How long have you been working in technology for and what is your background?
I have just over 25 years working in technology. My first Technology gig was at an advertising agency in Minneapolis. I can still remember hooking up a 56K modem off of a router so that we could access the Internet. Then we started to spin up the “Interactive Department” so that we could take advantage of the WWW as a new communication medium for advertising and marketing.
I have training in both Java and Microsoft Stacks focusing on mobile development, portal development and business intelligence. I also have experience in spinning up customer service centers, datacenters and hot sites as well. I’m kind of all over the board, I guess that happens when you have been in the field for 25 years.
What are you focused on right now?
Right now I’m focused on mobile, cloud PAAS and BI with WELLBEATS™. WELLBEATS is a virtual based fitness and wellness company and we have a very exciting large project launching that we have been working on for a couple of years. We developed the POC in February of 2015 and went into full development in July. We launched our first Pilot customer last month and have several more lined up. It is going to be a very busy year! The project is moving us from an-onsite hardware, store and forward, heavy database architecture model to a full PAAS in the cloud and mobile development model. We sell business to business and are playing across several different verticals markets using multiple channels.
What are the some of the technologies within your company and IT environment?
Mostly classic Enterprise accepted technologies: .Net/ C# as well as Angular JS, Xamarin, DRUPAL, PAAS, IAAS and the MS DB and BI Stack.
How do you ensure that IT plans, projects and objectives are aligned with business outcomes?
By working very closely with the business. We are using a Modified Agile Process and have a talented technical team that includes Production Operations, a Program Manager and a Development Director that interface with the business and are in constant communication to ensure alignment. We have a passionate and tightly knit Executive team that are always willing to huddle, roll up their sleeves and dig down into features and functionality, design, redesign, message and align project plans. When you see how the development processes have matured from Waterfall to XP to Agile to SCRUM and how the Development Tools have matured to support the processes with Online Central repositories and Automated Testing Tools, it makes life much easier and increases your potential for success.
What is the size of your department and how is it organized/managed?
We use a combination of Onshore/Offshore, FTE, Consultants and Partners. Our team size flexes depending on development projects and priorities. Currently we have 15 resources between R&D and Production Operations.
How does your company approach recruiting and retention for technical positions in an increasingly competitive market?
Recruiting has been challenging the last few years for everything from QA to Development to Technical Support. Mostly we rely on our networks that we have developed over the years both on and off shore. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to grow your network. Not only with the people you are working with at your company, but your partner companies, vendors, partners and even customers. Always have your eyes open for talented individuals, initiate those relationships and keep those conversation going.
How do you personally keep up with the ever changing technology landscape?
Staying up to speed with the new and up and coming technologies is one of my favorite parts of the gig. Taking classes both online and in the classroom, as well as attending seminars and conferences. It’s not just the technology landscape that a CTO needs to keep up with though. There has to be just as much emphasis on understanding the business that you are in and what is changing there as well. Where is your business going in the next 12 to 18 to 36 months? What is happening in the market, what challenges are your customers facing, what are your direct and indirect competitors doing and how is that going to affect your business and your development projects.
What excites you about where technology is heading?
Does anyone remember RAD as in Oracle forms? With the ability to take advantage of the cloud based development of IAAS and PAAS on the mobile platforms really increases your speed of taking concepts through to production. That in combination with where the business intelligence tools are going and with the integration of social media data the sky is kind of the limit as far as how quickly you can react, develop and deploy new features and products based on market needs.
What concerns you about where technology is heading?
Not necessarily where the technology is heading, but more where the education for technology is today. Our existing education infrastructure is expensive, archaic and behind the times. There are, of course, several projects that are underway from both the University level as well as tech companies in regards to training courses where you are developing real technical solutions as part of your training. Affordable, real world technology based training, at the Tech School and Junior College levels would go far in creating a new and up and coming technical workforce. It is also time that we start to offer development languages as an option to foreign languages in High School.
What are you into outside of technology?
Sports. I have a great crew for pickup basketball and have a terrible soccer team that I really enjoy playing with. Anything outside like hiking, kayaking or snowboarding. Staying active helps with the stress, keeps you healthy and hopefully makes up for all of the late night, overnight and weekend screen sessions.
What is your opinion of Minnesota’s tech industry?
Minnesota has a great tech industry, plenty of talented and educated folks across every aspect of the industry. There is something about that Midwest and the work ethic that you cannot put a price tag on. We have an active startup community and so far the equity resources have always proven available. I don’t really see any reason that would change going forward.