Build IT Together’s 12 for 12 series interviews technology professionals who stand out for their innovative thinking and build creative cultures within their organizations. Catch up on previous 12 for 12 interviews here.
This month, we meet with Ed Freed of Service Express, Inc, based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
What’s your title and role within your organization/company?
I’m the Director of IT at SEI, but I kind of see my role as “technology orchestrator”. I lead where things are going, starting with the general IT vision and moving on from there. I build, direct, and manage the IT team, and keep a level of understanding business needs and applying technology to meet those needs.
How do you align IT goals with organizational goals?
The best way we align at SEI on the software side is through our “software-steering committee”. The committee meets monthly to talk about how we can best align software with business priorities, whether that’s just for the current quarter, or for a few quarters out.
On the infrastructure side, we will be implementing a steering committee in the future but until then, it’s still just me aligning to company goals.
What’s one way your organization works that could benefit other organizations?
This is a little cliche, but we hold weekly huddles every Monday morning, and it really works well at getting information shared throughout the organization and putting everyone on the same page—not just within specific teams, but through the entire company. It clarifies the vision and direction that we want to follow on the IT team, and sets a baseline for company culture every week.
If you could pat someone on the back at Service Express, who would that be?
Right now it’s my software team lead. He’s not only created SEI’s entire current software framework, but he has really pulled the team together under a unified perspective while we’ve undergone a lot of change in the last ten months. He’s really been the glue, in many ways, holding the entire team together. He’s also been a big help to me in setting the vision and direction for our software, and he’s responsible for our close knit A+ software team I work with today.
How do you communicate IT wins to the rest of the organization?
We have an all-leaders email communication that generally gets funneled into those Monday morning huddles, but Yammer has also been really successful for that kind of communication.
What’s a dream goal you have for your organization’s IT?
This is big, but one goal is just to get past the 80-20 rule here—80% keep the lights on, 20% innovation. Right now, we’re doing a lot of things to fix infrastructure but even now, we’re moving forward to increase that 20%. I’d love to introduce new technologies like iPads or Chromebooks, but really just increasing the time dedicated to innovation overall would be a great thing.
How do empower your team?
We’ve got a really close-knit team here, and the easiest way to keep them empowered is to hire the right people and support them. Culture is important to that too, and we do a lot of things, both work-related and not, that are more than just a pat on the pack.
We secretly pooled money recently to buy one of our star hardware teammates a new set of Magic: the Gathering cards, for example. We try to find ways like that to show that we care when a team member really steps up to the plate.
What’s something new you hope to try in the next year?
At home, my wife and I are trying to give up sugar, but professionally, one of my big goals is to find a better alternative to regular Windows laptops in the office. It has to be something that’s mobile and works seamlessly with all of our other platforms, and as we move towards more and more web-based services, it’s becoming more and more of a business case to try something like Chromebooks or the Surface line from Microsoft, that are less bulky from an OS perspective.
What do you feel will the be most important topic/trend in IT for the next 3 years?
Cloud migration. It’s obviously been happening for some time, but it’s going to become more and more of a standard thing. There are a lot of people out there who spend 80% of their time using SASS applications who don’t even know they’re cloud users.
The Bonus Round
What are your passions you have outside of IT/technology?
I am very passionate about golf. I’ve made a lot of friends through the sport, and I play in a league most weeks. It’s also a great after-work activity for us at SEI.
Beyond that, my ten-year-old son is really, really getting into fishing. It’s been a real joy for me to work with him and really improve my fishing skill over the past few years. We’ve both improved a lot, and it’s a great way to spend time together and bond.
What’s your go-to spot for food or drink in Kalamazoo?
Food Dance. If my wife and I or my family are going out and nothing’s off the table, that’s our first choice. However, truth be told, having a wife and three kids in today’s day and age, it generally ends up being Culver’s. For the most part, that’s just something that works for the whole family.
What’s a book you’d recommend to every colleague? Why?
Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman. It goes into the idea of emotional resonance with your team, with your organization, being able to really get people on board with what you’re doing, all based in emotion.
How do you get into “the zone”? (music, coffee, etc)
I think it really starts with having that routine. As soon as I leave, and get in the car, I’ve got my music routine: I do about 50% music and 50% listening to audiobooks on my drive in. Once I’m in, I figure out my plan for the day, what my strategy is going to be, get coffee going, and mapping out my day. The most important part, though, is sticking to a routine.
Ed, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Ed on Linkedin, and learn more about Service Express, Inc here! For more tech stories and news, visit Newmind Group and Build It Together online.