Betty Zakheim: “All Roads Lead to Tasktop”

Posted by

Tasktop is connecting the world of software delivery – now that was an opportunity I just couldn’t refuse! I’m really excited to have joined Tasktop. The company’s mission and products are near and dear to my heart, and I’m so pleased to be working with such a talented, dedicated and genuinely nice group of people.

It’s interesting though, that as I think back on the roadmap of my career, it seems that all roads led me to Tasktop; it’s just that until just a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize it. Of course I was aware of Tasktop; the company is widely known for its ALM integration tools and platforms and, most recently, the introduction of the Software Lifecycle Integration framework. But for me, it was more than just awareness, it was admiration.

As a former UX developer, I found the “task-focused interface” work of co-founder and CEO Dr. Mik Kersten very intellectually stimulating. As a former software engineer and engineering manager, I have to love a company that removes some of the process tedium from daily life, while making the whole team more efficient. And, as a (fairly) savvy business person, I love the idea that we’re not competing against the leaders in Application Lifecycle Management – our goal is to help everyone be more successful. In my opinion, if you’ve ever worked on a software development team that was hindered by your colleagues working in silos, you have to admire Tasktop.

But the confluence didn’t stop at admiration. I’ve been at this “software development” thing for, um, a while. I’ve had the pleasure of working at some truly innovative companies, and (with a tinge of modesty), being a bit of an innovator myself. So as I look at what Tasktop brings to the party, and I recount my own experiences, being called on to lead Tasktop’s marketing team feels like it was almost inevitable.

I started in technology as an engineer. I’m a bone fide, diploma-carrying computer engineer/computer scientist. My first roles were in what was then called “human factors,” but we now call User Experience. I worked on all sorts of interesting systems, from radar and air traffic control to quality management software for systems that test printed circuit boards and (in my last coding role) workflow or what’s now known as “Business Process Management” (BPM). Eventually, I became the VP of Marketing and Product Management at that BPM company, InConcert (a spinout of Xerox research), where pivoted to use our workflow product as a way to integrate disparate systems.

We initially concentrated on the telecommunications industry, because in 1996 deregulation led to a flurry of new telecoms companies that relied on each other (and each other’s systems) to operate.  The first business process we tackled was “service activation,” the process of establishing a customer’s account. At each step of the process (or task), we wrote “agents” to connect to the various systems needed to complete that step. It worked well, got terrific acceptance and eventually TIBCO software bought the company. But the thing that always bothered me was how hard it was to write those agents. Back then, CORBA was the leading technology for this sort of thing.  Yes, tightly-coupled CORBA! Fast-forward a few more years, and I had the opportunity to work at IONA (yes, the CORBA company!), when the up-and-coming technology was web services.  

Going from being tightly coupled to loosely coupled was, without question, the way to go for integration technology. IONA adopted web services as an integration technology, and I had the pleasure of bringing those products to market. When I left IONA, I left the world of integration technologies for a while. But I continued to work on products for software developers. In fact, one of my favorite jobs was with Rational Software. Back then, Rational Software was an independent company and the leader in cross-platform software development tools. As a director, I was proud to lead all aspects of marketing for ClearCase and ClearQuest. Once IBM acquired us, I lead all product, industry and solutions marketing for the entire Rational Brand. While Rational itself was a substantial software company (around $800 million in revenue a year), I learned quite a bit about enterprise scale after joining IBM! Not only were our customers some of the largest in the world, but we were part of a very large company.

After IBM/Rational, I worked at few other notable development tools companies such as Progress Software and, most recently, SmartBear software. In between all those jobs, I started my own consulting company, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that many of my clients catered to software development teams. I’ve had all sorts of roles: software engineer, engineering manager, consulting engineer, product manager, and now joining Tasktop; this will be my third company where I’ve been at the helm of the marketing team as VP of Marketing. The role at Tasktop is a wonderful confluence of several things I hold near and dear: advancing the state of the art of software development and delivery, the integration of disparate systems and delivering a terrific user experience. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of a team and a company that is so well positioned to make such a substantive difference is the software development and delivery process – and to do our part to change the world through better software.