Blake Irving | 2018 MAKERS Conference
Blake Irving, Board Director and Retired CEO, GoDaddy, on making tech more diverse
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Blake Irving.
BLAKE IRVING: The terrible thing about those commercials, they worked. They worked. I mean, it says a lot of things that are pretty nasty about our situation, I think. What happened after the first commercial at the Super Bowl? The company gained 20% market share in six weeks. Over the course of last 10 years it has 70% share of the domains marketplace in the United States, close to that globally. Because of GoDaddy girls. And I did have a lot of people say to me when I took the gig, WTF, dude? Are you kidding me? GoDaddy? That's like totally off brand for you. And I said, yeah, but, you're not gonna believe we're gonna be able to do here. You won't believe it. So let's just talk about transformation for a minute. Now besides this guy looking like probably my doppelganger about 30 years from now, he's a he's a presidential biographer, James burns, and transformational leadership is talked about a lot. And some of the very important tenants of transformational leadership versus transactional, is transactional leadership is this thing where you're focused on the bottom line. You change some processes, you change some systems, you do some things will actually make your numbers better. And god, it's really important because GE, Unilever, the General Motors of the world, they will not improve their bottom line. They will not have margin expansion if they don't do that. Transformational leadership is something completely different, and it's deeper. It's a little more difficult. Because you actually have to go into the underlying assumptions that exist in the company and say, you know something man, it's not just about the bottom line, bottom line looks fine. The company was growing great. But there's definitely something wrong. And, honestly, I'm almost talking to the wrong audience. You ought to be a bunch of dudes right now because that's who needs to hear the message. There was something seriously wrong. So the transformation, from my perspective, was about how do we make this a purpose-based company culturally. Change the culture, move it in a direction that makes people feel like, wow I'm proud of what we do and I don't have to be embarrassed when I tell folks that I work for GoDaddy, which did happen to a lot of employees that I talked to.
But the question, when you get into well how do you do transformation, what's that look like? For me it all starts with a thing I call a vision hypothesis. And a vision hypothesis is something that you can bounce off of people and people listen to it. And you say this is what I think this company can be. I believe five years, 10 years from now, this is what we represent. And, while you're bouncing it off of them, you're watching their language and you're seeing if they think you're smoking crack or they believe in you or yeah, I get it I think that's really interesting, maybe I'm willing to join.
I won't tell you what ours was yet, but I started recruiting people based on a hypothesis that said we're going to be a company that's inclusive. We're going to actually change the way we're perceived globally. We're going to become a global technology company. We're going to be a platform that small businesses and people that have side hustles use to make sure that they have somebody who's their backup if they lose their primary job. That's what we're going to do. That's our purpose in life. And I started recruiting people. I started bouncing it off of men, I started bouncing it off of women. And they said, god that's really cool. How do we show up? Because we don't show up like that now. We will. We will. But do you believe in that hypothesis? Is that something you think you can get behind? And folks start saying, yeah I think I can. So while you're bouncing it off of smart people and you're testing it, you're asking questions, simultaneously hearing from folks on whether they think you're right or you're wrong. The vision hypothesis that we ended up publishing in the company, this is after bouncing it off of a lot of folks way smarter than me. Pretty much everybody in the room way smarter than me. And I basically got this incredible amount of feedback that said we want to do something bigger than life. Everybody wants to work for a company that's successful, puts up good numbers, your stock goes up, great, that's fantastic. But developers and engineers don't spring out of bed in the morning because your stock went up $1.
They don't. Because they want to have a bigger purpose, a deeper calling, and it matters. Our vision hypothesis was radically shifting the global economy toward life fulfilling independent ventures. Whatever that happens to be. It doesn't matter. Now that's big. Now how do you measure that? How do you shift the global economy? Well you'd have to actually do a GDP check 10 years from now and see if life fulfilling ventures or tiny businesses or side hustles turn to a larger part of the economy than big businesses. It's shifting. You're seeing it shift. You're seeing people start to work for themselves. But it doesn't show up in the numbers yet. Because the problem is so doggone acute. So that is the vision that we started down the path of. Simultaneously, because this is what you start with, you get the big idea, you start assaulting the culture. You have to actually start, at the same time, working on culture inside the company. I have a process that I like to call disarm, and assail. What people will not do, and you see the Louvre here, right? This is what people do when they describe the culture of their company, they throw up a beautiful glass pyramid on a table and they say, that's our culture. We're tough, we're gritty, we throw our shoulders into it, we're the best.
We try hard, we work with each other, we're great with our customers. And then you start talking about, well, what about this weird thing like how does that make you feel? What about this? And people start going yeah, that's really screwed up. And so I started to assail cultural norms that I knew had been in the company over the last 10, 15 years. And it made it safe for them to. And so then they started to assail the cultural norms that they didn't feel good about. And if you know the way the Louvre works, underneath is where all the action happens. It's not in the IM Pei beautiful, glass pyramid on top. It's underneath it. And that's exactly what was happening with our culture. There was so much going on that people did not feel included, didn't feel like this was their company necessarily. And they wanted it to feel like their own. So I just started assailing. I started listening. Went on a listening tour. Talked to hundreds of employees personally, met with groups of 10 and 20, and just let them bombard me with stuff cause I'd assail something and then let's beat it up again. And they all came up with the company that they wanted to produce.
And that's what we've done. And so over the last five years, I feel like I was just doing their work trying to bring this company to a place where it honored the things that they honored. Which are the things that you honor. The biggest thing that we did obviously was juxtapose our previous position on women. You saw GoDaddy girls. I stood up in an all hands meeting pretty early in my tenure and said, hey, we don't have GoDaddy girls anymore. We have GoDaddy women. You're them you're never going to stand at a booth at South by Southwest, and have somebody walk up to you and go, hey are you a GoDaddy girl? You're not ever going to put up with that shit again. You're not going to have to. So we juxtapose the position extremely hard and flipped it in the other direction. Internally, like you saw a lot of things in the video that we did, I'll just give you a couple of shorthand in the couple of minutes I have left. Hey guess what, news flash, over 50% of small business is the United States are run by women. Makers, right. So our first Super Bowl commercial after I took the role, and we still did them because they're actually a pretty good vehicle. This is our model. This is Gwen Deane. She's an engineer at a water factory in New York, a public utility. And she built puppets on the side. She loved doing this. And she wanted to make it to her life's work. And we talked to a whole bunch of people, thought she was the best suited for the job, and she quit her job on the Super Bowl. She announced that she left with John Turturro on the Super Bowl and we had a camera on her boss who is sitting in a bar somewhere and threw up a beer. It's classic. But this is who we serve.
And so we just started showing who we serve. Not that big a deal. Danica Patrick. Everybody thinks about GoDaddy, they think about Danica Patrick. Unbelievably strong-willed woman incredibly capable. The best female open wheel race car driver in the world ever, of all time. Has won a race. We actually juxtaposed her and said you're going to represent strong women who are successful and have done things that are hard. That are fighting the good fight. And in this case we showed Danica with basically a 100 pound body suit on and she's running in front of a bunch of bodybuilders and shows up at a spray tan booth run by a woman. Now the commercials aren't as memorable as the ones that I showed you earlier, because that stuff is indelible, and turns out it takes a long time to get rid of them. But showing women as strong and successful leaders is what we did. And we didn't just do it outside, we built the internal capacities inside. So we did a bunch of systematic changes on how we review. Our review language, our promotion language. I'll go through some real quick stuff here. This is Gail Jacoby, she runs an ERG that we started called GoDaddy Women in Tech. You start with me at the top and then you get a bunch of grass roots happen at the bottom, and it meets in the middle. And the whole company ends up be becoming behind it. Which is incredibly important.
You build belief in folks outside the company. This is Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College. Who actually got wind of what we were doing. I had a long conversation with Maria. I had a long conversation with Kelly Whitney, and said look, this is what we're going to do. I'll put myself out there, I'll put myself at risk. I've had death threats about the stuff, it hasn't been super fun. But these women became advocates for us as well. To turn us into a company that actually represents one of those stories that says, if GoDaddy it can do it, dear god why can't anybody else do it?
Which is true. Finally, salary data. We published what we were paying women versus what we were paying men at every grade level and the company, made it public about three years ago. And published that in front of everybody. Not all good news right? We track it, some goes up, some goes down. There's no possible way women and men are being paid the same. And that's what we saw in the data. When I actually looked at the data, I said this can't be right. Let's go take a look at promotions trajectory and see what that looks like. Turns out, women don't ask for promotion as adamantly as guys do. Guys are 30% qualified. They're ready. Totally ready, women are 80% qualified, I got 20% more learning to do so I'm not ready to go ask. True?
BLAKE IRVING: We went and we audited our promotion trajectory. Lo and behold, they weren't being promoted. Because they're making more money in the position because they've been there longer. Duh. So we started a new practice. Every individual in the company gets reviewed, in their first three years, for promotion regardless of gender, regardless of station. What happened with promotion? Women's promotions went up 30%. Very similar to what we heard later. Review them separately. 30%. Did guys go down? No, they didn't go down. There's just room to do it. This stuff isn't hard. This was a five year transformation. I retired in December. It burned me out. I'm just saying. My wife is here with me and we're actually doing this because it's fun. This is us on the stand when we took our IPO about almost three years ago. Nine women, seven guys on the stand. Company was a billion dollar company. We're now well over double that. We're publicly traded. We have 17 million customers up from 10 million. 50% of our new college graduate hires, engineering hires, are women now. Almost 50% of our interns are women now. And those are engineers. And that's hard. You can do this. You just heard somebody say it's not that hard.
It's not that hard. And if this was a room full of dudes, and it's not. I would be saying, it's not that hard. Just do it, and be committed. And don't back off it. I think my sister, who would have really said to me, what the-- are you going to GoDaddy? Are you kidding me? Would be super proud of where we are today. Thank you.
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