You are on page 1of 20

Team: alexanderjsingleton

E-mail: alexsing@gwu.edu
Interview with Bruce Wang, Chief Technology Officer of Brightergy
By: Alexander J. Singleton
The George Washington University - School of Business
Department of Information Systems Technology Management
ISTM-6222 | Dr. Elias Carayannis
06/20/2016

Team: alexanderjsingleton
A World Lit Only By Code
Bibliography
Appendix

A World Lit Only By Code
"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known
unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also
unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
-Donald Rumsfeld
Acclaimed New York columnist Thomas Friedman once offered a post-modern view in a time
blinded by the emotional fog of war and terror in the horrific aftermath of 9/11- a significant
event in world-history taking a right turn into a blind-alley: the dawn of a new chaotic order
(Friedman, Thomas L). Suffice it to say, Mr Friedman’s prescience was right on-point: military
strategy changed forever since that day. Fighter pilots, in constant pursuit of perfection, hold
what they call “rankless-debrief” to discuss what went right or wrong during a mission upon
returning to base, “going around the horn,” to fairly criticize or congratulate pilots within the
squadron, so they can ultimately improve flight-patterns- just another iterative loop
programmed by constant-training to perfect skill: [OODA](Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). After
the first few months of September 2001, in former fighter-pilot fashion, Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld astutely observed that the Department of Defense (DoD) was yet another
siloed organization next to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency
(NSA) and the myriad of other intelligence services chartered to defend America but ironically
unable to share information across a network that might actually protect America, let alone
defend. The age-old adage, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat
it” never fails to fall on the giant, deaf ears of every mighty empire, from Ancient Rome to Great
Britain- but not the United States of America, at least under Secretary Rumsfeld’s watch, as he
submit that the military acquisition process was ill-suited “to meet the demands posed by an
expansion of unconventional and asymmetrical threats in an era of technological advances,”
during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee (Light, Paul C).
Mr. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon leveraged the strength of technological superiority by restructuring

vertically-integrated chains-of-command according to flatter, node-centric warfare surgically
executing with many small-groups of special operations forces in coordination with unmannedaerial drone strikes and surveillance. The United States of America has yet to sustain an attack
since 9/11 and no longer should She fear rebuke when declaring “Mission Accomplished.”
This paper is not about the art of war but it is about the art of business- a nuanced examination
of the aforementioned success and failure-factors within the context of the New World
Economy, now defined by start-ups asymmetrically structured like special operations forces,
stealing market-share away from established corporate empires invariably doomed to fail
because of siloed, hierarchical management instead of adapting strategy and tactics to a world
lit only by lines of code, one start-up at a time-like one called Brightergy.

Brightergy may very well be one of the most progressive tech companies residing in Kansas
City, a modern-model of how to build and run a quintessential start-up unlike some of the “code
sweatshops” in the area- large in size of staff and invention but lacking innovation. BrighterLink
is Brightergy’s technology product, an all-in-one energy intelligence platform. The BrighterLink
team reports directly to Bruce Wang, Brightergy Chief Technology Officer, earning the rank after
going to market with several, venture-backed Silicon Valley start-ups. According to President &
CEO of Brightergy, Adam Blake, the solar energy installation business is becoming increasingly
commoditized with shrinking margins due to a fiercely competitive fragmented landscape in not
just progressive states and municipalities like Boston, New York City, and San Francisco, but all
over the United States- including the Rust-Belt, Sun Belt and American Heartland ("Interview of
Adam Blake, CEO."). The value proposition of solar is largely dependent on solar-friendly utility
tariffs and state and federal subsidies. Solar systems are similar to other types of home
remodeling projects and typically are not coupled with a recurring revenue stream.
Consequently, residential applications were largely ignored across the country due to the lack of
scale and a dependence on subsidies for homeowners netting thin margins, leaving many solarcompanies to essentially become glorified construction-financing companies, like SolarCity,

because the solar infrastructure applications-business generated marginal returns on
investments under previous tax-regimes until financial models implicated second and higherorder effects of scalable solar solutions (Griffin, Trent (@trentgriffin)).

!

For the near-term, many solar industry entrepreneurs and incumbent utilities are heavily
focused on go-to-market strategies for enterprise solutions promising integrated energy
services, easily revealing how the enterprise is profiting by energy regulation instead of the
status-quo utility relationship. Brightergy is one of the few lone-beacons shining the path to
efficient enterprise energy management.

Today, Brightergy markets BrighterLink as the “#1 all-in energy platform; a better way to manage
your energy all-in one place,” ("The #1 All-In-One Energy Platform.", brighterlink.io). Upon
review of the website and experiencing the demo, a seasoned software engineer appreciates
the functionality afforded by the robust application program interface (API) interlocking with the
internet-of-things including smart-thermostats, smart-outlets, energy monitors and sensors- all
of which empower the smart-grid with a valuable return on investment by reducing energy

consumption, or more simply stated: allowing businesses to save money via data analysis and
management with technology, as noted on their website ("BrighterLink.", "Do USB Outlets
Waste Energy Just like Conventional Wall Warts?" Electricity.):
“BrighterLink is one of the first to combine traditional energy broker services with worldclass technology, so you get get the best of both worlds, having control over your energy
means access to the details in real-time. It means having information you can act on, in
addition to reports on what already happened...Effortlessly manage energy data, from
utility bills to real-time energy use, all in one place. Use that data to empower your own
decisions, while our energy experts use it to quickly market you to top suppliers and
ensure you get the best rates.” ("The #1 All-In-One Energy Platform." )
BrighterLink was originally conceived as one of Brightergy’s skunkworks projects, formed within
a siloed, stand-alone business-segment reporting directly to corporate executives as a strategic
hedge against the likely possibility that the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) would expire in
2016, and unlikely to be extended; fortunately, for Brightergy, the ITC was renewed as of
December 2015, assuring many more brighter days ahead for the entire solar industry as well
(Lacey, Stephen).

Now, Brightergy, saddled with the BrighterLink technology platform, is obviously

transforming into a roaring unicorn, apparently right out the gate- from the silo, but this
was only a recent development upon arrival of Bruce Wang this March 2016, who is
now Brightergy Chief Technology Officer and leader of BrighterLink. According to Mr.
Wang, BrighterLink was initially siloed as one product, practically forbidden from reaching out to
other Brightergy segments in fear of management reprimand- a disaster waiting to happen for
product management. Bruce’s empathy for the founding-group was apparent, as he described
the previous BrighterLink culture fraught with angst, completely decentralized- over half of the
beginning team was offshore. Mr. Wang believes remote-work environments are symbiotic at
some organizations but in some cases, especially those contained within a silo, incompatible
with a retrenchment strategy to become more cross-functional within an organization. Glib
executives mistakenly structure business segments within silos, ostensibly controlled, reporting

directly from the bottom-up to maintain managerial efficacy- a nice way of saying “avoid loss of
control” at the risk of exposing ignorance. However, enlightened executives like Brightergy’s
executive team led by CEO Adam Blake, wisely empowered the BrighterLink segment with more
autonomy, which has been guaranteed to generate results with employee satisfaction, as
notioned by Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams, “Purpose affirms trust, trust affirms
purpose, and together they forge individuals into a working team...as interconnectedness and
ability to transmit information instantly can empower small groups with unprecedented influence:
the garage band, the dorm-room start-up, the viral blogger and the terrorist cell.” Bruce was
allowed to restructure the new dev-culture, starting from scratch to become a homegrown techfavorite with a purpose as the “#1 all-in energy platform; a better way to manage your energy
all-in one place.”

Bruce Wang is a Chief Technology Officer in every sense of the title and knows the difference
between invention and innovation (Carayannis, Dr. Elias). There are simply too many
companies staffed with CTO’s who can barely negotiate the command-line, let alone the
desktop- veritable arm-chair generals vs. battlefield-ready brigadier generals. Bruce is a skilledprogramer at heart but also a graduate from the the distinguished University of Michigan
computer science program- sharing the same alma mater with both Google’s Larry Page and
Twitter’s Dick Costolo. Bruce performs the same function as all of the software engineers do at
BrighterLink- not simply because he can, but because he actually leads by example, impossible
to do without a firm foundation of software engineering. Bruce codes alongside his engineersjust like the team-leader operating alongside a special forces group. Mr. Wang coordinates
strategy, structure and execution according to his retooled approach to change-management:

1. Assess the situation.
2. Rebuild the team.
3. Let the team work according to their own homegrown culture.

Bruce allowed remote workers to relocate to the Kansas City location, so the operation stayed
mostly at headquarters allowing the new team to rebuild with an organic culture, which is
paramount in his words because “Culture is how we interact and accomplish goals together.”
Upon unification, he coordinated with the team to assess what resources were at their disposal
to continue working with BrighterLink, naturally leading to a code-audit. BrighterLink 1.0 was
architected on a MEAN stack (MongoDB/NoSQL | ExpressJS | AngularJS| Node.js). Arriving
from an outside market and connected to thought-leaders in the Bay-area, he mentioned Elixir
in passing to another fellow engineer, having heard that Elixir/Phoenix is the new Ruby on Rails;
a few ears perked-up at the BrighterLink.

Derived from Erlang, as a general-purpose, concurrent, functional programming language, it is
procedural- akin to reading a process whereas most programming languages are imperative, for
example-Java, often difficult for any programmer to observe state, or changing behavior of an
object the very instance of a class; therefore all objects in Elixir are immutable, so there is
technically no destruction. Elixir is a functional language designed for building scalable and
maintainable applications, leveraging the Erlang virtual-machine (VM), known for running lowlatency, distributed and fault-tolerant systems and successfully used in web development in
addition to the embedded software domain ("Introduction - Elixir." Introduction - Elixir. N.p., n.d.
Web. 20 June 2016). Coupled with Phoenix, Elixir is a complementary web framework
leveraging the Erlang VM ability to handle millions of connections along-side Elixir’s beautiful
syntax and productive tooling for building fault-tolerant systems ("Introduction - Elixir."). In plainEnglish, the benefits of utilizing Elixir/Phoenix are two-fold: speed and community. Pinterest
and Bleacher Report are continuously integrating builds on the Phoenix/Elixir framework utilizing
roughly one-fifth of the machines required but 10x faster output. Moreover, due to the sudden
influx of novice programmers enabled by the bootcamp movement, the Ruby on Rails
community has effectively become saturated, pushing a contingent of senior Rails engineers to

defect over to the Erlang-based Elixir, which requires experience to overcome the shallow
learning-curve.

Once culture was established at BrighterLink, dev’s behaved like a unit, acting as a group.
Bruce Wang continues to remind his teammates to “Think big; execute small.” How do you eat
the elephant? One bite at a time. Their first mission as a team was a translation of the original
MEAN stack to a minimum viable production written in Elixir/Phoenix; the team succeeded and
delivered on-time within one-month as scheduled ("BrighterLink." GitHub. N.p., n.d. Web. 20
June 2016.). The team officially graduated Bruce’s bootcamp upon delivery of the MVP, and to
this day they continue to act as one team. According to Dr. Carayannis of The George
Washington University, project management is governed by the “quintuple-constraints” of cost,
scope, time, quality and reliability-all of which are subject to various success and failure factors
(Carayannis, Dr. Elias). Adequately staffed with manpower and materials, the original
BrighterLink team failed not because of external factors but the following internal failure-factors:

1. Manpower: A decentralized team diffused any sense of culture.
2. Materials: The MEAN stack was not motivating original team- moreover, due to
complexity, node.js has trouble scaling.
3. Methods: Most critical- cross-functional immobility stifled development.

In concluding this study of Mr. Wang’s retrenchment of BrighterLink, it is fair to infer that he and
his team succeeded on account of the following success factors:

1. BrighterLink’s awareness to Brightergy product-owner requirements.
2. Extent of resources available to Bruce and his team.
3. Possibility of obtaining resources previously deprived to BrighterLink workgroup- namely
state-of-art programming languages and web-frameworks.

4. Laissez-faire Brightergy management of BrighterLink, allowing the group the freedom to
fail.

Ending this study on the shoulders of two brilliant strategists, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and
Gen. McChrystal: a group’s success is defined by culture; it is the repeated pattern of behavior
that defines success- Peter Drucker’s difference between “doing things right” and “doing the
right thing,”- efficiently, yet effectively (McChrystal, Stanley A., Tantum Collins, David Silverman,
and Chris Fussel). America is winning the War on Terror by adapting to change that is less
about tactics or technology, but the internal architecture and culture of the [US armed forces]-in
other words approach to management- so to will the start-up victors go the spoils... (McChrystal,
Stanley A., Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussel).

Bibliography
"BrighterLink." GitHub. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016.
Friedman, Thomas L. Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11. New
York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2002. Print.
Carayannis, Dr. Elias. "Introduction to Technology Project Management." Washington, D.C. 14
June 2016. Lecture. Slides: 96-99.
"Do USB Outlets Waste Energy Just like Conventional Wall Warts?" Electricity. N.p., n.d. Web.
19 June 2016.
Griffin, Trent (@trentgriffin). “What people often miss when they think about implications of
something like this is 2nd and higher order effects.” 18 June 2016, 5:18 PM. https://twitter.com/
trengriffin/status/744278134061600768
"Interview of Adam Blake, CEO." Interview by Alexander J. Singleton n.d.: n. Pag. 14 June
2016.
"Interview of Bruce Wang, CTO of Brightergy and Director of BrighterLink." Interview by
Alexander J. Singleton n.d.: n. Pag. 14 June 2016.
"Introduction - Elixir." Introduction - Elixir. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016.
Lacey, Stephen. "Congress Passes Tax Credits for Solar and Wind: ‘Sausage-Making at Its
Most Intense’." Green Technology. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 June 2016.
Light, Paul C. "Rumsfeld's Revolution at Defense." Brookings Policy Brief Series 142 (2005): n.
pag. Brookings Institute. Web.
McChrystal, Stanley A., Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell. Team of Teams:
New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Amazon. Web. 19 June 2016.
"Not Knowing Something Is Not an Excuse for Not Doing It." Web log post. Brighterlink.io.
Medium, 14 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.
"Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)." SEIA. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2016.
"The #1 All-In-One Energy Platform." BrighterLink. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 June 2016.

Appendix | Interview Verbatim
1. Interview notes verbatim:
a. Each student should identify a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Information Officer,
Chief Technology Officer or Director of Technology of a for-profit or not-for-profit
organization that they can interview at some length using a multimedia approach
(in-person, email, phone, web-conferencing, etc.) to discuss key issues
pertaining to the business and management aspects of advanced / emerging IS/
IT and focusing on critical success and failure factors and lessons learned
regarding the identification, selection and adoption decisions for a core
information technology concerning operations and processes of the organization
as well as the underlying selection, timing and sequencing challenges and
opportunities.
b. For instance, this can take place with regards to the forecasting of needs for as
well as the adoption and implementation process - and its implications for
competitiveness - of an advanced / emerging information technology including:
planning for IS platform migration and dealing with legacy systems, portability,
interoperability, functionality, user acceptance, side-effects, resistance to
change, privacy, transparency, and other such issues as well as timing,
sequencing and selection decisions.
c. Each student should identify per the class interactions, lectures and materials,
what are the key critical success and failure factors they should be looking for
(this will be part of each project’s customization effort) and what are the critical
success and failure factors and lessons learned identified by the interviewee.
d. Bruce Wang
https://www.linkedin.com/in/bruce-wang-b9728b
i.
e. Discuss key issues pertaining to the business and management aspects of
advanced / emerging IS/IT and focusing on critical success and failure factors
and lessons learned regarding the identification, selection and adoption decisions
for a core information technology concerning operations and processes of the
organization as well as the underlying selection, timing and sequencing
challenges and opportunities.
Cost
i.
ii. Scope
iii. Time
iv. Quality & Reliabiliy
2. Elixir in GitHub

a. Handling background jobs/ threading

b. Elixir doesn’t have those problems- built for concurrency and redundancy.

i.
Processes.

1. Derived from Erlang.

ii. io.puts

iii.

iv.
v.

1. Interacts with Erlang and runs processes.

2. Standard-out and writing out system-

a. writes out to

Cowboy Server.

1. Code loader-process watching the directory.

2. You don’t even have to refresh with Cowboy Code loader.

Phoenix/Elixir MeetUp in KC

1. Small group fledgling in KC.

Rails

1. Interpreted language- slow; not enterprise ready.

2. Elixir is essentially a skin on Erlang.

a. Erlang run a beam-file. There is no Elixir run-time.

3. Erlang is derived from Telecom lang.

a. Lisp.

b. Erlang is "functional."

i.
What is a functional language?

1. Procedural; it is what it is.

2. When you read a functional language, it’s
sort of like reading it what it will do.

3. Problem with Imperative languages, you
don’t know what happens in state.

4. Most language are Procedural and Imperative

a. Java is Imperative.

5. There is imperative, procedural and
declarative.

a. functional is declarative
programming.

6. All immutable objects, so there is
technically destruction.

a. Changes in state.

b. Built in monitoring.

The internal monitor
i.
processing.

ii. Not a benchmarking

iii. Erlang has observer => which
lets you see everything inside
VM.

4. MeetUps

a. Stay in touch with Bruce.

Ruby/Rails

i.
ii. Pinterest & Bleacher Report using Phoenix/Elixir.

1. 1/5 the machines and 10x faster.

iii. Popularity

1. Couldn’t find developers; couldn’t find them!

2. Elixir blog entry.

3. More senior developers going to Elixir and it’s
not full of hacks.

a. Erlang and Elixir is definitely
approachable.

b. Interesting quirks like pattern.

3. Meeting

a. Bruce arrived 3 months; no energy background; biggest strengths are programming
and cloud technologies. Brighterlink.

b. Brighterlink

i.
When you enter existing team and code-base;

ii. Assess the situation; what am I dealing with? Wasn’t a Node guy.

1. Brighter link 1.0

a. Node bas application born out of IT to manage IT coming out
of all energy projects.

b. Solar array.

KW per hours.

i.
ii. Real-time monitors that data has to go somewhere.

iii. Thermostats

iv. MEAN stack-ordinal Brighterlink.

iii. Everything is about team-dynamics.

1. I want to know who my team members are like and how they get
along.

2. Bruce 3 things

a. business strtegy

i.
try to build what we’re trying to build.

b. tech strategy

build a great team. => the number one goal. In the
i.
end that is all that matters.

1. How does the team work together

a. Google Project Arisistotle => defining
factor was comfortability; talk about
issues.

i.
Exposure to ignorance

ii. Not knowing is not a crutch.

iii. The four-times of co-founder
of Java.

iv. Nobody knows everything.

v. Failing and try again.

vi. Let your team fail.

vii. This really means just learn for
your mistakes.

2. Porbx

a. Remote core-team is a problem;
random remote people

i.
Remote development;
WordPress is Virtual.

ii. How did WordPress culture
evolve.

Team dynamic within
company culture; gamerooms.

iv. CULTURE IS HOW WE
INTERACT AND
ACCOMPLISH GOALS
TOGETHER.

v. Blame culture?

vi. Team culture?

vii. Bruce doesn’t believe in
plucking or engineering
cultures.

viii. Culture should be organs

b. Brightergy had a large local team; that
did large within the team.

i.
ScrumMaster and then
DevOps

ii. SILOED Functionality in local.
20:44

iii. Local team didn’t like the
structure and had very explicit
examples why it didn't work.

iv. Nobody felt compelled to
change it.

v. leadership; felt like they
couldn’t change it.

vi. Soloed teams was the
culprit, nobody talked to
each other.

c. Books recommended

Drive by Daniel Pink

i.
ii. Autonomy

iii. why hire them?

iv. Master

v. get better at your craft.

vi. Purpose

vii. why am i doing any of this?

viii. idea is if you give any of these
elements, if you pay them
fairly, these are the driving
elements.

d. Regardless of selection, tech doesn’t
work

iii.

ii.

Resolution

1. Assess the culture

a. Establish goal.

Do things right.

i.

2. Technology

a. Go look at it.

b. Restructure team so local team is
assured cored.

c. Everybody is full-stack; no silos!

d. Everyone is in charge in quality.

e. Alpha-pod is the start-up.

i.
The genesis team.

ii. From ideation to production.

iii. So how about more units.

iv. Sounds look like specialforces behavior.

v. A company like this is to
Amazon.

vi. Two pizza box; don’t have a
time beyond two-pizza
boxes.

vii. So how they do it

viii. Micro service concept
means you deploy a service;
micro-team for microservice architecture is
perfect.

ix. Perils and problems of big
organization:

x. Groups that have no
responsibility for each other.

f. The technology should be determined
by the group!

Ruby on Rails or Sinatra

i.
ii. Elixir/Phoenix

iii. Bruce was big proponents
because he saw the new dev’s
outside organization all point
to Elixir; even outside of his
team.

iv. Bruce was

v. First blog on 4/4 was rebuild
in Elixir.

vi. Assessing the situation

vii. Rebuilding the team.

viii. and Letting the team.

ix. Strategy | Structure |
Execution

x. Rankless debrief

xi. "Fix forward” Bruce’s
version of tankless debrief.

We all try to solve the
problem.

xii. According to Bruce you
don’t follow because of the
person, you follow because
of the idea.

xiii. Bruce does’;t want to follow
him because he is officer,
because he wants to the
thought leader."

xiv. Guardian of the culture/
enforcement of the culture not the necessarily the
leader.

xv. technology is open; and
communicative.

xvi. Bruce’s approach was a
rebuttal to the silo culture of
before.

xvii. Node JS

xviii. incumbent

xix. Go

c. thought leadership.

Assessing the situation

Rebuilding the team.

and Letting the team.

Strategy | Structure |
Execution

v. Rankless debrief

vi. "Fix forward” Bruce’s
version of tankless debrief.
We all try to solve the
problem.

vii. According to Bruce you
don’t follow because of the
person, you follow because
of the idea.

viii. Bruce does’;t want to follow
him because he is officer,
because he wants to the
thought leader."

ix. Guardian of the culture/
enforcement of the culture not the necessarily the
leader.

Bruce is a CTO that can code.

i.
ii.
iii.
iv.

ii.

1. I do the same things; I work alongside
people.

4. What about Metrics/Defining success/failure?

a. Business metrics and defining success.

b. Sign-ups for demos and devices..

R&D in development is hard to quantify.

i.
1. Two to three days to fix one line of code.

2. Enormous amounts of code.

a. Commit history and lines of code isn’t a legitimate metric.

35 hours vs 90 hours; they could have the same
i.
output but isn it

b. IF YOU CAN’T USE HOURS OR LINES OF CODE-WHAT DO
YOU USE TO QUANTIFY?

IT’S THE LOVE OF THE CRAFT AND THERE
i.
WILLINGNESS TO BE BETTER.

ii. ALWAYS WANTS TO IMPROVE.

iii. Summer over at brighter link; the obsession; how
much do you care about your craft?

iv. No care to make functional documentation

v. No care to write clean code.

vi. Culture; what do you actually care about.

c. Read the blog.

Redesign.

i.
ii. Iterative flavor or scrum.

iii. Target.

iv. Bruce’s saying; thing big execute small!

1. Have a goal; have a target-must execute in pieces.

a. Eat the elephant one bite at the time.

b. Can we build this as team.

Inside of the one-month goal;

i.
ii. weekly sprints- continuous deployment.

iii. Continuous integration.

d. Fixing everyone’s bug's

everyone was scratching each other’s bas, debugging each other.

i.
ii. Metrics

1. Consumer satisfaction?

2. Consumer adoption

3. How is the product performing?

4. If there are no bugs, nobody is using it.

a. are we hitting our business goals.

5. Metrics of the product

a. devices how many

charging or selling these metrics.

i.
ii. use the metrics you use to charge metrics.

b. USAGE WILL TELL YOU HOW HAPPY SOMEONE IS
USING IT.

5. Debriefing

a. https://medium.com/@brighterlink

b. https://github.com/Brightergy

c. Cc: with Bruce.