TechTables Podcast
TechTables Podcast

Episode 99 · 1 month ago

Ep.99 Zero to One: Building From the Ground Up [Phoenix Live Podcast Tour Series] with Doug Lange, VP of IT Strategy at Choice Hotels International and fmr. CSO for the State of Arizona



Doug Lange, VP of IT Strategy at Choice Hotels International and fmr. CSO for the State of Arizona

Connect w/ DougLinkedIn

Sponsor: The TechTables Live Podcast Tour

Join us for these small, intimate live podcast conversations across the U.S.

July 22nd in Raleigh, NC

September 23rd in Sacramento, CA

October 14th in Tallahassee, FL

In today's episode, you will learn:

  • There’s no winning formula to success, but consistent success is normally found in people who constantly push themselves. Talk about how you’re pushing IT strategy at Choice Hotels.
  • The public sector is known for collaboration across state lines - now that you’re back in the private sector how are you collaborating with industry peers to go to the next level?
  • Like the Oregon Ducks when they had Marcus Mariota - speed is critical to success - and crushing your competition. Talk about the speed of execution you can enjoy back in the private sector that was missing in the public sector?
  • What advice or improvements - if any - are possible to improve the speed of delivery in the public sector?
  • You also mentioned off camera that you go to a board of directors for the budget now instead of the legislative body in AZ. What are some similarities and differences in selling the vision and details for your projects that the audience in the public sector and private sector could glean from?      


Want to dive deeper? Check out my episode on TechTables -

And if you're a CIO or technology leader interested in coming on TechTables, shoot me an email at

Thank you for supporting Levity Media LLC ❤️, a small business growing private and public sector technology communities through fun and engaging conversations with top technology leaders. Learn more about Joe Toste (me) at

See what episodes I'm creating at

Welcome back to tech tables. Actually, once you just give a brief intro on yourself in the wool, will jump in. Doug Lang, former chief strategy officer for the State of Arizona, currently vpaych strategy for choice hotels. I love that. So, Doug, you are your dress a certain way right now. Kind of looks a little silicon valley. Looks a little silicon valley right. Okay, when you left the state, did you change your whole wardrobe? But what happened there? No, half my wardrobe just disappeared. Okay, really, but we need to take a step back. We need to address something. When we initially met get I was podcast number twenty something. Yea Twenty Four. So all your listeners in your audience, you didn't know who was the one pushing you to go live and go in person. Oh that was you. Yeah, he's right, he's a hundred percent. I think maybe ten was up next. I do feel bad because episode twenty two, I think, of the public sector. There might have been only like two episodes from the public sector. I didn't know the public sector was a thing. I think you were out of the second public sector episode. I didn't know what the public sector was a year ago. That's shocking. I didn't know till I met Gary Brantley and and then started. Then I interviewed this guy, Brian Ben who's the CIO for the Atlantic Housing Authority. People were just really nice and then Doug said yes, I said, man, that's so cool. Chief Strategy Officer. I don't know what that is. So that I'm like researching chief strategy officer and I don't even think I knew who jr Tim more during that interview, which is Great. Yeah, it was. It has been a journey. So now we're all the way here were I just released episode eighty nine or ninety, and then we've got a number of episodes waiting for approval. I don't know. You might be episode one hundred. I might. Yeah, so we'll see. We'll see, we'll see. We'll see how shakes out, but I'm excited to have you back here on on tech tables and you worked with Tim and Jr. I'm going to put you on the spot before we dive in. What would your favorite your favorite part to work with JR and Tim? Oh God, that's a question I would ask just to divide them and make it awkward though they're both just great guys. Yeah, I think we just had so much fun because I think we were aligned in terms of what we wanted to do, but we brought ourselves to the our genuineselves and I think we just had so much fun and laughed. Tim was just talking about it right. Those are good times. When you hit the point in your career where you can blend personal and professional and be accomplishing amazing things. It's a good place to be. Yeah, and and he does actually really mean that. We...

...were talking and he just has nothing but stellar things. He actually stayed, I think, a lot longer with the with the state. Would you work five years there? Is that what it was? Yeah, the plan was two to three. Three was on the long end and I was going to be out and I fell in love with it. I loved what we were doing, I love what we were accomplishing, love the people ended up a stay in five years. Love that. Okay. So today's episode is titled Zero to One, building from the ground up, which is based on a book by Peter theeal called zero to one. You might be wondering why that book and it came from. We were chatting and does was talking about how much he loves speed, loves launching projects and innovating, and I just thought, wow, there's no better book than zero to one. It's great, and we're talking about you. Would actually said your zero to one kind of guy, right. Yeah, have you read the book or was that just a thought that you had? Oh No, I've absolutely read the book. Okay, okay, okay, awesome. So let's jump into it. So there's not a winning formula to success, but consistent success is normally found in people who push themselves. That was, I think, when we were talking, something I really picked up and I liked, and so I love to push myself to let to push a basketball team. Could you maybe talk about how you're pushing now that you're out of the maybe the slowness of government and how your you want, how you're pushing that it strategy at choice hotels right now. Yeah, I think right now my biggest asset is a fresh perspective. I think what I'm doing a lot of is just asking a lot of questions, asking questions about hospitality. It's a new space for me, operating model, just really trying to understand people's motivations. I think if you can truly understand someone's motivation, you can position yourself to really partner with them when it comes down to it. The focus really right now is just understanding where does the business want to go and where they trying to take things, because it informs so much about our it strategy, our organization, our structure, just in terms of velocity and where do we need to scale, what types of technologies do we need to invest in, where do we want to be disruptive? I think we talked about this the last time I was on, but my opinion, a great strategy comes from everywhere. It doesn't come from one person or one role. I'm just having a hack, a lot of fun talking to people in piece in it all together. Yeah, so you said a fresh perspective. What did you take from the state that you're now using right now? A choice hotels? Oh God, I think the one thing that that people don't understand unless you've worked within government, is the complexity and they look at it unfairly and in the other way around, which is maybe in the private sector things are more advanced, so that means that everything must be more complex. In the truth of the matter is, if you understand how to navigate and be successful in government, you can be successful anywhere because there are just so many different layers that you have to work through and I think for me, in terms of what I'm bringing to my new role, it's just it's just the focus on on the bigger picture in the structure and who are the influencers and who are the decision may anchors and who are...

...your customers and who do you need to pull into the conversation at what point in time? Yeah, I love me said about layers, a complexity and if you can, you know, kind of figure out if you could work in the public sector, you can. You can make it happen anywhere. And I was thinking about Tim Rohmer. He's got a communications degree, and I was like, man, I could be the director of Homeland Security One day. This is there. There's hope, there is hopes for history degree and now I run a podcast. So the public sector is known for a collaboration across state lines, but now that you're back in the private sector, how are you collaborating with with industry peers versus maybe competing against them, which I think is I'll be honest with you, you want to compete with everyone I do want to compete with everyone. Jr knows this, Tim knows this about me. When I joined the public sector it was one of the first things I realized, and I was surprised just about how collaborative and it's something that I fell in love with pretty quickly because you just have an endless network of people that are trying to support each other and get to whatever good looks like on when I joined choice, it was one of the first questions I asked and I was given an answer of we're in a competitive space at this juncture, and then I immediately missed that environment back in the public sector. But I think when you're talking about the private sector, you obviously have your network, you have any groups or associations you're a part of, you have the vendor community, you can have companies that that work in the space of knowledge, but they're still an undercurrent of competition, right. So you can know your industry peer and in you're all going to hope they did each other do well, but no one's giving each other the answers to the test because ultimately that's what's going to define success for their organization. That's great. So I'm a big sports fan. I don't know how many sports fans we have here, but I'm big one. So the Oregon ducks when they had Marcus Mariota, is the quarterback. I know he was probably one of just the greatest college athletes there are. No huddle offense was incredible. One of the things we talked about speed and I love that and and just crushing the competition. Could you maybe talk about the speed of execution, because that you have to execute right at the end of the day be could you maybe talk about the speed of execution that you're able to enjoy now that was maybe missing in the public sector? Yeah, I think we touched on this. I just think when you're in the private sector, the motivations in the drivers they're just so different. I think in the public sect there's always going to be an undercurrent of trying not to fail versus truly trying to win and succeed, and I think there's a lot of great stories right you highlight a ton of them on your podcast. So there's a lot of great work happening. But regardless of how successful you are, there's always that under date you're dealing with, whether it's in your workforce or the greater administration or the community, where they're just driven by different things. It's risk averse environment and I think when you hit the private sector, you have companies that are trying to evolve in innovate and they're truly competing. It gets back to are they zero to one or are they one to end in? And I think not only do you have...

...the organizations that are wired that way, you have people that are driving in their careers to accomplish as much as they can, and part of that is is driven by passion and the other part is for the reality that there isn't a pension in a lot of cases at the end of the rainbow. They're they're really gonna reap what they sell, so to say, and they have a certain amount of time and they're trying to maximize their career. So I think that creates a recipe for urgency. That's the word I would use. I think it's less about speed. I think you have a culture and you have an environment where urgency is just a yeah, I love that are that word urgency. As a small business owner, every day is very urgent, as yeah, is you can imagine, and I was kind of cares what would it take. For what would it take for you to come back to the public sector? Not Now, maybe it's ten years from now, fifty year? What would it take? Oh God, that's a great question. Hey, I'm that I'll never say never. Right now I'm loving where I'm at in the challelenges that are ahead of us, but I've been there hot three months right. Yeah, exactly. I need to be there a hot couple of years and really contribute to the organization, and this kind of dovetails just into government from my perspective and things that can potentially be improved upon. And I can be more honest with you now because it's not going to come back on my actual role. I'll break it down into three areas people, process technology. I think from a people perspective, government needs to change its value proper. For a really long time it's worked off the back of thank you for your end the truth of the matter is the private sector is investing in civic minded individuals and initiatives now more so that it needs to be more than that and I think they have the potential, they have the ability, but as they evolved in transform the the value prop for the people, you're going to get more talent that are going to push and going to drive. From a process perspective, in you tie this to speed. People don't really take a step back and realize that the operating model that is government, it's purposely built with a governor on it. So it's you have your lawn more you have a go cart, and it's you can go five miles an hour, maybe you go ten miles an hour. You can get up to fifteen, but that's it. And that's intentional because they want to make sure that you're spending your money wisely. In you're mitigating Ritsk and I think, going back to that book, it's an environment that's going to hold out people that really want to transform and take things to the next level. And I think that can evolve because there's a lot of talented people in government, there's a lot of talent to people that care and there's a lot of great work. And then, from a technology perspective, all that being said, it just finding ways to unlock the dreamers and just think big. So where you get budget for certain initiatives, you are thinking big, you're going as big as possible and you're trying to hit a home run with it. Yeah, so people process. And what's the third I want with technology are you want tight of but there is three P's and because we talked about this in the first episode we forgot, so we we'll just plug it in. Whatever the third...

P is. But I did want to talk about people changing its value prop I really like that a lot. One of the things when a lot of the packages were being passed for things like broadband and infrastructure and and all of those bills, there was actually no money to give people raises, which I was like thinking, wow, how did we they miss the boat on that that much, and me was like trillions of dollars just passed, but not that there's in good stuff in there. But when you're passing trillions of dollars in legislation, let's throw some cash in for the people who are actually serving and doing in the work. As a high school basketball coach, when you're the assistant, so I was the assistant three years ago, four years ago, that you get paid zero, you get paid with the heart of love, and then when you're the head coach you get paid a stipend which is a heart of love plus some coffee for a week. And then the second piece we talked about speed. I love that piece too. I think like I grew up constantly trying. When the first computers were really going mainstream, I was the one kind of hooking chords in. Hey, this doesn't work, this works. But I have noticed in the public sector, the more interviews I have, the more people I meet, people out of for whatever it is, they just have lost the ability to dream or they feel like they have to go ask their boss to go do something, and pretty sure their boss would empower them to go do that. There's a lot of stuff that you can do that makes like the work environment really good, being able to actually empower and delegate what you're doing to your team give them the authority to go do that, as people love ownership at the end of the day. But yeah, we need we need folks to dream, to go get and then obviously, when you dream, you've got to go get some money. And I think the hard part is just how it is set up right where it's like, Hey, we want to go do this, and then you've got to pass legislation and then it's public and people want to see where the money's going, every cent and dime, and then nowadays it's the news is just the media's crazy and articles get written and so it's tough where it it almost you can see the incentive for folks in the public sector who almost lose that ability to dream on some point. So we definitely want to move away from that and we want to have people like Jr Tim and yourself in service. Now we have any questions for Doug Right now? Do we have any questions? Yeah, Oh, and I'll go on. So you mentioned it earlier about the slowest government. I would like to hear from duck his opinion on kind of that concept that you brought up in your question. So the question is you want to hear about the slowness of government. So you guys talk about the slowest. Yeah, that's not necessarily experience, but I've been working private sector. Yeah, I like to hear maybe dug sting is that thing and what? How does that balance with physics? I have some thoughts, but you can go first. Well, I was so I would say the biggest difference. So I run a small business and if I don't work I can't pay rent. So that's the level of urgency that that happens. I which I don't think when you're you don't have that and you can't...

...replicate that when our UN employee. But that's a huge difference. I'm speaking as a one, two person shop, so not exactly the parallel, but I'll let you jump in because you have the actual public sector experience. Yeah, now I'm going to go with his answer. No, I'm just getting I think it's important. When we put together our strategy and what we ran off of, it was backed by the governor's vision emission to run at the speed of it and I think so much of what we were able to accomplish over the last five plus years was built on the back of we're not going to pay attention to how things have been done in the past and we're not going to pay attention to the constructs of government and that are necessarily going to slow us down. We're going to and we're going to move quickly and we're going to see how many points we can put on the board, and I think we were really successful at that. But I think the differences and what you're talking about are we did that with intent right, and some of the other people in this room might be doing the same thing with a very specific intent to do so. I think the difference is when you're in the private sector, you're in the commercial space, that urgency is from wall to wall. It just has to be, because it's about competition. In is that company going to continue to succeed, whereas government, the Department of Revenue, may change, but some form of the Department of revenue is always going to exist in same with department of Transportation and so on and so forth, and I think it just breeds different motivators. Yeah, saw, governor. Do you see? I love this guy. So most you from Arizona. So he was a CEO of coldstone ice cream and now my wife doesn't like cold stone but I take my daughter Annabelle. We go to cold stony and Galita and Santa Barbara all the time and I'm always thinking, man, I would love to meet this guy one day. But I had that called the speed of business and I love that. And when you have someone who is the CEO that can only imagine the level of whether it's okay ours or however, he's coming in with metrics and he knows how to run at the speed of business and I think if you don't have that experience it's hard to you just don't have that exposure. I think that's maybe the word exposure. When you have that exposure it just takes you to another level. It pushes you, and I'm sure that governor pushes you, Jr. I'm sure he pushes ten. Smiling right now, right. Yeah, I'm sure he pushes you, which is great. I who we want to be pushed. As a high school basketball coach, I push my team. I want them to be better and I want my team to move at the speed of beating our crosstown rival. So anyways, awesome. So that was a great question now and thank you. I really appreciate that. And I love the public sector for the community aspect. So I don't want anyone to think oh, man now dougs in the private sector. And so yeah, yeah, Tim, go for it. The State of Arizona and I'm hoping he can explain to your listeners a little bit about a couple of things that always stayed with me and have become a little bit of my style as well, which is the speaker's journey, career journey series. If you can talk a little bit about why you put that together, who you had on it, what the outcomes and the success were within the department and I just tell you, for me it was... team got to know me in a way that they've didn't know me before and I was new and they used all the photos from the make themes about me and the teasle but it was like a great way to loosen us up. So I'd love to hear about you know why Doug came with that idea, this success he had with it, because I think it's a model of success around the industry that other people could adopt. And and also, along those lines, like Simon Senec at, the video you showed us on love one day to votivate us to be more passionate about what we do every day. If you can talk about some of those things and explained to why, to go back to Simons anything, I think it'd be yeah, and they both tie together. Tim knows this, Jr knows this. I'm peep through and through and enjoy to move quickly, I enjoy achieving things. I'm extremely competitive as a leader. I'm absolutely people first. I think your culture is so important and you talk about the career journey series in the whole a tent was really it's getting back to that concept to just building a workforce of dreamers, and I think you have so many people that just they see successful people out there, like the CEO of a company, and they assume that their life went very differently and they were only successful and they never failed, and we all know that couldn't be further from the truth. But everyone's a human being, everyone struggles, everyone has good days and bad. They just had goals and they put their head down and they worked hard and they stuck with it and I think a portion of that career journey series was just getting our workforce and our people to realize anything's possible. Right they could take their career rus in any direction they wanted to. They just had to be the ones to decide that they were going to go for it. And and we took a real human element to it, because it's not about I didn't want to have someone just come up and talk to their successes. It was more about who they were, their background, where they came from and some of their failures and some of those points where life wasn't easy and they struggled a little bit and what they learned from it. And I think part of it was the component of really empowering our people. And then the other part of it Tim actually touched on in his question, which was if you're working on a team and you can get to know each other and really leave the the titles in the experience and the badges at the door and really just understand what makes the person next to you tick and that they're genuine human being, I think a lot of the the toxic nature or the competitive nature within teams falls away because you realize that's a real person, that that has hopes and dreams and goals and aspirations and they're struggling just like I am, and I think it definitely pulls people together and helps you bond as a group. Yeah, so tim said there were photos of hand that his team turned into memes. Hey, JR, can we get a copy? I need to see these. I need to see these memes afterwards, or if you've got something on your cell phone, duck, I really want to see those. Yeah, no, I love that. You're going to fail. Right, you're going to fail. How many people have ever heard of the Inspirational Journey podcast? How many people have heard of the Inspirational Journey podcast? Nobody. Cool, great, but that was a podcast I launched that flopped. Okay, is like eight years ago, start a couple podcasts. So, yeah, no one ever heard of that. You make mistakes, you learn and you grow and... just try to keep getting better. Number two, Simon Sinnick. Yeah, so along the same lines. It just comes down and being open and being vulnerable and I think so many times as a leader, and I would say more in an aniquated model, you think that you need to act a certain way, walk a certain way, talk a certain way, and I think for me it's always been about just being who I am and being open and sharing and through that, in building the team, just finding different things that I'm passionate about and sharing my end. I think that unlocks things and others and I think we built an environment where diversity was big and we didn't want a hundred of the same people. We wanted people with different skills, different experiences, different backgrounds that were passionate about different things. And but the video I shared resonated with me and a lot of my beliefs about a lot of different things. But I think the point was just you put yourself out there and that gives someone the courage to put themselves out there and then you just continue to learn more and more about each other. Great. Thank you for coming on tech tables. Appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (52)