I recently interviewed James Johnson, founder and CEO of Vortis Technology, as he releases new information about his company on the cusp of the the re-introduction of Vortis cell tech. Vortis has re-remerged as a leader in cell phone array technology and Johnson is presenting at IEEE Monday October 13, 2014 in San Jose. James Johnson’s story is as interesting as he and his technology is.
He speaks of lessons learned from Valley insiders he worked with – lessons he shares in how to grow a company, how not to sabotage it, and brings his own personal ethos to the fore. Jim’s journey has not been an easy one or a boring one. Read carefully for not all lessons are so straightforward, compelling and end in success.
Here is James Johnson on “mastering the art of the comeback with a little help from your friends”. He refers to the post A Cell Phone, A Problem and A Journey: Vortis Technology
JAMES JOHNSON: As we help others understand Vortis and promulgate the technology I look forward to sharing our Vortis Story.
Your articles on betrayal clearly show a human stratum of discontinuities between honest people and lizard level hypothalamus types where the roots of greed and fear are borne (not to mention political spin, some marketing and crooks). Good prevails over evil every time and the reason is because it all balances out; and catches up!
I appreciate the title of Hero and want very much for my kids to know this; but truth is, recovery from crashed management strategy is betrayal; but what was the root cause?
This “Vortis Story” actually has many heroes. They are the unsung heroes such as Fernando Garcia, leading steel forming and machine production that produced value to one turn around I did; made easy by him. There are many in our validation and verification list who, among others, are also unsung heroes.
I have Mr. Campbell’s first book as a gift from a friend (80’s) and we can only dream of ethnographic studies such as his where he travelled to the deepest parts of humanity and location globally looking for that common thread between reality and myth. How amazing was he to find such shared commonalities.
I’d like to think I’m more capable as an ethnographic researcher than a hero. I do however work for heroes and have served very good, honest people and they are my heroes; in which I would take a bullet or a hit if need be; but my military and cliff/scuba rescue work taught me how to concentrate in extremes; why failure is not an option and that it’s all just a process to honor. Using preventive techniques work well. This is why I got into the Science of Reliability and wrote the first paper on failure mode and effects analyses; why management fails and what are the elements in common. This paper was built off of our 1985 “First Corporate Valuation Software Program”; now used by financial and government as a standard today. Thanks Hans Schroeder [bearval.com]; you are a hero!
In any start up or turn around I ensure the dialog removes “sales pitch” and includes “reporting progress” based on rational metrics and Continuous Improvement.
In a political environment (hidden agendas) mistakes are used against people. In a honest business development process mistakes are congratulated [for extending ones self beyond the Peter Principle]. Same mistakes are not tolerated but learning from mistakes is a mandate! If I were a hero, I’d claim this ground as my territory! Continuous Improvement as a means to flip any scenario—this is the tool I used!
In addition, the use of present tense (“we are now doing this) over future tense (we wantabe doing this) changes a culture to focus on “what is, is!” Our strategy discussions and agreements and goals will provide the future talk; plenty of it!
A company that is calm and eliminates the “rush job scenario” [Quantum Humanistics] will find that doing things slower; actually picks up efficiency and effectiveness. A derivative of the tortoise and the hair; and there are variations and stratums about this.
As a Silicon Valley Director with experience in (C Level) Reliability Science, Quality Assurance (Management Science/Theory) and Forensic Finance, I have enjoyed helping people build more reliable firms around more controlled growth and change. QA Works; when it’s worked! In 1992 my nationally published paper was on the history and science of globalization quality assurance and Quantified of the Implementation Process. This is the science of dissemination of innovation [good ideas and how change is adopted–or not). Firms who optimize the four variables change fast and sustain their growth as part of an ongoing process control network of organic growth and value.
Our focus in the valley was how to help a company migrate out of the 80’s (Star Wars; easy pickin’s from trickle down economy) to the 90’s (“wholly shit; Offshore Global Competitors Coming; and beating us?”). I helped a firm transition quickly that became Silicon Valley’s #1 competitor [sustained for over 10 years while growing 3X’s]. How? Teaching everyone that life is a process and we need only see it; wake up to cycles and do it with love, vigor and vim! http://www.jamesrjohnson.net/al.htm
Okay, what is the definition of a hero? This is one who is conscious of the gap between one’s known skills or capability to the known risk before him. The larger the gap, the greater the fall potential. In rescue, we just focused on reliability, training, communications, team, etc. We never felt heroism because this is more like playing; on the cliffs and ocean but with a serious purpose! Perhaps the bravest thing people could do is let go of loss and live with it. Then turn your life around afterwards with a new meaning and new goals.
One hero in my high school was our friend in San Bruno Mark Brelsferd who won global motorcycle Champion; Go Mark! That’s him in his firey crash; that he recovered from. His crash [and survival] looked a bit like mineJ
Mark and I road dirt bikes in San Bruno, where PGE’s pipeline management showed more worry about good ole boy network than my ole neighborhood and his customers of San Bruno. Wow! They blew up the ground! I can’t imagine how they missed that. spending time on Quality Assurance or reliability or Process Control? Nope!
Coincidently I played my saxophone in a fund raiser for cancer patients; and one of them was the PGE pipeline director. He’s been there forever and I wonder what preventive Actions he’s focused on and why bad managers can’t understand that a “surprise” is a major defect in their process? Their goal is simple: NO SURPRISES!
As I was contacted by PGE, I proposed a solution similar to the NASA Risk Management Overlay process they used to mitigate risk of fire and events in the Space Station.
In this matter, it is not the solutions; it is the implementation process that fails!
Anyone walking the grounds understood its movement and it would have taken only an “ask” for drivers to be the eyes on the grounds and notices of interest to review feedback loops and compile priorities and additional capacity loads. However, when you ask these managers about QA, you see headlight eyes; and who understands process?
Dan Kottke too is one of my heroes! Dan is a keyboard partner in our band Quoi whom I learned later worked with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs [never enters his mind to brag] as one of the three guys who built the little Mac and started Apple. Dan told me he and Steve Jobs were in India when they found an apple orchard and enjoyed it for a week around the area. Sitting there, on the slope; biting an apple; Steve had his ah ha moment.
I call that ah ha moment a Quantum Humanistic (QH) ® circa 1987] in that often times; a flow of life force one way or another is guided by such moments; mostly bad such as PTSD events, etc. that it is life changing. A series of smaller ones, like the Tessla vibrator, if in synch, can cause a butterfly effect globally.
An example was when I was surprised to see Apple advertising they now stock Beatles? At first, this is a no brainer; but why just now? Then it dawned on me: Apple Productions [Beatles] tried to tell Steve he couldn’t name his company Apple. Guess that was their mistake trying to tell Steve not to do that!
Dan and I both went through a lot and leaned on and learned from each other between 2007 and 2012 when my cognitive dissonance came from the betrayal of some international directors of our Scottish Firm. This dominated my world as his struggled for his daughter grew.
Dan, as I, needed to fight; in courts for our father rights! He actually studied law just to ensure he exerted his fatherly rights; for his daughter.
Thank you Dan; I owe you big time! You are my hero for helping me when these international executives double crossed us. They dished out [Myers] Lemons and I’ve had to stir it up and make lemonade.
Dan Kottke was and is a brutally honest hero and accidentally upset Steve Jobs for telling the truth about their time together (and a fatherless child). See how easily start-ups can be derailed by honesty and someone else being threatened? That then migrates to hostilities and in Apple, the start-up, Steve cut Dan out. In a scene in Pirates of Silicon Valley, [thankfully] Steve Woz [an example of all that is good] simply wanted to focus on technology and save Dan by giving him stock; just before he quit. That action, along with Dan’s focus made Dan a Silicon Valley Hero in my book. Bottom line for Vortis; Steve Jobs, a forgiving man, stayed friends with Dan and by his reference, Steve introduced me to his emerging markets director in London to address process and quality Assurance issues for Vortis’ African Associates.
Thanks to Steve Woz; the love of life revealed itself with Dan and Stock as built an amazing life that I was a small part of as we spent years enjoying Palo Alto as I sought to pivot from our Scottish Firm’s management failures and betrayal.
Steve Jobs is without question, a hero for Vortis! Having said this, Steve exhibited typical mistakes CEO’s make at a customer complaint. In beginning when encountering problems from holding and shorting two elements of the rim antenna, his first response was to tell his customers to hold it differently (a typical denial response). He later retracted and admitted internal managerial failures; and oh so many lost jobs on that.
Steve actually was the first CEO of a major competing telecom who was actually proud of his new antenna design.
Thank you Steve for your love, energy and humanity even though your moving sphere of reality was just your field of view as you helped others reach your place; and me and Vortis!
Dan is a father! He has the way of a father. Fathers who take responsibility are the real heroes; and those who go after the industrialist to build for the next seven generations.
Brenda Battat, former National Advisor for the Hard of Hearing who lifted Vortis to national leadership as she later became a presidential advisor. Her history is even more amazing as she worked in communist China in the 70’s; helping them understand western culture. What a hero she is and thank you Brenda.
Jyoti the spiritual leader of the International Counsel of 13 Grandmothers who travels the world teaching that the root of all religion isn’t war; it’s peace! Imagine! As far as QA is concerned, it’s a bit discerning to know there is a bias to stir up war; rather than end it. It is a profound awakening to understand that those hired for Peace in the Middle East do realize they’ll lose their job if they succeed!
Steve Jobs helped accidently when he trumped industry.
Jim Phillips, Motorola’s former antenna designer loved the Vortis! Thanks Jim; you have passed but you will be a part of Vortis History.
Steve also influenced an old friend who invented the embedded antenna and whom I worked with in 1999 when 20/20 News released the first major story on cell phone issue; as I was a Director in the first high-tech start-up. OMG; danger? Quoi?
Rob Hill, my partner and Chief Technical Officer was Steve Jobs’ distinguished iPhone Antenna Designer. Rob is the inventor of the Embedded Antenna for cell phones and Apple’s innovative rim antenna designer. The antenna worked well but the package failed to be integrated according to design rules and Apple learned to follow instructions next time. I wonder who betrayed the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)?
It wasn’t betrayal that sent Steve Jobs clamoring to apologize upon being busted about the antenna issue but it’s amazing the politics surrounding Antennas. It was a management defect [correctable].
Rob’s been around high tech and without question; he agrees; “these guys know exactly what they wanted to do; from the beginning! They make conscious choice.
When our world leaders stop, bend or break communications, you can bet there is a hidden agenda. The BP Oil Spill was a QA Matter and unfortunately; who cared about QA? Ask roughnecks about QA and you’ll likely get tossed out; but certainly not after the BP Crash and you should see the good things Halliburton Drilling Operations are doing to reliability and Quality Assurance as I worked with their group on new plans!
We are here to help the hard of hearing; not rake in big bucks or sell our souls to highest bidder. When people betray partners; in QA, we search for the root—we get under the politics; into the hidden agenda and determine factually and evidentially; WTF! Mistakes are costly but great educators. Bad partners use mistakes against you.
Thankfully, most of Vortis Associates are honest, energetic and loving so all our projects rolled out well and showed much promise and new horizons.
So many other heroes are unsung. I’d rather be ordinary. My daughter Jaime Lee Johnsonquoted me in her college entry letter: “there are no extraordinary people, just ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” We believe this!
I love, however being a scientist and when I see humans create bad things from quantum humanistic characteristics that go astray or awry, I like to help. Continuous Improvement is that help!
I can see Joseph Campbell’ myth to reality process [or vice versa] as its kind of like the migration of moving from a free world state of being to one of religious wars and patriots who come to learn war is better than peace [for the arms sales]!
We are here to help the hard of hearing.
If we rake in big bucks it’s because we did it right from the start!
I have worked with too many people whose battle cry is “cut cost; cut back; stop waste, etc.” In an organization where performance, quality, cost, service and capacity are equal players, the result of “cutting things” without understanding impact elsewhere is usually devastating for the customer and ultimately for the company. I remember what Prop 13 real estate tax change did to California’s Services to its customers.
Creating Value is our goal; we do this by learning best practices which is achieved by open, honest, collaboration [see Wikipedia]. Go figure that our would’s only commodity nowadays is information. Because of this, secrecy and betrayal is the way of the world!
I’d like to change this and help top managers understand that Quality Assurance, C-level Reliability Techniques and Process and Forensic reviews are good. Be honest, build your company on a holistically balanced approach! How do you know? You’ll know when you are comfortable understanding that surprises are a sign of bad management. If you ask about Quality Assurance and they look with headlight eyes; train em Daniel!