*Mission Possible:* Celebrating Unique Engineering Perspectives with Michael Rennie, Director of Operations
Nov 05, 2021
It's difficult to imagine returning from combat and finding a way to go back to everyday civilian life. Mike Rennie did just that three years ago when he joined Axon by finding a way to integrate his military skills with his penchant for operations. Today, he is the Director of Operations at Axon. He leads the Consumer Team on the TASER product as part of the Axon ecosystem of technology that, together, is on a mission to obsolete the bullet. To him, the mission is everything, and understanding how to achieve that mission makes him hop out of bed every day to make a material impact on society.
Mike started his career as a U.S Army Officer serving his country and leading from the front worldwide. He discovered what it means to be a servant leader in some of the most stressful situations of his life. He was stationed in Afghanistan for a portion of his four years in the Army and learned the types of life lessons that impact your outlook and value system. He wanted to apply those to business. The biggest lesson is that the Mission is more important than the bottom line. Mike likes to think the mission itself has a shareholder vote; it's that meaningful. While focusing on doing good and making an impact, leaders serve the teams they lead and achieve the objectives.
After his Army service, Mike worked at multiple tech companies in leadership positions. While each company had a corporate mission statement, they didn't have a unified vision of doing good or impacting something more significant than the company. He felt that something deeper and more aligned with his own values was missing in his career. That led him to find Axon. It was the perfect intersection of tech and purpose that he was looking for. "Every day we come to work, every device that we sell, all the software we support, they all work together to save lives in our communities. That's a lot to let soak in. We save lives. Who can say that at most tech companies," he explains. Mike never understates the stakes that are at play every day.
The Structure of Solving Problems
Axon is a company that encourages problem-solving from every employee. Ideas and solutions come from all levels and aren't reserved for certain people. Mike explains that the approach to problem-solving is baked into the Axon culture. When faced with a challenge, his team uses a structure called 1:3:1: one problem, three solutions, one recommendation. Everyone knows the expectation is to come to the table with solutions, and this structure allows each employee to be the leader of their ideas. They present the challenge to the group, discuss the possible solutions, and facilitate a conversation around their recommendation.
Startup Meets Enterprise
Axon is a unique combination of startup mentality combined with enterprise-level innovation and size. The company was founded in 1993, so it doesn't act like the large tech companies that have existed for generations. "We learn fast, fail fast, and pivot fast," says Mike. "We're very adaptable with our ideas, our thoughts, and the company is set up to allow new people to add instant value." The company has an ethos of continuous evolution, which relies on new ideas from new employees as a source for fresh thinking. Every person can impact the future of the company.
Finding a Balance
Physical and mental health is essential to Mike's productivity, and he explains that Axon makes it possible for him to have both. The organization's leadership fosters an environment of health by providing unlimited time off to employees--and actually allowing them to use it. Leadership takes time off. No one blinks if you need a day for whatever reason. There's more trust in each other and, frankly, a lot of dedication among teammates, making it possible to take time off for health, family, or because you need a minute. Full stop. This allows Mike and his team to take care of things in their lives so that they can be fully engaged with ideas, progress, and work. He also appreciates that the company provides tools for mental health on-demand, such as Ginger (an app for the whole family), gym memberships, and a natural disaster relief team. While some people might be surprised to see that on a list of mental health benefits, the truth is that getting into a community when they need you and seeing your positive impact up close can be mentally and emotionally rewarding.
Mike is passionate about many things in life, and Axon's mission of protecting life is high on that list. He can achieve his professional goals while also achieving her personal goals of helping people. In a world with a great deal of uncertainty, the engaging, mission-driven culture at Axon gives Mike the comfort that we're all going to be safe and cared for.