At NS1, Innovation Isn’t About Disruption — It’s About Evolution

In order to strengthen the company’s mission, culture, growth and impact, leaders discuss transforming long-standing company methods into new innovation and infrastructure.

Written by Tyler Holmes
Published on Jul. 08, 2022
 At NS1, Innovation Isn’t About Disruption — It’s About Evolution
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Reggie Best joined the NS1 team just four months ago — but by the way he talks about his vision for the company, one would guess he helped launch the organization back in 2013.

It’s not because he’s rattling off buzzwords like “redesigning the future” or coming in swinging with disruptive ideas simply for the sake of creating change. It’s because, as the vice president of product, he’s carefully invested time getting to know how NS1 has been solving problems for its customers over the past decade by leveraging the domain name services (DNS) — and what makes sense for their natural evolution into 2022.

“The day I started at NS1, I endorsed putting a more cross-functional product team in place that would cut across engineering, product management, support services and finance,” Best said. “I wanted to create more safe environments for routine communications and problem solving where people can dialogue about their perspective from their department.”

Best isn’t alone in the company’s transformation journey. Kathleen Foreman has been hard at work overhauling long-standing processes and organizational structures for NS1 to become even more efficient and successful as vice president of the program management office — and she’s been excited with the fruits of her labor. “Operational performance evolves over time a lot like products do — you start with a solid base framework and then you adjust, improve and make how we operate even better over time”

“It’s a pretty exciting time to be at NS1 because we’re finding a balance of transforming our existing products at an increased velocity with innovating on new products that we see as the future of NS1,” Foreman said.

After helping customers move web applications from centralized to distributed infrastructures for years, NS1 has been taking a front-end approach to not only increase performance and resilience, but data management and security in the DNS space.

However, major product adjustments and infrastructure changes don’t just require a fresh perspective or an abundance of patience. It takes an unwavering sense of trust and cohesive collaboration between engineers — and that doesn’t happen overnight. When Dawn Glamm arrived as the SVP of engineering and operations eight months ago, she was pleasantly surprised by NS1’s people-focused company culture.

“We just did a virtual company-wide tech summit in January, and brought in some of the work other teams are accomplishing to showcase to the rest of the organization,” Glamm said. “Getting visibility on both the technical and non-technical work at NS1 was extremely well-received from my engineering team. We’re really trying to share information and stir up the interest of the whole company in order to open doors even wider.”

“NS1 does a great job of assigning mentors, usually from other departments,” Best added. “I had a tenured global services team member who was my buddy helping me come up to speed when I joined, and while we come from different departments, he was invaluable in teaching me deep domain expertise and sharing knowledge of the customers.”

 

BUILDING BLUEPRINTS FOR THE FUTURE

When asked what NS1’s long-term goal was, Kathleen Foreman didn’t skip a beat. “We have so many amazing ideas, but we only have so many hands that can actually create those ideas and get them to a point where we can release them as products. That’s why one of the things we’ve been really focused on is a tighter workforce thanks to Reggie, and then with Dawn’s engineering group and me as the PMO, we end up being a three-legged stool of how we build that foundation of NS1. We have big future plans together.”

 

As NS1 continues expanding into the future and into new markets, the company is focused on holding tight to the sense of small-company community that’s encouraged massive innovation throughout its history. Best, Foreman and Glamm sat down with Built In to describe how they’re evolving for growth as they plunge into an exciting new future.

 

Kitchen area in the NS1 office with framed posters on the wall
Ken Pao

 

Tell us about the culture at NS1. 

Dawn Glamm: The big thing is curiosity and an entrepreneurial mindset. People really want to explore new areas, look at new technical solutions, and it’s a lot of self-driven tasks and effort. There’s a strong desire to meet our customers’ specific needs and really focus on the customer experience. It’s a free-spirited culture that really helps harvest a creative mindset and thinking, which sometimes you have some of the best solutions come out of that environment.

 

Here at NS1, it’s very much a culture of ‘come by your merit, you’re at the table, you have something to offer and people take you seriously.’

 

Kathleen Foreman: One of the things that struck me very soon after arriving was how collaborative the team is. There are many conversations that the team has to initiate to make sure we are all working in the same direction. That can create challenges because it takes time to make sure people are aligned, but because of that additional effort, you get a solidified idea that people fully believe in and can really run with — which is refreshing. 

Reggie Best: ​​It’s also a culture in transition, and we’re managing through that process. The company has been entrepreneurial and quick to respond to market needs. As we’re moving towards more critical mass, more gravitas, larger customers and becoming a larger organization, there’s an increase in procedures and communication methods between teams that we have to ingrain into the culture. It’s one of the things that I see the company growing into as we develop and bring in even more diverse leaders with experienced viewpoints.

 

 

What are the details of NS1’s current transformation?

Reggie Best: From an external-facing perspective, this process is critical to most organizations as they look at modernizing and accelerating their digital transformations. It’s going to involve a significant amount of network infrastructure that makes our network manageable, resilient, highly secure and consumable by a broad range of organizations. We have to do this all while improving the quality and scalability of these environments. 

Dawn Glamm: From an internal angle, we’re also exploring improved ways to operate across the company and create more cross-collaboration between departments, as well as remove siloed walls. Not only is the technology and how we bring our products to the customers changing, but how we create our products and how we operate to meet our customers’ needs are also evolving.

 

You don’t just feel like another cog in the machine that's pushing the company along. NS1 provides more opportunities to roll up your sleeves and get into the details of things.

 

How is NS1 expanding into previously untapped markets, and why is that exciting from a technical — or user base — standpoint?

Reggie Best: This mindset shift toward very complex network infrastructures and how we manage those for customers on a broad geographical basis — we’re talking global networks here — happens when we ask: “Where do we have to be located in the world in terms of our points of presence? What are the kinds of services that we need to deliver and envision on top of the NS1 Connect platform to fully enable these enterprise customers?” 

We’ve already been dealing with many of these users in terms of their back end applications, but when you start looking at their enterprise itself and their distributed locations, there are a bunch of new things that we’re going to need to do to expand into those untapped markets. They’re emerging in many respects, so there are going to be new opportunities. It’s very exciting.

 

NS1 logo on a monitor in the office
Ken Pao

 

How does NS1 set employees up for success? 

Dawn Glamm: As a woman in tech, I certainly feel a lot of support from other leaders that truly want you to succeed. There’s a very strong focus on inclusion and diversity across the company that you’ll notice immediately from the hiring practice. NSI puts a diverse approach to hiring front and center as part of the process to make sure we’re bringing in different kinds of creative thinking and that we’re inclusive to lots of different backgrounds. 

We’ve got a lot of learning and development opportunities, like Udemy, which is an online training platform focused not only on technical tracks, but also on leadership and specialty topics. On the flip side, we’re exploring potential incentivized bonuses for people who achieve certifications in areas that the company needs. For various people on the leadership team, there’s external coaching that’s available. I’ve had the privilege to work very closely with an external coach myself, and it’s been an amazing opportunity to have somebody you can brainstorm any challenge with. Having that growth opportunity right at my fingertips is wonderful.

 

How does your work at NS1 align with your personal passion? How does that make your work even stronger?

Dawn Glamm: Early in my career, I was a developer doing software development of defense guards and firewalls at a small company about the size of NS1. I was an individual contributor and advanced into a team lead role, and then I spent a lot of years at larger companies like Intel. But NS1 provided that sweet spot for me as my personal interest has been to come from the other perspective as an executive helping to drive a smaller company. It continues to be in the network space where I find my passion for connecting applications and people and systems, and it allows me to bring a lot of what I’ve learned across various companies throughout my career.

Kathleen Foreman: Having been in program management work for most of my career, NS1 fosters so much collaboration and helps build incredibly strong relationships because it is a company that is not so large. For instance, our program managers not only get to work at the program level, but also get to roll up their sleeves and work closely with our scrum teams in a more scrum master type of role. In the larger organizations, those roles would have been filled by two very different groups of people. That sense of collaboration and relationship building is why I get up and come to work in the morning.

 

 

Responses have ben edited for length and clarity. Headshots provided by NS1. Other photography by Ken Pao.

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