opportunity for a Business Development job at a 275 person agency called Oven Digital. Admittedly, I didn’t realize that BizDev was purely a sales job, and clearly I didn’t sell enough, as Oven went out of business within six months of my joining.
From there I joined the company that would ultimately become Logicworks, my current employer, as an entry level sales rep. This was 16 years ago. It’s rare to be at the same company for so long, but I feel as if I’ve had many different jobs and challenges along the way. Within a year of joining I became the top sales producer and by 2004 was making enough money to pay my way through business school through sales commissions, and that’s exactly what I did. Our founder and I very quickly became close business partners as I rose through the ranks from CFO, to President COO, and by 2012, after raising growth equity, I was appointed CEO.
From there I was lucky enough to assemble an extraordinary team through promotions from within and externally through my network. Together, we took the company into a new strategic direction as a software and services business. Within a few years we became a top AWS partner and quadrupled the revenue of the company, ultimately raising $135MM in a recapitalization by Pamplona Capital Management.
Today, with new financial partners, a rapidly growing team, and one of the greatest market opportunities in a generation (the shift to cloud), the real fun begins.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Ken Ziegler: We’ve had some very interesting moments and encounters. One I haven’t shared involves Grand Master Flash. He was an early customer, and I had the pleasure of sharing fried chicken and waffles at Sylvia’s with him many years ago. As a hip hop fan since the late 80s, this was kind of a big deal for me. I ended up introducing him to a close friend who was a web designer at the time and I couldn’t believe my eyes when Flash was DJ’ing his wedding 10 years later.
Yitzi: So how exactly does your company help people?
Ken Ziegler: Logicworks provides software and services for IT operations in the cloud. We use automation software to assess, migrate, run, and optimize our clients’ applications on AWS or Azure, and our professional services and managed services teams provide expert assistance along the way to provide visibility and enforce architecture best practices, compliance and governance requirements, as well cost optimization.
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Ken Ziegler: We are a top partner of AWS and Azure with a twenty year pedigree of managing complex infrastructure. We stopped defending our traditional IT business model very early and as a result, we successfully transformed our business to be primarily cloud-based today. Our clients are attempting to embark on a similar journey, which requires scarce expertise and involves a huge learning curve. Most of our competition is either cloud native (can’t understand where the customer is coming from) or are new to supporting cloud-based technologies (didn’t transition fast enough). From a cultural standpoint, we are all about people, and clients tend to choose to partner with Logicworks because of the responsiveness, technical acumen, and low-ego that our team brings to the table.
Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Ken Ziegler: More than one, but without question I learned a heck of a lot about culture and creativity from Logicworks’ founder, Carter Burden, and a huge amount about scaling a business and the journey of a PE-backed CEO from Gray Hall, my mentor, friend and CEO of Alert Logic. In addition to Carter and Gray, I worked for two other CEOs before taking the seat myself, so my style is to incorporate the best parts of folks I trust and admire and apply them in my own unique way. I continue to learn everyday and am incredibly grateful for the time and care these people have shared with me.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Ken Ziegler: Aside from Grand Master Flash DJ’ing my friend’s wedding, what I’m most proud of is the personal and professional growth I’ve witnessed across the hundreds of people that have worked at Logicworks over the years. By creating an environment where smart creative types can make an impact, it has a ripple effect. On the industries we support — like Healthcare — we’re leveraging cloud capabilities like machine learning to help our clients improve patient outcomes through precision medicine, health information exchanges, and lower total cost.
On a personal level, my financial success at Logicworks enabled my family and I the opportunity to donate Cinema Vision technology to NYU Hospital which helps young children stay still during MRIs without anesthesia. NYU tells us they are oversubscribed with sighs of joy and relief from parents who are often facing high-anxiety situations with their kids.
Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. If you work hard and smart, surround yourself with extraordinary people, and are transparent with your team and Board, then you have to trust the frameworks you’ve put in place and not overthink or beat yourself up for things that are out of your control. Give credit to your team for good outcomes and hold yourself accountable when things aren’t going as well as you’d like.
- Have a balanced outlook. Whether it’s customers, your Board of Directors, investors, or even when presenting to staff during town hall meetings, you don’t have to paint a rosy picture all the time. Be confident and realistic and people will be just as energized, if not more, to help your company overcome challenges and reach new heights.
- Focus on the process, not just the outcome. It’s tempting for first-time CEOs to think about the magic event (exit) that will happen one day, but having gone through the process successfully, it’s the journey along the way that will make the difference. Enjoy your team and the progress you’re making week by week, keep a sense of humor, and have fun. That will make the ultimate exit that much better and not just economically.
- Be Present. With smartphones, tablets, and laptops surrounding us at all times, it’s easy to get distracted in whatever role you’re in. As CEO, you also have the challenge of having to think strategically and tactically while attempting to address diverse needs of your internal and external stakeholders (staff, customers, partners, investors), and of course yourself and your family. Take the time to be with the people you’ve chosen to be with at that moment. Emails/texts/chats can wait. People will pick up the phone in an emergency.
- Meditate and recharge. Whether it’s in the back seat of an uber, a cat nap in between meetings, or taking a walk around the block by yourself, you need to take the opportunity to step away and recalibrate. When things seem particularly stressful, the natural instinct is to work harder to get through it, but in reality, taking your foot off the gas will often yield better results.
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)
Ken Ziegler: As a leading AWS partner, I’d love to sit down with both Andy Jassy and Jeff Bezos simultaneously over a meal. I was lucky enough to meet Jeff once at a friend’s birthday party, but it was incredibly brief and I was one of many vying for his attention. To get Andy and Jeff’s undivided attention for an hour or so would be incredible, as AWS is the fastest growing technology company of all time inside one of the most revolutionary companies in history. I wouldn’t even have to speak. I’d just like to hear what the two of them talk about as they catch up.