Frederique Dame knows about successful cultures and successful CEOs. Dame was one of the first product hires at Uber, and was recently appointed to the Board of Directors at Ubisoft - a multi-billion dollar European company.
I recently had the chance to interview Dame for my column - we talked about Uber, her new role at Ubisoft, and what the future holds for technology.
Your background is fascinating - tell our readers a bit about your journey.
Frederique Dame: I studied telecom engineering in Paris, and then spacecraft technology and satellite communications in London. In 2000, I moved to the US to start my career and began in optical networking. I eventually fell into product management where I worked on base station products. Early in my career, I worked on extremely technical networking products.
I became fascinated with social networks and eventually landed at Yahoo in 2004. I worked on many of Yahoo's early local products and eventually two photo sharing sites: Photobucket and SmugMug. This experience really shaped me and helped me develop as a PM.
After taking some time off post-Smugmug, Rob Hayes from First Round Capital introduced me to a few companies. Uber was the most exciting for me, and I joined in 2012.
What would you say are some of the characteristics you see in successful CEOs?
FD: The biggest characteristic I see in successful CEOs is the passion for the product. The really, truly passionate CEOs want to make a difference and form the business as a means to solve a problem they truly care about.
You look at someone like Travis (Kalanick), for example, who has that passion - he empowers everyone around him to be a "mini-CEO" and feel that same sense of ownership over solving the problem. This is what makes Uber's culture work - it's the "hustle" and ownership that everyone has to solve the problem.
Aside from that, I think it's intangible leadership. It's very difficult to explain leadership, but you need to inspire people every day to buy into the mission. Having a clear mission and inspiring people is crucial.
You recently joined the board of Ubisoft. How did that come about?
FD: First and foremost it was about reputation in the business, and to an extent connections. I heard about the opportunity through a good friend, and learned that Ubisoft was looking for an independent board member with a technical background that's French speaking.
I did my research on the company and learned it has a lot of characteristics of Silicon Valley companies. The company is French, but generates 90% of its revenues outside of France.
I met with the CEO via Skype and then met with other board members in New York. What was supposed to be a 1-hour conversation in New York turned into three hours, and it was evident we wanted to work with each other.
At its core, I loved the background story of the business, and how it's constantly striving to use data to iterate quickly and move faster. The DNA of Ubisoft reminds me a lot of Uber.
What technologies are you excited about at the moment?
FD: I am really excited about Augmented Reality. AR will become a necessity in our life in the coming years and decades. Workplace behaviors are changing and becoming more dynamic and teams are now distributed; and with that will come the need for better collaboration and communication tools, and AR will enable that.
Family and friends are now all over the world and social products are great to keep in touch, but AR will take that to a new level. Snapchat Spectacles and other products are just the beginning of this trend.