Peter Caron, a Senior Technical Leader currently residing in Berlin, brings a rich and diverse background to System Verification. From his roots as an auto/motorcycle mechanic to his academic pursuits in history at the University of Connecticut and later Tulane University in New Orleans, Peter’s journey has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Could you tell us about your background and experiences?
Yes, indeed. Today, I live in Berlin, writing articles and a book. But, my professional journey started as a mechanic, and later, I pursued my interest in history at Tulane. My experiences include working as a volunteer in Benin, West Africa with the UN and USAID, and travelling by motorcycle across the Sahara Desert. These experiences have shaped the way I see things and approach decision-making even in tech. For example, I’ve learned never to assume I’m the smartest person in the room and always strive to keep learning. Exploring paths less travelled fuels my curiosity. I was a teacher for almost three years at the high school and university level. That was exciting and humbling at the same time.
From the technical side, I am an autodidact. I used computers as far back as 1985 but only in the early 1990s did I start actually learning how they worked – hardware and software. I have never stopped learning. I took every job as a new challenge. At Oracle, I learned everything I could about RDBMSs and data storage, for example. I have worked in hosting, for a cloud provider, in software development, and in supply chain management. I started at the bottom in IT and worked my way up to CTO. In each new effort, I worked hard to understand not only the tech stacks but the business.
How have these experiences influenced your perspective?
Collectively, my experiences have taught me to question my decisions and consider whether I’m taking the best possible approach. I’ve also come to understand the importance of challenging assumptions and staying curious. I never want to stop learning and often venture down unconventional paths to acquire new knowledge. Sometimes down rabbit holes.
How did you meet System Verification?
I connected with System Verification through Adam Tornhill from CodeScene, an ecosystem company to System Verification. Adam and I share a passion for reading and writing, especially on obscure technical topics. One of the books Adam recommended to me is the Apollo Guidance Computer book by Frank O’Brian, detailing the computer that guided astronauts to the moon. And back. Adam and I also, of course, share an interest in technology in general, which gives us a lot to talk about.
Adam facilitated an introduction between Peter and Hamdija Jusufagic, the chairman of the board and the founder of System Verifications, in light of Peter’s keen interest in companies such as System Verification. Peter was drawn to the company’s culture and its innovative approach, which is disrupting the QA industry. For System Verification, forging connections with external professionals and embracing new working methods are pivotal for staying at the forefront of the industry. Since the outset of 2024, Peter has been an integral member of the board of directors at System Verification.
What are your main focuses right now?
After years of accumulating experience and insights throughout my career, I believe I have something valuable to share to a wider audience. Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic made me reconsider my path. Previously, I spoke at conferences to share my knowledge, but recently I made a decision to channel a lot of my thoughts into a book. While the book might not initially attract younger people, I hope it provides a foundation to create various content pieces—articles, blog posts—allowing me to reach a broader audience and make a positive impact. And which even Gen Z’ers might read.
We understand that you enjoy teaching and working with young, eager minds. Could you tell us about your interest in technical leadership, which is also the main focus of your upcoming book?
Absolutely. I find great satisfaction in teaching and mentoring young engineer. My primary interest revolves around the topic of technical leadership, a theme I delve into in my upcoming book. New CTO and VP Engineering leaders are eager to learn, and when I can help them, I jump at the opportunity, especially because mentoring returns to me as much as I give.
In discussing technical leadership, you touched on the distinction between tech companies like Google or Open AI and tech-driven companies. Can you elaborate on that perspective?
Certainly. While many people label companies as tech companies nowadays, I argue that, in most cases, true tech companies are those like Google, Open AI, or some SaaS providers. They create the digital technology and their USP is a digital product.
On the other hand, tech-driven companies, which are far more common, utilize existing technology to operate or help sell non-digital products like insurance policies, meal kits, etc. Often, CEOs will claim they lead a tech company but fail to understand adequately what that means. In the same way, CTOs and CIOs often overlook their potential strategic role in the entire organization. If a company is a tech or tech-driven company, CEOs need to raise their tech IQ and CTOs need to understand the strategic business direction. CTOs need to become more actively involved in the whole organization, supporting all areas reliant on software, not just the engineering core but also the support systems and other components for smooth and efficient operation.
Efficiency and effectiveness are key aspects you emphasize. How do these principles apply to tech-driven companies, and what steps can be taken to enhance our goals in this regard?
Great question. Effectiveness and efficiency are crucial considerations, especially in tech-driven companies. It’s essential to question whether our current work methods are truly the most effective. For instance, challenges like the shift to remote work brought about by COVID-19 necessitated reevaluating how companies operate. C-suite executives must adapt to new ways of work, incorporating strategies like knowledge sharing, outsourcing, or other innovative solutions to maintain quality while adjusting to the new normal. They also should consider seriously adapting from the traditional CEO and CEO-advisor models of leadership, where the CEO makes all strategic decisions to a Top Management Team (TMT) model where the C-suite executive team makes decisions collectively.
Challenges and opportunities, such as the example you provided, seem to be central to your focus. Can you share more about your future plans, particularly your interest in taking on fractional CTO positions to assist companies with inexperienced CTOs, CEOs, etc.?
Absolutely. I am keen on taking on challenges and opportunities like the one presented in an evolving work landscape. Looking ahead, I aim to take on more fractional CTO positions to support companies either with less experienced CTOs, CEOs, or short-term transformational leadership roles. The goal is to help companies rethink and reshape their problem-solving approaches, to hopefully ensure a more effective technical strategy in a rapidly changing environment.
Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts and experience with us! We are both very proud and happy about you joining our board too; you are a great addition to the System Verification team.
We look forward collaborating with you!