Steve Millard is the CEO of Kognitio, a company that provides in-memory analytics at the point of convergence of bid data analytics and cloud computing. Steve has more than 25 years’ experience building, leading, and consulting with sales organizations both in the Fortune 100 as well as with pre-IPO venture backed start-up companies in Big Data and business analytics. Millard was promoted from his post as chief operating officer several months after initially joining as senior vice president of North American sales from IBM, where he was responsible for global data warehouse sales. He previously held executive management positions at Greenplum, which was acquired by EMC, and Netezza, where he was the founding vice president of sales prior to that company’s IPO in 2007. He was also vice president of worldwide strategic partnerships at Teradata and a sales director for DATAllegro, which was acquired by Microsoft.
Sramana: Steve, let’s start by setting the context of your personal background as well as the context of Kognitio.
Steve Millard: I was born and raised in the Silicon Valley area. I moved around a bit as a kid and ended up going to college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I joined IBM out of college and moved all over with them. I spent about half of my career there and ended up in Alaska, where I was working on the oil teams selling mainframes. I moved back to Ohio with IBM and have been based out of Ohio ever since.
I moved back to Ohio primarily for family reasons. There is not a lot of technology based out of Ohio, but I have had a very interesting career since then. My father is an entrepreneur and has taken five Silicon Valley companies public. I was very successful during my time with IBM and some of the larger organizations, and I made a name for myself there. During that time my father told me that anybody with a pulse could be successful with IBM on his or her business card. The real test of one’s character comes when you are successful with a business card that has a name nobody knows.
Sramana: I think that is an incredibly accurate statement.
Steve Millard: I took that as a personal challenge. I had my first opportunity to join a startup coming out of Teradata when I had the chance to join a small company out of Boston called Netezza. It had six or seven employees, and I joined shortly after 9/11. That was the worst possible time to join a company but I did it because I saw an opportunity to change the world. That sounds cliché and silly, but that is the mentality that I brought to the table. I saw an opportunity to change how people saw analytics and data warehousing.
I commuted back and forth from Ohio because it was important for me to keep my kids in one school district throughout my school years. That was not a popular decision with employers, but I stood firmly by what I believed was the right move. That turned out very well for me but it did have a price. When you do something like that you, end up commuting to jobs. I commuted to Boston as the founding VP of sales, and I learned what it took to succeed in a startup environment. It was my first taste, and it was an eye-opening experience. Along the way I had the opportunity to run sales at similar companies over the years before I had the opportunity to rejoin IBM.