September 2008 - Alumni Spotlight - Ray Shaffer

This alumni spotlight was originally shown in the September 2008 IEM Newsletter.

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.

Join Ray on LinkedIn.

August 2008 - Alumni Spotlight - Sandy Brasher

This alumni spotlight was originally shown in the August 2008 IEM Newsletter.

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."

July 2008 - Alumni Spotlight - Kevin Gatgens

This alumni spotlight was originally shown in the July 2008 IEM Newsletter.

July’s featured IEM alumnus is Kevin Gatgens, Programming Team Leader with Infinity Insurance. Kevin has been with Infinity since 2002, where he started as a Java programmer. In his current role, Kevin finds himself leading a team of developers to coordinate releases and maintenance patches of Infinity’s flag ship rating software. In addition to his role as a team leader, Kevin has brought a number of technological innovations to Infinity, including revolutionizing the way they generate policy documents.

Having graduated back in May, Kevin is a member of the newest class of IEM alumni. Kevin states that the greatest value he received from the program was learning how to manage projects, getting unstuck from his current way of thinking, and igniting the entrepreneurial flame. His favorite class in the program was software engineering (See full course offerings here), here he was able to refresh his memory of how “it is supposed to be done” and immediately apply the training to his day job. He was surprised by the diversity of the clients, which lead to some interesting discussions when he was vetting his business ideas.

Kevin feels that the value proposition of the IEM program is two-fold, depending on your background. If you are from corporate America, then you will learn how to manage projects and the full business life-cycle, ensuring your continued success. If you come from an entrepreneurial background, then you will learn how to take your idea and turn into a fully functional company.

Since entering the program Kevin has caught the entrepreneurial bug. He sees a great future in the internet and is exploring several web based opportunities. Once such venture is BHMTraffic. BHMTraffic uses Twitter to aggregates real time traffic information gathered from its user community. This site allows access and updates from your mobile phone. Stuck in traffic? You can simply text the site with an update or check to see where the problem lies.

Kevin lives in Trussville with his wife Tiffany and their new son Jack. Being a new father, Kevin spends a lot of time with his son and loves blogging about him as well.

Join Kevin on LinkedIn.

June 2008 - Alumni Spotlight - John Giordano

This alumni spotlight was originally shown in the June 2008 IEM Newsletter.

June’s featured IEM alumnus is John Giordano, Vice President – Information Security with SunGard. John has been with SunGard since 1989, serving in five different roles over his distinguished career. In his current role, John finds himself managing the information security program for SunGard Financial Systems North American MIS operation.

As you might imagine, John has a passion for security. He holds two professional certifications including; CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and GSEC (SANS Security Essentials Training). John is also a member of several industry groups and associations including the Birmingham based InfraGard.

Having graduated last month, John is a member of the newest class of IEM alumni. John states that the greatest value he received from the program was learning to re-evaluate yourself as a company. He now looks at the value proposition that he brings to his employer. In addition John learned that he doesn’t have to hit a homerun, i.e. the next Google, in order to start a rewarding and profitable business.

John is married with three kids, two sons and a daughter. He takes a very active role in supporting his children, coaching his daughter’s soccer team, and shuttling everyone to and fro practice. John’s eldest son is about to graduate from high school and they are currently heavily involved in the college search. John has a number of hobbies including rock climbing, scuba diving, and snow skiing.

John, being the entrepreneur that he is, owns a condo in Mexico Beach, Florida. He and his wife self manage the property and its website The website features additional properties in the area as well as all the info that you would need to book a stay.

Join John on LinkedIn.