Professional Development
Business / Ceos / Entrepreneurs / Leadership / POC in Tech

Inside Fearless leaders’ transitions to CEO, COO

Founder Delali Dzirasa is now CEO of the Baltimore digital services firm, while John Foster rose to COO. Here's why the C-level positions made sense a decade in.

Fearless CEO Delali Dzirasa (right) and COO John Foster. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of's Technologists of Color Month of our editorial calendar.

As founder, Fearless’ Delali Dzirasa has done a lot of different jobs at the Baltimore digital services firm. When the company was first starting, he not only created software, but was also responsible for how to generate revenue, plus finances, accounts and more.

“You figure out a way against whatever odds to survive and do whatever you need to do to stay alive,” Dzirasa said. “You do all of the functions and wear all of the hats.”

But there was one title he didn’t have: CEO. He opted instead for president, but now that’s changing. Ten years in, Dzirasa officially became CEO in recent weeks. With John Foster becoming COO, they’re the first two people to hold those top roles in company history.

The shift in title signals the company’s current stage. There’s been rapid growth in recent years, as the Spark Baltimore-based company is now at more than 85 employees, with plans to continue hiring to reach over 100 people by the end of calendar year. Geographically, the company is also expanding with work in Montgomery, Alabama, as a result of a new contract with the U.S. Air Force.

That’s brought new leaders, as the executive team has also grown to oversee all of the individual functions. And so for Dzirasa, he said he’s increasingly thinking: “How do I empower them to make sure they’re successful?” That means focusing on strategy and culture, as well as having room to create new initiatives within the company.

It also means an influential role beyond the company, as Dzirasa said he’s also thinking about, “How do I bring more visibility to the things that we care about on a much larger scale?”

With Dzirasa becoming CEO, John Foster will move into the role of COO. Foster has worked with Dzirasa for nearly a decade; starting as a senior software engineer, he most recently had the title of partner and director of programs with the company. Like Dzirasa, he’s performed lots of different roles for the company under that title.

Now, a main focus will be serving as the connecting point to facilitate communication and coordination across the different functional teams that each executive at the company leads.

“My job was responsibility for the delivery of all of our programs and I think the natural extension for development was touching HR, touching finance, touching operations,” Foster said. The new role brings attention on planning for specific outcomes, and then implementing measurements for success.

So what did Fearless learn from the process of making these important internal shifts?

“The big thing is, take your time with it,” Dzirasa said.

Along with the titles, it’s important to flesh out out the new structures of decision making and reporting, he said.

Foster said there’s also a recognition that growth can bring people to roles that are best suited to their strengths. That fits with how the company thinks about talent.

“Where we’ve always operated was understanding the strengths of the individuals and putting people in the roles that we know they can do and they can succeed in, and then trust in them to do that,” Foster said.

Foster credits Dzirasa for putting that trust in him.

“True inspiration comes from the top and Delali is the epitome of that. Being able to be of service to him and his vision is important to me,” Foster said.

Companies: Fearless
Series: Technologists of Color Month 2019

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