PayScale CEO: Scott Torrey


Today’s guest is Scott Torrey, PayScale CEO.  Scott always knew he wanted to be in business, so he attended a commerce-focused college and worked in consulting after college.  After an 8-year career in consulting, Scott pivoted and joined Concur which was later acquired by SAP, and would remain there for 20 years of his career.  He took a very short break before a recruiter presented an opportunity to lead PayScale in 2019.   PayScale serves 100 million monthly website visitors, powers compensation information for over 35 million employees and 7,000 companies, with a vision of democratizing compensation information

Podcast Transcript

Note:  There may be errors to this transcript (some funny, some confusing - we used an automated transcription software!)

Ash Faraj  00:03

Hey, it's ash. Now before we get into the show, I have an ask to only take just a few seconds but if you haven't already, please please leave us a quick rating and review on Apple podcasts because it helps us tremendously with discovery. We spend countless hours researching conducting interviews and producing these podcasts. All that we ask is that if you enjoy them to please please leave us a quick quick rating and review on Apple podcasts. Now settle back unwind and enjoy this episode. Today's guest is Scott Torrey PayScale CEO. The Scott always knew he wanted to be in business so he attended a commerce focused college after high school and worked in consulting after college. After an eight year career in consulting, Scott pivoted and joined concur, which was later acquired by SAP and will remain there for the next 20 years of his career, then taking a very short break before a recruiter presented an opportunity to lead PayScale in 2019. And as they say the rest is history. Scott grew up in Bellevue, Washington until fourth grade when his father took a job in Portland, Oregon and moved his family to Portland. Growing up Scott was a kid that was always trading and selling things. So the affinity for being in business grew on him as he grew older. After high school he attended Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, a small college that had a focus on commerce and economics. SAP concurs former chief revenue officer and pay scales current CEO Scott Torrey, thank you for being here. Welcome to the show.

Scott Torrey  01:41

Cheers ash. fantastic to be here. Thank you.

Ash Faraj  01:43

I'm in high school classroom with you, Scott, who is Scott.

Scott Torrey  01:47

You know, if you start with a hard one, it's because it's kind of embarrassing, but I'm gonna date myself here a little bit, but my nickname in high school was Alex P. Keaton. So if you remember family ties, you'll remember the character that I was the guy that didn't need to wear a tie to school, but did somehow carry a briefcase shouldn't have. I was that guy. So I was Alex P. Keaton when I graduate from high school. So you were like the business. You just lost all your listeners ash.

Ash Faraj  02:12

So you were the business guy from a very young age?

Scott Torrey  02:15

Yeah, it's funny. I was always the guy that was selling something trading something bartering for something. I remember running the deca and the student store. But even further back than that it was selling Gum Dingers. And I'd go and buy all the Gum Dingers because we created a market forum and you'd go to all the seven elevens buy them out so that nobody could get them from the store. So instead of buying them for a dime, you get you got sell them for a quarter.

Ash Faraj  02:36

Wow, that's crazy.

Scott Torrey  02:39

recurring revenue model.

Ash Faraj  02:40

So you know, you were born in Bellevue. And then you move to Portland earlier, you know, this is maybe earlier in your childhood. But do you remember how it felt to move to a new city as a young kid? Do you remember the feeling?

Scott Torrey  02:50

You know, I don't, I don't necessarily remember the feeling. But I've been I've been reflecting on it a lot more from the parental perspective and knowing kind of the sacrifices that I now know my parents made in order to make that happen. And really, it was the classic story of trying to pursue a better life, my dad took a real chance on a new opportunity. And I'm spending time with him. Now we're talking about these kinds of things. And I recognize the toll that it took on my mom who had to leave her twin sister, that she when you're twins, there's a real special and deep bond that happens there. And what I've come to realize is like the personal sacrifices that she had to make to move away from her mom to move away from her sister, to take a chance on this company that my dad ended up working for for the next 20, 25 years. But you know, that was that's both reflected on is a hugely positive and pivotal moment for our family. But it required some real sacrifice and some, some tremendous change.

Ash Faraj  03:44

And do you remember how it was like having to move to fourth grade, right?

Scott Torrey  03:49

Yeah, I was a fourth grader.

Ash Faraj  03:50

So So was this was this a time for you? This is obviously you had to make new friends? Or was it was it was that kind of like easy for you? Or was it something that challenge you? I'm just out of curiosity.

Scott Torrey  03:59

It was super easy for me. And it's been a story of my life. I've been pretty nomadic in my in my life, but move many, many times. And then I remember that I got right down there. And there's a big park across the street and I met deep and I met Todd and I met Mike, who became my friends from third grade through the rest of high school.

Ash Faraj  04:18

So in college, you know, fast forward a little bit in college you studied philosophy, politics and economics. Was that a random choice?

Scott Torrey  04:25

Not really. I mean, my choice of colleges was pretty specific. I when I was graduate from high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to study I knew I wanted to study. At a smaller school, I want to stay on the west coast. I pick a couple school called Claremont McKenna College, whose specialty was free market Economics and Political Science. And so I went in as a poly Sai and econ major. And I had the wonderful opportunity as a freshman to take a class from a guy named john Roth. Who is is to this day one of the leading philosophers has written some tremendous books on on philosophy. And in taking his intro class got me hooked into this idea of this multiple disciplinary, multi disciplinary course, called PP, which is modeled after the original Oxford program, and had three wonderful professors. And it was just a great program. There were eight of us that studied together for two years. And that discipline,

Ash Faraj  05:19

philosophy doesn't seem like philosophy has a tie to business, if you will. Because when I think philosophy, I think like, why is you know, things the way they are? Do you see like a connection there between philosophy and business curiosity?

Scott Torrey  05:34

You know, I do and it's, it's interesting, as I reflect back and I and you look at all your all the books you save from school, and all the kind of coursework, you go back to every once in a while and refer to, I probably haven't once come back to a micro or macro econ book, I just haven't gone back and said, hey, let's go look at our Laffer curve. Or let's go look at the how we build a supply and demand model, because it's somewhat intuitive. And the polysy stuff that we did is certainly interesting, but it's now much more modern, I find myself more and more often going back and trying to find quotes and trying to find things that really guide your life and drive your decisions that I go back to over and over and over again. And so while they're not necessarily driving your profit and loss statement there, they do help drive the culture that you're trying to create. And they certainly help expand your your thinking around some of the problems that you're you're, you're going after.

Ash Faraj  06:29

So during his summers in college, Scott interned for US Bank and had the intention of becoming a banker after college. Now the CEO of the bank at the time, called Scott into his office as an intern and advised him that he shouldn't become a banker. And that's when Scott pivoted. After college, Scott took a job in consulting a space where he would spend the next eight years of his career. So just fast forwarding a little bit, you know, after college, I'm not sure if he did an internship or not, but but after college, he went into consulting, and you know, first Accenture, then Ernst and Young, was there a reason why he chose to get into consulting out of college?

Scott Torrey  07:02

there's actually a great story. So I'm just gonna tell it to you and, and it's in the context of these internships. So I actually did have three internships. And I did all my internships at a Bank down apparently called US Bank. And I felt so blessed I had a chance to do a rotation in marketing with a guy named Richard Wiseman, who was the head of marketing for US Bank, I had a chance to do a rotation in kind of corporate finance that was working on some of the m&a and some of the partnership work that the bank was doing. I got to kind of work on the trading floor a little bit and kind of on the more the transactional side of some of the currency swaps and currency exchange happening. So I had every intention of becoming a banker, like that's that that was my path. Remember that briefcase, I told you about that? Yeah, I'm sitting in my cube, one random afternoon, and I actually get a call. And it totally out of the blue from a guy named Ed Jensen, who was the CEO of US bank at the time, this assistant called and said, Can you come up to the 31st floor, and I'm like, what Mr. Jensen wants to spend a second with you by go up there. And these days, and this is in the 80s. And these days, like the offices of the CEO of a bank, like that it was the largest bank in the region was almost the entire floor. Like it's massive, it is a massive floor. And he was a man, he was a big man, like a big intimidating person. And he sits me down. And he gave me one of the greatest gifts ever. And to relay it's kind of funny. He sits me down and says, Son, I don't hear about a lot of interns. And I think you want to be a banker, but you're not gonna be a banker, my bank. And, and he did it in the spirit of giving me the gift. And it was the gift of feedback. And he the basic feedback he was giving were twofold. One was, you're kind of a pain, like the fact that I've even heard about you and kind of that you've got all these ideas, and you want to do all these things, and you want to make the world a better place. And you can change the chain snakes. He's like, I get it. That's all cool. But you're on the wrong you're picking the wrong profession. Right? Yeah, that's just not how banks work. That's they don't move at that kind of pace. And his advice to me was, listen, go off and solve a real problem in the world go find a way to be a part of the savings and loan crisis and be a solution to a big problem in the world. And don't settle for something that is as small as a regional banker in Portland, Go, Go take on something bigger, go seek out something more challenging and get out of my bank.

Ash Faraj  09:20

That us hilarious! You were you weren't wise enough at the time to realize.

Scott Torrey  09:24

I was shocked. I was I was like, oh My gosh, like, crushed, totally crushed. But I now tell that story or like, that was such a great gift for him to take the time just he had no business to take the time. No need to take the time to share that. That feedback and that insight, and that wisdom in reflection. It was one of the greatest gift I've  ever received.

Ash Faraj  09:45

Wow, that's a beautiful story, man. I just, I'm just I'm just trying to imagine myself in those shoes at that time.

Scott Torrey  09:54

Your tail goes right between your legs and you go you go hobbling out for sure.

Ash Faraj  09:58

So that kind of Obviously, you changed your mind a little bit. And then, you know, after college, you go into consulting. So was that a result of, I guess what, what made you go into consulting after college?

Scott Torrey  10:07

Yeah. So that was that was kind of the pivot. So I kind of had a path that I thought I was on banking, my degree being in philosophy, politics, economics doesn't naturally lend itself everybody, I was only one of two people that didn't go into law. So most of the people that were in my discipline, ended up in, in the law. And then I wanted to go into into business. And for most of the graduates there, they're even going to investment banking or consulting. And I really wanted to get into the more practical side of consulting. And so the technology side. And so I had a wonderful opportunity presented with Anderson consulting, who had at the time, one of the best training programs, a wonderful boot camp, you go to St. Charles, you spend spent six weeks really immersing yourself in development. And then I got staff on a project down in pacbell, in San Francisco for two years. And it was just a, it was one of those deep immersions in the in a wonderful project and a great city to get a chance to get started.

Ash Faraj  10:59

How do you remember like your first, I guess, maybe, you know, first few months in consulting? Was it something like, oh, wow, like, I could see myself doing this for a long time, or...

Scott Torrey  11:07

no, I was terrible. I was a really, really poor code. coder, I just wasn't very good at it. And so they quickly had to pivot me into, I actually went into the testing side. So I quickly realized that that core development and writing code wasn't for me. And so I actually switched over to the more the testing side and did QA, which immediately gets you into much more of a management and a process track, right? what's the what's the use case, we're testing for? What is what are the steps we're going to use to validate it? How do we make sure that we're, we're doing our testing on time, and on budget in order to hit the milestones we have? And just kind of put me on to a much more of a process oriented management track, which kind of then took me in the direction I ended up going

Ash Faraj  11:50

for those wondering, you know, what does a career in consulting look like?

Scott Torrey  11:54

Yeah, so I think there's, obviously different types of consulting. So let's just start with kind of breaking down, you've got pure management consulting, which are folks that are going into the mackenzies. And the Booz Allen's and the Boston Consulting, which is a lot more strategy oriented consulting, it's more modeling. It's It's, it's, it's often referred to as the batik side of the strategic consulting group. The space that I went into most of those firms, at least when I was going through it, and probably still to this day kind of broke themselves. Either you enter kind of process reengineering, or business, business reengineering, or you were in IT, you were in a group that was kind of there to build software and software oriented solutions to solve business problems. And I think even to this day, that's pretty much the same structure. And it's all pivoted to the cloud. It's pivoted to different technologies, but the same basic premises there, what's your strategy? What's the business process and business logic, you're going to you're going to build to hit and achieve that strategy? And then what technology Do you require to enable it? And so some firms specialize more than others, up and down that? And really, then within that you get into different areas of discipline? Are you going to be an expert in CRM? Are you going to be an expert in ERP? Are you going to be an expert in billing and finance systems? Are you going to pick an industry vertical, like I'm going to be well rounded in telco or an insurance or in banking, and consultants tend to navigate their careers into a track where they're either functionally really good or their industry really good, but you ultimately kind of typically specialize in some way.

Ash Faraj  13:31

So Scott was well on his way to become a partner at the prestigious consulting firm Ernst and Young when he met his future wife by chance in New Orleans, as they began planning their life together, Scott plan to stay in consulting for the rest of his career, as often happens, plans changed. And Scott looked for a role closer to home, he interviewed with concur at the time for an internal consulting position and then get the job. Now one of the executives and founders of the company perceived Scott as an asset and work to create a position for him to join concur. Scott was eventually hired at concur and would spend the next 20 years of his career there, through all the ups and downs. And eventually, the acquisition where concur was acquired for $8.3 billion in 2014. But 1989, you're seven years into your consulting career now you're Ernst and Young. And, you know, obviously, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but you're about to be promoted to a partner at Ernst and Young, which is, I would imagine a dream for a lot of consultants or a lot of people that want to get into consulting. And you ended up not taking a partner position and changing course completely. Is that right?

Scott Torrey  14:33

So there, I was certainly on a partner track and I was I was well on my way. And I was probably a year or two away from making partner. But as part of my project, when I was working in New York, I had the fortunate occurrence to meet who is now my wife Kara during that time, and so we got married as I was eight years or so into my career. And the great part of that story was, you know, we were out on our honeymoon, we were in Italy, and we kind of used our time in Italy to kind of put together our little life Plan, right? You're 20, 29 years old. Let's, let's celebrate. We've just had our honeymoon. Now let's talk about what our future looks like, let's put together a plan. Our plan basically said, Let's go for the partner track, it'd be a great life, we'd enjoy it. And what are the parameters? So when you go back and you take in your new assignment, what are the parameters that allow you to achieve that objective and so we kind of agreed that I would take a role role and telco it had to be a partner track role. But it couldn't be more than three hours from home because I didn't wanna be traveling that extensively when we just got married. And so here comes the kicker, the kicker was, I got exactly that role, like the the exact role got presented, it was a partner track roll, it was going to be about two years, it would have proven all the things I needed to prove to hit the goals. But it was in my hometown back in Portland. And my wife, bless her just said, There is no way you're going to spend the first year of our marriage back in your hometown, hanging out with all your high school buddies. And so that is out. So figure out a new plan. So the whole plan got thrown out right away. And it kind of post forced a little pivot, which turned out to be very fortunate.

Ash Faraj  16:03

So curiosity, a little tangent. How did you meet your wife?

Scott Torrey  16:06

the the true story is, I had a weekend away from New York with a buddy and we went down to New Orleans, for the Jazz Festival. And my wife was there on a bachelorette party with 21 of her closest friends. And at a jazz cafe in the middle of Bourbon Street. There was a there was a meeting that turned into a morning coffee cafe demand. When we learned that, that just five days later, we're both going to be in Los Angeles, just I was gonna be there for a college reunion. She was going to be there for business. And we had our second date and Laguna Beach. And as they say, the rest became history.

Ash Faraj  16:46

Wow, that's awesome. So when she told you that, there's no way that you're moving to Portland, you just kind of had to throw your hands up and say, Okay, I gotta go get a new plan now?

Scott Torrey  16:56

hey, listen, marriage is a partnership. And so yeah, I mean, there was, no, I'm not sure that that's the life I wanted, either. If we weren't in it together, when you're just getting married, and you want to just start that part of your life and you want to start a family and all that. If you're not in it together, then nothing's going to work. And so you know, I certainly it was, it was a change. But much like the feedback I got that I told you about earlier, I take it on the chin, pretty good. Say Fine. Let's go find a new plan. Let's go. Let's go pick another path. And that started the journey of kind of exploring what was next and what what else was out there.

Ash Faraj  17:31

Got it. Okay, so then I guess the next natural question is, how did you how did the opportunity SAP concur about concur come about?

Scott Torrey  17:39

So this is 1999. Right. So we're, we're just about the hit, beginning of bubble, but it hadn't really fully hit yet. In fact, there was a little implosion before bubble really hit hard. What I was looking for knowing that I was leaving this wonderful consulting business, was to grab onto a trend that was that I thought was going to be hot and interesting. And one of the trends that I missed based on the choice I made was the ERP trend. So there were so many people that had made great careers being SAP or Oracle or PeopleSoft consultants, and had been very successful in those companies have been very successful. So I was kind of looking for something like that. And interestingly, concur at the time, had this vision to become the employee desktop, which essentially became what was sold to SAP as a Rebbe, successfactors and concur. Just 20 years later, but the original vision was to be that desktop where you could procure anything, you could get anything you needed as an employee and an employee desktop. And so I was looking for that next thing, concur had a vision to be that next thing. And that kind of started the journey.

Ash Faraj  18:47

Interesting. So So what it sounds like you make your career decisions, that career decision, at least was based on what is trending and what you feel is going to be an industry or something that's, that has a future, it isn't necessarily, you know, this is my strength, or this is my passion. And that's why I looked for that. But you're basing your career decision off. Is that right?

Scott Torrey  19:09

Yeah, I guess I'm in that context. And I'll give you some different examples. But in that context was looking for was opportunity, right, what is going to be the next wave to ride. And so this was the obvious wave was technology. And this was a technology to solve a real business problem. And that business problem was big, right? This is the same things that the back then commerce one, companies like Reba, and many others were going after. And so there was a big, there's a big addressable market, there's a big market opportunity. And it was just it, you know, there were some elements of it, it was right buttons, right by my home, like so there were some elements that were that were also kind of factored in from that perspective.

Ash Faraj  19:47

Okay, that makes sense. And so then how did you was it an application was somebody that you reached out to or somebody reached out to you? How did how did that opportunity actually come about? How did you execute on it?

Scott Torrey  19:57

So there is it's an Intersting story, so I I actually applied for a job. And I don't remember how I applied. But back then I probably sent in my resume. I actually got in and I interviewed for a job in as a consulting leader. So they had a West Region consulting position open. And I applied for it. And as part of the interview process, I met one of the founders, Raj Singh during the interview process. So he was interviewing me for that role. And interestingly, I didn't get the job. But then I got a call back from Raj saying, I don't know what they're thinking they passed on you for this. But I want to find out, I want to find an opportunity for you. And so let's figure out if we can make this work. And so we essentially created a job in my first job was the manager of the client response team, which essentially, was created because the product was really in tough shape. And there were a lot of things that weren't working. And my role was to go out and get in front of it, go out to the clients, get in front of the clients, bring a team of DBA's, or system administrator, or programmers and just fix it like hammered, like it's hemorrhaging, stop the bleeding, stabilize the patient, and then, and then keep going around the country until all those are done. It was a crazy job. And it was it was a tough, it was a tough role. But I learned a lot doing it.

Ash Faraj  21:04

Wow, the interesting part about that, is that, like a role was created for you. Because Raj just seems like saw value in you. What do you feel like was important in that communication of like communicating your value of them.

Scott Torrey  21:18

You know, I mean, honestly, I don't know that I really remember well enough to say this is what I communicated. But I do think that the same things that I applied to my entire career there were relevant to this, which is, I always like to go where the problems were most complex, and most challenging. You know, there's, there's, when there's a fire, you either run from the fire, or you run to the fire, and I tend to be one that ran to the fire in those consulting skills and that ability to kind of go into any situation, try to figure out exactly what's going on, try to figure out what the best course of action is. And then the real key is to be able to execute, on closing, whatever the challenges are dealing with whatever the challenge is, and getting things done was probably something that came across because it's it, it's what I love to do,

Ash Faraj  22:01

you're in a place now, you know, where you left a career path and consulting that you spent seven years in, essentially. And now you're working as, like, I guess, an Operations Executive inside of business. How do you remember your first week at SAP concur? Like you remember how you're feeling? Do you remember?

Scott Torrey  22:18

Yeah, so there were a couple things that are relevant. One is just the the chaos, right, I left a very buttoned down environment, and you go from a consulting group like Accenture, or at the time, Anderson consulting, or Ian, why it's mahogany offices, it's buttoned down, it's you've got support, you go into a startup type environment, like concur, it's a little chaotic. And, and there's there is a, there's just a certain amount of, you just got to roll up your sleeves, there's nobody else coming to help like you are here on your own, in order to kind of sort these things out which, which took a little while to adjust, right? What are my boundaries? When can I serve myself? Can I tell people that they just got to go do this? Because there's a chain of command, if you will, that came more naturally within a consulting type group. And I remember one time where the the, the person that that I was working most closely with Scott, you know what to do, just do it, like quit waiting? I'm like, Okay, got it. Okay, that get very clear. Let's do that. The other side of it, though, was we went through a really tough spot. So I think, within a month of my joining, they announced the first earnings mess, and the stock dropped from like $40 a share at about $9 a share. So right in the middle of joining, there's a bit of a there's a bit of chaos from just a financial perspective. And so the combination of those two things were a little disorienting.

Ash Faraj  23:46

Was there any point in time that you felt like that I make a mistake or feeling doubtful at all? Maybe it's a no, but I'm just super curious, what emotions you were going through.

Scott Torrey  23:54

There's there are moments of doubt right when you see the ball. Now, let's put this again in the context of the macroeconomic environment. So we're beginning to not just have the concurrent challenge that was a quarterly mess. But you begin to head into blow up, right? Where were companies that were ridiculously overvalued, begin to implode, and viability and and sustainability is is definitely in question. And, you know, when concur, dropped all the way down to 28 and a half cents a share. And there are delisting notices coming on a very regular basis is that essentially is the end of the company. There's some there's some gut, there's some gut check moments in there. Again, that's in the context of starting a family and and being the one that needs to provide under those circumstances.

Ash Faraj  24:43

So looking, looking back, what do you feel like enabled you guys as an organization to kind of to get through it?

Scott Torrey  24:51

There's a really powerful moment that I remember so distinctly where a group of us got together using the principles and the program. of Good to Great Jim Collins book around, create a great culture. And we went offside for three or four days. And it was clearly in the context of listen if we're going to survive this, which is a question, but if we're going to survive it, let's plan now for what the company that we are going to build will be. And so we are going to start over with a redefinition of our core value, our core purpose, our hedgehog our flywheel, how we're going to pivot from a company that is wildly unprofitable, and spread in too many directions to a company that is going to transform a specific industry expense management, by pivoting to the cloud. And by embracing this new way of delivering software as a service that hadn't really been totally conceived of, but would acquired exceptional discipline to convert both your P and L and your culture to to that objective. And so we sat down, we agreed to what those those guiding principles would be we agreed to what the core values would be. And we really agreed to the measurements and the metrics that we would we would hold ourselves accountable to to get to the other side. Well, so in other words, you guys said, what, what is this gonna look like, you know, 510 years from now, if we survive, and then that you guys kind of that maybe gave you hope? Or like creating that vision was important? Yeah, it was, I think it was important in this context of, if we're going to build an enduring company, what is it going to be? What is it going to look like, because we knew what we were doing with both the financial discipline and the in the lack of focus was not going to lead to the outcome that any of us wanted. And what we wanted was to create a long term enduring business that we're proud of that represented not just changing the industry, but could could give us all a platform to do some pretty interesting things in the future.

Ash Faraj  26:48

So you know, you, you, you looked after the internal growth of concur from 600 to 6000 employees, you know, you managed HR IT facilities procurement. Obviously, you know, you guys went through a lot of growing pains, you stayed at concur for almost 20 years of your career. And I just have to ask, this is something I was thinking about when I was preparing for this interview. Was there ever a moment where you got other opportunities? And I guess what, what was it that made you stay at concur for so long if other opportunities came up?

Scott Torrey  27:19

Yeah, so there certainly were other opportunities. But I was not one that spent a lot of time listening or looking. And I'll put that in some context. So the the 20 years I spent there were really broken into three chunks. The first six years were largely focused on customer customer experience. The second was on that that role you described about building the infrastructure to grow. And the last were on revenue and growth. And what fueled me and gave me the the everything I needed professionally, was the variety. And so one of the reasons I never looked around is I always got my professional and personal needs met by the opportunities presented. So every year, there was a new challenge, there was a new opportunity, there was a new muscle or skill to build. And, and so the the fact that the company was kind enough to afford me all those opportunities meant I didn't need to look around in order to get what I needed. The second thing is, I worked for a fantastic, wonderful boss that often called with the saying, I was thinking, and I was new. And he said, I'm thinking I'm about to get something new and something interesting and something challenging. And I always usually started with great, let's do it. And then I figured out what he actually meant and what he really wanted. But I just was so blessed to have somebody that was not only a wonderful leader, but someone I'd call a great partner in, in in helping me get what I needed out of my career.

Ash Faraj  28:52

What I'm hearing is that, you know, a big factor for you isn't necessarily compensation or pay, but it's more so like, am I learning or am I growing professionally? Like, so it's more so like, what skill? Am I like, what am I learning more so than like, Am I getting paid a lot of money?

Scott Torrey  29:10

Yeah, I think that's right. And you know, it's interesting, I've I've reflected back on this a lot where I didn't really manage my career. Like if I'm being fair, I didn't set a course and say I've got it, I've got to follow this path. I I committed to outcomes, the outcomes was impact and so wherever I thought I could have an impact and where it would continue to feel me I would go and the good fortune was that because of concur success, that that naturally afforded the ladder to happen right with there are some natural benefits that come from a growing company, but I didn't really pursue them as much as I took advantage of them.

Ash Faraj  29:51

So after a long and very successful career at SAP concur, Scott decided to transition out of the chief revenue officer role to take some time off Scott was relaxing on a beach somewhere, when after just one month of him leaving SAP concur recruiter presented him with an opportunity to lead pay scale. And the rest, as they say is history. PayScale now serves 100 million monthly website visitors powers compensation information for over 35 million employees and 7000 companies with a vision of democratizing compensation information. So in 2014, you know, you were the chief Revenue Officer at concur during this time SAP made the acquisition, do you remember the day that the transaction went through? And then just curious how your work life changed as a result, if at all?

Scott Torrey  30:36

I can remember it so distinctly. I was in Stockholm, Sweden. And I had a great room overlooking the the bay there, right in downtown Stockholm. Sun was coming in. And Rajiv kind of somewhat abruptly said, I need some time. And in timezones, Rob So I knew he was he knew where I was, and he knew he wanted to talk. And he kind of laid out the plan and kind of what was happening. And so yeah, certainly it was, I can remember, like, yesterday, I can remember the feeling of, wow, there's kind of this this enormous pride of what we were able to do and enormous satisfaction and knowing that there was a tremendous outcome from it. But certainly some some loss, right that knowing that, a, they were probably my biggest competitor, I was running Europe, and they were my largest competitor. But you lose your independence, right? You you become part of something new and something bigger, and we knew life would change.

Ash Faraj  31:38

I can only imagine how you felt just like thinking back like, man, 13 years ago, we were 13 or 14 years ago, we're about to die. And then now we're in this spot, like, wow, if you just Yes, I can only imagine how good that felt. So So you're saying it was different working for a bigger like, now you're part of a bigger organization, there's, you felt like you lost a little bit of freedom and flexibility.

Scott Torrey  31:58

It's, right? I think it but just by definition, the The larger the structure in SAP is a wonderful company, and they stewarded us, great into the into the organization. They did a nice job of assimilating talent and bringing the products together. But there's, there's just no, there's no question that you're a few steps removed from the broader decisions happening within the business. And so either by the time you get your budgets, there's a lot of filtering, that's happened in order to to understand the business outcome you're trying to get to. And so when you've had a seat at the table that's making all the decisions to it's just a different experience. And one that I think they handled well, it's just not for everybody forever.

Ash Faraj  32:37

And I assume that, you know, in 2019, when you when you know, you assume the role of CEO pay scale, that may have had something to do with it. And then, you know, I guess, you know, how did that opportunity come about? Were you friends with Mike, did you how did the relationship with PayScale form?

Scott Torrey  32:57

So, interestingly, so I decided to transition out of wsap. And the one piece of advice I had gotten from a number of people is, whatever you do, don't take any phone calls for six months, just turn your phone off, put it on, do not disturb and do not take any phone calls for six months and do not talk to anybody, just relax and recharge, and really think about what it is you want to do. And as usual, I'm not the best listener. And I kept my phone on while I was trying to relax in Greece and Italy. And I was having a wonderful time doing so I did a pretty good job relaxing. But I started to get some phone calls from a particular particularly persistent headhunter that that started to kind of lay the groundwork for the the pay scale opportunity. And I will tell you, I was I was not a willing listener for a while. But as I kind of learned a little bit more about what was, what the opportunity was, and what was gonna be required. I got more and more intrigued.

Ash Faraj  33:55

What eventually enabled, you know, made you say, okay, yes, I will take this position?

Scott Torrey  34:00

You know, it's kind of like that, that, that, that kind of what I mentioned, when I originally decision about what I want to do after consulting I, we kind of put some parameters together about what the next adventure would be like and what we wanted that to be. And I started to kind of go through the different boxes, and one of the realities was part of our move back from seven years abroad was to recommit to the the Seattle community. And so I wanted to be part of a Seattle company didn't know about COVID when I plan this, but you know, I wanted to be part of a reestablishing of our roots here in the Pacific Northwest. And in Seattle, specifically, I want to stay in software as a service. And then you start thinking about the number of the opportunities are going to be presented like that in Seattle, in SAS, with a growth objective that don't already have a great CEO, like there's so many great CEO's here in Seattle, that you know, those opportunities won't come up 10 or 12 times you may get one or two shots and I didn't want to stay out too long, and so some kind of of timing opportunity. And and once you get to once I got to know kind of the pay scale mission I was I was hooked.

Ash Faraj  35:08

It's like a it's like a it's like a book that's being written right now. How would I explain PayScale to someone in the simplest form?

Scott Torrey  35:18

So in the simplest term pay scales vision is to democratize data around compensation, so that everyone can have an open and honest conversation about getting pay, right, we serve basically two different communities, we serve the 100 million people that come to our website every year to get information and to give information about their compensation. But we also serve now over 10,000 companies that use our software, our data and our platform, to manage their compensation data, to make sure that they're setting the right pay policies, they're adhering to those pay policies and being able to communicate openly and transparently those pay decisions, and how we largely make money. The majority of our revenue today comes from that b2b experience from those 10,000. companies that use our platform to get access to data. But increasingly, there's more and more monetization of that that user's journey. As they engage our website, there's lots of ways in which we can add value to their lives, we can present to them jobs that may be relevant given their skills and profiles they provided us, we can give them access to learning management or skill systems that might help them build the tools they need to get to the next step in their career. And so we're looking at both ends of the relationship, the b2b and the b2c relationship, to find ways to add value all under this premise of democratizing data.

Ash Faraj  36:49

Something I look for when I decide to partner with someone or hire someone is...

Scott Torrey  36:54

the first word that comes to mind is passion. Passion comes across in so many different ways it comes off and commitment to outcomes, it comes into clarity of vision, it comes into clear competency for what you do. And so those are all additional words. But it's usually exhibited in a real passion and commitment.

Ash Faraj  37:13

The most important quality in a leader is...

Scott Torrey  37:15


Ash Faraj  37:17

something I've struggled with as a leader personally has been...

Scott Torrey  37:21

patients, you know, patients often can be exhibited in taking out not being willing to kind of let certain things just work themselves out, you got to keep finding it before you let the the outcomes be measured. But one of the things I'm focusing on a lot is prioritization and, and making sure that we're, we're creating real clarity to our priorities. And being patient enough to see the ones we've committed to doing through

Ash Faraj  37:45

something I do to make sure I feel positive and stay productive, is...

Scott Torrey  37:52


Ash Faraj  37:54

If I were to go back and talk to my younger self in my mid 20s, I would tell myself...

Scott Torrey  37:59

relax. But all works out, right, like life is a life is a journey worth enjoying, and you don't need to get all amped up about the little things.

Ash Faraj  38:11

One setback or failure in my early 20s. That I will never forget is...

Scott Torrey  38:15

well certainly that I give it to the one was the the the banking transition out of my my vision become a banker, which is to late teens, early 20s. And then also certainly the the transition to concur was not an easy one. And there were there were many dark days in that transition. That turned out okay.

Ash Faraj  38:34

The sweetest moment I felt in my entire career was when...

Scott Torrey  38:38

we signed a $1.5 billion 15 year sole source award for the US government. And we spent six years chasing this deal. We delivered our proposal in a small pickup truck and that pickup truck, you know, you pull up and 20 boxes come down, you drop it off of the GSA, and you wait six months to get an answer as to who's going to win the actual award. And I'm driving my son to baseball practice. I'm going down Avondale road, and I get a call from my partner Brett had been close to me during that entire process and your email, said, Brett, now I'm driving to baseball practice. He said open your email. I open it up. I didn't even get a phone call from the GSA. I didn't get anything. I just got a PDF that just said 15 years 1.5 billion $5 billion with a signature I'm like, come on how isn't a celebration like I just a phone call would be nice. But you'd have to celebrations I'll tell you that was we had one heck of celebration after that one.

Ash Faraj  39:38

can only imagine looking ahead if I could be remembered for just one thing it would be...

Scott Torrey  39:43

being a good team player.

Ash Faraj  39:44

And the very last question is, if I were stranded on an island and had access to one meal, it would be...

Scott Torrey  39:49

sushi. I'm on an island so I might as well eat some fresh fish.

Ash Faraj  39:53

Thank you so so much for listening. Now if you enjoyed this episode again, we ask that you please leave a quick quick quick way review on Apple podcasts. It only takes a few seconds but it means the world to us. Thank you so much for listening. And thank you so much for leaving us a quick rating and review. We hope to see you again in the next episode. Take care

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