There are two other areas of start-up life that really get us excited at Cognota: building an exceptional product and user experience for our customers and adding the best in the biz to our growing team.
With that being said, we’re delighted to welcome Jason Primeau as our new VP of Engineering! With over 20 years of experience in software development and having achieved great success in leading Engineering teams through all stages of start-up growth, we’re so excited to have him on the team.
We sat down with Jason during his first week with us to learn a little more about his past successes and his goals for Cognota.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career path up to now.
I got my degree in computer Engineering from the University of Toronto back in 1999. After getting my start in a role as a database engineer, I quickly learned that what’s really important to me is working closely with the product that’s being built. Soon I found myself at my first start-up role at a company called OANDA. At that time, they were a seed funded company with around 10 employees. I started as a software developer and the company grew like gangbusters. While there, I became a team lead and soon had a team of about 10 people.
The mandate for what we were doing and building had evolved a lot, so the Engineering team had to evolve too. My role there sort of naturally became about building leaders in the organization. I became Director of Development there, managing 10 team leads with an Engineering team that grew to around 70 people. At that point, it was all about adding processes, structure, and a framework to ensure the team’s success.
After 16 years with OANDA, I found my next opportunity as a VP Engineering at a start-up called Street Contxt. We had a team of around 10 engineers when I did a lot of the same things I did at OANDA in terms of building the team, but this time with the benefit of hindsight and applying what I had learned from past experiences. It was a similar story at my next role with another start-up called Taplytics.
When I was moving on from OANDA after so many years, I thought back to the things I really enjoyed in my role there. The things that were most meaningful to me where I had the most fun was during that early stage, rapid growth phase of the start-up. Whether it’s growing the size of the team or experiencing fast revenue increases, I’ve always gravitated towards companies that are growing rapidly to become something bigger and better.
What else have you enjoyed most about your career so far?
Over the years, I’ve hired hundreds of people and many of them have gone on to be team leads, managers, directors, VPs, CTOs, etc. They’ve all gotten themselves to where they are, but I do feel good about being able to create environments for people to thrive, learn, and grow. I find it very gratifying and it’s just one of the many things that draw me to start-ups because there’s so much opportunity to do that. It’s always awesome to see people make the most of an opportunity.
So what brings you to Cognota?
When I left Taplytics, I’d been in tech for over 20 years and I decided to take a sabbatical. I didn’t really have a duration in mind but, every once in a while, I’d talk to a company and decide I wasn’t really ready yet. But then I got connected to Cognota CEO, Ryan Austin, through Ripple Ventures just to talk shop. We were just bandying things around and I was starting to get interested in getting back into things, so everything fell into place from there.
During the process of coming on board, I talked to a lot of people within Cognota and they were all so passionate about the organization and part of a great culture. I’m excited about the opportunity.
What type of software products have you worked with before?
In previous roles, I’ve worked with B2C FinTech, specifically currency trading software with OANDA to make currency trading accessible to everyone. The software we created there ended up moving billions of dollars through it on a daily basis, so I learned a lot about building high performance and high reliability software.
With Street Contxt, I was involved in building B2B enterprise software related to the buy and sell side of capital markets, and Taplytics was about building software to help large companies make decisions with data. So that also required fast, high performance software capable of handling billions of users generating trillions of events and creating petabytes of data.
How do you feel about moving to the learning and development technology space?
The main thing that stands out to me about moving into the learning tech space is the opportunity to create something that will directly impact people’s personal development and their ability to level up through training.
Ultimately, I just want to make something that people want to use and that provides them with true value, no matter what space the technology falls into. I care a lot about great user experiences and, in my previous roles, I’ve often been on that user facing side of software development. So knowing that things are as simple, error proof, and responsive as possible for users is really important to me.
What do you think is the most important thing that a VP, Engineering brings to the table?
My first response to that is taking care of the team, because I think everything else follows from there. If you make sure that your team is empowered to be as effective, efficient, and happy as possible, it shows in the quality of the software produced.
Another important aspect of the role is the business side. I’m not just running an Engineering organization, I’m part of a larger whole. And so the VP role also involves solving the problems that need to be solved for the business and making sure we’re communicating well with the rest of the organization.
What are your plans for your new role at Cognota?
The thing I’m most excited about is some of the next big features and releases we have coming up. Once we can get those into the hands of customers, we can learn and continue to improve on helping users with their journeys. That’s the biggest impact I can make at Cognota. Ensuring the Engineering team can succeed in that mission.