Stephen O’Keefe

What is your role at VSO? I have the privilege of leading the team here at VSO. My duties as CEO range but I’m at my best when I am collaborating with customers and teammates developing new ideas or solving meaningful problems.

 

What experience did you have before joining VSO? Over the last 20 years my experience has been in entrepreneurship and venture capital. Many of the team at VSO have been my colleagues in a variety of ventures, however, most of my focus has been in working with large, data intensive environments and the particular business challenges which come along with them.

 

What brought you to VSO? The idea for VSO came from John Birch (JB), a colleague from my Novus (acquired by IBM, 2007) days. At the time, I was looking to dive deeper into cloud computing, and JB’s idea seemed like a great marriage of people with whom I loved working and an area of technology which greatly interests me. The veteran perspective was also a primary draw as I believed from my study of history and my venture capital experience there was a significant untapped potential in the US’s investment in its military men and women.

What is something you love about VSO? Over my career I’ve been able to work with some exemplary leaders and teams. When we designed VSO, I and the founding team, wanted to put a singular focus on culture, hence our “First Principles”. People always ascribe the “No Jerks” principle as my major contribution, and perhaps it is, but my most heartfelt of the principles is probably “We Won’t Waste Time” as it strikes to the heart of what I think about life. When I see people invited to a meeting they don’t need to be in, or unanswered emails, or people not listening to others on call, or lecturing unnecessarily or on subjects they know little about, or not reading what someone else wrote, I’ve always thought, “How dare they?”. That person has a kid they want to go home and shoot baskets with, a friend they want to spend time with, a wife or husband to enjoy a dinner with, a workout they want to fit in. As I say half in jest-all in earnest, either tell the requesting person to “go away, this has nothing to do with me” or help if you can. This particular way of wasting time has both a detrimental effect to the mission and culture of the organization, but more importantly to people’s lives. People don’t hate their jobs because they are hard. They hate their jobs when the work they perform is not meaningful (i.e. task they cannot be accomplished or have no purpose). Don’t waste their time, because you are wasting their lives…which is an immoral act.

 

What keeps you busy outside of VSO? This is a loaded question. I’ve been blessed with a lovely wife, Paula, and family. We enjoy being together in many venues and activities. We tend to be a very active crew with hiking, swimming, traveling, school, and sports. I suppose I will highlight perhaps the most unexpected part of my life outside of VSO. I’m an Oyster farmer. It’s a long story.