CWJJ Episode 28: Mark Fiorita
October 22, 2020
CWJJ Episode 30: Stephen Mayfield
November 5, 2020

CWJJ Episode 29: Lauren Morton & Ryan Wicks

Thursday, Oct 29- On this special episode of Coffee with Jim & James, Lauren Morton and Ryan Wicks join us to discuss Product Innovation and Product Excellence here at Energy Worldnet.

Episode Transcript:

[0:00] [music]

Jim Schauer:  [0:11] Welcome, energy industry and more, to another exciting episode of “Coffee with Jim and James.” Today, we’re going to get a little techie, and in my world, techie, frame relay, TCP/IP, SOE…Wait a minute. SE…Something like that. I can’t remember.

[0:30] But being, you know, very serious, I am consciously incompetent to some of those things, but I am consciously competent to know that those things affect my world positively every day.

[0:42] If it wasn’t for my tech whisperer, my guru. The one that helps me all the time to do fantastic logos like that, and virtual backgrounds, it’s my brother, Mr. James Cross. James, how are you this fine and beautiful morning?

James Cross:  [0:57] I’m good, Jimmy. It’s cold here in Texas. I think it was close to freezing when we got up this morning but, you know, really all I do is just mansplain things to Jim when it comes to technology. That’s my gift.

Jim:  [1:10] It works.

James:  [1:11] Being called a whisperer is so much fancier. Jim, today, we talked about the brand, the rebrand, a few weeks back with Coleman Sterling, our CEO. We talked about, you know, this rebrand being a lot more than just logos and colors.

Jim:  [1:30] Right.

James:  [1:30] There really was a commitment behind it, and that commitment is really centered on user experience. You can take that in numerous different ways, this group, you know, being a little more technology‑minded, you know, definitely can lean into things like UX.

[1:50] Really, what we wanted to talk about today ‑‑ and why we brought in our two special guests today that we’ll introduce in just a second ‑‑ is really we’ve restructured and used that same user experience, you know, with our own employees and with some initiatives within our own walls.

[2:07] That really is dumping some of, some of the old stodgy behavior, I’d say, in the technology side of things, really on its head. So today, we’re going to be bringing in number one, Lauren Morton, our wonderful colleague, and also Ryan Wicks.

[2:28] We’ll let them give their…Ryan is blessed. He’s the most pumped about this move because he used to have…Jim, you and Ryan have the longest titles in the company here in Energy Worldnet.

Jim:  [2:39] We did, or, we do. Yeah.

James:  [2:41] Still do. So, Ryan was, I know, the most pumped about it. But first, I want to bring in Lauren. Ryan, I’ll let Jim introduce you and bring you on board. You can, he can question you, but…Lauren, good morning. Welcome to the show.

Lauren Morton:  [2:56] Good morning. Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be part of Coffee with Jim and James. I feel pretty special being able to be on with you guys. So, this is pretty awesome.

James:  [3:07] We’ll ask you that same question later to see if you still feel the same [laughs] way.

[3:12] But Lauren, let’s bring you in and talk about this commitment to user experience. So, it’s not just external facing or that traditional UX that, you know, we’ve come to love, but it’s also really a concept that we use to redefine and restructure the product side of our house.

[3:30] So, if you don’t mind, can you give us a fly‑over of this restructure that I’m talking about, and honestly, how you found yourself right in the middle.

Lauren:  [3:40] Sure, yeah. Absolutely. So, we talk a little bit about the road to product innovation and where we came from.

[3:48] Being just technology services, and then moving into that product innovation, and then the systems engineering side of things. Really, when we look at innovation, it’s really the core of our business. It’s the backbone of Energy Worldnet.

[4:05] I mean, really, if you think about it from the very beginning, going all the way back to delivering…The first to deliver computer‑based training to the industry in form of CDs. Now, how far have we come from CDs?

[4:17] I think we’re all thankful for that, not to have to try to track those down, but innovation itself is nothing new to Energy Worldnet. It’s who we are. It’s been ingrained in us from the very beginning.

[4:28] You know, when I started with a company back in January of 2012, it’s been a little while now, we were a growing company. We had a few people and they wore many hats. I think that that is common for a company that is growing and very entrepreneurial in spirit.

[4:43] So, when I came on board, I was actually 1 of 12 people back in 2012 so I’ve seen a lot of change, a lot of great growth. Pretty exciting to see that now and where we are, but at the time it was common for me to move, you know.

[4:58] We’re talking about wearing these different hats to move from talking with clients to writing requirements. Putting together mock‑ups for these new features. I’d be in leadership meetings. I would act as a project manager.

[5:11] I’d go from that to troubleshooting hardware issues, making road map recommendations for our product. Then literally even crawling around on the floor to set up new equipment for employees which, you know. Hey, that was fine. I enjoyed helping people, so no problem.

James:  [5:29] Lauren crawling around the floor is user experience to the max.

Lauren:  [5:32] Yes. Absolutely, yes. You, that is very true. So, you know, many hats were worn at the time.

[5:41] So, you know, for me personally, I really did not have what Stephen Covey refers to as, you know, in his book, “The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People” that dedicated quadrant to time, that we focus on the important and the strategic things. And so, the good thing, is that we have continued to grow, and as we’ve done that, we’ve become much more specialized, and we begin to drop some of those hats.

[6:07] And we become much more laser‑focused on our roles. And so, the same’s true for me, and, you know, my background being in information systems, and systems development, and then being so engrained in our product, my natural inclination is to move more towards the product innovation and product development activities.

[6:28] And so, like many, I had to take a step back and say, you know, “What is it that I’m passionate about?” And although I enjoy helping people, you know, crawling on the ground, [laughs] and it’s like, say, user experience for sure, and helping with those, sort of, broad technology things, my true passion is in the platform and the product, and seeing how that helps our clients.

[6:50] You know, Jim, James, I know that you know this, that our clients, they have a lot on their plate. And they’re dealing with regulations. They’re dealing with safety matters. They’re wanting to make sure that their folks are, again, safe, that they’re out on the jobsite, they’re trained, they’re qualified. And, you know, they need the smart tools to support them.

[7:11] Not to hinder them, but to support them. And, honestly, I get super excited when I see something that we’ve built truly help somebody and make a difference to them. So, I believe that this move reinforces our commitment to the brand, to the user experience that you talked about, to the product, and to going back to our roots of innovation.

[7:33] And, most of all, helping our clients in the industry. And so, you know, we’ve put together some very passionate people that are focused on delivering, I think, what really matters to the industry. So, I’m super thrilled and very excited about this, this new opportunity.

James:  [7:50] Jim, did you, did you hear what Lauren said? When she came on board there were 12 people.

Jim:  [7:55] Yes.

James:  [7:56] I, I had 12 people on a Zoom call yesterday.

Jim:  [7:59] I had 12 people at my house this weekend and, you know, that, you know?

James:  [8:03] [laughs] I think that’s, I think that’s illegal in Florida.

Jim:  [8:07] And, and, but, we’ll talk about that afterwards, but let’s not make sure…Let’s make sure that doesn’t air. [laughs] On a serious note, let me, let me bring Ryan into the mix, and I have to say something to Ryan, as well as everybody. The one thing that just enamored me with listening to Lauren was the passion in her voice, and I think that’s, you know, such a, a strong trait.

[8:31] And sun‑, such a, you, you…It gives you energy to hear that. So, Ryan, you know, I, I’m gonna put you on the spot here. We’re gonna talk about, you know, product and services, and having passionate people in the right seat, doing the right job. And I wanna learn about you, as our audience does. You know, what brought you to product innovation? What drives you?

[8:54] Give us a little bit of your history as well as, you know, what makes you get up in the morning first thing and say, “I am ready to tackle this day?”

James:  [9:02] And, Ryan, how is it to follow Lauren? How’s that?

Ryan Wicks:  [9:05] Yeah, it’s about the same. It’s, it’s awesome. I am extremely fortunate.

James:  [9:08] [laughs] The setup.

Ryan:  [9:10] You know, so…

Lauren:  [9:10] No, no pressure whatsoever, you know? No pressure. [laughs]

Ryan:  [9:14] No pressure at all. You know, it’s a…First and foremost, thank you all for having me ’cause Lauren’s the powerhouse in her, and of herself. So, to have me alongside, that’s, I’m very [inaudible] for that.

James:  [9:22] I imagine.

Ryan:  [9:23] But, too, as far as passion goes, I mean, I have been fortunate enough to sort of stumble into my [inaudible] . I, you know, walked into Mayo Clinic and, you know, as an intern, and wanted to do more and learn more. And I was surrounded by extremely intelligent, and extremely passionate people, and it just rubbed off. I learned from the best. And, you know, I’ve just took that forward.

[9:46] So, you know, Lauren mentioned wanting to be able to help people, and that’s just core to who I am from the get. So, yeah, you know, passion’s extremely important to us, and it’s one of those things that it’s not a matter of just being passionate and being dedicated to what you do, but for me personally, it’s about listening. Not hearing, listening.

[10:08] Really actually able to, you know, meet people where they’re at, and hear where they’re, they’re doing and what they’re going through, and taking that and turning it around to how we can help. How we can, you know, meet them where they’re at, and make sure that we’re providing what we need. But, I’m extremely fortunate. I, you know, like I said, I stumbled to, to where I am.

[10:25] I wasn’t planning on being at EWN, but here I am. Been here for almost five years now and, you know, it’s just, it’s been a [inaudible] .

James:  [10:34] S‑, slam. I got, we got here as fast as we could, guys, Lauren and Ryan.

Ryan:  [10:35] Yeah, I know, right?

Lauren:  [10:36] I know, I’m glad, very glad.

Ryan:  [10:39] Yeah, and, and to that point, I would have to say, the timing of, of James and I starting right about the same time, was just highly coincidental, but just…

[10:48] [crosstalk]

James:  [10:48] Serendipitous.

Ryan:  [10:49] Oh, yeah, you know, and James immediately recognizing that I’m a helper. And, I enjoy, you know, jumping into situations I have no business being in…

James:  [10:59] [laughs]

Ryan:  [10:59] and recognizing that for the very first [inaudible] work that we had, he needed an AV guy. I’m a nerd. I’ll pick it up. I can do that. So, there I am first time working with my phones, working with Walkie‑Talkies, try to make sure presentations are up to date. I had people walking up to me mid‑show going, “I need to change these slides.”

[11:18] I’m like, “Oh, I, I, I’ve sort of got something going.”

[11:21] [crosstalk]

James:  [11:21] kinda run into something.

Ryan:  [11:21] Yeah, but…

[11:22] [crosstalk]

James:  [11:22] I’ll get on it.”

Ryan:  [11:23] We’ll make it work. That’s fine. We can do that. And, I think that’s just one of the biggest things that Lauren and I have in common is that we are absolutely driven to help those that we can help and just be able to, to hear you and say, “Yeah, we can do that. We can do that.”

James:  [11:39] That’s our culture for sure at DWN. Ryan, thanks for that, you know, almost testimony. I hope people realize stumbling into your career is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen. I think not stumbling into your career is probably the worst thing.

[11:57] But, I’m gon‑, Lauren, I’m going to bring you back in and fire off kind of the last set of questioning for both you and Ryan. Innovation and excellence, that’s kinda where we draw the line and have kind of the two sides that are new in this real work. So, Lauren, do you mind giving us kind of that 30,000‑foot view of, of what inspires each team each day.

[12:21] Really, what are they shooting for? What’s the…

[12:23] [crosstalk]

James:  [12:23] behind it?

Lauren:  [12:24] Yeah. Absolutely. So, first, let me just say this. It’s kind of a fun fact. So we went back to again we’re talking about how many people there were when I started. There were what? Twelve, so now in the product innovation and product excellence division, we have roughly like that same number of folks dedicated to innovation, to excellence.

[12:46] And, so, you know, again, we talk about being much more laser‑focused in wearing those many hats. So, it’s awesome that we’re able to do that. And, so, when we, when we talk about product innovation as a whole, and then we have in essence two areas. You know you mentioned product innovation, product excellence.

[13:03] And, really, those are the beginning and the end of the whole product development life cycle. And, so, it starts with product innovation. And that is the ideation. That is the why behind what we do. And that is the al‑ also the what, what is it that we build. So, what is that why with the features and the tools that we build?

[13:25] And, why is that important to the clients? Why is that important to the industry? And, it’s the requirement gathering. And, then, working with our development team to execute on those plans and those goals, and that why that we talk about. And, so, really wanting to make sure that again what we deliver matters.

[13:42] And, on the flip side of that, you have product excellence. And, so, that is the commitment to the quality to ensuring at the end of the day that what we’ve delivered is the very best. And it also aligns with that vision, and that plan, that why that product innovation laid out from the very beginning.

[14:04] So, again, it is the beginning and the end of that whole product development life cycle. And, we’ve put together a team of some really talented folks that are committed, that are driven, that are passionate, that are curious, that are excited to not only try to be problem solvers, which I think that’s one thing Ryan and I also share. We love to solve [laughs] problems.

Ryan:  [14:27] Yes.

Lauren:  [14:27] And, then, but not only that but actually going out and being a problem finder. So, what are the issues before they even come to us? And, so, those are some of the things that really drive this group. And, so, we’re just thrilled really.

Jim:  [14:44] Lauren that’s a great trait and I love what you said there. A problem finder, where you go out and try to, not say, break it, but see if there’s any pieces that are…You know, just don’t assume everything is perfect. You go with, you know, with the assumption you’re going to find something out there. I love that aspect.

[15:02] Ryan, let me bring [inaudible] a little bit. I want to take this down maybe a little bit of a different path, and much more into Jim’s world. OK? Let’s pretend that I am a prospect, you know, a client, a user of the Energy Worldnet system, or again, just Jim.

[15:17] As I said, I’m consciously incompetent to everything behind this, but I’m consciously competent to what I expect when I go forward with it. So, having said that, what will this now look like to me, you know, all the innovations that we’re talking about?

[15:33] Not going to hold you anything, but this will help people like me to help understand some of your world and how it transcends over into, you know, people like me that aren’t mostly, not really techie. But, you know, we use your stuff every day. Without it, I’m dead in the water.

[15:50] So, if that wasn’t a loaded question that you could talk two hours on, I don’t know what is.

Ryan:  [15:58] I’m telling you, man, and I would first say that, you know, taking a little bit of a step back from just Lauren and I.

[16:05] Again, we are very fortunate to be with the company that we’re at. We have several individuals. If you’re fortunate to work with us, you will find have a passion for what we do. Like Lauren and I have a passion about understanding, “Why do you need to do this? What are you trying to do? How do you do what you do?”

[16:23] We are experts in our field. You know, that is what we do, but part of being an expert is understanding that you don’t know everything, and everyone has a little bit of a nuance. Everybody has a little bit, you know, difference in how they do what they do.

[16:36] So, one of the first things for, you know, for you Jim, would, for me personally, is to sit down with you and go, “What do you do? How do you do what you do?” That’s what I’ve loved about my career. No one’s ever assumed that I understood intimately how they do what they do, so that lets me just sit down and just learn you.

[16:54] How do you do what you do? What’s important to you? What, you know, why do you go through this process instead of this one? What’s failed in the past and, you know, learn from you, and make sure that at the end of it all, I can talk with you in the language that you share. So, that way you understand I hear you.

[17:13] Now I can take that back to my teens, my peers, my, you know, my groups, and say, “This is how Jim does what he does, and this is why this is important. This is where we need to go because of that.” Everybody gathers around that and we all take it forward. So, that is what, you know, we do. That’s how we work.

[17:31] So, for individuals like yourself that are, you know, just sub tech gurus.

James:  [17:37] Careful.

Ryan:  [17:38] We have, you know, a very large group of individuals that are here to talk with you and to help you out that they understand what they do.

[17:45] They know their passions and they know their knowledge areas. But more than anything else, they understand you got where you are by doing your way, and you are an expert in your field. We’re going to be here to hear you. So, that’s what we do.

Jim:  [18:00] Wow. Let me just jump in just to explain that it is true every single day. That passion that you have to understand my world, which is a little atypical, and try to find ways to make it more synergetic or easier.

[18:19] I mean, you know, when you teach me things that, you know, “If you do it this way, it might save you 20 minutes.” That’s a revelation to me, so thank you. To you, the whole team, everybody, so.

Ryan:  [18:29] Yeah, you too.

James:  [18:31] What a pep rally. [laughs] Well, we’ve come to the end of our show, sadly, but, we have one more question. It’s something we’ve been ending shows with them. I’m going to quit disclaiming that it’s something that we end our show with because I’m going to just assume everyone watches every episode all the time.

[18:51] But, for this one, this is the last time I’ll ever say it, Jimmy. We like to end our show with one question, and Lauren I’m going to start with you. So, Ryan, if you pay attention, you get a jump on it, you could be ideating the whole time. Lauren, do you love what you do?

Lauren:  [19:09] Yes, I sure do, you know? I think if you’ve known me, you’ve heard me say that it is always an exciting time to be part of Energy Worldnet.

James:  [19:23] Amen.

Lauren:  [19:23] And that is no different today than it was the first day that I started, you know? Those [laughs] many days ago back in 2012. So, I enjoy the people that I work with. I enjoy the industry, our clients, you know, getting to know them, and seeing them at conferences. You know, it’s a…It really continues to, to, to drive me.

[19:54] The other thing is, is that when I see, truly, when I see that something that we have built, when that really helps a client, and that helps them in their day‑to‑day, and that really does inspire me. And so, I love it. I, I enjoy it. Everything is, it’s, it’s, it’s never dull. There’s always something new happening, and that has been true throughout my career.

[20:20] So, absolutely, I do love what I do.

James:  [20:24] That’s awesome, Lauren. You know, I think we all wanna, you know, affect positive change, and so you saying that, you know, seeing it in action, or whatever it looks like at that moment, is, is one of the best results. Ryan, you’re not off the hook, man, and you had a little, a little bit of extra time. And I know you work so well on the fly. Ryan, do you love what you do?

Ryan:  [20:47] Absolutely not. [laughs]

James:  [20:49] I’ve been waiting for somebody to [laughs] answer like that.

Ryan:  [20:52] [laughs] I couldn’t let you down, James. [laughs]

Lauren:  [20:54] It would be Ryan, you know?

Ryan:  [20:55] I could not let you down in that moment. Again, James and I started at the same time, which is serendipity at its best. So, you know, again, Lauren said it all, and she’s absolutely right, but I will just say one more time, it’s not just a matter that I love what I do, I love what I get to be around. The teams I get to be around, the people that I get to be around.

[21:19] It’s not just me. It’s not just Lauren. It’s not actually even just Jim and James that are passionate. We have so many people, that you would be surprised. They are thinking about your problems night and day. They really are trying to figure things out. They really are working to, you know, make, not just you better, but, you know, your peers better, and the industry better.

[21:39] For a lot of the people, if you were to, to get to know them, you’d be like, “Why are you worried about this? Why, well, hey, why does this keep you up at night?” It’s just because it’s what we do. It’s, it’s really…If you’ve never had a job that you just truly were passionate about, I am sorry for you.

[21:58] And, and to go back to what Jim and A‑, James and I were talking about earlier as far as stumbling into your career, that’s why I was able to stumble to my career, ’cause I very early on found out what I was passionate about. And if you can find that, no matter what that is, you know, hold on to that, because that, like Jim, you know…

[22:16] [laughter]

Ryan:  [22:17] Jim, even though he, he, you know, jokes about not being a typical guru, what drives the rest of us is his personality and his drive and his energy. For James, you know, being able to lighten the load on everybody else, and make sure that we’re all, you know, connected, and doing what we need to do.

[22:35] We all find our passions, and we’re all fortunate enough that we’re in a company that allows us to find those passions. Again, for those of you that don’t know me, more than likely, I’m on a call talking about [inaudible] technical things, because that’s my background. But, I’m now in a team, that all we get to do, all…

[22:53] [laughter]

Ryan:  [22:54] What we’re, are trusted with is the, the future, and the new innovations for this company.

James:  [23:02] Yeah.

Ryan:  [23:02] And, if you were to know me 15, 20 years ago, you probably wouldn’t…

James:  [23:05] [laughs]

Ryan:  [23:05] you know, assume that that’s where I would be…

Jim:  [23:07] [laughs]

Ryan:  [23:07] but here I am, because I’ve been allowed to follow my passion, and my passion’s led me to the people that need help. They need a way, and I’m here to hear that and to get them what they need. So, yeah, I absolutely love what I do.

[23:22] [crosstalk]

James:  [23:22] Ryan, I just had, I just had the biggest epiphany. You ready? Y’all are, literally, the dream team. Like, that’s…

Ryan:  [23:30] [laughs]

James:  [23:30] that’s what y’all’s job is. What are we talking about right now?

Lauren:  [23:35] It’s true.

James:  [23:36] I’ll bill it your dream job, the way you just sit around.

Ryan:  [23:38] Yeah.

James:  [23:38] You get paid to dream now, right?

Ryan:  [23:41] Yeah.

James:  [23:41] And then make it happen.

Jim:  [23:43] Yeah.

Ryan:  [23:43] Yeah.

James:  [23:43] We’ll, we’ll workshop that. I think there’s some legs on that.

Ryan:  [23:46] I like it.

James:  [23:47] Well, Jim, Ryan, great answer. Lauren, you’re awesome. You’re both awesome. Jimmy, you wanna take us home?

Jim:  [23:54] Absolutely, I, I, I don’t want to. I, I can go on for another hour just listening to this, because I have to tell you, every time I get inspired and I learn something more about…Seriously, our heartfelt thanks to Ryan and Lauren for joining us today. Absolutely, you guys make a difference each and every day, and I’m sure that our audience has picked up something.

[24:15] Hopefully they got a little, little bit of that inspiration that they can take back and have that spread. And I’m gonna put Ryan and Lauren on the, right on it, right now, that if you guys wanna connect with them on LinkedIn, they’re, they’re in the links up above. So, do that. You may even reach out to them to, you know, as you guys say, “Nerd out.” Is that OK if I say that? “Nerd out?” OK.

[24:37] [crosstalk]

James:  [24:38] OK, I, I think it’s more “geek out.” “Nerd” has a negative connotation.

Jim:  [24:42] Oh, “geek out.”

Lauren:  [24:42] Yeah. [laughs]

Jim:  [24:42] OK, I just wanna make sure I’m, I’m hip with the lingo.

James:  [24:45] I’m just [inaudible] .

Jim:  [24:45] I wanna make sure I’m giving the right vibe.

James:  [24:47] It’s good, it’s good enough.

Jim:  [24:49] Anyways, thank you, everybody, for tuning in today. Do we have some exciting news? You may wanna check out the Energy Worldnet website. There might be a new Coffee with Jim & James area on there, and you might be seeing something very exciting on LinkedIn pretty soon. James, I, I, you know me, I just have to spill the beans at times.

James:  [25:07] Such premonition.

Jim:  [25:08] Well, I tell ya, it’s because of our viewership every, each and every week. We thank you all for tuning in. Until next time, please take care, stay safe, God bless you, God bless our industry, and we will see you on the next episode of Coffee with Jim & James.

[25:22] [music]

James:  [25:24] Thank you, all.

Lauren:  [25:24] Thanks, y’all.

Jim:  [25:25] I’m gonna…

[25:26] [music]

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