How long have you been working in technology for and what is your background?
Officially I’ve been working in technology for just over 23 years. I started my IT career at the State of Minnesota (DHS) writing and testing software for mainframes, but I first became aware of technology in the late 70s and early 80s with the Atari and Commodore.
My infatuation has only grown since then. Over the years, I’ve also worked for companies like Accenture, Best Buy, Lifetouch, and TrustedChoice.com, alongside a plethora of consulting gigs.
Although my undergrad and graduate degrees are in business, I hold half a dozen technical certifications. I’ve done development, testing and plenty of systems/infrastructure work. I’ve been in leadership and management roles [queue Dilbert cartoon] for nearly 20 years, but like to think I still have some technical chops.
What are you focused on right now?
FISION is an enterprise SaaS-based Distributed Marketing and Sales Enablement platform that allows companies to centrally organize and control branded content, and enable distribution and customization of those assets by sales teams. We call it the ‘Bridge Between Marketing and Sales.’
My role at FISION involves not only the technical considerations (development, core infrastructure, security, etc.), but also driving the product strategy for the company. Currently I’m implementing lightweight processes around strategic planning, demand management, product feature definition, systems architecture refinement, and Agile software delivery methods. I’m also focused on building out our team here, and happy to say that I’ve already hired some amazing talent that I’m totally stoked about!
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
On the systems side, we have multiple hosting providers today – Atomic, Azure, Amazon Web Services, on premise, etc. We are working on choosing the best approach here for our clients and for scaling, since we are growing rapidly.
We also have and use plenty of supporting and productivity tools, such as Office 365/Sharepoint, Slack, Trello, TFS/VSTS, and more. We embrace SaaS-based tools, as well as open source technology.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
Being a small company, we have to run a tight ship. Our communication is open and continuous. We use common Agile delivery methods (Scrum), and strive for very low friction. One of the benefits of a small company is that we can focus on the product, and on producing high quality software to delight clients. Also, being the Chief Product dude in addition to the Chief Technologist, I am part of the ‘business.’ Small company = many hats. All of this makes for one very cohesive plan.
What is the size of your department and how is it organized/managed?
Our company and my team are small, but we are growing! My team is six people strong now, but I am hiring more talented Developers currently. Rather than small, I like to think of us as an elite Seal team of specialists and are the best of the best. Our CEO and my oldest kid spent time in the US Navy, so we like those analogies around here.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions in an increasingly competitive market?
I like to say, “all is fair in love, war, and IT recruiting”…since they all appear to be related. It is most definitely a competitive market for talent, and that is not lost on me. There are three things we have which I view as unique and competitive:
1. We provide equity at all levels for employees, at this stage anyway (it could change down the road). This is unique and creates an ‘owner’ (vs. renter) mentality.
2. Our small, informal and dynamic culture is awesome – as evidenced by our recent “Best Places to Work” award by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal.
3. We live and thrive at the intersection of digital marketing and cloud software, which is the place to be. This also allows us to meet and work with awesome people and companies.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
I like to network…like a lot, and read and go to Meetups. This, coupled with my natural curiosity and skeptical tendencies, make me one inquisitive fella. I love tech, and have ever since I was a kid shooting tanks on the Atari. When keeping up, I do have a personal goal to spend time each week covering the academic end (reading, webinars, etc.), as well as practical end (Meetups, coffee with like professionals, etc.). Finally I like to buy and experiment with new tech. For many consumer electronics gadgets, I’m an ‘early adopter’. As a CTO, I think it is paramount to know what is happening and what is possible with technology. My ultimate goal is to stay one step ahead of my three teenagers. I don’t always succeed.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
Life enhancement. Even recently my life has gotten better when I added things like the Apple Watch and the Amazon Echo. The efficiencies gained allow me to get more out of my workouts, more easily play music and shows, and order stuff I probably don’t need…but that’s kinda what it’s all about. Enable me to do stuff…don’t control me, put me in control. I feel tech is heading this way – wearables, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, etc. These things are leap-frogging pure mobile, so the continuous evolution is really exciting.
Even in my daily job, I get to work with great technology (and technologists) and challenge our company to best leverage systems and software to make our clients’ lives better, easier…put them in control [of their marketing and sales assets].
I love this technology stuff, and really love being surprised, or even shocked by some new disruptive tech I hadn’t even imagined!
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
Recently my son Gabriel (16) interviewed me for a school project about technology and he asked me this same question. I’ll give you the same answer I gave him. When technology replaces human interaction instead of enhancing it, I think we’ve missed the point. For example, sitting at the dinner table with your nose in a mobile device communicating with someone not even present at that time. Multitasking in a business setting is one thing, but neglecting our human need to connect with other humans is a ‘fail.’ Technology can be wielded for good or evil. Let’s use it to make our lives and our relationships here better.
What are you into outside of technology?
Faith, family, country. I’m actively involved in my church, teaching teenagers about science, reason, and faith. I’m also a proud father of four kids (ages 19, 16, 13, 11), three of which are still in the ‘nest.’ They definitely keep me busy. I’m also involved in the community, most specifically the Boy Scouts of America, where I serve as the Chaplain and Assistance Scout Master for our Troop in Rosemount, MN. I enjoy outdoor activities like mountain biking, fishing, and golf – although I kinda suck at all of them. Movies and music are also a big part of my life, but I’m pretty darn good at those.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry?
I love Minnesota’s technology scene. We have so many great companies, from tiny startups to massive global organizations…all of which have a technology side to them. Tech is in everything we do, so the opportunities are endless. I’ve learned in recent years that we have a vibrant startup community, and many great Meetups to support that! Minnesota is not necessarily known for being the best place to do business, so I’m encouraged that so many companies start here and stay here. We also have one of the more competitive environments for IT talent, so it is not always easy finding super stars, but we carry on and continue to grow our businesses.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, buy Fision software! (maybe this is why I’m not in sales)