- Seek out leaders to
Your organization will benefit greatly from the experience and wisdom of
these individuals. You will also grow as a leader from the association.
There is an old saying, “never be afraid to employ people smarter than you
are”. I can tell you from first hand experience that this tactic can pay
off for you in ways you never dreamed of.
- It’s not about you
It’s not about you. It’s not about you. It’s
not about you.
- Always treat your
members with respect
As I mentioned earlier, set a schedule and
keep to it. This is just one way of showing respect. Other ways include
soliciting their input and thanking them for it. Follow-up on the input
and use it if appropriate. If not, let them know why, but always make sure
they know that they are important to you and the group.
Work with the young leaders in the organization. Help them to grow and to flourish
as leaders and identify the individuals who can lead after you have gone.
That is one of your primary responsibilities.
- Lead by example
Give back. You must not expect others to do
things that you cannot or would not do yourself. Become involved in the
programs and services that you are asking others to participate in. Be the
one in the lead. That is your job, remember?
Q: What is the value proposition for
We have a host of services that we have
created for Alliance organizations. There are 31 right now and I invite leaders to visitour website to review them. Beyond that, we are a vehicle to provide feedback to our
sponsors and to have the voices of our leaders heard in a substantive way.
(b) Culminis Elite
Our ELITE program is a relatively new
program that we are still in the process of rolling out. In a nutshell, it
allows companies with significant IT Pro populations to create their own, “user
group” and to provide many of the same services and programs that we provide to
the Alliance Members.
(c) Culminis Academics
Like the ELITE program, we are early in the
development process. We are exploring ways for IT Pros to get started early in
their learning experience and to build their skill sets upon a rich foundation
of learning materials and opportunities. Additionally, we hope to create portals
for integration into the workplace as well as provide a conduit to the
community through integration with the Alliance program.
Q: Dave, can you comment on what it is to
be an IT Professional?
A: For a long time now, I have witnessed a
continual decline of the status of the IT Pro through the media. They have been
called nerds and geeks in just about every corner of the globe. It further
distresses me that IT Pros often are satisfied with such titles.
I believe that IT Pros deserve the same
level of respect as other disciplines. They are high quality professionals who
work diligently to deliver quality work and are continually studying and
learning, on a daily basis, to keep up with dramatically changing technologies.
As a corporate CEO, if you come to me as a
geek costing me X dollars an hour, I look at you as a liability. I want you out
of my facility as soon as I can get you out because you ARE a liability to me.
You are costing me money.
However, if you come to me as a Technology
Professional offering solutions to business process issues involving IT, you
become an ASSET to me. You are making
me money. I want you as part of my organization and your value to me goes up
I have been encouraging all IT Pros to see
themselves as Solution Architects. Ron Gandiza of my staff came up with the
term and the idea and I believe it is a solid and profound one. Solution
Architects are professionals who are not only proficient in the technology, but
professional in the understanding of the business practices and premises
driving the technology. Being a certified technology professional is great. It
provides you with an opportunity to be of value to a business for fixing the
ills of networks, servers and pc’s. However, if you combine that ability with
intrinsic business knowledge and understanding, you increase your value
Q: What ten attributes make for a
successful IT Pro?
I’ll discuss all of these later.
Q: How does Culminis support, enhance and
elevate the status of the IT Pro in the workplace and in their communities?
A: First we challenge them to make a
difference, by identifying and becoming involved in community outreach
opportunities. We acknowledge those who step up and make a difference, with
public acknowledgements such as articles publication, recognition letters and
certificates and finally with Thank You programs. They become “IT Heroes”. We
also encourage them to move from “Geek” status (in how they view themselves) to
IT Professionals or Solution Architects. They do this by changing the way they
see themselves first and then expanding their knowledge and abilities to
include understanding and mastery of business practices (as noted earlier).
Q: Describe your responsibilities:
day-to-day, tactically, and strategically.
A: My job is to provide a solid management
foundation for those who do the real work of Culminis to stand upon. My main
job, every day, is to find every possible opportunity to elevate my staff. I
work hard to remove roadblocks and make their jobs easier.
Every day is different. I face a thousand
challenges and decisions every day. Luckily, I am blessed with the finest group
of individuals I have ever had the honor to serve, my staff and the IT Pros we
represent. I work for EVERONE.
Q: Who are your key team members and what
can you share about them?
A: All of my staff are key to me. Each of
them are unique and wonderful in a myriad of ways. Their stories are all
tremendously inspiring and humbling. My tremendous respect for each of them
precludes me from sharing personal anecdotes without their permission, but I
can tell you that I am amazed daily by their intelligence, professionalism and
love for what they do. Each of them has sacrificed a lot to come to Culminis.
All have given up much more lucrative positions to join me. As you are aware,
we are a sponsored, non-profit organization. We can’t offer the kinds of
compensation packages the big companies can. In spite of that, each of these
wonderful people has embraced the vision of changing the world by making a
difference in lives and they work TREMENDOUSLY hard to make that dream a
reality. I am very humbled in their presence.
Q: You have a most remarkable history. What
ten lessons can you share with others and how did these lessons come about?
A: Thank you but I don’t regard myself as
remarkable at all, just blessed. Hmmm, ten lessons. Rather than relate personal
stuff about me, allow me to offer some advice based on a life of considerable
trial and error (mostly error) in which I have been supremely fortunate to have
observed and been taught by some great people and how they lived their lives.
(1) Be open
Open your mind and your heart to those around you. One of the greatest
challenges that we have in life is to overcome our own prejudices. I am not just
speaking of racial or age or other more obvious ones, necessarily. Those are
great detractors of open thinking, growth and communication and are hugely important,
but I am also speaking of how we view ourselves. Open your mind to ideas. Open
your heart to love and compassion. Allow yourself to be filled with the great
goodness that these positive emotions can bring. By doing so, you give yourself
a huge boost in your ability to learn and grow. Martin Luther King had the
extraordinary ability to see the world not as it was, but as it could be. His
life has always served as a shining example to me of how to be open to everyone
and everything around you to expand your mind and achieve your dreams.
(2) Be humble
This one is tough. In a world where we are constantly told to achieve, to market
ourselves and to claw the way to the top, this idea seems to run contrary to
the “natural” order. However, I can tell you that you will achieve everything
in life if you can help enough other people get what they want and not care who
gets the credit. It is not about you. You are not here to have dominion over
others, to rule anyone or wield power. You are here to serve. This was
Einstein’s answer to the question of “Why are we here? He was a great deal more
intelligent than I am…
Nothing is as powerful as a person who never gives up. You can and will achieve
your dreams if you never let them go. Look at Lance Armstrong. In spite of
overwhelming odds that he would even survive, he kept up his drive to achieve
his dream and won the Tour de France 7 times.
This is the most important of all. In all of your dealings with your family,
your friends and your peers, keep an open and loving heart. Not only is it a
good thing to do, it sets the tone for open and honest communications. It
raises your visibility in the eyes of those around you and increases their
respect for you immeasurably. This is not something that you can fake. Either
you embrace it or you don’t. If you try to fake it, it will be seen
immediately. Change your heart first and you can then change your life.
Another extraordinary sidebar to conducting yourself from this premise is that
it is VERY hard to be depressed. You begin to see the good in everyone around
you. Andrew Carnegie at one time had more millionaires working for him than any
one in the world. When asked why that was the case, he said, “I’m a gold
miner”. Puzzled, the interviewer said, “You made your fortune in oil. How can
you call yourself a gold miner?” Mr. Carnegie replied, “When you work with people, it is
a lot like mining for gold. You do not look for the dirt. You look for the
gold.” There is gold in every one of us. If we are open to looking for it, we
will find it. However, you can not see it without a loving heart.
This is a very important trait for a leader. I discussed it earlier but it
is worth revisiting. Passion is one of the most positively contagious
conditions a human can experience. It is the seed that grows great ideas and
delivers on wonderful promises. As Henri
Frederic Amiel said, “Without passion man
is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock
of the iron before it can give forth its spark.”
We all have up
and down days. It is really tough to be up all of the time. I have found that
on those days that it is hardest, I benefit from seeing myself at my best. Full
of energy and passion, loving what I do and those around me. This image always
helps me to get off my butt and get things moving in a positive and productive
way. I had a wonderful teacher early in life named Lawton Addington who once
said to me, “Success is made in cans and Failure is made in can’ts”. That
simple saying stayed with me and inspires me even today, after all these years.
First, Forgive Yourself. ALL of
us do things that we regret, are ashamed of or just embarrassed about. While
they may not seem in retrospect to be that serious, each of us carries around
that baggage day to day. That weight can pull you down, reduce your
effectiveness, create fears and limit your ability to succeed and to inspire
others. Consequently, the first thing you have to do is to sit down with
yourself and have a frank discussion about who you are, where you are and how
you got there. You are who you are through the experiences that you have been
through. That includes the mistakes. Drop the baggage! Forgive yourself and
start every day with a clean slate. In fact, practice this on an hourly basis
if you have to. You will find that a remarkable thing will start to happen. You
will find yourself making fewer and fewer mistakes as your confidence grows and
you will begin to achieve things you never dreamed you could achieve. John
Steinbeck said, “It
is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” You
have to expect it of yourself before others will look to you for it.
Second, Forgive Others. This is another tough one. It is easy to be angry and to hold grudges. Well, I want to challenge
you to take a tougher and higher road. Forgive EVERYONE who has ever wronged
you…and do it on a continuing basis. Yes it is tough, but I can tell you from
personal experience that if you can do this, it will elevate you in ways you
can’t begin to imagine.
In January of this year, I was sitting at a table in Prague. At the table with
me were some of my fellow Microsoft MVPs. On my right were two individuals and on
my left were two more. The individuals on my left were Arab and Israeli,
respectively. On my right were individuals from Russia and the Czech Republic,
respectively. The very fact that we were all together at one table was
remarkable enough but here at this table were individuals who are regarded as
mortal enemies. However, there was no animosity between
any of us. All of us were laughing and sharing information, enjoying each
other’s company and deepening friendships. Much of the anger and acrimony that
we see in the media is fostered by individuals who have lost the ability to
forgive. That is a travesty. Without forgiveness, there is no hope for mankind.
First, in yourself. There is no limit to accomplishment if you truly
believe that you can accomplish something. There are countless examples in the
history of the human condition where individuals have overcome unbelievable
odds and succeeded in the face of experts who said it could not be done.
Second, in the value of others. Every person is valuable. As you go through
life, there are a multitude of individuals who support you, interface with you
and serve you on a regular basis. Each of them from your significant other to
the waiter/waitress who served you lunch today are valuable, caring and intelligent
people who have value. Believe in the value of others and it will serve you
well. Believe in a higher purpose for your life. We are all here to achieve
that purpose and it is your job to seek it out. Sometimes it will find you but
trust me, it is there. You are a unique individual of great value here to
achieve great things. These are defined by your opportunity and circumstance.
Seize the opportunity every day and make the most of it.
one. It is our nature to be suspicious and distrustful. This is largely because
we have allowed others to run our lives. That statement may surprise you. You
say, “I run my own life!” I say that every time you lose your temper, distrust
another person or allow yourself to hate someone because of the color of their
skin, their political affiliation, place of birth or religious conviction (or
lack of); you have surrendered control to someone else. You have given over
control of yourself to those you malign, hate, suspect etc. Only YOU can
control how you feel, think and act. Take responsibility for your own actions,
your thoughts and your life. You cannot be a leader of others if you do not
have control of yourself.
As I discussed
earlier, it is great to be certified on a technology. It shows that you have
done the work and persisted to be the best you can be. I encourage IT Pros to
also learn business processes and keep their technology skills current and
sharp. This also includes sharing your expertise and mentoring others to raise
the quality of ALL IT Pros. You elevate yourself when you lift up others.
Q: What key events in your life were
defining moments and why?
A: The day I became a Christian because it
gave purpose and value to my life in ways I never dreamed of and is still doing
so after almost 40 years.
The birth of my children because it filled
me with the awesome responsibility I now hold in my hands. Those events created
a humble spirit of service within me that had been missing to that point.
The day that I lost everything that I owned
in a business deal and had to start my professional life over at age 40. That
humbling experience taught me the value of humility, love and forgiveness. It
was one of the best things that ever happened to me in a lot of ways.
The day that I married my wife who has been
my best friend and greatest supporter (NOT an easy task).
The day I escaped death on a motorcycle and
the two+ year recovery period. Because, again, more lessons in humility,
forgiveness and faith.
Q: Dave, just one of your major strengths
is strong leadership. This comes across repeatedly when speaking with others.
How would you define leadership, what are the top ten attributes of good
leadership and how can they be utilized?
On this one, I don’t need ten. Only one attribute
is most important for a leader. If you master this one, you have to have
mastered all of the others.
Give yourself away.
To do this, you have to divest yourself of
that huge ego that you have been cultivating all of these years. It is not
about you. It is about how you can lead others to achieve more than they knew
they could achieve. It is about leading people to self realization and
awareness. It is about changing lives in a positive and powerful way. It is
about making a difference. To do these things, you must master all of the other
things I have discussed and live your life in a new and powerful way.
Live for others, not for yourself.
Character has been defined as what you do
when no one is looking. In large part that is true. It is saying that who you
are in secret is who you really are. I am challenging the leaders in the world
to be who they really are no matter where they are. To do that, you must divest
yourself of the negative baggage and poor habits you have been building and
carrying around all of your life.
The good news is that YOU CAN DO IT and
when you do, the rewards will be tremendous for you and those you lead.
Q: What are the five biggest challenges and
how will they be resolved?
A: Overcoming suspicion has been a major one.
We are truly about trying to make a positive difference in the world and we
have been attacked many times, sometime very aggressively. The only thing we
can do is to continue to work as hard as we can to help everywhere we can. One
of the nicest things that was ever said to me by a manager at Microsoft was,
“Dave, I have met with you on multiple occasions, heard you speak and listened
closely to your words. In every case, I am convinced that all you want to do is
the right thing”.
She is correct.
Q: Choose five topics of your choosing and
A: I really only have one other topic that
I would like to mention if you don’t mind.
I would like to say something about how
Culminis got started.
A couple of years ago, Microsoft rounded up
the leaders of a dozen groups in the US and Canada to
embark on an experiment to develop a way to reach out to the IT Pro community.
I was one of those chosen to participate.
We all met in Redmond and I was
struck by the level of quality and character of the people I was honored to be
a part of. These individuals were the leaders that Microsoft had brought
together to try out the experiment on. Every one of them were high quality
professionals and I was humbled and honored to be part of them. They are listed
on our website and honored as the people who are responsible for Culminis
coming in to being. As we have grown and moved out in to other regions, I have
used the model of this first “Council” to create like bodies in each of the
regions. We have been fortunate to find very similar individuals in the regions
around the world and have made them advisors, as well. The role models of the
original Culminis board has been very beneficial to our success and continued
growth. I want to thank those original members of the IT Pro Council for their
leadership, support and advice. They have been invaluable.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what
three questions would you ask and what would your answers be?
A: I can’t think of anything that has been
missed. You have done an outstanding job with your questions.
Q: Dave, you are making history with
Culminis. We thank you for taking the time to do this interview and sharing
your deeply considered insights, valued wisdom, substantial history and
considerable experience with our audience
A: I am deeply honored to have this
opportunity to have the Culminis message broadcast and humbled by the awesome
opportunity and responsibility we have before us. I greatly appreciate your
time and effort and I thank everyone reading this for their time and attention.
It is my hope that something that I or someone at Culminis has said or done
will positively change someone’s life and inspire them to reach out and change
Let’s make a difference.