Interview With Andy Patterson, Tech Lead

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.

At Computronix, a strong emphasis is placed on building personal relationships – not just between co-workers, but also between employees and clients. When clients trust that the people providing them with a service are trying to provide a win-win, and not just look out for their own interests, it is easier to work with them. Because of the value Computronix places on the client relationship, we work together to find the solution that is most beneficial for both parties. That’s why Andy Patterson says that the thing he is proudest of at Computronix is “the relationships I’ve built with clients and coworkers.”

Andy says that the relational foundation also allows employees to directly communicate with clients to “understand their core business needs and provide them with a system that solves their specific problems,” rather than a broad system that may or may not be able to help them.

He describes one smaller client that he worked for, where he was able to take them from a completely paper-based system to an online system that was much faster, more convenient and more efficient for everyone. Although Andy’s regular job is Tech Lead, because of the small size of that particular project, he was able to perform in a wide range of roles, from Tech Lead to Developer to Business Analyst. Because he was the central point of contact between the client and Computronix, he was able to build a strong relationship with them and the project was more successful because of it.

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.

It has been 24 years since Chris Stolte first started at Computronix as a student working a summer job. In that time, he has graduated from university, been hired on as a full-time staff, worked as a Developer, a Project Manager, and for the last 3 years, has been an Operations Manager. Obviously a lot has changed, both for him personally and for the company, which is nearly six times larger than it was when he started.

In every project he has a part in, Chris’s first priority is always “taking care of people.” He says that he’s most successful in his role when he’s “Ensured that there are no roadblocks in anyone’s way,” meaning that both the client and Computronix staff have everything they need to be successful.

Chris describes one particularly challenging project several years ago, where he was personally able to make a difference for a client. The original project manager suffered a massive heart attack and passed away partway through the project.  This created a major setback for the project, to the point where “it was almost impossible for it to succeed.” Chris stepped into the leadership role and worked with the client to rework the schedule and the overall approach. Not only did the project end up on-time and on-budget, Chris proudly asserts that “we were able to hold on to our core values throughout.”

Despite his many years here, he shared that he still enjoys coming to work each day and that things still feel new and fresh and exciting. “There’s lots of interesting challenges every day,” he explains, “you’re always able to learn and grow.” For him, there has definitely been a lot of learning. “Everything I know about the software industry, I’ve learned here. I’ve learned a lot about myself. Really, what haven’t I learned at Computronix?”

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.

Interestingly, although Herman Leusink is the founder of Computronix and led the company its first 34 years, he has been passed up as the longest continually employed member of Computronix by Jim den Otter. Jim started with Computronix in the early 80’s, and has been a fixture at the company ever since. One could hardly publish a series of interviews with Computronix employees and neglect to talk to Jim, so we sat down with him to hear his story, and the story of the company along with it.

In the early days of Computronix, Herman taught programming classes at the office on evenings and weekends, providing a rare opportunity for young people to gain experience with computers prior to attending university. Jim was recruited out of this crop of young programmers. As Jim describes it, “it’s almost like Computronix chose me…it was just a very natural fit.” For many years, he stayed in his initial role, doing contract work on-site for clients. As the company steadily grew, there was a need for more leadership, so Jim’s role changed as well. He is now the Chief Technical Officer, leading research and development, guiding the company’s technical direction and product direction, as well as a wide range of other responsibilities. And he still gets the chance to “write a little snippet of code every now and then that makes its way into our products.”

Perhaps Jim’s most significant, impactful achievement at Computronix was the creation of the POSSE software, our award-winning flagship product, which, “20 years later, is still innovative and being pushed forward all the time.” He was the leader of the team that developed the software, and even did some of the programming himself. While that in itself is more than worthy to be a source of pride, he says that “I’m actually more proud of the impact that the software has had on our customers.” Because of POSSE, clients are doing better business, their staff are better equipped, and thousands of people have been positively impacted.

The impetus for POSSE was, essentially, just a really difficult problem that needed solving. However, what Jim and his team did at that time, and what Computronix continues to do, is “solve classes of problems rather than individual problems.” This means that, instead of building unique solutions for every single issue encountered, we create a solution that can be used for similar issues that come up in the future – solving problems before they even come up!

When talking to Jim about Computronix, there are two subjects that come up over and over again. The first is problem-solving, and it’s obvious that he relishes, and even seeks out, interesting and difficult problems to solve. The second is people. He clearly believes it when he says that “every person is intrinsically valuable.” Each person’s health – physical, mental and spiritual – is important to Jim and the rest of the executive team. He takes issue with the classic idea of “work-life balance,” because sometimes work just isn’t as important as other things that are going on in life, such as in cases of medical issues or family emergencies. Instead, the term that Jim (and others at Computronix) uses is “life balance – because work is just a part of life.”

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.

One thing you discover when talking to Computronix employees is that many of them are extremely committed to the company. It’s not uncommon to meet someone who has been part of Computronix for a decade or more, working their way from an entry-level job to a management position. Matthew Johnson is a perfect example of that, as he started working here 14 years ago as an apprentice who knew “very little about programming,” and is now a Technical Team Lead, responsible for leading a team of developers to build technical solutions for clients.

For him, the main reason he’s stayed for so long is the people. “I work with some of my best friends at this company,” he professes. It isn’t an empty claim either, as he regularly invites co-workers to his home to play board games and socialize. When asked what his co-workers are best at, his immediate response is “telling jokes!” He laughs at that for a moment, before adding “and we’re really good at innovating.”

People and innovation come up over and over again while talking to Matthew. His passion for inventive solutions is clear as he talks about the work he does, saying that his favorite part of his job is “being able to sit down and create, to solve a problem.” People skills, on the other hand, are something he’s had to learn during his time at Computronix, especially as he’s transitioned into more of a leadership role. It seems that this process of learning was really a joint effort between him and Computronix.

Matthew recalls one time when he was struggling to communicate with his team, and a senior staff member pulled him aside and explained exactly what the communication gap was, and how he could be better understood in the future. Situations like that are common within the company, and “that mentoring time has helped me understand myself more…it’s been fantastic,” he explains.

Ultimately, he’s been willing to go through these changes, to learn about himself and to grow as a person within a workplace context because he believes in Computronix’s vision of respecting, trusting and serving people – both employees and people outside the company. “It means I care about people, whether they’re the client on the other end of the phone or the guy sitting next to me.” It’s not always easy, he says as the interview wraps up, but “It’s a great place to work and there’s a lot of good people here.”