Where are you from originally?
I was born in and grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Then I spent four years in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for college at the University of Wisconsin — Stevens Point. Afterward, I worked a couple of years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before moving to Salt Lake City in 1980.
What post-secondary degree(s) do you have, in what subjects, and from which school(s)?
I received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics, with minors in computer science and economics from the University of Wisconsin — Stevens Point, and a Master of Statistics with an emphasis in biostatistics from the University of Utah.
What led you to the University of Utah?
While working as a computer programmer at Centralab Inc. in Milwaukee, I visited a former college roommate studying at the U, and we went to Yellowstone and Flaming Gorge. I immediately fell in love with the open spaces of the West. At the time, I was not happy with living in Milwaukee, so I decided to quit and ended up giving my notice when I landed back in Wisconsin. A couple of months later, I moved to Utah and went back to work as a computer programmer for Skaggs Cos. At the time, Skaggs was showing plans for a new building in Salt Lake City, but the company was really structured and I didn’t fit in well, so I went back to school for a master’s degree. When I finished my coursework, I decided that I would either get a job at the University of Utah or leave the state. I landed a job at the College of Social and Behavioral Science (CSBS), and I’ve been here 35 years now.
Can you describe the path you took to IT leadership?
When I started working for CSBS, I was a statistician, but I also worked in the computer center, writing documentation and training. Shortly after, the IBM PC came out, followed by the Macintosh, and people within the college started buying them. They needed to network them, and they identified me as the person who knew computers. So, for the first 14 years of my career at the U, I was the lead IT person for CSBS.
In 1997, I took on an associate director position with the Center for High Performance Computing that included heading up an information security group for the university. When Steve Hess became associate vice president for information technology in 2000 and created the Office of Information Technology, he asked me to join the team because he wanted the central IT organization to have a pulse on university-wide security. It was a shop of three — Steve, Kevin Taylor, and me.
Soon after that, the Network and Communications Infrastructure director left and Steve asked me to become interim director. When the university changed Steve’s role to chief information officer and combined academic computing with hospital IT, administrative computing, and researching computing, Jim Livingston took over infrastructure and my role became architecture and various other things like project management and identity and access management. After Eric Denna took over, I became an enterprise data architect, but when he left, I started heading up product management for the CTO organization and then IT architecture.
How would you describe your leadership style and/or philosophy?
In my leadership role, the marching orders come from the university’s president, senior vice presidents, chief information officers, and chief technology officer (to whom I report), and from their direction, we derive the goals we need to follow to steer the ship. I like to preach those goals — ensure people understand why we’re doing things, allow the people who are getting the work done to have flexibility in how they get there, and make sure we stay aligned with where the university is going.
Mostly, it’s a hands-off approach. I’m a big believer in teamwork and consensus-driven decision-making, which fits really well with architecture and product management because they’re horizontal organizations — they don’t stand alone. Everything we do is collaborative.
What do you enjoy most about your role at the U?
There are two things I enjoy most. One is getting to know the people in these teams; having watercooler conversations, which I think results in more trust; and watching those teams produce. The other is working with research groups, faculty, and student groups, and seeing what they do and learning the way they do it. That’s fun, but it also gives you a sense of how important our UIT team is in enabling that stuff to happen. It’s really rewarding.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
The most challenging thing is when teams don’t work well together. I really believe everyone has the same common goal — they want what they do to be useful and valued, and they want to help the university succeed. So, if you can get the discussion away from how things are done to what’s being done or what you’re trying to accomplish, that generally is how you can bring a team back together.
What are some of your hobbies?
Outdoor activities make me tick. I like to find solitude out in the wild, especially with my family. My family has gone through spurts of being obsessed with one thing or another: wilderness camping, peak bagging, finding ancient artifacts, canyoneering, backpacking, running rivers, and mountain biking. I always have my fly rod or musky gear handy when visiting Wisconsin, in case there is an opportunity to fish. And I always have a pair of binoculars with me to spot birds.
A few years back, I obtained a geographic information system (GIS) certificate. I also tinker with cartography and work with citizen science projects that pertain to natural habitats.
At home, I like to tend the garden, feed the birds, do home projects, and root for the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers.
Is there a fun fact about yourself that you’d like to share?
When I was growing up, I’d get on my bicycle in the morning before school with a shotgun on my back and my waders on, and ride out to the shores of Green Bay, where I’d shoot ducks. I’d bring them home, clean them, and give them to my grandma. When I’d come back from school, she’d have them ready for lunch.
Also, I was fired from the University of Utah. When I first moved to Utah, I shared a place in Emigration Canyon with my former college roommate, and we often went hunting and fishing. I spent three months doing nothing before I opened my wallet one day and realized there was nothing, no money left. And so I went to the university, and I applied for pretty much everything on the job board and I was hired by parking services to patrol parking lots and write tickets. But my friends would park in the areas I patrolled and I wouldn’t ticket them. A couple of weeks into the job, I interviewed at another company, which hired me the same day. I started that Monday, and in the back of my head, I said I should probably call the university. But I didn’t, and I later got my pink slip in the mail. I was terminated for cause.
But then three or four years later, the university hired me again. They didn’t have electronic records of that stuff back then.
Is there anything else that you think our readers would like to know about you?
My wife, Monica, and I have three children. Derick, the oldest, lives in Salt Lake City and is a software developer at the U. Emily, the middle, is married and is an environmental engineer in the Denver area. Forrest, the youngest, lives in Salt Lake and is a floor manager at a local retail store. Monica, a science teacher at Highland High School, and I have been married 34 years.