Tech expert and Chief of Staff at IVR Technology, Michael Canzoneri, discusses the Buffalo tech scene and his insight into the digital world
Meet Michael Canzoneri, Chief of Staff at IVR Technology Group and Founder of the Argyle Technology Group. Mike has been immersed in the world of technology since he was a teenager and has kept his passion for the digital world strong throughout his career. Currently, Mike operates out of IVR Technology Group’s new office at 65 Lawrence Bell Drive where he works to use technology to solve a wide range of problems. I recently sat down with Mike to talk about his line of work, his interests, and more:
How did you get started in technology?
“I started in technology when I was only 12 or 13. I started to program in the 90’s when my computer was a Zenith 286 laptop that I wrote “choose your own adventure games” on in basic. It was great; I had my own laptop even though it weighed about 17 pounds. In high school, I took AP Computer Science, and I ended up working for the school through my time there. From that moment on I was hooked. After that, I went to the University at Buffalo for Computer Science, and from there I had a variety of positions including working for the University, Nexserver PSG (eventually 360PSG), M&T Bank, Synacor, and then I founded the Argyle Technology Group with Robert Maefs. Five years into Argyle we merged with IVR Technology Group which is where I am today.”
What keeps you interested in technology?
“There are a few different things. This is a bold statement, but we are at an exciting point in our development and in technology in general where a tiny group of engineers can have the ability to build tools and systems that will affect a great number of people. That idea of building tools and software that can positively affect huge groups of people is the thing that keeps me going. In my career, I have chosen to focus mostly on effective software tools that help people be more efficient and solve real problems they have while doing work.”
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
“I’ve certainly failed enough across the course of my entire career, but luckily I have also succeeded enough to get to where I am today. Building an effective and organized technology team that can deliver is one huge challenge. To allow for the team’s perspectives, and to give them the understanding that the business needs them to have to deliver on the right objectives, short and long-term, that can be difficult. When you think about it, it comes down to effective cross-team communication. In a tech company, whether large or small, it can often become a situation where teams or departments are building towards different goals, or there is a lack of understanding as to why they are building what they are. For me, I tend to be involved across departments. Operating throughout all areas including marketing, sales, client delivery and engineering, I can help create the right understanding and get the right messages across for really targeted delivery.”
What is something that you have learned from your mistakes?
“My perspectives on failure are always that they are informing my next steps. I don’t spend a lot of time on what I did wrong, but rather focusing on what I can do with that for the next step. Failure is a part of success, and without having struggles with teams, projects, and companies you would not learn and develop the tools and strategies that help you get to the next level. Those failures inform my actions every day.”
Any book/blog/podcast that has helped you across your career?
“There are so many! “Good to Great” and “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” are some real foundational reads. I like solid data-driven types of content about technology businesses. While I’m not a big sports guy, I’m currently reading “The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership” which covers how Bill Walsh brought the San Francisco 49ers from the worst franchise in sports to one of the greatest organizations in the NFL. His impacts were felt in the entire sport, and there are a lot of ways that the lessons there transfer to tech industry strategy. Lately, I’ve been listening to the Indie Hackers Podcast , and they talk a lot about building up technology projects and companies from the ground up. There are a lot of staples like the 99% Podcast and the a16z podcast that have really informative content.”
If you could give a piece of advice to someone just starting out in technology?
“If you are looking to get into technology, then you need to put yourself in a position where you are getting real marketable experience as soon as possible. Do not put yourself in a position where you are learning a proprietary system that is at use in one organization. As the common saying goes; you want five years of experience, not one year of experience five times. Putting yourself in that position will lead to greater success for yourself.”What are your thoughts on the
Buffalo tech community?
“Years ago, there was no tech community cohesion here. There was just a group of people that very consciously decided that we needed to work to build a community and start some companies. We put ourselves in positions to meet students and put them in the right situations to not only get into the community but to be able to contribute. Currently, things are strong within that community. With 43North, Z80 Labs, and the continued growth of startups outside of those incubators we are headed toward a really great place. A lot of people who were from Buffalo and moved out are now on their way back, and young people who might otherwise have left are deciding to build their lives here. That’s huge! Moving forward I see this continuing to grow. A lot of companies continue to grow with a local focus, and that creates the conditions needed to make the students and young people that are here want to invest their time. That further builds on a terrific and strong cohesive community made up of all roles needed in business and not just software developers.”
What do you see for your future?
“Right now, my focus is very much on IVR Tech and what we are building and growing. Taking this company, which was 25 people two years ago, to a 50-person company and continuing to grow. Taking our products and our technology forward in a focused and refined way is what I am focused on now.”