By day, he’s the mild-mannered COO of Kounta. By night– well, he’s still the mild-mannered COO. We’re not so sure he ever sleeps, to be honest. For me, the biggest obstacle to working with a client on the other side of the world is the time difference. The Kounta offices are 14 hours ahead of my home office, but that doesn’t ever seem to matter if I’ve got a question that Josh Harrison can answer. For a while, I wasn’t sure if his sleeplessness was a function of his being a cybernetic organism grown in a lab, or if he’s just that passionate about his job. I’m happy to report that it’s simply passion–plus an extraordinary amount of coffee–and the rise of the machines is still a distant nightmare you and I will probably never have to deal with. Josh’s level of excitement about the company he works for and the software they’ve made is palpable in almost all communications from him. In fact, if he hasn’t used the phrase “changing the face of retail” in any answers he sends to me I begin to get concerned for his well being. I want to make clear here that I’m not mocking him: his zeal for Kounta is a pretty endearing quality, and definitely serves him well in his job.
Before joining Kounta, Josh worked in a variety of roles in hospitality, so he’s got a keen understanding of customers’ needs. Back then, he’d also dabbled in coding for the web–more of a hobby than a career. But it was enough for him to understand the realities of programming and what makes it so natural for him to be in his current role. Josh has been here since the beginning, and has watched the company grow from chaotic startup to the legitimate business that other software makers are excited to work with. As Kounta has grown, so has his role–from “General Manager” in the early days to “Chief Operating Officer” today. This is more than a semantic change of title. For a startup, “General Manager” is the perfect description for anyone in a position of authority. Startups are loose and disorganized. Everyone, regardless of their position, is thrown together to make things work, and one or two people are appointed to oversee it all–they just generally manage things. But as things get bigger and more serious, structure and protocols and hierarchies develop. A company organizes into an actual organization, and there’s got to be at least one person that facilitates the communication between the different silos of expertise. And this is where Josh is at these days. He manages the Success, Support, and Product teams, making sure that they are all on the best possible path to the same goal: ensuring a superior experience for the customers. It’s a delicate juggling act of keeping customers and employees happy, one that he maintains by facilitating the back-and-forth between the two camps. He stays in close contact with customers, soliciting feedback on Kounta and getting new features in development to satisfy demands. But it’s clear he has tremendous respect for his team, calling them “the real specialists” and recognizing his role as a facilitator who’s empowering them to “get their best work done.”
And as for that best work, it’s resulted in Kounta, which Josh describes as “not software, but a work of art.” For the record, Kounta actually is software, and they took Josh off the coding team when he started painting happy little trees all over the servers. They also placed a limit on his coffee intake. But he’s right when he describes software development as more of a creative process than a technical one, because the code can’t exist in a vacuum. It’s got to be designed, and implemented, then redesigned again when the user interaction doesn’t go as planned. There’s nothing worse in software design than when things don’t go as planned for the user. With one foot in the in-house technical end of things, and the other on the hospitality side, Josh is instrumental in making sure Kounta runs smoothly–as software, as a business, and for the customers who rely on it. I’d tell you to reach out to him and send a message of thanks or encouragement, but he’s much too busy for that. Still, he’d probably reply to you anyway.