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August 14th, 2019

Trek10 CEO Says to Choose Density, Avoid Sprawl

During the Kinetic conference in Indianapolis this past May, Trek10 CEO Shane Fimbel joined two other panelists to discuss how growing companies can prepare for changing employee needs. Fimbel is in the thick of this challenge. Trek10 is only 5 years old, but the team has grown to 45 people, including 13 hires made just between January 1 and June 13, 2019.

Shane Fimbel at Kinetic 2019

The Elevate Ventures portfolio company has done business with nearly 100 unique clients on four continents, with as many on the East and West Coasts as in the whole Midwest. Customers range from high-growth, venture-backed startups to Fortune 200 companies.

Fimbel calls talent attraction part of what makes Trek10 “the best in the world.” Indeed, the South Bend scale-up company is arguably No. 1 at what it does. The key to this success, Fimbel says, is a high degree of focus. You likely can’t name any other company in the world selling exactly what Trek10 sells, and that is very much by design. As Fimbel describes it, Trek10 designs, builds and supports systems for its clients using Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure.

“It can be very easy to sprawl in terms of the types of things that you do as a company. In our case, we’re 100 percent focused on the Amazon Web Services ecosystem. We don’t deal with Google Compute or Microsoft Azure. And within that AWS ecosystem, we focus on a very niche aspect of it called ‘serverless computing.’ It’s this focus that enables us to be the best in the world,” Fimbel says.

Trying to be all things to all people is tempting. It can seem like you’re hedging your bets or spreading around risk in case one part of what you’re selling doesn’t take off. This behavior is exactly what Fimbel says to avoid.

“We’re not diluting ourselves, either by trying to be a multicloud player or by trying to own every part of the ecosystem, even within AWS. Instead, we’re just laser focused on what we do best. That focus makes us best at what we do,” he says.

Focus at Trek10 goes beyond its product and market specificity. Fimbel says every person who works at Trek10 knows very clearly what the company does, which builds and supports cohesion among the team. Reinforcing their purpose, Trek10 puts out thought leadership pieces and content so that prospective talent can take notice and see if they, too, might want to compete and work in this field.

“It’s almost a bit of an echo chamber when it comes to talent. Oftentimes, talent finds us because they’re looking for this type of field to compete in. That’s one entry point. But another is in how we recruit. We can train you into this expert system that we’ve built. But what’s critical is that you have the right behaviors and the right mindset to be able to be successful in this field,” Fimbel says.

As part of Trek10’s recruitment strategy, every candidate must meet a minimum standard of technical capability. Beyond that, they are looking for skills such as a high degree of empathy. They must have the ability to seek to understand both their team members’ challenges and issues, as well as Trek10’s clients’ challenges and issues.

Oftentimes IT professionals get a bad rap for not being the best communicators, but Trek10 seeks out people who defy the stereotype. Strong communication is a core competency and a skill set that someone needs to be successful there. And the more skilled someone is at communication, the more opportunities — even within Trek10 — they will have.

Creating the space for this culture to flourish isn’t tethered to a location. It’s bound by what Fimbel describes as a “density of people with the density of purpose.”

Shane Fimbel Headshot“It’s that purpose that drives that focus, and it’s that focus which feeds back onto itself, both for the type of people that we hire and also the types of clients that we acquire,” he says.

While about half of Trek10’s team is in South Bend, the other half lives and works elsewhere. The company is on pace to grow 80 percent in 2019 over 2018, and hopes to eventually grow to over 400 people strong. Fimbel says that he will go where the talent is to grow a successful team.

Trek10 embraces the approach of a “remote-first culture,” one in which working remote is the default and making sure your remote employees are as much a part of the team as those in the office.

“What we really are looking for is the best talent, so whether talent lives in Buffalo, New York, or Washington D.C. or Virginia, Trek10 has to build a system and a culture that enables those people to thrive as much as anybody that might be in the headquarters building in South Bend,” Fimbel says.

To be remote-first, several things must be in place. First, from a technology perspective, there must be as little friction as possible for teams to be able to work together. Tools such as Zoom, Amazon Chime and Slack decrease this potential friction around interactions. Second, Trek10’s clients must be open to the remote-first approach, with the types of work that have the capability and ability to be performed remotely.

As Trek10 has grown from a startup to a scale-up company, it is now gauging overall client adoption of serverless-computing within the AWS space. Poised to capitalize on the global trend, it is continuing to get its message out and provide a place that is the best in the world at what they do for talent and prospective customers.

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