GeekWire Podcast: Tech pay, cloud trends, Kraken, and self-driving cars, with Qumulo CEO Bill Richter

By Todd Bishop

Qumulo CEO Bill Richter is our guest on the GeekWire Podcast. (Qumulo Photo / Andy Rogers)
Everyone is closely monitoring the implications of remote work as we emerge from the pandemic, so it’s no surprise that one of the most widely read stories on GeekWire this week — right behind the Titanic’s disappearing bathtub and Facebook’s potential name change — was a story on trends in tech salaries. 
Two big trends stood out in the report from jobs site Hired:

Average tech salaries in Seattle are up 4.6% from last year, to $158,000, second only to the Bay Area, which saw its average dip slightly to $165,000.
Nationwide, the average U.S. tech salary fell 1.1% to $152,000. With the shift to remote work, “employers are expanding their addressable candidate pool, filling roles faster and paying lower average salaries,” Hired said.

What’s going on here? That’s our first topic on this week’s GeekWire Podcast.

Guest commentator: We get a real-world perspective on tech hiring, remote work, and pay trends from Bill Richter, president and CEO of Qumulo. The cloud file storage and management company joined the ranks of Seattle’s unicorns with a valuation of $1.2 billion in its latest funding round. Richter was previously a venture partner at Madrona Venture Group, and a leader at Isilon Systems and EMC.
“We are far more open to remote locations,” he said. “It really doesn’t make that much of a difference where they are when they appear on their video conferencing screen. And that opens up a lot of new talent pools.”
It also opens up new opportunities for people previously based in Seattle to relocate and continue working for the company. For its remote work policy, Qumulo’s executive team has delegated decisions to its functional leaders, with a plan to learn and adjust as it goes, adopting an Amazon-like policy before Amazon did.
“So we’re definitely approaching things differently,” he added. “That’s not a temporary state for us; that will be the future of the way we go as a company.”
What does that mean for pay? The Hired survey shows that new employees in far-flung locations might not command as much as those in tech hubs. But unlike some other tech leaders, Richter, whose background is in accounting and finance, doesn’t see much merit in attempting to adjust salaries when existing employees relocate.
“It’s a global market for talent. And in exchange for the talent and the impact that the individual provides the organization, they shall be compensated,” Richter said. “All the micro-tuning of things like location and that sort of thing, that might work in the short run. In the long run, what we’ll see is a market clearing for compensation in return for talent.”
Other topics this week

The boom in unstructured cloud data, which is fueling Qumulo’s business. My colleague John Cook makes his best effort to get Richter to disclose Qumulo’s financial data and IPO plans. Richter does share some insights into which sectors are seeing the biggest increase in data, and thoughts on how companies are viewing Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform in this environment.

The home debut of the new Seattle Kraken NHL franchise Saturday. Our colleagues Kurt Schlosser and Kevin Lisota got to tour Climate Pledge Arena this week. Check out their story and video. We reminisce about John’s run-in with the Pittsburgh Penguins mascot, Iceburgh, during GeekWire’s 2018 stint in the Steel City, and wonder if he’ll have a similar altercation with the Kraken mascot. We’ll soon find out.

Listen above, and subscribe to GeekWire in any podcast app.
Produced and edited by Curt Milton; Music by Daniel L.K. Caldwell.

Microsoft and Amazon reach truce allowing former AWS executive Charlie Bell to start in new role

By Todd Bishop

Charlie Bell (LinkedIn Photo)
Microsoft and Amazon reached an agreement that clears the way for former Amazon Web Services executive Charlie Bell to start his new job leading a newly formed cybersecurity engineering organization inside the Redmond tech company.
The breakthrough ends a standoff that lasted several weeks, avoiding a court fight over the terms of Bell’s non-compete agreement with Amazon.
“After constructive discussions with Amazon, Charle Bell started his new role on October 11, focused on advancing cybersecurity capabilities that will benefit the tech sector and the broader economy,” said Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, responding to an inquiry from GeekWire on Monday.
We’ve contacted Amazon for comment on the situation.
Bell, a member of Amazon’s senior leadership team and a longtime linchpin of the company’s cloud business, left the Seattle company in August after more than 23 years. That news was followed two weeks later by reports that he had taken what was then an unspecified Microsoft role.
Microsoft confirmed later in September that it hired Bell to lead a new Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management group that brings together many of its existing teams in those areas as part of a broader initiative. In a memo to employees at the time, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Bell would “assume his job duties once a resolution is reached with his former employer.”
At the time, Microsoft cited its own efforts to reach similar resolutions with Amazon when Microsoft executives jumped ship for Amazon in the past. Amazon has been more aggressive in enforcing non-compete agreements in recent years, taking some former executives to court when they left to join rivals such as Google.
Bell had been considered a candidate to replace Andy Jassy as CEO of AWS after Jassy was named Amazon CEO. However, the top AWS role went to Adam Selipsky, the former CEO of Tableau Software in Seattle, who rejoined Amazon to lead the cloud business.
Non-compete agreements, which have been rendered virtually unenforceable in California, are still allowed in Washington state. However, under a state law passed in 2019, they can’t be applied to employees who make less than $100,000, and they can’t cover a period of more than 18 months, among other restrictions.