Q&A with Dean Henrichsmeyer, VP Engineering Stacklet

Back in July 2021, Dean Henrichsmeyer joined Stacklet as the Vice President of Engineering. We recently had a chance to chat with Dean about his background and reasons for joining the team at Stacklet. Following are some of the highlights from our conversation.

Can you tell us a little about your background and experience? 

I have a long history in open source and Linux. I started out at VA Linux Systems, which morphed into a software and media technology company where I ran engineering for SourceForge, Slashdot, and other web properties. 

I then moved on to Canonical / Ubuntu where I focused on the intersection of open source and engineering. Moving through a number of different roles, I spent several years running a globally distributed engineering organization responsible for Ubuntu and the portfolio of technology products and services offered by Canonical.

At heart, I love building and managing high-performing teams. I’ve gained a lot of experience in striking the right balance between building a healthy business and maintaining a healthy community—that’s critical in the modern fast-paced technology world we’re in today.

Why have you stayed so involved in the open source segment?

As technology continues to move faster and faster, it’s become clear that it’s simply too expensive and slow for any company to invest in writing code that is not part of their core business value. While some take the ideological stance that code should be free, to me, it’s more pragmatic. Teams need to be spending time and resources where innovation happens and where value is delivered to the business. That means investing in code that can help build or expand differentiation in the market, not on maintaining the components that support basic functions or operations.

Furthermore, in order to solve bigger problems, we need collaboration and the wisdom of others. Open source done properly (which means open throughout the process, not just with the code) is an accelerator and enabler of that kind of collaboration. 

Why did you decide to join Stacklet?

I was ready to try something new, and I saw Stacklet as a uniquely appealing opportunity. As I said previously, my passion is building and growing high-performing teams. Stacklet sits at the intersection of open source, governance, cloud, and security. I can’t think of a more exciting space to work in right now, doing what I love, with a company at Stacklet’s current stage of growth.

Stacklet is well-positioned to add unique value by providing a cloud governance as code platform based on the OSS project, Cloud Custodian. The pandemic has continued to accelerate the move to the cloud and to underscore the criticality of governance, including both from a cost and a security standpoint. Moving to the cloud presents challenges in both of these areas.

I worked in open source during a time in which security went from being an afterthought to paramount for companies. We saw a lot of organizations starting to consume cloud services as fast as they could. However, organizations quickly realized that security and governance capabilities were critical, just as they were in traditional on-premises environments. Teams saw that the old ways of applying governance policies weren’t easily applicable in cloud environments. I’ve watched large companies deploying thousands and thousands of cloud resources in minutes. Security has to be built in when you’re working at that scale.

At the end of the day, working with smart people is loads of fun. After talking with the team at Stacklet, it was clear that this would give me an opportunity to work with a great team.

How do you like the role so far?

I’m having a blast. For just about any early-stage company, it can be a challenge to get a prospect’s attention and convince them that you can provide real value. I was very struck by how, starting with my first customer interaction, that wasn’t the case with Stacklet. We were able to quickly demonstrate that we could solve some critical challenges and deliver significant, tangible value. Within a one-hour meeting, we demonstrated how our platform could save the company more than $700,000, and they immediately committed to the product.

Your team is growing. What type of team are you looking to build?

We’re working in a fast-paced and challenging market. It’s challenging because we’re not in a segment in which one size fits all. We deliver value through both technology and expertise. Building teams that can provide both isn’t easy, but it’s also fun and rewarding. 

What kind of people are you looking for to join your team? What should they expect?

I’m looking to work with people who want to build great things. We’re searching for people that have experience and interest in the intersection of public cloud and governance. 

I’m looking for smart, competent, productive, and flexible engineers. I’m not so focused on some of the practical experience an individual may have had, such as what languages they’ve worked with. Rather, I am most interested in a candidate’s ability and willingness to learn. I want people who can identify what they need to learn and quickly adapt to change. I also don’t want people to be stuck in the same position. I’d like people to be learning constantly, and moving around to tackle new roles and responsibilities.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to spend time with my family, play music, travel (in a normal world), and enjoy outdoor activities. I play guitar generally, and saxophone only under duress. All of my kids play music as well so we have a lot of fun. My wife and I enjoy hiking, kayaking, and cycling.