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That Time I Did a Launch Demo with Mark Wahlberg
An improvised celebrity event yields important lessons about decision-making in a crisis.
Patrick Perini is a storyteller, technologist, and frequent entrepreneur. He is a former VP of Product and co-founder of Raydiant, a screen signage company trying to build a distributed TV operating system. These days, his head is down working on a number of projects to be named later.
View the full episode here.
Patrick Perini 00:00
So he calls it he says, I just got off the phone with Mark Wahlberg. And we're like, alright, cool, great, awesome. That sounds like a good reason to interrupt this meeting. Can you, like, get to the point my dude.
Lee Ngo 00:13
Hello everyone. Welcome to Educative Sessions. My name is Lee Ngo. Educative Sessions is a podcast series for the developer community worldwide, and we're interested in hearing stories from all over. And Educative itself makes it easy for authors to provide interactive and adaptive courses for software developers. My guest tonight is a personal friend of mine, he is Patrick Perini who we're going to go with the titles of storyteller, entrepreneur, and my favorite title that you didn't share but I'm gonna use anyway is futurist. I've always liked that title about you. Patrick welcome, welcome, welcome to our show.
Patrick Perini 00:47
Thank you Lee, thank you so much.
Lee Ngo 00:49
Awesome. So I was elated at the topic that you submitted to us and what you wanted to talk today and it's almost like, I don't even want to set it up, I'm going to let you as a natural storyteller, one I learned a lot from over the years. So let's start from the beginning. You know, you were working. You've been in the tech space for some time now and you were working on this strange, like, specific project. Tell us a little bit about that and your personal involvement.
Patrick Perini 01:14
Yeah, absolutely. So, this project went off the rails very quickly. And I think that in order to understand what rails it was on to begin with, I got to tell you a little bit about the company that I was working on. What we were trying to do was create what we sort of called the- the the internet of screens, which was a terrible moniker and our CEO loved it. I was brought on as the founding engineer, which is kind of usually how I get involved in companies. I have a tech background, I know how to code, like, enough to get prototypes and basic architecture together. We were doing our morning stand up, and it was me. the VP of Engineering, and the CEO, you know, kind of talking about what we needed to do that day, and we got interrupted by a call from our VP of Sales. So he calls and he says, I just got off the phone with Mark Wahlberg. And we're like, alright, cool, great, awesome, that sounds like a good reason interrupt this meeting. Can you, like, get to the point, my dude?
Lee Ngo 02:12
Marky Mark was the person he got off the phone with?
Patrick Perini 02:15
We didn't think so at the time. We thought he was making a funny funny joke.
Lee Ngo 02:22
That's, yeah, sure, okay. And, so, our CEO was the first to realize like, no, he's serious. And he's like, "wait, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, explain." And it turns out that Mark Wahlberg... I learned three things in this conversation. Mark Wahlberg runs a chain of restaurants. They are called Wahlburgers. Of course they are.
Patrick Perini 02:46
Of course they are. And he has a reality TV show of the same name that follows him and his two brothers in their running of this small business chain. How the hell does this involve us? As it turns out, at some point in the last year, the people running Wahlburger said, "Look, we want to transition to digital menus, we think it'll be more economical for us," and they brought this idea to Mark and Mark said, "Love it, I want to be able to FaceTime into restaurants." This sounds insane to me. And so clearly, we have a follow up meeting. The follow up meeting happens maybe two or three days later, and it's our VP of Sales, or CEO, me, and Mark Wahlberg.
Lee Ngo 03:37
So you were in a room with Mark Wahlberg. Oscar nominated-
Patrick Perini 03:41
It was a zoom call, I had not-
Lee Ngo 03:42
-star of The Happening.
Patrick Perini 03:44
-I am not yet in the room with Mark Wahlberg. He- he is- is saying like, here's the list of things that we need to be able to do, and you know, CEO and I are teaming, you know, teaming this call up. Yes, we can do that. Yes, we can do that. This will take a little tweaking but we can absolutely do that. And then he gets to the bottom line, which is why he can't go with any of our competitors. "I want to be able to video call into all of my restaurants all across the country from my phone while on set, because we think this is going to be a new, innovative experience for dining at a reality TV show themed restaurant chain." I smash the mute button I'm like "No, this is not something we've tested. Mark Wahlberg is gonna hold us to this, like, I- we can't- Yeah, of course we can do it. And when do you need it by?"
Lee Ngo 04:33
Of course, yeah yeah yeah.
Patrick Perini 04:35
And I went home, And I loaded up my laptop and spent several hours figuring out how to wire Google Hangouts into YouTube Live, and kicking that out into a web page. I put together this demo video, and I sent the video to the email thread involving Mark Wahlberg and when I got to work the next morning I got a message saying, "Love this, love Patrick, make it happen."
Lee Ngo 05:07
You just had to be good at your job, or you had to be good at the perception of your job, right, like, yeah.
Patrick Perini 05:12
And so two weeks later, we get a call from the VP of Sales, interrupted yet another meeting, and he says, again, "I just got off the phone with Mark Wahlberg," and this time we believed him. And he says "They're having some kind of an event in two weeks in West Hollywood at the location there. They would like to be able to demo this product at that event," and the details were all sort of this vague, "can you go down and set it up?" And the CEO says, "Yeah, of course I can go down and set it up," and then he turns to me, and he says, "Patrick, would you come with me to do the technical part of the setup, and we'll tag team it and we'll get it working?" And I said, "I- yes, right, like you're not going to be able to do it without me. I'm the only one who's done these demos, I will absolutely come down to West Hollywood with you." Two weeks later, I am in West Hollywood. I go to this Wahlburgers location. So I woke up to this manager and I say, "Hey, I'm supposed to do the technical setup." and I'm wearing my Mirra shirt so that he knows what's happening. No one has informed this man of anything. Okay. And so I have to explain to him, I am like unto an IT provider and I am here to set up your screens. And he looks around and he's like, "Oh, we did just get eight new televisions didn't we?" Like, yes, I am here to set up your screens. And so I do. At the end of the day, I say okay, cool, it's set up, and I leave, and I get on the phone with my CEO and I say "What's- what's- what's the plan for tomorrow, CEO, what is the plan for- I would like to know what the plan for tomorrow is." And he says several things. The first of which is "I need you to be back there tomorrow at 7am." Then I say "Okay, well what happens next?" He says, "Well, we have the events in the evening." Oh,- oh okay. Are you gonna tell me more? "Well, that's all I know right now." Oh, boy. And it's seven o'clock the next morning, I am back at this establishment. I knock on the door to this Wahlburgers it' s 7am, and I am met with a man who is wearing sneakers, jeans, t-shirt, blazer, because we're in West Hollywood-
Lee Ngo 07:37
We are, yes, that's what you said-
Patrick Perini 07:39
-and, he, I knock and he kind of gives me a little brush off, and a knock again, and he comes over and he opens the door and he says "We're not open" and I say "Great. I'm not hungry. I'm here to do the setup for the digital screens and the video call for the event tonight." And he looks me up and down, and then up, and then down. And then realizing that I look straight out of Central Casting says "Oh thank god," ushers me into the room, sits me down at a table, hands me a waiver for being on camera. I look up and I see that my CEO and my COO are both here. And at this point I finally start to get a clear picture of what's happening. The event tonight is the launch party for this location. Mark has invited approximately 100 of his celebrity friends to come eat Wahlburgers, be famous, and to see the demo of his revolutionary new video chat product in his stores. It is to be the flagship episode of the new season of his reality TV show. Because every season focuses on some new innovation with the restaurants, and this season happened to be us. Over the course of the next five minutes, our VP of Sales would show up, tell all of us that, collectively, we needed to pick someone who was going to teach Mark Wahlberg how to use the product in the next 20 minutes on camera, for B roll mostly, for the episode. We did not have a choice. We picked me because, again, I looked straight out of Central Casting. And so it's a blur, honestly, but I remember a few moments of standing with Mark Wahlberg, and his phone, walking him through installing Google Hangouts, because while we have done an amazing amount of integrations work here, we don't actually own the product that is powering the video chats. That's not our core business. And, and over the course of that scene, he tells me that he wants to be able to call out from this restaurant tonight. Have it show up on all of the TV screens in this restaurant. And I can't stop laughing because of the sheer absurdity of this situation. As I'm working on this more details about that critical open question, to whom does Mark Wahlberg want to call out, start trickling in. And I find out two things that I've become responsible for while I'm trying to code. The first is that Mark Wahlberg would like to call his mother.
Lee Ngo 10:51
Of course, he would like to call his mother,
Patrick Perini 10:53
I become responsible for contacting Mark Wahlberg's assistant who was a wonderful, no nonsense man who has been tasked for the day with corralling his mother and helping her get set up in Google Hangouts and manage the call. We also figure out that he wants to call out to 10 other restaurants who, notably, don't have our product yet. And so our CEO takes this one, thankfully. And he becomes responsible over several hours for walking managers of Wahlburgers through going out to their local Best Buy, buying an iPad, downloading the Google Hangouts app, loading into our test Hangout, and etiquette for how you should behave when you're on with Mark, on camera.
Lee Ngo 11:50
Patrick Perini 11:51
We managed to pull all of this together by the skin of our teeth. People start showing up for the actual event. So I'm managing these 10 restaurants and letting them know like, "Hey, hold on just a little bit longer. I know we said we would start at six, it's gonna be a little later, we're still waiting on some things. People are still arriving." Finally, 20 minutes after the last person who's supposed to have arrived does arrive, I get a call from the assistant, who says "I think we finally got it. We're going to patch her in now." And they patch in Mark Wahlberg's mother. Okay, great. We get to go live. As soon as I hit that live button, I realized that Google Hangouts isn't doing the swapping for different speakers correctly.
Lee Ngo 12:44
Oh, oh, no,
Patrick Perini 12:46
We get about ten seconds in and I realize oh, god, we're just seeing one restaurant that is particularly busy on screen. We've got Mark Wahlberg trying to talk to his mom. And we're only seeing this one Vegas restaurant, or wherever it was. This is bad. And so I stay in my lane and proceed to DJ the speaker. But, aside from a little bit of delay, we actually make it work. And everybody seems to be reasonably happy with it.
Lee Ngo 13:20
Something like this could mean it means little to nothing to me unless it's like a certain celebrity, but you could imagine the people who are walking into Wahlburgers might be, like, the acolyte of Mark Wahlberg and they are with it all the way, right?
Patrick Perini 13:34
Absolutely. And they ate it up. They loved it. Everyone was thrilled. The call ends, and I realized, "Oh, that's a wrap for us. Everything else is a playlist." That was what I expected to do coming into this, right? It's videos and trailers and images and digital menus that are supposed to cycle in the background the whole time and we don't have to worry about it. Phenomenal. So I hit the play button, I walked downstairs, I shake a couple of hands, I walk out into the street, I walk onto a plane, and I go back to San Francisco.
Lee Ngo 14:13
Might have missed some steps you missed there. Unless you were just like, in that restaurant that's also a plane but okay. You just went straight home. You didn't know you'd go back to your hotel, right?
Patrick Perini 14:23
Lee Ngo 14:23
Oh, wow wow. Okay.
Patrick Perini 14:25
It worked. And to this day, I don't understand how or why or what exactly happened to make it work, but it worked.
Lee Ngo 14:36
This has been an incredible story, and I'm surprised you made it out alive. Most of the times I see these kinds of things and I've seen them go up in flames, right? I've known you for a while and known that, like, you have such grit about you that I'm sure whatever happened, at least in part, your survival was because of your own vigilance. So the last question I want to ask before we wrap up is, what kind of lessons did you learn from this? How do you handle not just the stress, but the insurmountable stakes that are at your disposal?
Patrick Perini 15:11
Absolutely. Part of the reason why I've never really told this story to anyone other than like, my closest friends, up to this point is because I've not had a good answer for this specific question. It all seemed so random, and so outside of my control, but I've been thinking about it a lot, and I- I think that I'm actually just wrong on that point and I think in a really important way. I think a lot of things in life are outside of our control. Certainly, I could not in a million years have concocted a universe in which Mark Wahlberg was to call my VP of Sales and knock on my door to ask me to build a product for him. I could never have controlled the universe to make that happen. There are a lot of things that are outside of our control that we have to deal with on a daily basis, maybe even most things, but a hundred times a day you get to tell the universe yes or no. And I don't think there's a right answer there, almost ever. I think that a lot of the time it's good to say no, and I think a lot of the time it's good to say yes. And I don't know if my saying yes was good in retrospect, right? I can't say that, like, my life is ten times better because I did this Mark Wahlberg show. But every time I said yes, that was me exercising my freedom to make that choice. That was a decision that I made. And so every time I said yes, and it got a little harder, it got a little crazier, it went a little further off the rails, I could reflect on that and say, "Okay, I made this decision, I took on this responsibility, I'm going to do my best to get this done." And with that framing, I think you can get through anything. And I think that's the lesson that I want to take away from that is that every time you make that decision, you're exercising your freedom, and you have a hundred chances to do that in a day.
Lee Ngo 17:10
I don't like that you've become mature. I don't like- it's not a good time to drink water buddy. No, that's a very, like, what an astute like, like, that is wonderful wisdom because there's this question of choice, and I find- and forgive any engineers out there- you know, like, there's a common stereotype that an engineer receives instructions and they're to do it. And, you know, I'm presuming that yeah, you were stressed out internally, but you went at it with the best possible attitude you could. And maybe part of you was like, "And, like, what if this goes really well? What if this goes even partially well, right?" You've come away with it with at least an amazing story. And- and I would say it's in that tangential way I bet you're fearless as hell right now. Like bring on the fires, bring on anything crazier, because I had to deal with Marky Mark, like, not being able to talk to his mother for a while and that is not a problem anybody can handle in the moment, right?
Patrick Perini 18:03
I'll tell you, my- my- my Overton window for fear is definitely not in the, like, big job for a celebrity space. It's- it's not there anymore. I know I can handle that.
Lee Ngo 18:14
That's great. Well Patrick, thank you so much for sharing your story. It's quite a fantastic one. And like we always do in our show, we want to give everybody an opportunity to do a bit of a shameless plug, you know, if you want to talk about something you're working on or something in your community. Really the floor is yours. So go ahead.
Patrick Perini 18:31
My normal plug is follow me on Twitter, because that's where I am online. Most of the time. It's @pcperini, but I've been taking some time away, and I've been taking some time to sort of reflect on stories like these and things that have happened in the last five, ten years of my life. So I don't have anything to plug right now. I think sometimes life just needs quiet spaces where we're not grinding on the thing to internalize kind of what you've learned. And I'm- I'm in one of those at this moment. So, if you want to follow me on Twitter I'll be back at some point. It's @pcperini, but don't expect anything for a hot minute.
Lee Ngo 19:05
See even that, I mean, it's like what an interesting time for you right now man like- like to maybe get to you on Twitter is a weird concept to me because that's how I would always get you. Its just like that's where you always are, and at the same time I think it's a wonderful thing. I recently took a similar thing as well, and I hope in this sort of time in your journey now you figure out the new direction you want to go into, or you just take the moment to enjoy it all and- and you know, bless you man and I hope for the best for you. And I want to thank everyone else for listening or watching this episode as well. You can check out more of our episodes on YouTube or on our Podbean account or on all major podcasting apps. And, of course, if you want to learn a little bit more about Educative, you can check us out at educative.io. So for all of us here at Educative, thank you so much and happy learning. Bye bye now. Hope you enjoyed that. This episode is available on YouTube and also on many podcast platforms. If you'd like to be part of Educative Sessions, the form is open now to apply. You can also email me at email@example.com Lastly, don't forget to like and comment this video and be sure to subscribe to our channel for more content. Thank you so much for watching and happy learning.