IT LIFE: Morten Primdahl, Zendesk CTO

Morten Primdahl talks about his career in IT and how Zendesk transformed from a server in a cupboard to 110,000 customers and 2,000 employees

What is your role and who do you work for?

I’m one of the three founders of Zendesk and was the founding CTO. I recently also became the cofounder of a pair of twin girls, so my current focus at Zendesk is mostly evangelism while still keeping up to speed with developments across Zendesk Engineering as a whole.

How long have you been in IT?

I started out studying biotechnology but got side-tracked into computer science somewhere along the way in the late 90s, just in time to enjoy the dot-com spectacle. I fell in love with the internet and related technologies 20 years ago and have been working professionally with most facets of internet software since then.

What is your most interesting project to date?

Obviously Zendesk. This journey of changing the world of customer service has been a thrill. Going from just 3 guys sitting in a loft in Copenhagen, with a server in a closet, to where we are today with a beautiful HQ in San Francisco, around 2,000 employees and more than 110,000 paying customers has been an incredible experience.

What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

As an industry we continue to have challenges in finding and hiring a diverse group of talented people. Software development is notorious for being a male dominated line of work and that’s a sincere shame.

We need more women in the field. Diversity is vital for our success. Input from more diverse people means we get a much broader perspective, and thus a better and more holistic approach towards solutions. Convincing a larger group of people that software engineering is really a fun and creative practice is something I hope we can get better at, both as organizations but also very early on during school.

What technology were you working with ten years ago?

In 2008 Zendesk turned 1 and we were still a tiny operation. Back then we were using MySQL, Ruby on Rails and a lot of Linux. We were early movers on AJAX and REST APIs which later became standard for how web applications work.

What is your favourite technology of all time?

HTML. It was key to the success of the internet and the simplicity of it made web development incredibly accessible and fun (and it still is).

How will the Internet of Things affect your organisation?

There are going to be lots of beeping noises for sure. On a more serious note, Zendesk aims to provide the best possible customer service platform and that entails having the data at hand that allows the customer service agent to best support the customer. Being able to get actual insight from connected devices will allow our customers to speak intelligently to their customers about issues, configuration and so forth.

What smartphone do you use?

An iPhone. I’m committed to Apple products for the sake of my own sanity – I used to compile Linux kernels and whatnot to make sound work on my laptop, now I just want things to work.

What three apps could you not live without?

Google Maps, Mail and a solid password manager. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

What new technology are you most excited for a) your business and b) yourself?

The products being launched by the major cloud providers these days are super impressive. I’m cheering for the world of tomorrow and they’re leading the way. The access to massive capacity and robust and scalable technology will allow us to build better and smarter products for our customers.

I’m personally excited for technology that makes our lives simpler and doesn’t get in the way. The connected home can become a fantastic thing only if we get it right and prioritize people over technology.

If you weren’t doing the job you do now, what would you be doing?

 I secretly hope that I’d have the courage to be a gaucho.