For the second episode of The WNTD podcast, we were joined by Jaap Zuiderveld, VP EMEA at NVIDIA, a pioneer in hardware manufacturing and accelerated full-stack computing – the company’s invention of the GPU in 1999 sparked the growth of the PC Gaming market, redefined computer graphics and ignited the era of modern AI.
At Nvidia, you’re at the heart of everything. Tell us a bit about what that’s like.
Our technology is embedded in pretty much everything that anybody does today. We’re a full stack computing company. If you’re a Google customer, an Amazon customer, a Windows customer, you’ll most probably get in touch with our technology. And as a company, we flourish in working on difficult matters; from vaccine development at the outset of covid, understanding the impact of climate change on our planet, or helping experts find a cure for cancer, we’re working through it – that’s what we’re about.
What does it mean to be such a big part of people’s futures?
When we start a new venture, we’re often doing something that’s never been done before. You want to prioritize understanding how you can make things better, so you need to be able to really listen to understand what that customer does completely. In our market today, too many people aren’t working in that way. you have to listen very carefully, understand the indicators of success and be ready to fail – a lot – that’s a part of our company culture.
If no one is making any mistakes, it’s not good, it means we’re not moving forward. It’s difficult for a lot of managers who join us because it’s hard to know how to motivate your people to embrace failure? You need to encourage people to be honest about what they do and the things that haven’t gone well, and likewise, you need managers themselves to give honest feedback. That’s one of the reasons we’re able to move so fast.
Your staff retention is the best I’ve seen across the sector – and especially surprising in a sales environment – what are you doing right?
We have a similar environment to that of a startup. We reset the organization every six months; we call it the parking lot exercise. Essentially, it’s like putting everyone in the parking lot and reassigning them to a new position. If you do that continuously, you keep your people really proactive. Sometimes people are better suited to a different job or a different role, and this is something we monitor constantly.
When a small company grows by 40% - 60%, it can seem doable. But when you’re growing, for example, from 2 to 3 billion, that requires a different muscle. When you’re growing on such a large scale, you’ll necessarily often come across things you’ve never done or seen before, so this is another thing that helps us retain people; it keeps them interested, there’s a constant learning factor.
Is there something in particular you look for amongst younger talent?
Yes, three things: (i) their capacity to learn, (ii) their capacity to listen, (iii) and how diverse they are, in terms of how well-rounded they are. It’s one thing to have great academic scores, but the human element is very important. Are they a good team player? Could they be a good team leader and set a good example? These are things I look out for even at a very early stage.
You can listen to the full episode, here for more on AI, investing in young talent, and more.