Interview With Ron den Otter, Senior Business Analyst

For our Computronix employee interviews, we sit down with people from all levels of our company and ask them about their jobs, and what it’s like working for Computronix.

Oftentimes companies refer to their employees as a “team,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every employee is going to buy into the team mentality. Frequently, there will be people who prioritize their personal success over their co-workers’, or allow their egos to run rampant. However, Senior Business Analyst Ron den Otter says that not only is this not the case at Computronix, but in fact, in his opinion, “the sense of commitment to the team is our greatest strength.”

However, it wasn’t always that way for him. He’s worked for Computronix off and on for about 20 years total, first starting in 1979. He’s been in his current role since 2009. He describes himself as an extremely competitive person, but it was a process of learning and growing to be able to use that constructively. “Now, I look for mutual wins. I’m still competitive, but I don’t like crossing the finish line alone anymore.” This was something Ron learned during his years at Computronix, particularly through having leaders like Herman Leusink around to mentor him and correct him when necessary.

In return, he is now able to be a leader and a mentor to other employees, which he describes as his favorite part of his job, saying that “I love figuring out what people need and how I can help them.” Ron is able to do this in his role as a business analyst because really, the primary responsibility is to “figure out what clients really want and need, and try to ensure we can provide a win for them, as well as for us.” He has a PhD in counselling, and he explains that being a business analyst requires “basically the same skillset.”

More than anything else, what has kept him at Computronix over the years is the way that “Computronix chooses to put people first.” It really does feel like a team, and on any good team, “nobody wins if everybody doesn’t win.”

For our Computronix employee interviews, we sit down with people from all levels of our company and ask them about their jobs, and what it’s like working for Computronix.

When starting any new job, there’s a learning curve involved in becoming familiar with the company, with your new position, and learning where or who to go to for help. To understand how Computronix tries to make this transition as smooth as possible, we spoke to Lori Bluemel three months into working for Computronix as a Senior Business Analyst – just long enough to have caught up with the learning curve, but still have the transition process fresh in her mind.

She says that there were two main reasons why she chose to join Computronix. The first is because the company’s needs lined up extremely well with her skills and experiences. She has an extensive background in both the government and technology industries, making it very much a win-win partnership between her and Computronix. The second is that two longtime colleagues and friends of hers, Doug and Laura Fairchild, both work for Computronix, and Lori knew that if it was the kind of environment that they enjoyed, she would also be able to thrive. For her, it was “all about the people – hard work is easy if you’ve got the right people, and good work is more challenging if you’ve got the wrong people.”

Even with industry experience, there was still a lot to learn about the specific capabilities and requirements of our POSSE product. But Lori found that her co-workers constantly made time to help her. “People listen here,” she says, “Ask a question, you always get an answer.”

In her opinion, this is because there is a unique environment in place at Computronix “that permeates throughout the company, starting from the top.” She describes it as “treating everyone like individuals, not just numbers…like people, not just employees. We all care about each other, and everyone comes together when someone needs help.”

For our Computronix employee interviews, we sit down with people from all levels of our company and ask them about their jobs, and what it’s like working for Computronix.

Dave Leusink is a very prepared person. Sitting at the meeting table in his office, he presented a copy of the notes he had written for this interview, creating an outline for how he would answer each question. He gives the impression that he’s a man who likes to have a strategy, and one who puts a lot of thought into every decision he’s faced with. Obviously every CEO is responsible for making decisions about the strategic direction of their company, and Computronix is no different. I sat down with Dave to learn what his approach to leadership is, how he has been able to take the reins from the former CEO, who was also the company founder, and what his vision is for the future of Computronix.

In some ways, Dave becoming CEO is a logical continuation of the many roles he has served within the company since 1991. He first started working part-time at Computronix as a teenager in high school. After graduation, he became a full-time employee for two years before deciding to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in Management Information Systems) at the University of Alberta, and coming back during the summers. Since graduating with distinction in 1999, he has worked full-time for Computronix. He received an Executive MBA from Athabasca University, taking evening courses. Asked about all the jobs he has done over the years, he rattles off a fairly lengthy list: “Developer, Database Administrator, Team Lead, Analyst, Project Manager, Quality Manager, Finance & Admin Manager, Vice President of Business Development, and U.S. Regional Manager.”

There are few others who can claim such a variety of experience within Computronix, but beyond just doing a lot of jobs, this vast array of experience provided both Dave and the CEO at that time, Herman Leusink, an understanding of the skills and interests that Dave possesses. As he describes it, “that process allowed me to understand that I love the big picture, I thrive on understanding how all the pieces fit together, and I even enjoy aspects like policy and culture.” This big-picture focus was part of what gave the elder Leusink the confidence to turn over the reins of the company in 2013.

Any time there is a transition of leadership, there is potential for uncertainty and even upheaval. When the departing CEO is the company founder and the guiding force for the company for the past 34 years, as in Herman Leusink’s case, the turmoil is only amplified. With those concerns in mind, Dave strategically met with many employees, “Just taking the time to listen to people, getting to know them, and sharing my vision. It really helped smooth things over. We didn’t have anyone that was lost through the process, and in fact, people were excited and engaged with our direction.”

Dave is very passionate about these one-on-one conversations with staff, even listing it as a favorite part of the job. They’re also an obvious priority for him, as “for three years straight, I’ve met with every single person [at Computronix].” Beyond the benefit that it provided during the CEO transition, Dave says that meeting with individuals is crucial to being aware of how he can support his employees, explaining that “I do love the business planning aspects of my job, but it’s easy to get disconnected from day-to-day stuff, and the projects people are on, because I’m not involved in the vast majority of the meetings that happen around here.” And business strategy aside, “it’s just a lot of fun, and it helps me understand the great quality of people we have!”

Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing since stepping in. Not too long ago, Dave and the Computronix staff embarked on the adventure of their lives, building a new corporate headquarters in Edmonton! In the fall of 2014, when Computronix had to move in, the building was far from finished. Despite assurances from the contractors that it would be completed on time, there were power, heat and lighting challenges on move-in day. Organizationally, it was a major headache. Despite the chaos, Dave says that during this hectic growth and building phase, the most important aspects were to, “keep connected with people, from a communication perspective; and to go above and beyond to make them feel like they matter to us. The people we have are so wonderful that they stepped up whenever they saw a need, and they took care of it. So it was a team effort, overcoming the challenges of that time.”

Continue reading Dave’s interview in Part 2

For our Computronix employee interviews, we sit down with people from all levels of our company and ask them about their jobs, and what it’s like working for Computronix.

This is Part 2 of an interview series. Please read Part 1 first

There are many ways in which Computronix is not a typical company, some of which are obvious, others much less so. One simple, subtle thing you might notice if you walk around either of the two offices is that there are no titles displayed on anyone’s desk or office door. Staff members’ business cards are also devoid of job titles or position. That’s an intentional choice based on the role leadership plays within Computronix. Simply put, “the focus of leaders is that you’re there to serve clients and serve the teams in the organization. Not ‘you have this lofty role, and everyone’s supposed to be serving you,’” as Dave explains.

One might think that the most important factor for a business to consider would be the quality of its product, or the ability to make a profit, or perhaps providing the best quality of service. According to Dave though, “hiring is the most important decision that we make.” Further emphasizing that point, he asserts that “for us to be world-class we have to have people in each role that are gifted at their jobs, and are excited and energized about them.”

Sometimes that means that the person’s role within the company may have to change as they and the management team above them learn and discover the person’s strengths, aptitudes and abilities. In Dave’s mind, a job at Computronix isn’t just a static position, “it’s a discovery process, and so we don’t desire to pigeonhole anyone, but really to have a working relationship with our people… they’re not locked into a specific area. It’s about caring for people and their growth.”

It’s interesting to note that despite the many changes that have taken place at Computronix during Dave’s relatively short tenure as CEO; including moving the office’s location, hiring dozens of new staff, and acquiring several new clients, there are some things that have definitely not changed. He names two of the core aspects of the company that have remained constant throughout his time in leadership: the central values and the passion for research and development. Regarding the values, he firmly stated that “when we talk about how people matter, it’s not a slogan or something written on the wall, it’s just a central belief that people have value, and that they deserve to be treated with respect. That has not changed since the beginning, and I believe it at my core. It will not change while I’m around. I think if we ever lost that, we’d lose what makes Computronix special.”

Whereas values can be lived out by every employee, research and development is generally carried out by a specific department. However, there is no R&D team listed on the organization chart, so where does that emphasis come from? A few places, Dave says. First off, “various people are directly involved in research and development, but they’re also involved in projects.” Secondly, “a lot of the research and development is done inside of project teams, across the company,” meaning that employees are given the freedom, when faced with a difficult problem that we have not solved before, to create a unique solution.

Problem solving is something that is talked about a lot at Computronix. Employees seem to not only find solutions, but they actively seek out problems to solve. The reason for this is simple: “we care deeply and we like challenges, so problem-solving comes naturally,” according to Dave. The company mindset isn’t to see challenges as obstacles, but rather as “a really exciting opportunity…to figure out how you’re going to solve the problem.” One could even say that problems are seen as opportunities that allow the company to progress.

Asked about his goals as Computronix makes forward progress, Dave takes a moment to think, “Basically, the goal is: in whatever we’re doing, we have to stay sustainable. We want to create sustainable, healthy growth. We see enormous market opportunity for our products and we want to take advantage of that, but only at the rate where we’re not burning people out, and the rate that we’re able to find the right new people. That leads us to explore other opportunities for service delivery and more product improvements and so on.” Pondering his answer for a second, he adds a final comment. “It’s not about a specific revenue or size goal. It’s about our journey as a company.”