Ep. 22 Hero Ep 22 Mark Templeton

Decoding Remote Work: Mark Templeton on the Virtual Workspace


35 min

Ep. 22 Hero Ep 22 Mark Templeton

35 min

The topic of remote work has dominated the news, but Mark Templeton—former CEO of Citrix—was among the first to understand its potential more than a decade ago. In this episode, hear Mark explain his early vision for a software-defined virtual workspace that could make it possible to work from anywhere, and how his ideas are shaping the “future of work” we know today.

Read transcript

“We decided that work was not a place. And if work is not a place and it's something that you need to be able to conduct from anywhere, then how do we define that? … We just imagined all the pieces that would need to be possible to enable work from anywhere.“

Quick takes on...

Figuring Out the Future of Work

“Whether it was collaboration, software, or security or management or networking, video, different types of technologies, like voice to text, text to voice—we just imagined all the pieces that would need to be possible to enable work from anywhere.”

The Impact of Remote Work on People

“We talk a lot about technology, but technology is only as good as the people that adopt it. So as the pioneer behind the virtual workspace, how important do you think in-person collaboration is or human to human contact? Because taking human interaction away from even a work environment leaves a lot of questions about how you build a culture, how you share common values."

Returning the Office
“What we found is that people overwhelmingly want to have the flexibility to work in a hybrid environment where they can choose what they want when they want. However, we've seen that productivity data and culture show that it's more effective if people are either altogether or all remote.”

Meet your guest, Mark Templeton

Former President and CEO, Citrix Systems

Spotlight Mark Templeton

Mark B. Templeton is the former president and chief executive officer of Citrix Systems where he shaped the company’s strategy, growth, and execution for over 20 years. After joining in 1995 as Chief Marketing Officer, he was appointed as Citrix president in 1998 and CEO in 2001. Under Templeton’s leadership, Citrix grew from a young public company with one product, one customer segment, and one go-to-market path, to a global software industry leader with annual revenues of more than $3 billion and more than 100 million users worldwide.

At Citrix, Templeton championed a vision for a software-defined "virtual workplace." He also nurtured a design-centered, highly-engaged culture based on the values of respect, integrity, and humility, earning Citrix multiple “best places to work” awards.

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Ep. 23 Home Ep23 Jeanette zu Furstenberg 1

Decoding New Innovations in the Old Economy with Dr. Jeannette zu Fürstenberg


31 min

Traditional companies and digital upstarts have a lot to gain from each other. That's why Jeannette zu Fürstenberg founded La Famiglia, a VC firm that connects innovative young disruptors with old-line companies across Europe. Hear her discuss why connections are so important in business, and why a disruption-friendly mindset can help any company no matter how old.

Episode transcript

Mark Templeton:  [0:06] We decided that…

Mark Templeton:  [0:06] We decided that work was not a place. If work is not a place and it's something that you need to be able to conduct from anywhere, then how do we define that? We imagined all the pieces that would need to be possible to enable work from anywhere.

Daniel Saks:  [0:27] That's Mark Templeton, former President and CEO of Citrix Systems, an early pioneer in virtualization technology. Over 20 years, Mark shaped the strategy, growth and execution at the company and helped grow Citrix from a young public company with only one product into a global software leader with annual revenues of more than three billion, and more than 100 million users worldwide.

[0:56] Mark is a visionary. Early on at Citrix, he saw how technology would change the way people work. Long before anyone coined the term "the future of work," he championed a vision for a software defined virtual workplace that could make it possible for people to work from anywhere with an Internet connection.

[1:15] Today, Mark speaks widely about entrepreneurship and the future of work. In this episode, he shares insights from more than two decades in the technology sector, including how apps and the cloud have evolved.

[1:29] How to communicate a vision for digital change and execute it, and how the world of remote work will continue to evolve. This is Daniel Saks, co CEO of AppDirect, and it's time to decode the future of the virtual workspace.

[1:49] Welcome to "Decoding Digital," a podcast for innovators looking to thrive in the digital economy. I'm your host, Daniel Saks, and I'll sit down with other founders, CEOs and changemakers to decode the trends that are transforming the way we work. Let's decode. Welcome, Mark.

Mark:  [2:13] Thank you, Daniel. It's a joy to be with you here.

Daniel:  [2:16] Always fun to discuss. You are known as the person and the seminal visionary behind the concept of the virtual desktop and virtual workspace. At Citrix, you helped define a movement of a software defined workspace. Today, I'm thrilled to decode that topic with you.

[2:35] If we can take our listeners past, present and future of the concept of the virtual workspace would love to get your original thoughts on what a virtual workspace would look like where we are today and where we're going.

Mark:  [2:51] I'm not going to try to answer that in the single answer. I'd say, the roots of all of this were consistent with the roots of Citrix. Citrix began its life with the idea of remote access. It was when apps were fat, and pipes were thin, everything was dial up. Working remotely was very difficult. You only worked remotely when you had to.

[3:25] Those that had to were people who travelled or sales people who didn't work in the office on a regular basis. The original technologies and ideas that launched Citrix were around enabling remote access. As time went on, the pipes got fatter. They always had latency issues. They were never quite fat enough.

[3:53] They got better all the time from dial up to ISDN, to the Internet and so forth. Apps got more efficient and thin. That took a long time, from two tier client server to three tier client server to web apps, and so forth.

[4:13] Along the way, the whole idea of enabling remote offices, enabling people to work remotely, to be closer to their customers became more and more important for businesses to grow. We at Citrix were growing quite rapidly. I remember in the late '90s, we went public in 1995, we were about 15 million in revenue.

[4:39] Then the next year was 45 million, the next year 125 million, the next year 250 million, the next year 400 million. We broke through 400 and 500 million, or so, and was mostly to enable remote access. We were doing a fair amount of business also delivering Windows desktops to non Windows devices.

[5:08] Back in those days, you had thin clients, you had Unix workstations that were still very popular, Macintosh of course. We at Citrix had a challenge, it's like, "OK, we're the kings of promote access. What do we do for an Act Two?"

[5:30] That's when a lot of work went into reaching into our imaginations, talking to customers, talking to our partners, getting lots and lots of points of view. That then led us to imagine making the workplace completely virtual. When we asked ourselves that question, it led us to a lot of other adjacent capabilities.

[5:59] Remote access being one of them, but remote access to not only to applications, but to documents, to people, simultaneous slow access, so collaboration. It led to all of those ideas. It led to deep thinking about security issues when you had collaboration across companies and across business units and so forth.

[6:29] All of that then led us to make a video, because we couldn't describe it in any other way. We made a video called the Virtual Workplace, and we launched it in November of 2001 at our customer conference that we, in those days, called iForum. It was our best shot at imagining what a fully virtual workplace would be, and what its value would be.

[7:03] That's the key thing, Daniel, that we were focused on, and that is, what problems does this solve for customers and therefore would cause them to want to buy it and buy into our vision?

Daniel:  [7:18] The vision of remote access and then the idea of the virtual workspace was very novel at the time. You've used words like imagination and deep thinking to come up with something that was a meaningful transformation. Speak to your philosophy on the importance of imagination and deep work to truly innovate work transformational endeavors.

Mark:  [7:39] [laughs] It's a great question. First of all, imagination roots itself in each person's child. Some of us are better at being comfortable with our child within us, and some of us are less comfortable with it. A child like mind also relates to being a student and being curious and being interested in the unknown.

[8:10] That's something that, I don't know, it's in my DNA I suppose, that I studied product design when I went to university. It was all about the creative process and finding those ideas within your child self. If you think about it, children, they don't know what they don't know, and they imagine the impossible because they don't know what's impossible. That's where these ideas root themselves.

[8:45] A lot of people in tech are gifted with this capability, and why we have so much invention and so much trial and error, because that's another characteristic of being comfortable with your child that, "If I'm wrong, how bad is that? That's not the worst thing in the world. If I'm wrong, I'll have learned something."

[9:11] What's Edison's quote that was so fantastic? It took him 65,000 tries to figure out what one way would work, or something like that.

Daniel:  [9:22] Right, yeah.

Mark:  [9:23] That's a very child centered thinking and where imagination roots itself. It also roots itself in what I call the analog brain, which is right here, your heart. It's the adult part of your persona, it's more digital. It's more about what do I need. It's calculating. It's rational.

[9:51] The analog part of your brain, the limbic part of your brain, is much more about what you want, what you desire. Much more of what you'd hear from a child. Being comfortable with both of those things and mediating them is where the source of imagination is, and where invention and disruptive invention comes from.

Daniel:  [10:17] I know you're a fan of Dr. Seuss, as am I.

Mark:  [10:20] [laughs]

Daniel:  [10:20] Are there other inspirations you have to tap into your child self?

Mark:  [10:25] I've never been asked that question before. It's probably the number one inspiration, in that sense has been my children. My children have always been an inspiration for me. They've always loved all the gadgets that I would bring home.

[10:47] The interesting thing about it is, I'd bring something home. I'd explain to them how it worked. They had no interest in how it worked. They only wanted to know what it could do. That's the difference between a child's mind. It's like, "What can it do? What can it do? How can you make me better? Is it fun? Does it have potential energy?" etc. versus how it actually worked.

[11:16] I'd say, my children were definitely an inspiration. Another big inspiration in that regard in my life was my mom, who's an artist. She always believed that the most powerful thing you could ever be was yourself. The worst thing you could ever say to my mom was, "I wanted to do something because someone else was doing it."

[11:43] She never wanted me, or any of my brothers and sisters to be followers. It's like, "No, I want to know what you want. I want to know what's on your mind." She was very much an artist, and very much in her child. Even at 89 years old, she's still that way, I'd say. [laughs]

Daniel:  [12:05] It's fantastic. On Decoding Digital, we speak to digital transformation stories, and those who bring new products to market. The invention or the vision of this virtual workspace laid the groundwork for most of the disruptive innovation that exists today, whether it's in the software as a service world, the platform as a service world.

[12:28] Maybe, taking this example of imagination and childlike thinking, take us to the moment where you came up with a concept of saying, "We're going to go from remote access to creating a virtual desktop or workspace."

Mark:  [12:41] I wish I could tell you that it was a childlike imagination process. The fact of the matter is, when we looked forward, and as a public company serving a lot of customers, we had a lot of business partners, a lot of employees and out of great respect for all of them, our role is to look into the future, and have a future, [laughs] and chart a future.

[13:08] That was one of our core jobs for our customers and partners. We felt like, "Gee, we're not doing our job if we don't come up with an Act Two." This was out of necessity, to be honest. We knew we had to challenge ourselves to create headroom, and a future for the company. As I said earlier, we talk to a lot of people.

[13:38] In the end it got down to being a very small group getting together on a whiteboard and writing down what our ideas and beliefs were. One of those was a saying that been repeated often now for a lot of years that we decided that work was not a place.

[13:57] If work is not a place, and it's something that you need to be able to conduct from anywhere, then, how do we define that? Then, we drew Venn diagrams and put different types of software, whether it was collaboration software, or security, or management, or networking, video, different types of technologies like voice to text, text to voice.

[14:26] We just imagined all the pieces that would need to be possible to enable work from anywhere. We were doing all of that, because we knew we had to do some new things in order to continue to grow and add value for our customers. That was the source of it. Obviously, it did require imagination, as well.

[14:54] Interestingly enough, a couple of us on the Citrix executive team had been Apple dealers in part of our prior career. I had been an Apple dealer. I had a dealership in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dave Jones, who was also on the team, had an Apple dealer in Cape Town, South Africa.

[15:16] I looked over to Dave, and I said, "Hey, Dave, do you remember Apple's knowledge navigator video?" He yells, "Yeah, man, wasn't that great?" I said, "Yeah. We need to create our version of the knowledge navigator. Take all these ideas, and package them that way, so we could share them."

[15:40] That's what led to the video. That's what led to the idea that work is not a place. That is what led to the whole notion of a virtual workplace. All the enablers of that, which turned out to be software, mostly all software, obviously supported by the right hardware.

[16:03] Then, we felt that customers were very locked in to various applications, networks, devices, etc. When we made the video, it expressed our point of view that customers shouldn't be locked into any particular device, or network, or place to work, etc.

[16:29] Device independence was an important idea on the whiteboard, as well as new devices like, now we have in the video there's a device that's a lot like a Microsoft Surface Duo like this, except, instead of having screens just on the inside, it had one more screen on the outside that gave you contextual information that would then lead you inside the device. There was a lot of imagination. We had to let it loose, so that we could find whitespace to grow into.

Daniel:  [17:08] How has your definition of virtual workplace evolved over the years?

Mark:  [17:13] The way it's evolved is, I would say, from being very much an outcome and capability based thing driven by technology to understanding that there are tremendous cultural and human issues to a workplace that's fully virtual. By the way, I don't pretend to understand it at this point.

[17:41] We're all in the midst of a giant beta test of that. There'll be plenty of research both by professionals and by companies trying to figure out, do we want people to go back to the office? Do we not want people to go back to the office? Do we want them back part of the time? If so, why?

[18:07] My understanding, or my thinking on it is evolving along with the pandemic, with an understanding that there are a tremendous number of cultural, human and even mental wellness aspects to the workplace and the notion of making it virtual.

Daniel:  [18:31] We talk a lot about technology, but technology is only as good as the people that adopt it. You seem to me as a very human leader. As a pioneer behind the virtual workspace and the concept of remote access, how important do you think in person collaboration is or human to human contact?

Mark:  [18:50] It's extremely important. The question is, does it lead to breakthroughs that you wouldn't otherwise get, because taking human interaction away from even a work environment leaves a lot of question about how you build a culture, how you share common values, etc. By the way, these are all areas for invention and innovation that we're going to see explode over the next few years.

[19:20] We see what has been done with video platforms of all types. Obviously, Zoom has got an amazing response from the world at large. There'll be lots of invention that'll fill in some of these gaps, but in the end, that human to human contact and presence is essential to long lasting deeper types of relationships.

[19:49] On the other hand, I'm not sure that virtual organizations and experiences prevent invention and innovation. From a mental wellness perspective, it's important. There may be a little evidence of that if you look at history, there are people who work in remote offices, either by themselves or in a very small group, and they hate it.

[20:18] They learned to hate it, and it's because they themselves have a craving for more interaction. Then, there are those who absolutely love it and wouldn't work in an office environment if they had to. Those are facts about people, and that says something to me.

[20:39] It says that some people are cut out, either because of their personalities, what they do in terms of their skill sets, etc., where they like the solitude and what they get from the solitude.

[20:53] Then there are other people who, and I'll put myself in that category, I'm energized by others. I need others to provide energy to me. When I'm with others, that's where I'm most creative and most imaginative, and I'm enjoying myself most.

Daniel:  [21:13] We've looked at a lot of productivity data of all remote work versus all in person collaboration. Then we've also done a lot of surveying of our teams and our merchants to see if they would rather worked in person or remote. What we found is that people overwhelmingly want to have the flexibility to work in a hybrid environment where they can choose what they want, when they want.

[21:35] However, we've seen that productivity data and culture show that it's more effective if people are either all together or all remote, so there could be an even playing field for people to collaborate. Do you have a perspective on how that evolves?

Mark:  [21:48] Yeah, I do. My perspective is, most people want the world to be binary. It's a zero or a one. The fact of the matter, most of the world is in between. It's not black or white, it's gray. People generally want binary answers to this question. It's a black or a white, a zero or a one.

[22:16] The answer here happens to be gray, because this depends upon the business you're talking about, the work that people are doing, the generational aspects of the workforce. I'm a baby boomer. My children are millennials. Then you have the X and the Y Gen, and so forth. It's a complicated question to have a singular answer.

[22:48] What's likely is that younger generations are much more comfortable because they were born digital, and much more comfortable with the digital experience and in some ways prefer it and are very productive in it. The opposite is true for older guys like me.

[23:10] I learned digital. I wasn't born digital. I was part of the digital revolution, which has been an amazing personal journey. I don't think there's an answer to that question that can be expressed in a definitive way.

[23:26] This is where each company is going to have to examine the workforce itself, the culture of the company, the work that people are doing, and then how they want to reinforce their culture and make sure that they put a set of policies together that make all of that work for them as a business. Peak productivity, I'm not sure that's the goal.

[23:55] You can't run a car at its peak power output for a long time. You can for some period of time. Peak productivity is often enabled by time where there's solitude, and time when there's to reflect, and time to learn from others and listen, and some of those other activities that are harder to do in an office environment where people feel like they're under a microscope.

Daniel:  [24:30] At AppDirect, our mission is to make technology universally accessible so anyone can thrive in the digital economy. The concept of universal technology came from universal healthcare in Canada where I'm from, or other countries, where everyone has the right to have this access.

[24:47] In the consumer world, we've made a lot of progress where probably a few billion people now are connected, have access. However, in the business world, we're far from democratizing technology. There is huge inequalities between the companies that can afford masses of IT and none.

[25:06] Software as a Service was a great start to offer a subscription based model where more businesses can access these tools at a lower cost, but I still think we're at the beginning of that journey. Can you comment on how long you think it will take for these technologies to be democratized so an individual can have access to tools to make them thrive?

Mark:  [25:27] When you were talking about the AppDirect mission and point of view, I couldn't help, but think of, at Citrix we invented a protocol called ICA. Originally it stood for, you know what, I can't remember because as CEO, I changed the meaning of it to Independent Computing Architecture. When we talked about our mission as a company, we said it also stood for information citizenship for all.

[26:04] It was because the receiver could run on the crappiest little screen that you could find anywhere in the world, and we felt that that architecture, that approach would be the method to democratize computing. Frankly, someone who's listening to this will say, "Yeah, it's like going back to the mainframe."

[26:34] Because right now, if you take the aggregate total of several hundred nodes of the hyper scale clouds with the network that connects them together, we have something called the worldwide computer. All you need is a Chromebook or something that runs a browser, and you can access most of the world's knowledge.

[27:01] In fact, you can access most of the world's applications, if not all of the world's applications. We have the means at this point. The question is now how does that play out. Obviously, it's got a lot to do with economics. There are a number of initiatives that have been tried over the years to change the economics of a client side device.

[27:33] We, at Citrix, participated in many of those initiatives because of our belief in information citizenship for all. Probably the answer is that people in the world that can't yet afford it, those economies have to improve enough to where the devices will be within the reach of people to then democratize computing.

[28:03] P.S. if we zoom out, my point of view is that today, a lot of people will use the term Third World versus First World or Western versus developing.

[28:20] In most cases, what you're referring to as the Western World is under 500 years old in the sense of being the dominant GDP in the world. What we're referring to as the developing world were historically the world's largest economies.

[28:43] They're trying to re emerge because the so called Western World we've been living so far above average for so long, we're being pulled down to the mean, while the world that is re emerging, they're being pulled up to the mean.

[29:03] Think of the economies around the world where people still feel blessed to have a form of transportation, to have a roof over their head, to educate their children, to eat three meals a day, or even two meals a day. We have such an under appreciation for that in the US, and in most so called Western economies. That's part of the struggle.

[29:31] Part of the struggle that's going on is we're tending more toward the mean, and going in fits and starts. Other economies are ascending and enabling citizens to have some of the fundamental things that humans need. If you were sitting on Mars with a telescope, that's probably what you'd be observing, along with other things.

Daniel:  [29:58] It's a fascinating observation. What's emerging today, to your point, is this digital divide, where you have a digital world versus an analogue world. Those that have access to the tools, the information, to the capital, in order to leverage technology, to increase GDP and to be able to make for themselves. In order to create more equity, there probably needs to be more effort to providing that access.

Mark:  [30:27] I'm a huge believer in Darwin, in the sense that humans have a capacity to achieve. They're so resilient in spite of crazy obstacles. I had fun for a little over a year running a cloud company called Digital Ocean. We had 12 data centers around the world. Two thirds of our business was outside the US, Daniel.

[30:57] If you looked at the data we had about our developers and our customers, over 60 percent of them were self taught. They taught themselves to code. They were in India, and Brazil, and China, and throughout Asia, and Eastern Europe. They would tell us the stories about their lives. We wanted to know. We wanted to know them.

[31:21] They would talk about going to school, and going home, and mom and dad. They wanted to know, what did they study in science and in math, and technology that day. It was a hugely important topic. Whatever assets they had, probably not the kind of laptop that you and I are sitting in front of. They were focused on a STEM type education as a high priority.

[31:52] They are the next generation of digital entrepreneurs. We forecast that in 2025, there'll be 100 million people that could code whether at most self taught, and using cloud services to invent digital businesses. I'll add my more editorial comment. These are countries that either missed the Industrial Revolution, or were victims of the Industrial Revolution.

[32:29] My editorial is, somebody there's thinking, "OK, we missed that. We were a victim of the Industrial Revolution. We're not going to miss the digital revolution."

Daniel:  [32:40] Fascinating perspective. Mark, thank you so much for joining me. I'm so excited that we've covered a range of topics. As a closing bit of wisdom, what piece of advice would you have for listeners today who are looking to transform themselves and their businesses for the benefit of tomorrow?

Mark:  [32:56] I'd say the one bit of advice would be, [laughs] if you see a problem, I want you to get up from wherever you're sitting and run to the bathroom. The reason I want you to run to the bathroom is because there's a mirror. I want you to look in that mirror with the utmost of honesty, I'd say brutal honesty, and decide whether you are the problem, or you're part of the solution.

[33:28] The reason I'm giving that advice is I find that a lot of people are unwilling to consider themselves to be the problem and are not good at introspection. Introspection and people who are deeply introspective end up not only knowing themselves best, they're able to collaborate and find people that make them better. They know what pieces they're missing, and what pieces to add to themselves.

Daniel:  [34:04] It's so powerful. Mark, I want to thank you again. You've been an incredible leader and a great mentor to me. Those words of wisdom are so powerful. Thanks again for joining us on the podcast and hope to catch up again soon.

Mark:  [34:16] Likewise, Daniel. This has been so much fun. I want to thank you for having me as your guest. I look forward to staying in touch. I love what you're doing at AppDirect.

[34:27] [background music]

Daniel:  [34:27] On the next episode of Decoding Digital.

Jeannette zu Furstenberg:  [34:35] There's always this fear within organizations of not hiring IBM, of not going to the blue chip that is already available and existent, and betting on a player that may not be around.

[34:46] A couple of months or years from now, you'll need that backing that Halo from the leadership of the sea level to say, "You know what, we want you to do that because that's kind of what change will look like for us. That's what's going to make us competitive five years from now."

Man:  [35:00] Founding partner of La Famiglia, Jeannette zu Furstenberg.

Daniel:  [35:07] Thanks for listening to "Decoding Digital." Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player. To learn more, visit decodingdigital.com. Until next time.