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 Hans Erickson of Newmind Group in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
What is your official title?
Happiness Engineer at Newmind Group—that’s the title on all my emails right now, but I look forward to settling on something more “my own.”
What does “IT” mean to you?
The interesting thing about that term is it’s probably time to revise it again- a long time ago it was MIS, management information systems, and now it’s information technology. Really, with the consumerization of tech, the blend we have right now would be aptly called “BT” or Business Technology. I think when people refer to IT, they’re thinking of the technology that provides support for business purposes, but there’s a lot of blending with the personal technology, too.
The whole field has changed so rapidly that a lot of the standard phrases should be reevaluated- and I think that’s one of them.
What daily task in your job do you find most fulfilling?
Learning new things is the most fulfilling for me! Practical experience, for as long as I can remember, has always been more important to IT work than school learning- by the time a university comes up with a new curriculum, the material is all out of date! You have to continuously be learning, and want to continuously learn, to be successful in this field.
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?
The issue I have with that question is there’s really no problem that remains consistent over time- I like the belief that people in IT today need to dual-degree if they want to get into the field of technology, and those degrees are computer science and psychology. The rate of change frightens most people today, and just helping people adapt and evaluate new technology to determine what’s most effective- I can’t think of any “fingersnap” solution there, but just staying ahead of the curve is important.
What’s one step that you never miss when taking on a large project?
Making sure I clearly understand what the client wants to achieve, from a business perspective- a lot of times, people will come to you and they’ll have a technology kind of defined that they want to explore, and oftentimes I need to have this conversation over what they specifically want to have in the end- sometimes it’s not about technology, it’s about first reducing it to a business process that needs help, and then finding the technology that can assist there.
What has been your most memorable support issue in IT?
The most memorable client work I ever did was spending New Year’s Eve at the Milford Proving Grounds at GM, making adjustments to code so the project didn’t get cancelled- another memorable one was in Helsinki, Finland I locked myself out of the Novell network and had to get a hold of tech support in Provo, Utah at about 4 AM Finland time. It worked out, because in Provo it must’ve been ordinary working hours!
Can you tell us more about your background, or a passion you have outside of IT/technology?
I ride motorcycles- when I can. I’m going to Sturgis this year to ride, and I’ve also tried putting together a couple racecars for a circuit course called “24 Hours of Lemons.” I also have five kids! Most are in college—one of them is in U of M now, and one is in Virginia Tech, and the youngest is still in high school- they’re more than enough to keep me busy.
What was your favorite 1990s (or fading) piece of technology?
Prodigy. It was the beginning of the internet, the mid-90s- the whole world changed right then. It’s interesting today talking to young people who don’t remember a time when the internet didn’t exist. What we now use Google for—not so long ago, you’d have to go to the library and pop open an Encyclopedia Brittanica. It’s kind of humorous to think back on.
What is the Medieval equivalent of an IT professional?
Depends on what century you’d want to go back to, but I’d say a Michelangelo, a Gutenberg, or a Da Vinci. Somebody along those lines who’s exploring things- they were kind of the Larry Page and Steve Jobs of their day!
If you could have lunch with any technologist/innovator that’s ever lived who would it be?
I’d say Malcolm Gladwell. He’s not directly in the industry, but he looks at how human beings react to change, and that’s such a critical part of technology in our modern society. We really need to always be focused on how human beings can absorb, utilize and synthesize technology- not just how to develop it.
Is step 1 always, “turn it off, then on”?
Hah! I guess- that’s what most of your customers are going to try first anyway. They must have learned that somewhere!
If you could make one piece of SciFi or futuristic piece of technology a reality, what would it be?
This is an easy one for me! I’ve wanted this for most of my life: the autonomous car. Google’s finally about ready to do it, and I can’t wait for that day to arrive. I used to watch the Jetsons as a kid, and think that by the time I was grown and had kids, none of them would be driving cars—that’s not the case at all. My generation blew it, apparently!
Hans, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Hans on Linkedin, check out his data retrieval side project GEEPS, and be sure to check out next month’s 12 for 12! For more tech stories and news, visit Newmind Group and Build It Together online.