This is undoubtedly one of the most heartwarming encounters I’ve had with technology executives, as Daniel Hall opens up his heart in this conversation. He advocates, contrary to the existing norm, for personal lines to intersect with professional ones, and it truly resonates with me. Daniel Hall shares, “Without Return on Relationship (ROR) value, there can be no return on investment or return on customer value. Without ROR, it doesn’t matter how many features your product has if you have no one to use it.”
Daniel Hall was brought up by loving foster parents who wholeheartedly supported his passion for coding. Remarkably, he commenced coding at the tender age of eight and proceeded to master numerous coding languages and software development skills over his forty-five years of IT experience, which has paved the way for many client success stories.
He serves as the Founder and CEO of Peakaboo, LLC, an organization dedicated to providing analytics that steers the world away from superficial metrics to more insightful, heart-centered reality metrics. This venture embodies a unique blend of technological expertise and a strong focus on ROR. Additionally, Daniel Hall holds the position of Founder and CEO at Dream IT Software, a company renowned for its client-centric approach to software development services.
His story has deeply moved and inspired us, and we present it to you with the hope that it will resonate with you as well.
Describe your career progression from the start to where you are and what were pivotal decisions, moves you made, circumstances, and other facts that facilitated your growth.
My adopted mom Maggie always saw the best in me. My mom and dad saved me from the abusive foster home I was in. When I was 8, my mom would go to her church function and drop me off at the college library where friends would keep an eye on me. I would go into the computer center and write COBOL and PASCAL on DEC terminals. I would come home with reams of green bar paper and my mom would sit there, bored off her ass, and cheerlead my accomplishments. Little did she know, this would be the catalyst for my career. By the time I was 13 I was helping college kids write their COBOL and PASCAL.
She taught me that coding could make people happy. Forty-five-plus years later, it has become my place of love and relaxation. You see, not only did my parents set me on a technology path, but they also rewired my brain to show me that chaos could truly breed success if wielded correctly. I say this because my wife and I are now adoptive parents of 6 and parent to 1 biological. All of our children are truly remarkable. I never wanted to foster and adopt, but my wife Tina has this way of reaching into your soul and capitalizing on the best parts of you. My wife and our children are my biggest teachers. I’ve learned so much about myself and have honed my leadership skills vicariously through them.
I’ve been a Microsoft junkie my entire career.
What are the key skills and qualifications that aspiring tech executives in the tech industry should focus on developing to enhance their career prospects?
YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A PIECE OF SHIT AND YOU WON’T AMOUNT TO ANYTHING IN LIFE!!! This was replaying in my head as I was yelling and screaming at our 2-year-old son because he was yelling and screaming at me. Not one of my finest moments in life, but it’s certainly one that has refined me into the man I am today.
After a few verbal volleys with our son, my wife whipped around and exclaimed “YOU NEED TO STOP! YOU NEED TO STOP AND LISTEN WITH MORE THAN JUST YOUR EARS TO WHAT HIS NEEDS ARE.” That chaos would eventually breed success when our daughter had to work with a deaf lady at the restaurant where she was working at.
My mom wrote in my freshman yearbook “Life is not defined by how successful you are, it’s defined by how well you can recover from your mistakes and learn from them.”
High emotional intelligence (EI) was not something I had 15+ years ago. There was a point in my life I didn’t give a shit about anyone or anything. Our family has taught me that kindness should never have a return value, especially when it comes to giving of your time.
Our youngest adopted daughter was severely drug and alcohol exposed in utero, she spent two weeks in detox after she was born. Sadly, within five months, part of her small intestines died. This has such an impact on a child’s development and self-regulation.
One day while throwing one of her screamers she just stopped. Startled by silence we found out she had gone to her room. Fifteen minutes later she returned with a drawing of her and I holding hands. She said “Daddy, I’m so sorry, I’m soooo sorry. Can we hang this in your office?”
She was four at the time and whenever she comes into my office, she sees her bumps in the road. She sees when she makes herself accountable (chaos breeds success). Her act of taking fifteen minutes out of her life to make it about me would be the catalyst behind helping the world shift from vanity metrics to heart-centered reality metrics (peakAboo ICU Daddy).
High EI makes for some great outside-of-the-box thinking. If you are talking tech skills to sharpening at the exec level, learn how to write SQL in the database of your choice. Data will always be the wave of the future and you can’t escape it, so why not learn how to talk to it.
What are some key milestones or achievements that tech executives should aim for at various stages of their career to demonstrate their growth and readiness for higher-level roles?
Great leaders ask great questions. Always lead with questions that are impactful and succinct. One of the most impact questions we ask our children is “What’s tomorrow?” They always tell us it’s a new day. What a phenomenal path to forgiveness. This holds true for family and for business. It’s a new day to start with a great attitude and have a fresh start. You have to be consistent in your approach to this and learn to not sweat the small things. Remember chaos will always breed success depending on how you choose to wield it.
My life is riddled with chaos for the longest time. I often dwelled on it for too long and didn’t let it go. I found it ate me up inside and decided to focus my efforts on building relationships with people who could understand the chaos better than I could. Over time I embraced the chaos and understood that it all needed to happen to get to this moment in time writing this story for you. I wouldn’t change a thing.
How important is it for tech executives to actively seek out mentorship or coaching opportunities to advance their careers? What benefits can they derive from such relationships?
It’s so important to go into every situation looking to learn something new. You don’t become a wise person by thinking you have nothing to learn. When you see a great leader with true power and control, you see a person who has a high emotional IQ and knows exactly how to interact with their team to inspire them to do great things. I’m in awe of those leaders who cheerlead their team and take very little credit. That is true power and control with some outside-the-box thinking.
My wife is one of those leaders and our children are following in our footsteps. Our autistic son has brought people to tears by being himself. One waitress at Denny’s was having a bad day, he told her she was so beautiful. Compliments are so powerful and so rewarding for both parties.
If you are bad at complimenting, then get help learning better social queues of how and when to compliment. If you could change one thing, this would be it. This holds true for real life and business. When your brand, personal or business, establishes a footprint of seeing, loving, hearing, and valuing each other, your tribe advocates for you. You attract deeper engagement, exert a stronger influence, and, most impressively, you stand out in even the most fiercely competitive industries or circles.
In your experience, what role does professional networking play in the career progression of tech executives? How can tech executives effectively build and leverage their networks?
Without Return on Relationship (ROR) value, there can be no return on investment or return on customer value. Professional networking is so vital to this. Again, this applies to personal and business.
To become a critical stakeholder in business it’s all about collaboration. Without a ROR, it doesn’t matter how many features your product has if you have no one to use it. Adaptability, collaboration, adoption, and relationships built on trust start with connected human conversations by making sure you see, love, hear, and value the tribes of your business or personal brand.
Are there any specific certifications, advanced degrees, or executive education programs that can significantly enhance the career prospects of tech executives in the tech industry? Which ones would you recommend?
After my MCP back in the ‘90s, I stopped chasing certifications as I saw more and more programs come out that gave answers or provided situations to prepare you for an exam. Sure, some certifications are required to perform certain jobs, but at what cost?
There’s one certification I received that I had not anticipated, and that was becoming a certified foster/adoptive trainer. I’ve helped co-train over 400 inbound foster/adoptive families over my career in tech and it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s also an incredible conversation starter beyond just talking about technology.
Can you share any examples of notable tech executives who have successfully transitioned from one role (e.g., CIO) to another (e.g., CEO) within the same organization or industry? What factors contributed to their success?
Jason R. Hill, the founder of Owwll. I was so annoyed by this and sarcastically mentioned to him that I had just hacked Clubhouse and found quite a few issues with their security. I told him I would try his Owwll, but I was going to hack it first.
I remember being pitch-slapped by
His response floored me – “Go ahead, but if you find anything, please let me know so I can have the developers fix it.”
I was floored by his response and did everything I could to try and hack the Owwll platform. Unlike Clubhouse, everything was locked down, so I could test at the time. As time went on, I learned how much of an incredible human being Jason is. I ended up becoming Owwll’s first brand ambassador. I’ve made over 200 outbound calls and have over 300 5-star ratings on the platform.
Being a 45-year tech veteran, I’m not easily impressed, but I’ve come to love the Owwll platform, the team, and all the users on the platform. We talked about building relationships and Owwll lets you do that by having connected human conversations while being paid for your time.
How important is it for tech executives to cultivate a personal brand and establish thought leadership within the industry? What are some effective ways for tech executives to showcase their expertise and gain visibility?
During COVID, I decided to write my living epitaph – “Here lies a man who learned to reciprocate kindness by failing often.”
Your personal brand is so important as it embodies who you are or who you want to become. The old-school style of building relationships has become the new cool school. Back in the day, before all this tech, we relied on face-to-face Return on Relationship value to build our personal brand. Trust and integrity are still at the forefront of our personal brands. One this will always hold true as you are building your personal brand. People will never remember your vanity metrics, but they will always remember how you make them feel. This is the old-school twist.
Lastly, many of us are so overscheduled, overstimulated, and focused on the future that we struggle to see what’s right in front of us. As I stated before practicing gratitude allows our brains to release serotonin and dopamine – two “feel good” chemicals that positively impact mood. When you’re regularly engaging in a gratitude practice it strengthens these neural pathways. When someone receives gratitude, the same feel-good chemicals are released into their brains as well.
Feeling undervalued is one of the main reasons people leave their jobs. The same is true for your community! Many of us think of a bucket list as something we want to do before we pass on. When I was growing up, part of my parents’ “brand” was a list of people they wanted to reach out to by day’s end. They had a daily bucket list. My parents’ funerals had people lined up outside the doors to pay their respects.
Why wouldn’t you want your brand to be included on someone’s daily bucket list for engagement?
This is why I stressed learning how to give compliments. People will always remember how you make them feel (good or bad).
What advice would you give to aspiring tech executives who are looking to accelerate their career progression and make a lasting impact in the tech industry?
Even after 40+ years of being in technology, the disturbing pattern I see is people waiting in line to wait for things to happen. You must understand, that technology, like history, has a way of repeating itself. Thin client, fat client, thin client, fat client and now we are starting to move away from cloud infrastructures back to on-premise.
Step up and be a leader do what’s right for your organization and stop chasing technology that ultimately will fail in your infrastructure. For example, let’s move all our file servers to SharePoint online. YEHAW!!!!! Everything is in the cloud, but at what cost?
With your team, don’t always think you need to have all the answers. Even if you have the answer, challenge your team to find the answers. They may find something that is a much better solution. Great leaders inspire people to do great things. They also inspire people to see the best in themselves.
Read More CXO Ladder Articles:
Path to CIO: Seeing the Big Picture of a Project for Its Success
CIO’s Journey Marked by An Eye for Opportunities, Continuous Learning, and Unyielding Perseverance