CEO INTERVIEW SERIES

Updated: Jul 19

EPISODE 1 · START WITH WHY


Madelyn Darbonne, Social Media & PR Manager, interviews Michael Blakely, CEO, on his journey to start InterOperate and why he's passionate about digital integrations.





Madelyn Darbonne

I want to start with asking about a famous quote by Simon Sinek, "start with why." I want to hear a little more about your why and how you found your passion in what you do.

Michael Blakely

Great question. Passion is very near and dear to my heart. If I am doing it all day, every day, I have to be passionate. It's like dragging me through the mud if I am not passionate about it and can't continue to do it all day every day...

I always kind of think back [to] when I was a kid, where' I'm at right now... as a kid I was always super fascinated with technology particularly because I grew up in the 80s and 90s when technology was just starting to grow: Nintendo, Duck Hunt, Walkman, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, then cable television, MTV. I am going to guess you don't have an idea what I'm talking about, Madelyn.


Madelyn Darbonne

A little bit, but it's definitely not my generation.

Michael Blakely

...but it was an interesting time to grow up. Computers like the Apple IIE followed by the worldwide web were just coming out. So of course when I was younger I loved these new gadgets and toys, I loved taking them apart to see how they worked. Most of the time I couldn't get it back together with the same functionality or would have some extra parts but eventually, through trial and error I got better and better.. that was just due to the times and being a kid, but I wouldn't say I was passionate about it as a kid. I never once said that when I grow up I want to start a data company.


Madelyn Darbonne

I know that now you refer to yourself as a tech nerd, obviously you haven't always been that way (apart from taking apart vacuums when you were growing up) what do you think helped you get where you are today?

Michael Blakely

So funny enough, traveling has always been my real passion. But most importantly, efficient traveling. Efficiency is key, but I'll come back to that. What got me up in the morning and what I thought about before going to bed was always traveling. Funny enough, it wasn't until I moved to China [as part of] a Master's Program for International Business when I was in college at ironically, the University of Technology and Science in China did I actually start to learn what I consider "IT." Several times I'd run into an issue with connecting my phone or laptop to be able to communicate with friends and family back home or get on social media that China blocks. The other students in the dorm would actually show me how and I was amazed by what they could do and were now teaching me.


Another interesting point about passion... right before I moved to China I was traveling around Southeast Asia. I was on a small island in Thailand called Khao Tao... I met this American guy, just having beers, who was living there and living like a king. He told me how, because he worked in technology, he could work remote. My mind it exploded [it] blew my mind. It was impossible to do that in any other industry I'd ever heard of. It wasn't a concept back then. But because he worked in technology he could work from wherever he wanted in the world and make a good average US salary but live in Thailand on this island that I could only describe as a beautiful, pristine screensaver... he spent his work days working on the beach on a laptop when he wasn't scuba diving with Nemo.


... Fast forward, I graduate, I move back to the US with one goal in mind: Get a job in tech... technology wasn't even part of my degree in International Business but if I wanted to pursue that passion of traveling at a higher scale, I needed to get a job in tech and I needed to work remote. Of course, it only made sense to go to the technology Mecca of the world, San Francisco.


And then I did it.


I got my first job at a digital marketing agency, tied some of my degree in Marketing,,, I spent all day, every day working 14+ hours, mostly because we're a technology company and rely on software. So I would work with ten software [platforms] a day and switch between them... after several years working like this, extremely inefficient, I looked back and realized that I wasn't even doing the work I specialized in 80% of the time.


I spent most of these gruesome, hardworking days switching back and forth between software platforms that didn't talk to each other - copy/paste, copy/paste - and if I made a mistake, I'd have to go back and redo it... hours a day. So my next mission was efficiency... to find one platform that could do everything, I thought that was the answer.


I quickly found out that there was no perfect solution... when one company tries to be "one size fits all" they lose the edge in their specialty. So there's a few of them out there, they were terrible. They didn't do one thing good, they did a lot of things ok... a quote that comes to mind is "tech for the sake of tech" ethos is a bad road to go down, a bad ideology. The only interest to me at that point was what tools can they provide... how can they help me?


That's where it started to sink in where the opportunities were. In the industry, there was nothing to fix this and everybody had it. My next mission was to solve this problem. It was going to change my life so I can get back to my passion, traveling and working remote which I still was unable to do at that time... that's where I pivoted from working for these big corporations to working for a startup. I was always too afraid to do that, but this startup was an efficiency company at the heart with half of the new technology, and it just flipped [the light on for me.] I was introduced to integrations. It was somewhat a new concept, but it was extremely expensive, it took a long time to build - it was an efficiency method that was inefficient.


After pivoting my career to integrated systems, the light bulb went off. I found more efficient ways to do it through IPaaS and there was no turning back. I had spent all of these years trying to fix this problem... to finding there was no solution on the market, to piecing one together and there was no turning back. That's why I absolutely love integrations.. I still need, now, even more so, 20-25 pieces of software every day but... I can do 80x more work in the same approximate time... Being able to do that for others is exciting. I get on calls with companies that have the same woes... "Can integrations help me spend less time swathing back and forth between these different platforms because it's taking up all my day and I don't have time do the work I was hired to do?" Yes, I know that problem, that was me, I know how to solve it... it's ever-evolving, we find better ways to do it every day and it's exciting. That's why I am passionate about it.


If you have questions about solving your own company's integration problem, reach out today!

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