November's featured IEM alumnus is Hank Odom, AVP Senior Project Manager with Protective Life. Hank has been with Protective Life since January 2007; previously Hank worked with a number of large and small companies in various technology leadership positions. In his current role, Hank finds himself managing a portfolio of large scale projects. Each project that he leads is a multi-year engagement consisting of project teams of over forty-five people and budgets in the multi-million dollar range.
Hank is a member of the second class to go through the IEM program, graduating in 2003. He takes great pride today in knowing that he and his classmates were instrumental in shaping the future direction of the program. Hank found out about IEM through his connections he made during his undergraduate days at UAB. Having graduated with a degree in Management Information Systems, he took four years off before starting his master's work.
Hank found the IEM material to be relevant and was able to use the information he learned directly on his job. His favorite class in the program was Dr. Tanik's Object Oriented Analysis and Design course. He found Dr. Tanik's lectures to be stimulating and very forward looking in terms of technology.
While Hank found the Entrepreneurial series interesting, he really has no interest in starting his own company. What he did find was that the program was able to open doors for him professionally. Hank directly contributes a lot of his career success to the IEM program. In addition he has been able to gain stature in the community, most notably with the local PMI chapter where he serves in various leadership positions.
Hank is married to his wife Kim and they have two children, Sarah who is eight and Tate who is five. Both of his kids are active in playing baseball and softball. Hank is an avid outdoorsman; he enjoys camping and hunting. In addition to being outdoors, Hank loves football, especially U of A football. Luckily for Hank, his team is on top this year, they might actually have a chance against Auburn for once.
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Ron Baldwin graduated from the IEM program in 2005. Ron was no stranger to graduate studies since the IEM program was the third master's degree that he has earned. Ron already had a master's degree in education, as well as one in business administration. It is clear that he enjoys academia, which he calls his hobby.
Interestingly, all three degrees are stored in a closet in his home. When asked why he did not have them displayed, his response was, "I never found wall space that I wanted to hang them on. I completed all of those programs for what I could learn from them. Seeing them hanging on a wall hasn't been very important to me."
Each degree serves as a mile marker in Ron's professional life, as each roughly corresponds to a different career that Ron has undertaken in his thirty-year work history.
"I can remember being asked in grade school what I wanted to be 'when I grew up' and I never had an answer for that question." Ron said. "Through the years, there have been times when I thought that I had some type of final answer to that question, but then every seven or eight years I seem to find something new to challenge me. I suppose that I get bored too easily. For the record, I hope that my current effort in entrepreneurship turns into my next career."
The topic of entrepreneurship brought us back to the IEM program. "I suppose that I might have started my own business even if I hadn't taken the entrepreneurship courses. I own a couple of acres that I had thought about developing. However, I had not thought about a technical venture other than IT contracting. IEM challenged me to actually think through the whole matter and it provided me with the tools to do so as well."
As a co-founder of Facilitaire, Inc., Ron has his sight on growing a business with a lot more potential than merely contracting his IT skills. "We've made our first two sales calls trying to license Requirements-Online™ to customers that need a better approach to documenting business requirements. It has taken a long time to get to this point, but we're finally ready to launch our online service."
"I've had several colleagues ask me about IEM, and I've told them that the program offers a lot of value in strengthening your skills in technical management. I can’t recall ever touting the entrepreneurship aspect of the program since I’m convinced that it isn’t for everyone. However, IEM has so much to offer that entrepreneurship is like 'icing on the cake' – or a contagious disease."
September's featured IEM alumnus is Ray Shaffer, Executive Vice President and Director of Information Technology at Compass Bank. With responsibilities over telecom, operations, distributed systems, IT customer service, IS security, data warehousing, and disaster recovery, Ray's responsibilities at Compass are far reaching. Prior to Compass Bank, Ray served as Director of Technology Management for Regions Bank.
Ray got his start in IT back in the 70's on an IBM mainframe programming in COBOL. Ever since then he has been hooked on technology. To further his knowledge, he obtained a bachelors degree in computer science from Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania back in 1987. Rounding out his academic career Ray graduated from the IEM program in 2008.
One of the biggest challenges that Ray sees amongst workers in IT is getting stuck in a rut. Part of his reason for entering the IEM program was to expand his mind and the way that he approached problems. Ray feels that IEM teaches you to think outside the box and approach problems from different angles.
Ray's favorite class of the IEM program was the entrepreneurship series.[EGR 642- Technical Entreprneurship] In the class he came up with the idea for Summer Breezze - a safe, portable, personal air conditioning system. Unique amongst the other IEM alumni, Ray actually built a functioning prototype of his product while in the program. Ray hopes one day to build a company around his design.
Ray heralds from the steel town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania where he grew up with his five brothers. All of his brothers were athletic and he recalls many great neighborhood football games over the years. Ray’s wife is a retired registered nurse and the logical side of the family. Ray has two sons; one is a police officer living in Montgomery and the other is an analyst working at CTS. Ray's hobbies include working, camping, and radio controlled boating.
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August’s featured IEM alumna is Sandy Brasher. By day, Sandy Brasher is an application software developer with AT&T. However, at the close of her business day, she steps into the roles of mother, daughter, sister and aunt in her close-knit family. On top of all of these many demands on her time and energy, she is a hard-working entrepreneur as well.
For the reader that has not had the pleasure of meeting her, Sandy graduated from the IEM program in 2005. The MSEE was her second degree from UAB with the first degree being a BS in Management Information Systems.
As preparation for this article, several of Sandy's colleagues were tested on their first thoughts about working with Sandy. Phrases such as hard working, smart, talented were intermingled with adjectives such as helpful, positive attitude, and generous.
Ron Baldwin, Sandy's business partner in Facilitaire, Inc. said, "Sandy likes to present herself as being easy-going and soft-spoken – and in many ways that’s the case. What she doesn't show is how strong a person that she is. Even after working with her for several years, she still amazes me with the way that she can lead others without them realizing that she is doing so."
On the benefits of IEM Sandy remains convinced that going through the program was time well spent. In the August 2007 edition of the UAB Graduate Student Newsletter, Sandy shared, "Our time at UAB broadened our professional network. It opened the doors to contacts that we would never have met if we hadn't gone through the IEM pro¬gram. Those relationships are continuing to help us today."
When asked about her time in IEM for this article, her response had not changed from this earlier story. Its validity was demonstrated last month in a local technology conference when the CEO of the sponsoring firm interrupted his opening remarks to say, "Hello Sandy!" She was the only individual that he felt compelled to acknowledge of the fifty or so professionals in the workshop.
Sandy's resume includes over 10 years of experience in software development, database administration and software configuration management. As if these professional challenges were not enough, Sandy operated a successful package delivery business in the Birmingham area several years ago while working full time.
This prior entrepreneurial experience allows Facilitaire to leverage Sandy's first-hand knowledge of the challenges that a startup business faces. Of her contribution to Facilitaire, Ron Baldwin reported, "I can’t imagine having a better business partner. I'll admit that early in our venture, I underestimated Sandy’s skills. But, it didn't take long for me to realize the strong leadership skills that she possesses."