12 for 12: Bob Waltenspiel

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 Bob Waltenspiel, one of the hosts at the IT in the D podcast!

What is your official title?

Co-founder of IT in the D, and Channel Account Manager for Cisco systems.

What does “IT” mean to you?

It’s funny because IT in itself is a scary word, but when you break it down it’s pretty much anything electronic we work with these days—no matter what it is, chances are there’s a data center behind it, and everything is becoming more user-friendly. From streetlights to your TV to your phone, IT is everywhere, and someone needs to keep all of that running.

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

I’m in sales, so you could say I’m coin-operated. The easy answer for me would be “helping customer’s problems,” or something like that, but let’s be honest: it’s about making quota! To add on that though, I pride myself on straying from the status quo—bringing a different flare to my service. I may be selling the same “lunchbox,” but I can spin it in my own way! That personal element is rewarding to me.

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?

Question of the decade! Really though, I think while we’re living in a time when it seems that 90% of IT problems are PEBCAK errors, and people are so afraid of tinkering with their devices! Whether that be modifying preferences on your phone or tweaking the settings on a modem. It’s become so complicated that so many people are disinterested in understanding how their everyday technology works.

Even if you just have a slight interest in technology, suddenly you’re playing IT support for everybody on the block. It’d be a relief for me if that petty tech support went away and electronics could simplify the means to install, configure and support.

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

Being in sales, it’s a bit different obviously, but it’s all about remembering the relationship going on. You need to work on a personal level and avoiding being that sales robot. It’s not even about taking each customer out for a beer—just that personal connection. Everybody clocks out and goes home. Bring more to the table than that pitch. IF you don’t genuinely like talking to people, you’re gonna have a bad time!

What’s been your most memorable experience since working in IT?

Well, since working on IT in the D anyway, it’d be the time a gentleman came up to shake hands with me and Dave, and said “hey, I met someone at your last event and got a job that pays more than anything I’ve ever had in my life. You saved my house, you probably saved my marriage, and I just wanted to say thank you.”

If that doesn’t get you up in the morning, then you’re blood isn’t flowing. When all you’re there to do is grab a beer at a tech meetup, and that’s the byproduct? That’s crazy.

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

Involve the end-user. Get their input- what I’ve found is that most projects will fail if you don’t get buy-in from the end-user. Get in with them early and often, and make sure they feel like they’re a part of the process, that’s the key.

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

I’m married and have three daughters. I’ve been DJing events and bars since I was 20—I’m 42 now—today I mostly DJ for German Oktoberfest events and friends’ birthdays, but fun to keep up with the music and equipment as a hobby.

The funny story is two of my daughters are 9 and 11, and can you imagine being in 6th grade and having your father DJ your school dance? We laugh about that a lot—I used to DJ the Post Bar and the Blackfinn, but now that I’m old, I’m doing elementary school dances and German polka festivals.

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

The Nintendo 64! I’m an upgrade junkie—I upgrade all my stuff every two years, but if you look right on top of my TV stand, you’ll see the Nintendo 64 right next to the Amazon Echo and the Microsoft Kinect, and it gets as much love as all of them. I’m never giving it up. WCW/NWO Revenge is in there right now.

What is the Medieval equivalent of an IT professional?

I’m not much of a medieval guy, but I’m gonna go with the blacksmith. Individual pieces of technology don’t often do much alone, but when you put them all together, they can make cool things. It’s like taking a piece of iron—with some wood and leather for a handle, you’re on your way to a sword. IT is the same way, nothing is out-of-the-box anymore. You need to create your own solutions.

I’ll also say coders are like scribes of today! You’re writing down a language, and it has a way of becoming larger than life—whether that’s a story or it’s code.

If you could have lunch with any technologist/innovator that’s ever lived who would it be?

…for me it’s more like who I wanna have a beer with! And that really changes things—I wouldn’t want to have a beer with Bill Gates, I’d want to have one with Steve Ballmer. Ballmer and Mark Cuban, now those types are my kind of people. I bet Dave will name folks like Gates or Nikola Tesla, but I want to hang with the folks who walk into a room and just completely own the place. There’s a laundry list of names, but I’d start there.

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

You know I always joke about that, but I never do it! Usually for me, step 1 is Google it. Step 2 is “call Dave.” You’d be amazed at how quickly you can find a solution on Google! We’re all dealing with the same problems, and the answers are out there if you look for them.

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

Teleportation instead of air travel. Or maybe “Ming’s Ring” from Flash Gordon—get hot chicks to like you just from pointing a ring at her? That’s where it’s at.

 
Bob, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Bob and Dave every week on their Detroit-oriented tech podcast, IT in the D, and give them a shout-out on Twitter! Check out co-host Dave Phillips’ 12 for 12 next, and see things from the other side of the IT in the D! For more tech stories and news, visit Newmind Group and Build It Together online.

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About

Garrett Wenger is a storyteller and marketer at Newmind Group, and a native to Kalamazoo, MI. He received his BFA in English Literature from Western Michigan University, and has heritage in Southwest Michigan’s creative writing community. He published his first book of poetry in late 2013, and he has been featured in numerous literary journals.