How’d You Get Here with Kevin McClusky: A Professional Journey

Inductive Conversations

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In this new segment of How’d You Get Here, Kevin McClusky chats with Arnell J.  Ignacio to discuss Kevin’s professional journey. They talk about Kevin’s early experiences at Inductive Automation to where he currently is now. Kevin also shares insight of the early days at Inductive Automation, what makes IA such a unique place, his journey at Inductive Automation, and much more. We also get a peek into Kevin’s interests and what he is excited about.

We don't wanna sell something to folks who don't need it. We want to help people understand what Ignition can do, how it can benefit their company.

Kevin McClusky
Chief Technology Architect and VP of Sales

Kevin McClusky joined Inductive Automation in 2011, and previously served as the Co-Director of Sales Engineering and Director of Design Services. In his current roles as Chief Technology Architect and VP of Sales, Kevin helps drive widespread adoption of Ignition, oversees sales, and provides long-term architectural design guidance to the Ignition community through relationships with key customers, white papers, articles, speaking engagements, webinars, and conferences. Kevin also provides insights to the CEO and CTO on customer needs, customer and industry trends, and new technology adoption.



Arnell: Hello and welcome to Inductive Conversations. My name is Arnell J. Ignacio, and we're here with another segment of How'd You Get Here, where we explore the professional journey of an Inductive Automation employee today. Joining with me is Kevin McClusky. He is the Chief Technology Architect and VP of Sales here at Inductive Automation. Kevin, welcome.

Kevin: Thank you so much for inviting me. It's good to be here.

Arnell: It's another beautiful day here at our headquarters here in Folsom, California. We're next to Lake Natoma; it's just nice to be out here.

Kevin: The weather's been fantastic around here. I really enjoy that you've set all of this up right in front of real nature outside of our concrete jungle here.

Arnell: We wanna make you feel comfortable. We're having a conversation about your experiences here at Inductive Automation. Before we begin, we had a conversation and you've mentioned something interesting about something in Hawaii and three firetrucks. I'm pretty intrigued. What is the story? 

Kevin: We're gonna start with the story. So this is a crazy story. This is actually the weekend I got engaged to my now wife. And we were over, we decided to basically take a little trip. I wanted to take her somewhere nice and make it memorable. It's a really long story. I'll keep it short, but we ended up on the Road to Hana, which is a windy, twisty road that we didn't really know exactly what we were getting ourselves into. We found a hiking spot when it was kind of later in the day. And it was supposed to have beautiful vistas, and it was supposed to be fantastic. And got up a ways and it was not as advertised. The fog was kind of rolling in. It was a little bit wet. We got up to the top where I thought it would be a perfect place to propose. And there's this ugly picnic table in a puddle of mud that's all around it. I'm like, this is not the right place. This is not the right time. It's getting later in the day. And, I decide, okay, just gonna call it, find another place. And, later on we did. And it was, it was perfect. It was great. But we started heading down the hill and we're losing the light.

Arnell: Oh no!

Kevin: And I pull out my flashlight on my phone and the battery's about to die, and we don't have another source of light. And as we're going down. The light is going really fast and we're getting a bit scared of being able to make it all the way back. And it's these narrow paths that are muddy and slick, and you don't really wanna slip because then you might end up falling off the edge of the cliff. And that's not a good thing. And so we can't go any faster than we're going. And, I'm turning on the flashlight. I'm turning it off and turning it on and turning it off to try to save battery as we're getting closer, because I really don't want this thing to die. And then at this point, we just almost entirely lose the light.

Kevin: There's a tree canopy that we go underneath and we hear some voices in front of us. We say, like, who else would be here? They're these two guys that I think were, they might have been on their honeymoon or something like that, but they're sitting there and they yell out they're like, “Is there somebody there? Is there somebody there? Please? We're so alone in all of this,” and they didn't have any flashlight. They didn't have any source of light. They were just sitting there and they had called the fire department before their phones had died and said, “Hey, can you guys save us?” So as we get down to there, we see like three or four fire trucks pull into the parking lot there. They've got their lights going, there's probably 10 or 15 people who actually show up. They basically sent all the emergency folks.

Arnell: Oh my goodness!

Kevin: From the island out to this one spot. So yeah, it was wild. That was how we spent the day before we got engaged.

Arnell: Wow! That's must have been an adventure.

Kevin: It was.

Arnell: Yeah. And for those who is listening, my wife and I, we went to Maui, where the Road to Hana is, and we went on that road and I completely understand because once the sun sets, it gets pretty dark. We were coming back from the seven pools [Pools of 'Ohe'o aka Seven Sacred Pools], at the end of that road. And, the sun was setting, and as it got really dark, there's a lot of sharp turns on that road.

Kevin: Oh yeah.

Arnell: So when the light's gone, you gotta really ... So yeah, I can imagine how that, scenario would've been.

Kevin: Yeah.

Arnell: I'm glad you're here.

Kevin: Yeah. Me too. Me too. I'm glad we made it. I'm glad we didn't go over the side of the cliff. Either way.

Arnell: So let's just jump right in. As I mentioned, you are the Chief Technology Architect.

Kevin: Yeah.

Arnell: And the VP of Sales here at Inductive Automation.

Kevin: Right.

Arnell: Can you tell a little bit more about that and what you do here at IA? 

Kevin: Yeah. So each one of the roles is pretty distinct from the other roles. So in the Chief Technology Architect role, I'm working with customers. I'm trying to help our organization understand where customers are going. So what that technology looks like, where companies IT divisions are going, where companies, integration divisions are going, engineering divisions, the type of technology that they need right now. So all of our customers have needs, and a lot of them are varied. And trying to understand what those needs are so that as we continue to evolve at Ignition, we can meet those needs where folks are at. So we have Cloud Edition literally being released today.

Arnell: That's great.

Kevin: Sorry audience, this is going to broadcast after today sometime, but it should be released today. And that's had a big feedback cycle from the community in terms of what people want, what people need, which cloud features that are out there that we either are releasing with today or that we have on our roadmap. And that's a big part of what I do inside the Chief Technology Architect role

Kevin: And then on the VP of Sales side, that's also about relationships with customers, but in a very different way, right? So we've got a sales organization and we do our best to service customers. Our Sales folks are often the main point of contact for any of our customers that are out there, and so our Sales team focuses on building relationships, doing a lot of education. The idea in our organization isn't that, our sales folks really have to sell Ignition.

Kevin: It's an education job. It's showing them what Ignition can do, and it's a bit of a meritocracy. Folks are going to use Ignition if it merits being used. And so we don't wanna sell something to folks who don't need it. We want to help people understand what Ignition can do, how it can benefit their company. If there are places that it lines up, and I'd say 99% of the time, there are really good places that it lines up and people decide to buy the software.

Kevin: The Sales team is intended to also provide a nice point of contact, to be able to route communication inside the company if there are certain needs that are coming for Sales Engineering or Engineering services, for example, where, for free, somebody could get one of our engineers on the call and be able to talk about architectures or talk about some of the deeper esoteric needs that people might have with the software that would be supported. Our Sales team also coordinates all of that. Our Sales team coordinates other things that folks might need, Integrator Program relationships, we have the programs there, the Sales team. The Sales Division also has our Distributor Program inside that as well, so it's all under one umbrella there.

Arnell: Along those lines, do you find that a lot of customers really need direction on what they need for their systems or the solutions that they're looking for? 

Kevin: It depends on the sophistication. So some customers are coming in and they're new to the engineering space, which is totally fine, right? Yeah, everybody starts somewhere, and so if companies are relatively young when it comes to what kind of systems that they're putting in, then absolutely we're here to help educate. We're here to help understand even what a SCADA system is, or what an IoT system is or what an MES is or an HMI. We normally end up working with folks who might start there, but then fairly quickly, we have Inductive University online. We have a number of other things that are training materials to help people get up to speed pretty quickly. We normally start working with folks who move through that process or are even starting from a different place where they have a lot of experience with other softwares, for example.

Kevin: And a lot of engineering experience, a lot of experience doing projects, and those folks normally don't need quite as much direction from us. We try to put as much self-education material out there as possible, so folks could go through Inductive University, go through our user manual, go through our white papers, and all of that in order to get the breadth of education that they would be looking for, in a bit of a self-service way as well, in addition to our Sales team being able to provide direction and links and help bring people along to.

Arnell: Speaking of starting somewhere, we had a discussion beforehand about this and prior to IA, you were talking about where you started. Would you like to talk about that and your experiences before IA? 

Kevin: Sure, so if you go all the way back, I was actually in media. I was working at a photo lab.

Arnell: Oh, yeah.

Kevin: I was the Photoshop expert, and that's because they didn't have another Photoshop expert. And I was a kid in high school who would learn Photoshop, and I was going through and making collages and doing color corrections and all that. That was fun, but that was completely unrelated, when I actually got my professional career started. That was in web development, and so I was a web developer for a number of years. I actually worked for the Sacramento Bee, which is a local newspaper around here, just up the street at Sacramento, um, which still exists today. A lot of newspapers have gone the way of the dodo, but.

Arnell: Yeah.

Kevin: Not the Sacramento Bee. It's still around, and so I was there for a little while, and I had a friend who said, “Hey, you should check out this whole thing called systems integration.” I said, “What's systems integration?”

Kevin: I went to school for computer engineering, so I had hardware, I had software as a background, but I had never considered a career inside this space, and so he was working for a control systems integrator at the time. I went over there, I was talked into it by the person who I ended up talking to on the phone, and I thought, “Okay, let's do a little bit of an industry career change and see how this goes,” and so then I started working for an integrator out of downtown Sacramento, and we did a number of integration projects with wineries and with olive oil producers and with folks who were doing warehousing, and it was automotive a little bit.

Kevin: There was a pretty wide variety, all within about a two hour driving distance from our offices in Sacramento, and so that included, doing startups sitting on a bucket, upside down programming systems, doing PLC programming, and then a lot of HMI programming. I was really hired into that HMI role, and we did some, I probably shouldn't say other companies names here.

Kevin: But we did HMIs from some other companies, and then we started doing some Ignition HMIs as well. And that day it was the predecessor to Ignition, Factory PMI, Factory SQL. There was technologies, SQL tags as they were called back in the day, that connected them together, and I said this is great software. I am really interested in working for Inductive Automation. And so we had ... When I started with Inductive Automation, there were about eight people, so it was a lot smaller. It was back in 2009 at this point. We're over 300, 325, something like that, so...

Arnell: That's cool. Yeah.

Kevin: Yeah. We've certainly exploded onto the scene.

Kevin: With significant growth, consistent growth. I mean, we didn't go from eight to 300 in a year, right? It's taken a bit over a decade. We've been careful with how we've done our growth, but it's been really exciting to be part of that process and jump through a few different positions.

Kevin: I could probably talk all day on this answer, but I'll just fill in a couple of other little blanks. When I came over to Inductive Automation, I was the Lead HMI Developer. I became Director of Design Services, which was a division that we no longer have, but at the time, basically if an integrator came to us and said, "Hey, can you help us out on this project for a couple of hours? We want you to help build out a resource, a template, a view, help with some queries." We had a division that would say yes. They can pay for a couple of hours and then we could do that. End users would do that sometimes too, and so it was a nice little pressure relief valve for sometimes when folks had that inside their projects but it also had a bit of an appearance of competing with integrators.

Kevin: For certain end users, if they were thinking about going to Inductive Automation versus going to an integrator, we never actually bid against integrators. We've been really strong about not competing with systems integrators at all, but if an end user was coming to us for a couple of hours instead of going to an integrator, that's also a form of competing, and we saw that happen a few times, and we said, "Well, this isn't a good thing. This isn't a good look. This isn't something that we wanna do." So we actually shut the whole division down. I was Director of Design Services. I moved over into Sales Engineering after that, which was a relatively direct move. As a lot of folks know, Travis and I were Co-Directors of Sales Engineering for quite a few years before the most recent company structure changes. Improvements, if I put my own feelings into it, and then we've got our C-suite now that Travis and I are both part of, where I was promoted into Chief Technology Architect and then also invited to serve as VP of Sales.

Arnell: We've interviewed quite a bit of people for this series, and that's kind of been the common theme. There hasn't been a person who said, "I'm gonna go directly into the integration business." There has been this thought that, if you are in computer science or computer engineering, you're looking to go into the Silicon Valley, just go with the start-up or go with the big companies there like Google, Apple, Meta, and start from there. But what I find is, when people come into this space, it takes hold and they really excel and from what you've explained in your journey here, you've really excelled at what you're doing.

Arnell: That's fantastic to see. And you were there at the very beginning, when Ignition became Ignition, seeing that all together, and you touched upon that as well. Prior to Inductive Automation, the organization was an integrator-based organization, and having that experience was helpful in bringing Ignition to life because there was a lot of pain points that were out there. Trying to say yes to a lot of solutions that customers were looking for, but it's fantastic that you have that entire spectrum. And then just to know that you started off in media, but then you got into industrial automation, and then this is where you are now. Throughout this whole time, what was going through your mind? Were you ever questioning whether or not this was the direction that you wanted to go into? Did you ever think to yourself, "You know what, I don't know, maybe I should go and pivot to a different direction, like consumer to business or business to consumer?" And is that something that ever crossed our mind? 

Kevin: Yeah, that's a great question. I can tell you, if I was working for another company inside this space, it probably would have crossed my mind. Working for Inductive Automation, to me, it's always been so clear what the technology has, what promise it has, how it's able to help companies, how it's able to help individuals, and how we've been impacting the world, and that is probably the most impactful thing to me, and I love that. I love seeing Ignition get out there and help companies. I love talking to ... I always go through my head, who do we have NDAs with? What can I actually say? 

Arnell: Yeah, yeah.

Kevin: But I'll name drop talking to Chris McLaughlin [from Vertech] about his project that he has that he's used Ignition for, to help homeless population out on the East Coast. There's a whole network of folks that are using that. They built it inside Ignition and they're going through and making a huge impact on people's lives. And talking to folks who have built their entire careers or accelerated their careers, or where they were sitting in a specific spot and now they have a whole team, because they've discovered Ignition and they've had a vision for how to actually implement things and create projects. Integration companies who've built their entire business around Ignition, they've started it after they found Ignition, and now they're up to 20, 30 people that are doing good work and they're growing year over year.

Kevin: It's so exciting to me, and then also to the end users, being able to actually still stay competitive, being able to have a competitive advantage, being able to be more efficient and more mistake-proof and move through. We're in every industry that has a US tax code so you can't really pigeonhole it, it's manufacturing or baggage handling systems or whatever. We're everywhere, but whatever it happens to be, the idea of helping businesses be better, helping engineers who want businesses to be better have the tool sets to actually make that happen. It's super exciting to me. It gets me up every day. I'm in this because Inductive Automation is a great place to be. I feel like it's a great place to work, it's a great company culture, and it's been something that has ... I don't have any desire to look outside of where we're at right now, and I really haven't over the years. It's been a great management structure in place as well, and I felt supported and even after 14 years here, I'm still really passionate about what we do and what I'm doing.

Arnell: As you were, as you're talking about what Inductive Automation has done, Ignition has created this kind of, this ecosystem if you will, where people can actually build things that bring solutions. And, do you find that, because of the software, do you feel like innovation has been pushed in the industry? Do you see that? 

Kevin: I do. My intro to the industry before working at Inductive Automation wasn't too significant. So if I am to compare this to what happens with other softwares, all I have is a variety of anecdotes. It's a lot of them that are coming from our integrator community. But what I can tell you is that I've heard time and time again, exactly what you just said from our integrator community, where they're comparing what they were doing with other software versus what they're doing with Ignition. And there are a couple of things that I've heard from folks that have really enabled that in a big way. One of those is the technology stack. Since Ignition is built on modern technologies, it has the ability, like anybody can get out there, and if you want to get really low level, you can write your own module.

Kevin: The scripting is available for everybody. The accessibility of the technology is high. And the responsiveness of Inductive Automation. We've tried really hard to try to keep adding new features and responding to the community as those come in or requests come in. And the other thing is the licensing model. So every other software that is the major players inside this space have different licensing models than we do. And so we lead with, we're the unlimited company, right? 

Arnell: Yeah.

Kevin: You put in an Ignition server and having the ability to just create whatever software that, or whatever applications that you want based on that, without having to worry about tag limits, without having to say, "Oh, when I hit a thousand, I'm gonna need to pay more. Get another PO. Go through that process." It's like there's a barrier that's there with some other software where Ignition, it unleashes that innovation. You don't have to worry about that. You don't have to worry about the size of the system, basically. Go wild, dream it, do it. Right? That's the whole idea. And so I've seen a lot of folks really excited about that too.

Arnell: Yeah. No, and then, and I've heard a lot of those sentiments, especially at ICC a lot of our customers, we have a community who is very passionate about what they do. And it's, and then the other conversations that I have with individuals, there is a sense of innovation. When people come to these conferences, there's no sense of, I need to not tell people what I'm doing 'cause I wanna have a competitive advantage, but just kind of the willingness to share the knowledge and to a certain degree, our community is really pushing what Ignition can do. We developed a platform that has this incredible tool set, incredible capability, but our community is just putting it in places where we're like, "Whoa, that is amazing."

Arnell: And, you, when you've presented some of these applications, I can hear how passionate you are. You're just excited about it, and that's really cool. So do you think that's a unique thing? From what I hear, there's, you know, there's a lot of these cool platforms that are out there. And a lot of people who are not in the integration business or, in the computer industry as a whole, they just see these platforms. So do you find that our software is inspiring people to be innovative? Like just the ability to say, "I can actually do this." Like, how instrumental has that been? 

Kevin: Yeah. We go to a lot of conferences, so I find myself at some percentage of them, every year. And different folks from our company do as well, but I've probably been to maybe 20 or 30 conferences over the years. What we have at ICC, I feel like is pretty unique, where we have a spirit of collaboration that's coming from different integrators. We have end users too, we have folks who are just getting out there and sharing some of their secret sauce, if you will, which not everybody does, but I think that especially after a second year or third year at ICC, folks start to realize that we're all better together. If we're talking about and sharing innovations or innovative ideas, that there's plenty of market out there.

Kevin: There are plenty of folks who are using softwares that aren't as capable. There's plenty of fish in the sea, so to speak. And, what we do together makes everybody stronger. I've seen innovation across the board. Every industry that we're in, I've seen people doing exciting, innovative things and being on the sales engineering side for quite a while and sitting there talking in conversations, you can see the wheels turning. You start talking about this is how it works and this is how it works. And somebody says, "Hey, could I put in a report that's going to predict where this is going to be in two days from now based on these three factors?" Yes, absolutely, yeah this is, you might tie it into this type of algorithm over here, and you'd feed it into this way and you'd pull out this information, but you can start to see the wheels turning because the answers become yes.

Kevin: And I've actually heard from multiple folks that their jobs as engineers turned into changing from saying, "No, I can't do that. It's too much effort," to "Yes, I can do that. I'm gonna have to put it on the backlog, because we have so many things that I've been saying yes to now, because they're all great ideas, and so we can start doing these." And then they deliver those things over time. And so that's neat. And I mentioned some folks who were engineers and now they have a whole team. It's because that type of thing happens. You know, folks start hearing yes and then the company gets really excited about it and says, "Oh, we're getting yeses now instead of nos because of the software that we're using and the skills of our engineers, and let's put a little bit more resources there. Let's hire another engineer or two. And, then we can get through all of our yeses faster."

Arnell: You know, you've mentioned that you've gone to a lot of conferences and in the position that you're in, you talk with a lot of customers. I'm curious to know when people talk about Ignition and about our software in comparison to other software packages out there. Do you find the language that people use and the sentiments that they share, is it different? Do you feel like there's more of an emotional component with our software versus other solutions? I'm just curious if that's been something that you've observed.

Kevin: It's an interesting question. I can only really speak for our software. I'm not sure, and folks who love our software, they might speak about some of the other software that's out there. I've never been on the receiving side for the other software, so I don't know if there's much positive sentiment on that side, but I can tell you just from our experience, positive sentiment toward Inductive Automation is strong.

Kevin: So that's part of the fun of being out in the community and being part of this company, and part of where we're going is that for whatever reason, people seem to love us, and I'm not gonna argue with that. And I'm gonna be happy about that. We've tried to do a lot of things to keep our company culture as we've grown and to be accessible to the community and to listen and to see it as a partnership, and as a team we're working with thousands of integrators that are out there, and we have some that we work even closer with than others, but we definitely see all of those as important relationships to us. And I think that we've been lucky to have attracted such a valuable, vibrant, excited community of engineers and integrators and end users, we have engineering teams and just everything that we have inside our community. It's blown me away over time, and I'm so grateful that they've selected to be our partners

Arnell: And you touched upon culture, and I wanna talk about culture at Inductive Automation. You've again, you've seen all the changes that have happened from the beginning all the way to where we are now.

Kevin: Yeah.

Arnell: And so let's talk about that. How would you describe the culture here at Inductive Automation? 

Kevin: Every division has their ... More or less, the directors inside each division are able to set up the policies for those divisions, so I feel like there is a little bit different culture per division, but if I were to boil that down to the overall for the company, it's positive, it's engaging, everybody's respected, there is a sense of excitement about where we're going, excitement about what we do, there is ... I feel like people have a real connection to the value that they're producing regardless of the division that they're working in, what they're doing for customers, and we have a bit of a central message of taking care of customers, this is the core to where we have come from ... And what makes us valuable to the community is that one, we're producing what I think is fair to say, and in my opinion, this amazing software.

Kevin: It's completely innovative and it's very exciting, and I think engineers get really excited about it, but then two, we are really, really focused on the community, and I think that that comes through to our folks internally as well, we also have a great HR team, and they put on events, and we've got a Cloud Edition release party that's coming up, that's gonna be a lot of fun.

Kevin: There's a surprise or two that's gonna be there, so we try to do a number of things and we've got good benefits for everybody, and there's ... We focus on employees in a significant way too, and I think that's certainly positive for the company culture too.

Arnell: Yeah, definitely, and a few people that I talk to about ... I've asked questions where someone would be applying to another organization and that organization has these phenomenal benefits, but when they were at the point where they were deciding where to work for, they end up going with Inductive Automation and it's that sentiment that they realize that there is a lot of care that is placed on the employees, as you mentioned, our HR team provides us with a lot of events, but additionally, there is a lot of understanding with work-life balance, there's also these ... The Technical Pathways Program within this important division, just there's just clear understanding of where you can go and flourish within the organization and just the tools to excel. In addition to Inductive University, there's also courses for employees as well, to be able to understand what we do here and also to have a sense of professional development. Is that something that you see as well? 

Kevin: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah. So if you've taken a look at personal development, if you're coming to Inductive Automation, if you're coming to Inductive Automation, then yeah, we've done a lot of work to try to make that a first class thing inside the organization to help people know where they can go, where they're getting hired into, what the promotion paths might look like at ... And a lot of things that we do are really focused on employees and culture in the Sales Engineering Division, there's a regular weekly hang out that happens around ICC, when everybody comes at Ignition Community Conference, when everybody comes into the office. There was go-karting last year.

Arnell: Oh that's cool.

Kevin: There is a number of team-building things that happened for all of the different teams, but yeah, I agree, I think that I've heard excitement from folks many times just with all of that, and then I'd say one of the things that's different from some companies that might have really great perks when it comes to free lunches, we don't have a chef that's downstairs that's making lunch every day. I think a lot of companies do scale back on that too, but I think one of the things that's different there is that those perks are great, but then what does the relationship look like? What is the...

Kevin: How do people actually interact with each other? Is there a culture of respect and culture of we're going to meet you where you're at? But also we're going to do amazing things together, and to me, that's huge. We also hire some really smart people, and that is a lot of fun to work with really smart people as well.

Arnell: So from your perspective, from your vantage point, we as a company have grown and we've accelerated. And so, a couple or maybe several years ago, we changed the offices and then now we're a remote-first company. From your perspective, have you seen any sort of challenges, any sort of accomplishments that is notable in all of this transition? 

Kevin: Yeah, I think the biggest part for us as we grow as a company, we have significant hiring goals. We have ... We're bringing in lots and lots of additional people into our Inductive Automation family and that is challenging to do in just one area, especially given the caliber of person. If you're offered a job from Inductive Automation, you're creme de la crop. You're an amazing person and we're happy to have you join the team. Finding those people is hard to do if you are just looking in one area and competing against some other big tech companies. In Folsom, we've got Intel right down the road, for example, and they also have really smart people who seem to like their jobs..

Kevin: And so, expanding it out, going remote-first has allowed us to increase our candidate pool significantly where a lot of folks are working remotely at this point. And that's been one of the really nice things. When we started going remote at the beginning of the pandemic, we discovered this can work for Inductive Automation, right? 

Arnell: Yeah.

Kevin: Our numbers were looking good. Our company, our community was happy. The way we were able to service people was good. The tech support was still working really well. And I don't know if you've seen the surveys, but they ... And the recent ones that I've seen, they're pretty much highest marks in the industry in tech support.

Arnell: That's really cool.

Kevin: Yeah, yeah. It's amazing. And so, we really value that and was this gonna affect things if we did things differently? And so, but across the board, everything's been really good. And so, it proved to us, we can do this, we can do it remote-first, we can have remote employees that are going to be able to help us grow and still keep that same caliber of person who we hire. If you're part of the Inductive Automation family, then we know that you're gonna be able to join regardless of where you are in the US. So we're hiring US-based. I think we're up to 27 or 28 states or something like that.

Arnell: It's really cool to know where Inductive Automation has started and where it is now, and just how everything has evolved and progressed and being able to bring in people from all over the United States with a lot of experience and still maintaining that culture. A lot of individuals have mentioned that IA has that very tight-knit, very supportive culture. And there's always fears of working when change happens, things could change for the worst, or gonna change for the better. But I think for us, it has maintained, it has stayed true to what the original vision of the company has been. And so, it's just nice to have that and nice to be in that stability, to have that stability. Especially, we hear all these different things in the commercial industry and a lot of companies are experiencing a little bit of turmoil. But just knowing that we have stayed the course and are pretty stable in what we're doing and being able to still provide solutions to our customers especially during this time. So I think that's really cool. During your time here at IA, has there been anything that's been memorable to you or something that stands out and says, "Yeah, this is something that you really enjoyed"? 

Kevin: Good question. There have been many of those things over the years, picking out just one is challenging. I could talk about site visits, I could talk about conferences, I could talk about some of the really cool things people are doing in other countries, too. Going to Europe, realizing we do have a community in Europe, and making about seven stops. I think at one point there, I'd traveled for about two weeks, one day in different countries and then stop by different companies that we were at over there. But I think I'll pick out one of the Discover Gallery projects from last year, which has been really exciting to me because I think that it shows off a lot of the cool things inside the technology. And you've gotten a sense that I'm very excited about the technology, right? 

Arnell: Yeah, yeah.

Kevin: So Ignition is ... In this specific project, Ignition is being used in really interesting, unique ways. So this is a company, the company's called XOCEAN. And what they do is they have what I like to call the ocean roombas that are out there. They're unmanned vehicles that are on the ocean. They're little ships that are going around and have this big sensor array that they're going to different areas, testing the temperature of the water, testing a number of different properties of the water to be able to report that back to maritime authorities and to other folks. And this company basically operates this fleet and they on a daily basis or whatever basis that they do it, they'd basically log into Ignition, they press the button, say, go here, and the thing goes there and it does its thing and it sends back information.

Kevin: They also have a pilot interface. They can pull that up. It's all in Ignition, too. So they get a feed of what the ship sees. They can see it moving around on the ocean. They can pilot it. It's over-the-horizon operations. So it's not line-of-sight radio, it's actually going over bigger networks than that. It's largely using MQTT and some of these other IIoT technologies. And it's not a traditional application when it comes to Ignition. It's a really innovative one. And that is using things in different ways than we were necessarily thinking of when we designed the Ignition. But we also designed it to be extremely flexible so people can build whatever they want.

Kevin: This is one of the things that when I first heard about this project, it really excited me because it's a cool project. It's using new technologies. It's enabled by things they wouldn't have been able to do 10 years ago or five years ago. We didn't have the software stack to do these things, and nobody else has this software stack to do this in a way that's gonna be economical. If you do custom software development, it's going to be expensive.

Arnell: Right.

Kevin: And if you do this type of thing inside Ignition, it lowers that barrier. It increases reliability. It's for all these reasons it actually enables this project where you couldn't do this type of thing without Ignition. That excites me. As I said, there's probably a hundred other examples that I could pull out but.

Arnell: No, definitely.

Kevin: That's the one that comes to mind.

Arnell: And that's really cool. That's the thing that's exciting. Just being able to know that the software has given people that ability to say, “Yeah, we can definitely do this.” And then you always hear people talk about the past several years, it just wasn't possible because it was not available. But now you hear about these things and it's funny 'cause yeah I have a certain level of technical understanding, but a lot of people who interface with technology usually with their smartphone and with their TVs or streaming devices or whatever you might wanna call it, computers. And these type of things sounds very ... I wouldn't wanna say simple, but it's like, of course it can do that. But that's the type of thing.


Arnell: It's like there's a lot that's going on in the background and the software is doing quite a bit. And I think that's something that I feel we need to tell a story about, because a lot of the things that we have taken for granted in our everyday thing, I was telling someone about mobile devices, several years ago. We just never had the ability to do, like, online ordering the way it's being done now, online pickup, being able to select a lot of things. But, with having that understanding of where this software sits and how people are able to do all of these different things, just the level of complexity and just how it can do that. And people say, “Yes, I can make this happen and give people that capability.” It's just exciting. So, and it's exciting that you see that and your position, just being able to see that and knowing what we make here is enabling people to do things that are just beyond anyone's imagination. So I think that's fantastic. And, it's great to see all that.

Kevin: That's beyond anyone's imagination other than the engineers who actually made it, comes out of their imagination.

Arnell: Yeah. And ...

Kevin: It's great to see. Yeah.

Arnell: Yeah. And to a certain degree it's an art form at this point because it's just kind of ... There's the function, but there is the form. It's just how do you present that to people a lot of the time and I'm thinking about Perspective recently has been released and just how the way people interact with the systems, with the solutions and just, again, the software has been doing phenomenal stuff. And, you also have been doing some phenomenal stuff and being able to give customers the vision of what they can do with our software and giving them the path of success. So that's fantastic.

Kevin: And you and I are both musicians.

Arnell: Yeah.

Kevin: You know that a musician is only as good as the instrument that they're playing on. Right? 

Arnell: Definitely.

Kevin: And I play a few instruments. I'm not ... If I sit down at a piano, I can make it sound pretty good. If you get a concert pianist in there who is a professional who does this every day, you could take the same instrument I'm playing on and make it shine. And that's what our integrator community does with Ignition, I feel like on a regular basis. They're just going in, they're taking this instrument that is Ignition, and then they're going crazy with it and making some awesome stuff. And it's so cool to see.

Arnell: Yeah. I really like that analogy. And, speaking of instruments in music, we've done quite a few projects here in Inductive Automation, and you've had the great opportunity of being a part of that and leading that essentially, with the Build-a-Thon and then also with the music videos. Talk about that. I remember the very first time this all started when Kent did his thing at that one Build-a-Thon in ICC where he did more of an acapella.

Kevin: “Ignition Remix.” Yeah.

Arnell: The Ignition Remix. And how did that come about? What was the spark to take it to where it is now? 

Kevin: So, Kent, and he might hate me for saying this, but Kent, somewhat sheepishly came to Travis and me, for that first Build-a-Thon and he said, “Hey, I'm doing all this stuff. I had an idea for this thing. It might be a bad idea. You guys are probably gonna say no, but what do you think about me getting up there and doing an acapella song? And I already wrote the lyrics to it, and this is what they are.”

Arnell: That's cool.

Kevin: And we said, that sounds great. That sounds amazing. I don't know why you're not more excited about this. We're excited about this now, Kent. And we got up there and the rest is history, right? So we put together a band after that. And from that time we did music videos every year. We thought that would be a really fun thing to do during the Build-a-Thon. So we upgraded from a single in-person live, no additional instruments that first year into going to something that was bigger scale the second year and then the third year, and then the fourth year. And so we're continuing along those lines. And then we added the band to the ICC dinner as well. And that's been fun too. So we did that a couple of times now. The first time the band had the illustrious space next to the dumpsters in the corner.

Arnell: Yeah. I remember that. Yeah.

Kevin: It was nicely cordoned off and it didn't look like it except, we knew. Last year, we were front and center, and that was appreciated by the band, but I think that the community also was pretty excited about that too.

Arnell: Yeah. Yeah.

Kevin: Yeah, it's been fun to take some of that creativity outside of work and apply it.

Arnell: And then speaking of creativity, and so let's jump into outside of work, what are some of the things that drive you? What do you like to do? 

Kevin: Sure.

Arnell: In your free time.

Kevin: Yeah, so music as you, as we just talked about. I like to wrench on cars, motorcycles when I have time for it.

Arnell: That's cool.

Kevin: We've got a little plot of property that's a little ways out of one of the cities around here, and so there's always something to do there. And so you can find me some days with a chainsaw cutting up a felled tree that somewhere ... Or making firewood. That's kind of fun. And then we have two young kids and they keep us very, very busy.

Arnell: I could imagine that.

Kevin: So, we've got a little 3-year-old who is ... She's basically a delight and a joy and also a terror. All at the same time, sometimes in the same moment, so that definitely keeps us on our toes, and then a brand new one as well, so it's ... Yeah. Yeah, life is pretty full. What about you? 

Arnell: Yeah, no, I also, I'm also a musician, like doing that, but I also do wood-working and build a lot of things. And so just recently I built a Murphy bar for my son's auction, and so it just kind of ... It's kind of a cathartic thing for me just to be able to build and just work with my hands and just figure out what I can do with this thing. To be able to have a piece of furniture that is ... Has a small footprint, but then if you wanna bring someone over to entertain, you can fold it down and then just be able to have guests over, so ... But yeah. And then I have three children, they're three, six, and eight. And they're a joy and a terror at same time as well. But yeah, no. It's just fantastic.

Arnell: We're coming to a close in our conversation here Kevin, and so I just wanted to ask, is there anything you want to share with our audience that you'd like to add? 

Kevin: Yeah, audience, come work with us. We're always looking for new people, good people, bright people. We're not slowing down at all in terms of our growth, which means that we constantly are looking for people to join our family here, so ... Excited about that. Also, if you're working with Ignition, if you're using any of our software, if you're working with our teams, if any of the audience is, then we're here, we're accessible, we're available, we're happy to have folks reach out to us, we ... Coming from being a Co-Director of Sales Engineering, I always like to emphasize that we have a Sales Engineering Division that is able to be pulled into conversations. If your engineers are excited about ideas and different possibilities, we're happy to have a conversation. Bounce your ideas off of us. Have the ... You've got support inside Inductive Automation, and that support is not just tech support. It is tech support as well, which is a fantastic ... Right, but it's also architecture support, it's also engineering support at that higher level and its support for your organization too.

Kevin: So if there's an integration company that's saying, “How do I go further with Ignition? Where do I go?” We've got our Integrator Program, we've got Chris Fischer who's leading that up, who's able to provide some resources and direction, and we have pretty much everyone across the organization is focused on integrators in a significant way. And if you're an end user organization and you have an engineering team, that's great too. If you don't have an engineering team and you're looking for an integrator, we've got the integrators all listed on our website. So there are so many materials, there are so many things that I could leave folks with. I am excited about the future. I am excited about where we're going. I'm excited about the pace of growth and innovation and what the future holds for Inductive Automation, for Ignition, and really for the world of automation too, in general, as things keep getting better and better, and more and more ideas are out there, and more and more architectures are enabled and more solutions that we're finding are making a big difference in people's lives. I'm just excited about the future.

Arnell: Well, Kevin, thank you so much for joining me today to have this conversation and thank you for everything that you do here at Inductive Automation.

Kevin: Yeah, thank you so much for having me on. This has been a real joy.

Posted on June 14, 2023