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Dave Kresta 21 September 2009


Wrestler of ideas

Dave Kresta loves to grab ideas, wrestle them to the ground, mix them with other ideas, and command them to submit, be fruitful, and multiply.

He has been doing this in the Portland software scene for over 20 years now.

Way back in 1988, Dave packed up the wagon at his parent’s mid-West home and moved to Or-e-gone. With a fresh B.S in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan he started writing code for Logic Automation. The primary language was C, and some new fangled language called C++ , along with object oriented programming. Dave remarks: “When I talk to tech guys today, I was using stone and chisel compared to software development today. Anyways, it was fun. I got to buy a new stereo and eat out lots.”

Dave decided to attend PSU in 1990 in the evenings and 4 years later got an MBA. (In the meantime, he got married to his lovely wife, Elaine, and had two kids). Why the insanity of an MBA? Says Dave: “I figured I didn’t want to stare at a computer screen all day for 30 years and write code, so I decided to learn something about business. So now I can stare at a computer screen all day and NOT write code.”

Since 1994 Dave has been involved in product management, product marketing, business planning, strategy development and just about everything required to make a software company successful (except write code). He has been fortunate to work for a number of great Portland companies including Synopsys (acquired Logic Automation), RadiSys, Mentor Graphics, (internet group within ABC Technologies, later acquired by SAS Institute), Clinicient, and Ontier. He dabbles in consulting with an entity called CollaborativEye.

What are you up to?

As of 9/1/2009, I am considering new opportunities. I’ve just come off a great stint at a very early stage local startup. But as we all know, funding in this economy is a real bear. I am doing some pro-bono work for The Natural Step, a great Portland-based non-profit active in the sustainability area. I am helping them establish and leverage Twitter and other Social Media avenues. The first step was a social media survey to identify objectives and tie social media to real business needs. I think there are a lot of small companies that need similar help. There are just too many “10 Ten Best ways to use Twitter for your business” articles out there – somebody starting or running a small or medium sized business or non-profit just doesn’t have time to separate fact from fiction. I think I can help.

What are you into?

  1. Develop/clarify vision and strategy.
  2. Create strategic alliances.
  3. Develop and manage product roadmaps.
  4. Develop clear, concise positioning documents.
  5. Customer/market research and analysis (focus groups, interviews, persona development).
  6. Define market requirements.
  7. Bring focus and clarity to complex situations (e.g, complex market landscapes, product strategies, customer situations, etc).
  8. Define and implement new processes.
  9. Facilitate and focus virtual teams (draw out good ideas, guide teams, etc).
  10. Provide guidance, mentoring to team members.
  11. Identify strengths in others and help them figure out how to best use those strengths.
  12. Write.
  13. Develop clear, engaging presentations (with as few PowerPoint slides as possible!)

What do you like most about Portland?

Portland is the perfect sized city – not too big (like Seattle), and not too small (like Antelope). So you can get great food like Jake’s and pig out at VooDoo, and go to Powell’s, all without spending hours getting around. I also love the fact that I can get to the mountains and total isolation on a wilderness trail within 1 to 3 hours.

What have you learned after 20 years in the Portland software scene?

Good ideas are a dime a dozen. I’ve come up with lots, and so have people I’ve worked with. The key to success is to generate the ideas at the appropriate time, churn them, improve them, and then make something happen. Deliver something real. Your great idea probably won’t survive the grind of reality anyways. Some people are afraid to deliver a product to customers because it isn’t quite yet ready. This can paralyze a company and cause it to miss out on some very valuable real world feedback, or worse, totally miss out on a market window. Some people call this “Agile”, I just call it “Smart.”

But this isn’t an excuse for sloppy requirements. You still need to spend time understanding what your customers pains are and what they need to accomplish with your product. Most people don’t spend enough time on this – they go right to the solution, confusing specifications for requirements (BIG difference!) Also, this process should never end – your customers’ needs are always changing, and so should your offerings.

What do you like to do when you are not starting at a computer not writing code?

One of my passions is backpacking. We have a lot of great wilderness areas within several hours of Portland. One of my favorites is the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s why I like it. Another of my favorites is Mt. Adams. Of course Mt. Hood is beautiful, but it can be a bit more crowded (definition: if you see somebody else on your hike, it is crowded.)


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