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Build IT Together is all about two things: IT and community, and we’re aiming to bring these together under our monthly blog series, 12 for 12.

By interviewing 12 IT leaders over 12 questions, we’ll get to know each other a little better, and get unique perspectives on the industry. This month, we meet with Tom Perso of Trillium Staffing in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

What is your official title?

Director of IT for Trillium Staffing

What does “IT” mean to you?

IT is how our business runs—as a staffing company, our product is our people—they’re our livelihood. The staffing arena is a saturated market, so we need to be agile using technology to help our internal staff, along with the client and candidate. IT shouldn’t a barrier, but a mechanism to help drive our business.

What daily task in your job do you find most fulfilling?

Aligning business needs with technology. Since we deal with people, the landscape changes quickly—new generations of employees will drive what we need to do as a company. If IT doesn’t keep up, drive with innovation will fail. IF you think about people, they’re our biggest variable to work with, so we need to adjust and realign quickly, so I enjoy putting systems in place that are robust and stable, so we can spend time developing tools and processes that can quickly adjust to our candidates.

You can choose one common IT problem that you can instantly solve with the snap of your fingers, every time. What problem would that be?

Adoption of new tools. I talk about this idea all the time—think about building a house. IT develops a hammer to help drive the nails. Then we make a better, more efficient hammer. Then we develop an air nailer. All these things are amazing, but if your workers don’t understand how to use the new tools effectively, they’ll stick with how they’ve built houses previously. It’s about bringing the understanding together—the time involved to understand the new tool will greatly help them in the long run.

Conceptually it seems simple, but in reality it’s a giant hurdle. Changing the perception of IT from a roadblock to a driver of innovation. The flipside to that is that if IT doesn’t understand what’s going on with the workers building the house, we still will develop tools we think are great, but it doesn’t help them. It’s about opening the communication lines in both directions and understanding where everyone is at.

If you could instill one habit in every one of your customers and colleagues, what would that be?

Think outside the box. Look at the problem, but before attempting anything, pull yourself out of the weeds and up to 10,000 feet. See what else you can change to make a more holistic change instead of a minor one. Take that with care though—sometimes if you live too high in the clouds, you’ll never get anything done.

We hate short-term solutions—in reality, sometimes you have to settle for the band-aid solution, but if you have the time, think outside the box.

What’s one step that you never miss when taking on a large project?

Honestly, I’d build on what I said earlier about thinking outside the box. Maybe you can do this one thing really well—it’ll be on time, on-budget, but if it doesn’t really align with what the company needs, it may not be taken on very well. Again, you need to pull away and look at it holistically. Even then I advise caution, because you can find yourself in “analysis paralysis” mode, if your scope is too big.

We don’t use big workflow charts like GANTT—I think those are the most evil thing. We really enjoy using Trello. It’s good, not only for planning a project, but it’s easy to jump in and jump out. Oftentimes, spitball ideas that we’ll throw in Trello will actually develop other, larger projects.

What has been your most memorable support issue in IT?

I’m more of a hands on, mechanical type IT person. I like hardware, and making things that shouldn’t work, actually work! We had some Cisco Call Managers that ran on HP hardware and the power supplies kept blowing out.

Cisco had ended support on them, so finding a power supply was quite difficult. And, since the design of the power supply was flawed, the problem was never really fixed.

I found a power supply from a higher end HP server, and with a little bit of drilling and modifying the mounting brackets, I was able to fit the supply into the server and never had another failure. Gotta think outside that box!

Can you tell us more about your background, or a passion you have outside of IT/technology?

As I said, I’m kinda mechanical, so I’m a car guy. Now that I have a family, I’ve toned my car adventures down a little, but I do have a 1989 BMW 325is that I race in autocross events, and I love tinkering with that.

On my family side, I have a great wife, three kids—two daughters and my son is adopted from Uganda. We’re in the process of adopting another boy from China. We’ve taken all of our kids on all of our adoption trips as well—we all went to Uganda, and we’ll all be going to China. Having that experience of bringing our young children to foreign countries and experiencing that has been really awesome.

What was your favorite 1990s (or fading) piece of technology?

Tossup between a modem and the old 100mb ZIP drives (parallel port ones too, not the USB ones!).

I remember seeing the racks of modems for dial up providers and just being amazed by it. And, it was so frustrating to get the busy signal when you were trying to get onto IRC!

We take blazing internet speed and gobs of portable storage for granted these days. But, it was all built on these pioneering technologies.

What is the Medieval equivalent of an IT professional?

I’ll put a twist on this, but I am going to say Viking. They took large risks to expand their land, were innovative with ships, and were fierce people! But, they helped drive exploration and ship design.

If you could have lunch with any technologist/innovator that’s ever lived who would it be?
Linus Torvalds. I’m a linux guy, so it’s an easy question. But, not only is he a great software developer, he’s quite the character and I think it would be fun to sit down and just talk shop.

Is step 1 always, “turn it off, then on”?


If you could make one piece of SciFi or futuristic piece of technology a reality, what would it be?

I’m not a sci-fi guy, but I think it would be great if you could make your own drone style device for people. Teleportation has been mentioned before, but isn’t the fun in your trip the journey? I want to strap into something that I can fly up into the air and fly (as the crow) to my destination. I live close to work, so it would be a quick trip!

Tom, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Tom on Twitter and Linkedin, and be sure to check out more on Trillium Staffing! For more tech stories and news, visit Newmind Group and Build It Together online.