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Peter Dougherty of MantisNet: “You’ll never be successful if you need this job too much”

We at MantisNet are developing cloud-native and serverless computing technologies, specifically as they apply to 5G infrastructure monitoring. The transition to what is called cloud-native, and specifically how it is used to design, build, deliver, operate and maintain 5G services is THE biggest technology inflection point in almost 20 years. Suffice to say, cloud-native 5G […]

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We at MantisNet are developing cloud-native and serverless computing technologies, specifically as they apply to 5G infrastructure monitoring. The transition to what is called cloud-native, and specifically how it is used to design, build, deliver, operate and maintain 5G services is THE biggest technology inflection point in almost 20 years. Suffice to say, cloud-native 5G represents a new technology stack and, as a result, there are a broad spectrum of opportunities in this space. These new technologies will fundamentally change both the mobile carrier business models as well as those of every cloud services provider. You can catch hints of this in some of the announcements from the new MVNO’s as well as the latest VC bets, and subsequent “unicorns” in the cloud-native ecosystem.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Dougherty.

Peter is a serial technology entrepreneur, executive & strategist who has had the good fortune to experience the founding, growing and profitably running both technology and services organizations ranging from early-stage startups to +1B dollars businesses.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

First and foremost; I consider myself an engineer at heart who continually works to cultivate my creativity and satisfy my intellectual curiosity. I was also a boy scout and the sixth child in a family of eight, so I know both teamwork and chaos. I started out my professional life as an engineer, then manager and now a technology executive. When I started out in my career, I was incredibly happy as an engineer. I was working at a large tech company (Unisys), I was transferred to the epicenter of tech, Silicon Valley, and felt like we had access to all these brilliant people and infinite resources. Fairly quickly though, I began to realize a) the larger ramifications and potential for the (communications) technologies we were working on, and b) the extent of the constraints you face working at a large corporation. So, I worked on a startup idea (a next generation ISP) in my spare time. Not necessarily a good thing to do when you are newly married and starting a family. I failed to pull that together, then went to work for Adaptec, which was a leading-edge storage technology company where I realized both the potential, the internal turmoil and pitfalls of working at a high-flying Silicon Valley company. I stayed there for less than a year and decided to experience the Colorado startup culture and lifestyle. I landed an incredible job at McData as part of the new product team at this small company in Boulder County Colorado, while there, I worked with a brilliant team and realized that, indeed, if you have a great team, you listen and are honest with your team and your customers, you can do great things. We had the good fortune of defining the storage networking and virtualization markets, then as part of the management team, doing the spinout from EMC, followed by the McData IPO, and later heading up the corporate development team acquiring a string of companies. While there I saw an opportunity to do a management buyout, and have never looked back. I will say; it hasn’t been easy; technical challenges, investor issues, customer concerns, personnel and work-life balance problems are always there. I couldn’t have done it without my wife and love of my life, and my two (now grown) children who have since recovered from my incessant schedule and travel. At the end of the day; it is most important that you have the trust and confidence, in and from those around you, as a result, I’ve always been confident I could work through any issues. Most importantly when you do encounter a failure, you have to be able to say to your loved ones and your team, as well as look yourself in the eye, that you’ve done the best you can, and you’ve treated others with respect, honesty and fairness.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We at MantisNet are developing cloud-native and serverless computing technologies, specifically as they apply to 5G infrastructure monitoring. The transition to what is called cloud-native, and specifically how it is used to design, build, deliver, operate and maintain 5G services is THE biggest technology inflection point in almost 20 years. Suffice to say, cloud-native 5G represents a new technology stack and, as a result, there are a broad spectrum of opportunities in this space. These new technologies will fundamentally change both the mobile carrier business models as well as those of every cloud services provider. You can catch hints of this in some of the announcements from the new MVNO’s as well as the latest VC bets, and subsequent “unicorns” in the cloud-native ecosystem.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Where to start… writing an impassioned letter to the CEO and President of McData to define a new “roll” for me in the company. His response was quite humorous, but I got the promotion anyway. Lesson learned: don’t minimize the value of a liberal arts degree and having an English major on your team who can help keep you out of such embarrassing situations…

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve had the good fortune to have connected with, and had the support of, some great mentors. My father; an engineer who was always learning new skills and was an aspiring entrepreneur. Some of my early engineering managers at Unisys; who taught me to appreciate the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment in engineering. Additionally, the founders and co-founders I’ve worked with over the years who provided the support, shared learnings and role models for what it takes to be successful — how to lead and how to wrestle with the personal consequences of having made a challenging career choice.

This is a very sad story; I was asked to work with one of my best friends at the company he co-founded, Coalfire in Louisville Colorado. I had recently exited my last company, and he wanted me to help he and his team mature the organization from a reasonably successful, respectable, organically grown company, to an investment-worthy company with a future beyond the founders. It was very difficult; I was an outsider, much less a “friend of the company” and it wasn’t like any other type of business I had previously experience with. However, I did have a lot of program management and business process experience and so we endeavored. The management team was intensely driven, I’m no slouch, but these guys were truly intense. I had this feeling that we had irrational expectations, but kept thinking “this is the culture”, and so we persevered. To make a long story short, the company attracted truly top-notch investors and we were within months of closing on the financing when my friend, and co-founder, passed away unexpectedly. It was devastating for all of us; especially for his wife, family and friends, not to mention the team. How could this happen? He was so close to achieving all his dreams. Suffice to say, that experience along with the death of my older brother a couple of years prior to that, fully cemented the philosophy that we all need to be more mindful of our effect on those around us, and that life is truly about the journey.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

My perspective is that we all need to be aware of the world around us; especially how we perceive it, our biases, and the effects we have on others. That said, being disruptive is necessary and useful, moreover, creative disruption is invaluable for progress. However, the downside of disruption is displacement; specifically, the potentially destructive and negative effects on people and society. Disruption can make entire industries redundant; it can take away the livelihood of good hard-working people and destroy communities. As leaders, and disruptors, we need to be aware of this fact. We need to acknowledge that the true benefits and costs of disruption need to take into account these displacements and ensure that protections and recompence is available for those who have born the downside of disruption. I am an optimist; these displacement issues should be viewed, accounted and paid for as a short-term cost that we confront and resolve. The loss of the horse-drawn carriage trade requires drivers, auto manufacturing and mechanics. Administrative assistants and typing pools are a thing of the past. Lawyers will get replaced with AI programs that generate perfect contracts. All these changes and displacements have also opened up new opportunities. The rate of change and displacement seems to have accelerated and will no doubt change the role of work and society. Just as mechanization contributed to the notion of the forty-hour week, I am optimistic that there is the potential to open up new societal conventions as well as opportunities in the sciences, arts and humanities.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. “You’ll never be successful if you need this job too much.” This was offered to me by my manager at the first startup I worked at. Easier said than done, but at some level you always need to be able separate yourself from your job and hold your ground when you are in the right.
  2. “Don’t f*@k it up” Most sage advice from a mentor who gave me a lot of latitude to do things differently.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We still have a lot to accomplish within this cloud-native revolution. However, I do have a passion for addressing the criminalization of mental illness and homelessness. I have guardianship for my younger brother and it has changed my life in respect to appreciating the problems that the mentally ill, and their families, confront every day. Looking ahead, I really hope to be able to devote more time and resources to do more to help change the attitudes and institutions so as to improve all the lives of those who have been so devastated by this vicious cycle. My intent is to be an advocate as well as write more in order to share my learnings with families trying to keep their loved ones safe and negotiate their way through the system.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Where to start… woman are still not treated as equals, especially in technology. Additionally, being a disruptor is hard. Therefore, being a woman disruptor, especially in tech, is very difficult. Additionally, I believe there are still significant bias’s against women; we see, hear and read about it every day (sometimes unconscious, sometimes not). I am encouraged though, that there is now a broad effort to make us all more aware of these issues and start acknowledging and talking about them. However, I’d really like to see more being done; sure, investing in women-led ventures is a start, as-is more female participation in board governance and politics. But those could be short-lived gains if we don’t have the conversations that need to be had about the historical perspective as well as how we perceive and respond to those who aren’t like ourselves. These “conversations” and the resulting awareness need to be woven into our collective psyche’s.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“Capital” by Thomas Piketty. It really opened my eyes to the recent democratization and shift of capital that has occurred, especially in the last seventy years, (as we are seeing in the anti-liberal movements around the world) and how all these social and economic gains can be so easily destroyed if we don’t pay attention to the big picture.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants” — Sir Isaac Newton, followed by the corollary “”the only original software program was the first program written.” A constant reminder that we all need to be humble and open to acknowledge and respect the fact that we are the product of our predecessors and teachers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One of my other passions is digital rights and privacy. Our digital identities, buying habits, preferences, medical histories, biome, genetic profile et cetera are very valuable and powerful and should be sacrosanct and owned by us as individuals. That said, our identities should not be shared or monetized without our explicit knowledge and approval. Right now, there are new (homomorphic) encryption technologies emerging from academia that could be combined with distributed ledger (blockchain) technologies which could revolutionize how we, as individuals, anonymize, share or monetize as much or as little of our identity as was wish.

How can our readers follow you online?

I have been blogging a lot more lately, especially for MantisNet, I am very excited and focused on sharing our message about cloud-native right now. Stay tuned, looking ahead, I am intending to start sharing my journey and learnings working my way through the mental health and criminal justice system to help my younger brother live the best life possible

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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