Alumni Spotlight: Bob Woolverton Feb 2014
(ringing, then Bob says hello).
IEM: Hi this is Cassidy Cash, is this Bob Woolverton?
Bob: Yes, hi!
IEM: Is this an ok time to talk about the Alumni spotlight?
IEM: Tell me a little about yourself. I think I met you at Global Entrepreneurship Week, didn’t I?
IEM: You told me then what you do, but tell me again what you do and what part IEM played in that.
Bob: I’ve been a computer programmer for 30 years now. I started at the beginning of the golden age where automation was key (inaudible). It was good work, fun work and rewarding work. I elected at some point to stay on the technical track. I got to a point where I began to rethink that [choice]…the technical track will lead you to a place where you can get stuck…it’s hard to move up if you can’t get a management position, and it’s hard to move out and deliver the same value, to get the same compensation. So I was looking for an education track. I looked at MBA for a long while, and a friend of mine invited me to hear Dale speak at a career assistance network event…this one was actually at a church. (talks briefly about the location, the actual church)
IEM: Ok, so you heard his presentation and I’m sure he mentioned that he teaches that kind of stuff as part of his coursework at IEM, is that what intrigued you to look in to IEM?
Bob: No, I just went ahead and signed up right there.
IEM: Oh, right there? Ok!
Bob: I went home and enrolled.
IEM: Wow! That’s great! When you started the program, were you happy with what you were learning. You talked about not wanting to get stuck in the technical vacuum, and expand your options professionally. Were you able to do that?
Bob: Oh absolutely. For me, you get out of it what you put into it. I was just at a place in my life where I was ready to pour myself into something, so I got a lot back out of it. The whole program focuses on value. It just comes up over and over again. It starts with human value. It’s something you don’t see, or I don’t see, in a whole lot of business teaching. It resonated with me to my core to have someone come to me and say “you are valuable” and here’s a master's program, in an engineering department, that starts with human value.
IEM: That’s rare, I guess, from the area you were in to hear the human value?
Bob: Yeah, and the field of computer programming, we call it IT now, has evolved to a point where it’s a lot less rewarding in my mind because there’s a lot we do that’s not IT, really.
IEM: That concept that you get out of it what you put into it comes up a lot. I have several people say that…but for someone that’s new to IEM, or doesn’t know what that means as far as what we do here at IEM, can you share something from your experience that was something tangible you got out of IEM for your efforts?
Bob: Well, I don’t know if this is tangible or not, but at the end of the first semester, one of the best things I got was a face to face evaluation from Jennifer Skjellum where she said, "Bob, you’re a great guy, but you have to work on your self-confidence."
And I talked to a couple of my friends about that and they said, you know, you have to appreciate someone that will look at you and talk to you like that. So I have been and as part of that, it's always been that I shied away from senior management...
Bob: ...and I’ve worked on it and gotten over it, and a lot of that has to do with the communication skills we learned at IEM. Just don’t be afraid to tell management what you’re thinking and express yourself clearly. And it’s paid off.
IEM: So your networking within your company has seen an improvement?
Bob: Not so much within my company, but outside my company. I now regularly engage with people that are senior executives and I do it confidently.
IEM: After you graduated, how did you take what you learned and use it? Did you start a company outside of your current position?
Bob: Well, it’s fairly close to that. The whole notion of value was preeminent in what I learned in IEM. I was looking around at the work I do and I noticed that there is value that’s created, and it’s never delivered to the customer and we never get paid for that value. I was able to talk with some folks about it, and I don’t know how to say this, since it’s going out on the internet,(laughter)
but in any event, it looks like it may lead to a viable company.
IEM: Wow, so the confidence that you got out of IEM helped you to broker this relationship?
Bob: That, and the focus on value.
IEM: To your customer?
Bob: Yeah. It’s not a sin if someone wants to pay you for something that you’ve created that’s valuable.
Bob: Especially. If that’s a new product that’s better than the old product at a lower price that’s a very compelling business model.
IEM: Well, I’m excited I think what you’re saying is really going to resonate with a lot of our readers/listeners. I’ll tell you, the last section of questions that we like to ask are “What would you pick out, if you were to pick out the ideal person to go through IEM, who is it that you flag down and say You, you’re the person that needs to check out this degree. What is your ideal IEM client?”
Bob: It would be me, 15 years earlier.(Laughter)
IEM: Ok, so someone that doesn’t want to be stuck in a technical hole, that wants to have those options available?
Bob: Well you may want to be stuck in a technical track, that may be just right for you, but you owe it to yourself to make that a conscious decision earlier on instead of blind decisions. Had I taken this 15 years ago, I have software that I was developing back then that I could’ve turned into a company. I had another business I did on the side on the weekend that I could have turned into a company, and I just never thought about.
IEM: Well the last questions I ask are fun questions: Are you reading a book right now, and if so, what is it?
Bob: Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson.
It goes through the team building and leadership strategies that he applied to lead the basketball teams that he coached to 11 championship games.
IEM: Cool! Well, we will get that link up on the IEM website for anyone that might want to check that book out. And the last question we have is: For anyone visiting IEM for the first time, we have several IEM clients that come in from out of town, out of the country sometimes. If this is their first time to Birmingham, what place should they be sure to see?
Bob: The Civil Rights Institute.
IEM: You are the third person I’ve interviewed consecutively that has said that. I will definitely be taking your advice, because I haven’t seen it yet, and I’m sure some others will too. Thank you so much for your time today, and for doing the interview. We wish you the best. Thank you.
Bob: Thank you.
You can check out the book Bob is reading, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success here at this link, and if you want to check out The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, you can learn more at this link.
Connect with Bob on LinkedIN