Thursday, February 26, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Len Devanna (31 of 45)

Len Devanna, director Web strategy, EMC is one of the few people on this list I haven't actually met in person. There have been several times where we were supposed to be at the same event but one or the other of us ended up blowing it (mostly me I think). However, between Twitter and our mutual friend, Adam Cohen, I feel like I've gotten to know more about Len and the great work he's doing to bring "social" to a little old company called EMC.

Len is a smart guy and I think you're going to enjoy how he answered his Experts in the Industry questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I help drive online evolution at EMC Corporation, and am good at it because I am truly, truly passionate about the topic.
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
It all started with the big bang...  Wait – probably going too far back. In’ 94 I fell in love with the web – well, Usenet at the time. I achieved 30% helpdesk call deflection by simply putting answers to common questions online (trust me – it was an epiphany at the time). Since, I’ve focused my career on helping companies leverage the online realm to better communicate with their audience. The emergence of social is simply the latest step in the evolution. Where the notion of one way information flow was appealing in the past, the ability to now engage and interact opens a world of opportunities that we’ve not even started to tap. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the impact of friends Jeremiah Owyang and Sean O’Driscoll. Both have a contagious passion for the online world and helped me understand just how powerful the opportunities at hand are.
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Tough to cite a particular company – Rather would focus on the notion of common credentials and reputation management. Many have toes in this pond, but no one has nailed it, yet. To me, this is a MASSIVE opportunity. The ability to traverse the web, leveraging common credentials and being able to bring my likes, dislikes, network, social capital, etc; along with me is truly exciting.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I’ve been impressed with the adoption of the social web by some political heavies. President Obama did a masterful job engaging the younger generation via the usual social channels. I can’t think of any of his predecessors that were so successful in tapping into the younger crowd on ‘their’ turf. I’m a recent transplant to the San Fran area – and have also been impressed with Governor Schwarzenegger’s use of social tools to engage CA residents.
If only I had a dollar for every time I was asked this...  I’d join any community if the subject matter was interesting to me. Toothpaste, unfortunately, is not.
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
You get one trip on this ride we call life. Make the most of it. Don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy every minute of every day. 

Lastly – Aaron – thanks for the opportunity to share a bit about myself and for coming up with such a creative way to connect folks in the community! [Aaron: My pleasure Len!]


  1. I met this guy. He is really smart. ;)

  2. Great set of answers Len! In particular, your answer to the $10M question really struck me... it IS a huge opportunity and it's the next step in a more natural experience on the web. And your parting wisdom is something we all need to remember every so often.