Michael has twenty years of management and technology consulting experience. He has extensive knowledge in solution design and architecture, development methodologies, data modeling and analysis, system integration, and enterprise planning. Michael has designed, developed, and implemented strategic plans and custom technology solutions in the insurance, retail, telecommunications, energy, financial services, real estate, and health care industries.

Prior to joining Thought Ensemble, Michael was a Vice President at Pariveda Solutions, with management team positions in Dallas, Chicago, and then New York. He served as a national leader in Pariveda’s custom development and portal practices. Michael’s career threaded between consulting and industry experience with positions at Manulife Financial / John Hancock, The Reference (a financial services IT consulting firm), and American Management Systems (AMS). Michael has a BA in history from Colgate University.

Michael is a marathon, and half marathon, runner and a cyclist. He rides in the Pan-Mass Challenge from Sturbridge to Provincetown every summer. He also enjoys traveling with his wife and children.

 

So, how does a history major become a Technology Consultant? I was always heavily into math and science growing up and I wanted to eventually do something with computers, but when I visited Colgate University it felt like a better fit than colleges that offered engineering degrees. I quickly embraced the liberal arts approach and decided that to get the most out of it, I should major in one of the traditional strengths of the school. Also, Colgate had mandatory cross-discipline classes taught by a variety of professors and I really enjoyed the one taught by a history professor. I didn’t abandon my other interests though – I took a number of computer science and math classes and worked in the computer lab. One of my coworkers there exposed me to this new thing called “HTML” and showed me how to create a website. It was very cool to be in school during the emergence of the web in the early 1990s!

I was also very lucky that it was a time when Technology Consulting firms were attracted to liberal arts students – they figured that technologies and industries would change, but that problem solving and communication would always be essential skills and that a liberal arts education was a great foundation for these skills. I had never even heard of “Consulting” as a career option before the end of my senior year. But, my one and only job offer after graduating was from American Management Systems. And, I took it!

Once on the job, I was assigned to business analysis and testing roles. I worked on very small teams, so it was easy to wear multiple hats and to learn technical skills along the way. I went deep into Document Imaging and learned all of the related server and PC configuration skills you needed to make that work. One cool example: I was part of the team that helped the US Patent and Trademark Office implement TCP/IP on their client machines as a prerequisite for our imaging application. I wanted to grow my development skills so I got into light programming with work in Lotus Notes. I dove deeper with Visual Basic and got the full development experience. Eventually, I took that experience and applied it to .NET, Java, and a variety of open source technologies. I went pretty deep on the database side too, including doing some interesting work with Informatica and other ETL tools.

I kept up both planks of my foundational strengths throughout my career in both industry and consulting: leveraging the liberal arts education for clearer communication and high-level planning, and using my technical skills to dive into detailed problems and to understand application frameworks. That balance is what led me to Thought Ensemble.

Things that get me excited about projects include:

  • Distilling chaos into workable problems
  • Diving into details to validate a theory – “OK, that methodology looks good on paper but let’s go work with the development team to see if it flies!”
  • Connecting the relationship dots and having those “small world” moments where I realize that my Dallas connections can help my New York clients
  • Editing and refining deliverables so that all of the fluff is removed and all parties can see and discuss the core message
  • Bringing ideas back to our Ensemble to brainstorm and get new perspectives

A Fun Exercise

Look over your to-do list and pick a task that you’ve procrastinated on for a particularly long time. Spend the next 15 minutes working on that task with focus, but without an expectation of completion. Tell me about your experience in the comments below. Yes, as one...

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I’m excited for the Energy Marketing Conference in Houston in a few weeks. Tom Brady seemed to enjoy his visit to Houston and I expect to have the same experience he did! At the last few conferences, there has been a very consistent theme: people know very little...

In Defense of Return of the Jedi

False equivalency is a serious danger to reasonable debate. Wait, wait! This isn’t another rant about the U.S. Presidential Election. No, my concern is something more impactful to our democracy, our society, and our culture: ranking the Star Wars films. Like many of...

Mo Progress Mo Problems

Progress is linear, right? The next version of product X is going to be better than the last version of product X. It’s going to have more features, AND fix all of those annoying bugs, AND it’s going to feel like it’s moving in the right direction. Same thing with...

In Honor of the Primaries…

It’s been a while since I published a blog entry. I have a few in various stages of drafting, but I need a push to get at least one of them out the door. So, rather than wait, please help me by voting on one of these topics. I promise to publish by the end of next...

The Limits of Discipline

One of my favorite games of distraction (for airport lounges, waiting in lobbies, etc.) on my phone is Yahtzee. It’s also a great family game. I play it pretty frequently, so I’ve thought a lot about strategy (more on that below). What struck me recently is that I...

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