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Season 2, Episode 8: Transcript


Veanne Smith:        Hello and welcome to Atlanta Business Impact Radio.  I’m your host, Veanne Smith, and I would like to introduce SolTech’s very own, Sarah Lodato to the show.  Sarah’s our director of Culture and Engagement here at SolTech, and she will be guest hosting with me today.

Sarah Lodato:         Thanks Veanne.  I am so thrilled to be joining you in the studio.  So today we’re really excited to have our listeners join us for another episode of season two where I theme is growing careers and building businesses.

Veanne Smith:        Yes, in today’s episode we’ll talk about the career path of a software developer to the C Suite and offer advice on how to successfully make the journey.  I’m really excited to welcome Steve Seidner as our guest today to talk on this top.

Sarah Lodato:           I am too.  Steve’s story is really an impressive one.  Before becoming a CIO for Yancey Brother, the caterpillar dealership for the State of Georgia, he started his career working as a consultant and was placed at Georgia Pacific Corporation as a software developer.  After being promoted several times within 12 years including moving to corporate roles, Steve held the responsibility for the company’s technology planning process and ultimately as GP’s chief technologist.

Veanne Smith:          Yes, that’s right, and during his time at GP, Steve was exposed to many diverse groups, roles and business units.  This helped him utilize one of his distinctive strengths which is using technology to solve core business problems.


Sarah Lodato:         Hi Steve and welcome to Atlanta Business Impact Radio.

Steve Seidner:        Hi!


Steve’s Story: Starting from the ground up

Veanne Smith:          Hey Steve, I’ve really been looking forward to having you here on our podcast today.  It’s often that I meet with developers who want to better understand how to get from where they are now to the CIO or CTO role, and they really just don’t know how to do it.  So could you tell us a bit about your own career progression and why you think you’ve been successful at making the jump up to the executive table?

Steve Seidner:        Okay, sure.  So first let me say thank you to SolTech for having me.  This is my first radio podcast so I really… [Crosstalk]

Sarah Lodato:         That’s exciting.

Veanne Smith:        Yeah, welcome!

Steve Seidner:        …and that’s why I dressed up in my suit and tie today [laughter] because I know it was very visible. [Laughter]

Veanne Smith:        You’re looking good.  You’re looking good over there.

Steve Seidner:        Thank you.

Sarah Lodato:         He’s lying.  There’s no suit and tie.  [Laughter]

Steve Seidner:        No, this is an excuse to be casual; so I took it.  You know dealing with heavy equipment at caterpillar dealership we typically don’t wear a suit and tie which is a big change from Georgia Pacific, where when I first started it was a suit and tie.

Veanne Smith:        I remember those days.

Steve Seidner:        Yeah, it was many, many years.  So you know starting out, I did start as a consultant, and actually Veanne and I worked at the same company together years and years and years ago.  I won’t say how long. [Crosstalk]

Sarah Lodato:         Yeah, cool.

Steve Seidner:        At Georgia Pacific I started as a just programmer, and there was really no direction other than projects.  You kind of had to have an inner idea, a sense, of what was important to you as you did the projects.  Development kind of falls into multiple categories, but for me it was always there was a purpose to do it. The purpose was to solve a problem.  It wasn’t the technology that excited me, although I’ll tell everyone. I love technology.  I had to have every gadget you can ever image. That’s part of why you’re in technology because you like it, but you have to know the big picture. The big picture is, what are you trying to do with that technology.

Veanne Smith:        I think it’s easier to get more excited about technology today than when it was when you and I first got into it.  We touch it more now.

Steve Seidner:        That’s true.

Veanne Smith:        The technology was downstairs somewhere we didn’t even see.  We never got in the room in the old days.

Steve Seidner:        Hey, everything we do.  So we have great job, right.  First you have to know where I’m coming from.  I love what I do, and I won’t say this in public but I would do it for nothing, right.  So you didn’t hear that [laughter] but right…

Veanne Smith:        It’s key to happiness.

Steve Seidner:        Yeah, so that’s the part we edit out, but [laughter] seriously though it is fun but what you’re really deriving the benefit from, what you really like is you’re helping somebody else, right.  So you can come to work and just do your thing, do what you’re told or you can try to interact with people and try to figure out what they want and what will help them during the day.  If you really get to understand somebody, it doesn’t matter if you’re in accounting or IT or any position, if you really put yourself out there to learn about what somebody else wants, you’re going to be successful because in their minds they’re going to recommend you to their friends and on and on and you build a network the natural way.

Solving Problems With Technology and Communication

Veanne Smith:        Well one of the things that you hit on if I can interject to hear on this, you hit on earlier when you started about, you know, you quickly saw that you were there to solve problems.  It wasn’t just for technology’s sake.  I do believe that people who are solving problems are more likely to be those that get promoted and are identified as leaders for the future.  Did you see that happening with you at Georgia Pacific?  I mean [crosstalk] were you aware of that early on or did it come to you later.

Steve Seidner:        So I don’t think it’s that direct or clear, and I think everyone feels like they’re solving problems, right.  So when you come to work you feel like you’re doing a good job.  So it’s not that obvious.  I think that the bigger question is, are you able to put yourself in somebody’s shoes and see it from their perspective.  So technology is an interesting thing.  It’s almost like medicine.  When somebody’s coming to you, it’s either because they have a problem they can’t do themselves, or they need you to do something really fast or something that you already have done is broken.  So there’s a lot of fear in the conversation, and if you don’t see yourself from their point of view, if you can’t put yourself in their shoes, then the relationship starts out with fear. Then you have a disconnect immediately.  So you have to take a pause and say, why are they coming to me in the first place, and how do I put them at ease.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        That is something that I just always knew, and if there’s one thing I take away from this event and share is that that’s something that is the most important thing to any career in any position is try to understand what that conversation is about from the other person’s point of view.  You already know the answer, right.  You know what’s in your head, but if you can understand what’s in somebody else’s head, then you’re able to be a partner.

Veanne Smith:        Yeah, I like that.  I’ve never really thought about making the analogy to a medical physician, you know, really taking the fear out of the clients that we’re serving, but that really is a good context.  I like that.

Getting Noticed

Sarah Lodato:         Yeah, I think like you’re designing your relationship or communication or progression of the company, empathy is really the key thing there, and I think that’s what you’re describing.  It’s hugely important even just in trying to progress in your career, right.

Steve Seidner:        Well people ended up coming to me because they thought whether good or bad that I could translate what they were saying into the technology that ended up being implemented. I don’t know if that was true or not, but they ended up being more comfortable telling me than somebody else.  So I got the management translation part, right, because I was looked to as, hey you go tell somebody else, and then that’s kind of the first step of progression in a career is can you tell somebody else what to do.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.  So in that same vein, let’s say I’m a software engineer on a team, and that’s something that I kind of want to strive for.  From a big picture standpoint that makes sense, but what would you say tangibly is something that, you know, perhaps advice or a path that you could give a developer that they could take to start nurturing those qualities or paying attention to that in their environment.

Steve Seidner:        So you know from a developer, and I still love development.  I wish I could develop like still because there’s always a way that you as a developer you know even as you move to other roles, you kind of have in the back of your mind, here’s how I would do it.  You want to be involved because you like creating new stuff.  That’s what IT is about, but from a role standpoint. You don’t want to get totally focused on technology and the management aspect.  So if you’re a developer, it’s great to love the technology, right.  That’s a good thing.  It’s great to love all the different tools at your disposal and just realize that they’re tools at your disposal and don’t get wed to anyone.  Don’t worry about this is the flavor of the month or the year.  The goal is to get inside somebody else’s head and figure out what‘s going to make their job easier.  If you can do that with one, two, three tools it doesn’t really matter.  It’s about understanding what you’re trying to deliver and choosing the best tool, and that’s what they’re looking to you to do.

Sarah Lodato:         Right, that makes sense.  What about in terms of you know daily interactions with your team. How do you kind of move up in that position without stepping on people’s toes or you know, how do you kind of rise out of that developer position like you did.

Steve Seidner:        So you can’t be complete passive.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        I don’t want to say that, but you can’t be the one who is looking to rise up.  You can always spot that type of person, and maybe it works for them.  It didn’t for me necessarily.  You know a career is one sample point; it’s just one.  So for what it’s worth, what worked for me was just to try to serve other people, but not be an order taker.  There’s a difference right.  If you are the person they go to to do a report or do something, it’s the same as being outsourced because they don’t need your input to tell them what to design.  They already know the answer.  So try to be the person they come to for advice on the options, and then you’re naturally going to move up because they’re going to need a partner.  People aren’t going to come to you if they already know the answer.

Sarah Lodato:         Right and also it’s important when you’ve got that kind of back and forth too.  So you’re kind of guiding them not just doing what they, you know, are coming to you for.

Steve Seidner:        When you start as a developer, you can’t always be in that position where you’re guiding somebody.  So you shouldn’t feel pressured to do it at every single meeting or every single conversation, but there’s always an opportunity to interject whether it’s in your development team. You can say, hey maybe we’re going about the way we handle security; maybe we could try this.  So there’s always an opportunity to improve within your group, and it doesn’t have to be across business lines to do that.

Veanne Smith:      I think it’s also important perspective you know.  I always call it the optimist versus the pessimist, but I think a lot of it has to do with your view and outlook too.  I think if you have this attitude, you’re going to tell everybody why things are going to fail.  I think that’s going to slow you down in your career progression. Do you agree with that or… [Crosstalk]

Attitude Is Everything

Steve Seidner:        Yeah actually…

Veanne Smith:        …what’s your take on that.

Steve Seidner:        That’s good insight.  So we had talked in advance right for this show, and we had never even talked about that, but as I was driving…  [Crosstalk]

Veanne Smith:        Surprise.

Steve Seidner:        Yeah, well, hey there you go.  As I was driving here this morning, I was thinking, so early in my career and other people are saying probably they’ve seen this. It’s the fish video where you choose your attitude.  All right maybe I’m dating myself [laughter] but…

Veanne Smith:        It’s just a fish on the wall. No.

Steve Seidner:        It’s a fish video and it’s about the [laughter] guys in San Francisco in the fish market at fisherman’s wharf and they throw fish. They have a great time and it’s called choose your attitude.  So I highly recommend it.  It’s probably on YouTube, you know.  You can see it if it hasn’t been taken down.  Yes, absolutely your attitude is infectious, and it’s something that people pay for.  No one wants to work with somebody who’s miserable all the time, and actually that’s something that I recruit for.  We don’t really hire based on skill; we hire based on attitude.  You can tell when you interview the attitude of somebody.

Sarah Lodato:         Absolutely.  Attitude is the hardest thing to change, I think right.  You can teach the hard skills, but the attitude is a greater challenge I think in an environment.

Steve Seidner:        Yeah and it’s hard because not everybody’s in the same place in their lives to have a positive attitude. So that’s why I encourage the balance, right.  You have to have a good foundation family life or whatever you want to call it to be a productive member of society, and that’s what a company is helping you do.

Sarah Lodato:         Absolutely, yeah.

Veanne Smith:        I like that a lot.  So I want to switch gears a little bit.

Sarah Lodato:         Yeah.

Veanne Smith:        I’ve enjoyed all of this conversation.

Steve Seidner:        Uh oh, switching.

Veanne Smith:   I want to switch gears.  I mean it’s the same topic, but I want to switch a little bit.

Steve Seidner:        Okay, not going to talk about ping-pong or anything.

Veanne Smith:        We can do that if you’d like though.

Steve Seidner:        No I have no idea what…

Veanne Smith:        Are you the champion [laughter] ping-pong player out there… [Crosstalk]

Steve Seidner:        No.  I’m horrible at ping-pong.

Veanne Smith:        …in West Atlanta?  [Laughter]

Steve Seidner:        No just as an example switching gears.  [Laughter]

Heading To The C-Suite

Veanne Smith:        All right, so I feel that in the last number of years that the CTO and the CIO role has changed a little bit.  I think that the CIO or the CTO has a bigger seat at the table today.  It’s more integrated with the business than it used to be.  Technology used to be kind of down the hall, but now it’s really interwoven in every daily life of every employee in the company, right.  So I’m wondering from your perspective, when you started in today in this executive leadership role that you’ve been in, what skills or personality traits do you think are necessary now to be effective at that table that you – I mean I’ve just watched you progress. I’ve seen things change in the years we’ve known each other, but maybe it’s the same.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the same skills and same personality traits, but is there anything, you know, key that you think is important today to be able to really be good at that job.

Steve Seidner:        So we’ve jumped from developer all the way to CIO or CTO.

Veanne Smith:        All the way… [Laughter] It happened that fast for you didn’t it? [Laughter]

Steve Seidner:        It was a fast role.  At GP, so this is the interesting thing at a large company.  There’s a lot of opportunities, and at least when I was there, the idea was every two years you got promoted or you kind of were looking to get out.  That was what was at least told to me.  I didn’t’ know any better.  I was right out of grad school and that’s okay. So that’s the goal.  So I tried to look for a different position every two years, and I was fortunate to get that.  So it was scary [crosstalk] times.

Veanne Smith:        You had to be looking.

Steve Seidner:        You had to apply.

Veanne Smith:        Be aware.

Steve Seidner:        You had to apply.  I mean to apply.  I mean it was easy because they were posted.  Even back then I think we had some type of intranet. [Laughter]

Veanne Smith:        It wasn’t on the cork board in… [Crosstalk]

Steve Seidner:        It was… [Crosstalk] [Inaudible]

Veanne Smith:        It wasn’t on the cork board in the breakout room.

Steve Seidner:        Yeah, for those if we didn’t highlight I think I started GP in 1992, all right.  So there was a little while where the internet was not that big, but around 2000 we had job posting on the intranet [laughter] so we could do it.  The C Suite idea of how it’s matured or changed, you know, I think it’s always been the same level of importance.  The leadership teams that I’ve been fortunate to be associated with, both at GP and at Yancey Brothers it’s the same philosophy really.  It’s tell me what can be done; don’t tell me what can’t be done.  Help me with my options, and help me with the decisions that I need to be involved in.  So filter out what I don’t need to know. Come to me with the things that I do need to know, and make sure that you help facilitate. One of the things with IT that’s special and is a luxury if you’re in IT, right, and you have to be aware of this because you are at the focal of almost every business process there is.

Veanne Smith:        Right.

Steve Seidner:        So you see what’s bad.  Now you can keep it to yourself. You can gripe about it to other people, right, both of which are bad or you can do something about it.  You can actually tell somebody, usually somebody in that role, hey I see this. Did you ever think of this in a positive way, and if they don’t take your advice, that’s fine.  One person at one company will do it in one department.

Veanne Smith:        Right.

Steve Seidner:        That’s the person that’s going to recommend you for your next role, right…

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        …because you’re going to help them, and if you look for that, you can’t get just disenchanted with the whole idea of they don’t care what I think because somebody will.

Sarah Lodato:         Right and they had to get there somehow too, right. So they’re looking at those qualities in people that come their way.

Steve Seidner:        So it’s the same skill, I would say, at the CIO, CTO level.  I always like to say the CIO is above the CTO, but you know that’s just the way I grew [laughter] up was the CIO.  So what I picked the title of CIO… [Crosstalk]

Sarah Lodato:         That’s why you’re a CIO.

Steve Seidner:        I chose the CIO, yes exactly.  You know, they didn’t have either one. So I’m like, hey, CIO…

Sarah Lodato:         Yeah, I like it.

Steve Seidner:        …back then.

Veanne Smith:        All right, so as CIO / CTO executive leader, you’re managing people.  You’re managing developers.  What’s your philosophy around that?  What do you think makes a good manager; just curious about your perspective on leadership.

Steve Seidner:        Well you have to know your people. You have to really know your people.  So what makes a good manager?  If you don’t truly treat someone as a person and you treat them as a resource, first of all it’s obvious, and second of all you’re not managing, right. Because there’s project management where you manage more of a resource and people are… [Crosstalk]

Veanne Smith:        Tasks

Steve Seidner:        …interchangeable and yes, tasks, but when you’re a manager if you don’t care about the person, you’re not managing the person. They’re the same word really.  Managing is what?  Well, you’re managing everything, everything that makes them effective which is personal and professional.  So you have to help and you have to know not everyone’s the same, right.  You’re not going to talk about doctor’s appointment with your boss, but you don’t need to.  All you have to do is say, hey, I need to feel comfortable telling my boss that I am going to be acting a little different or I need time to do this. Your boss needs to support you because again, it’s an investment.  Every single thing we do in life is an investment, and you invest in people.  They will pay off a lot more than the investments in technology.

Veanne Smith:        I think if you’re a good leader, a good manager a lot of times they don’t even need to tell you something’s going on in their life.  You just know.  I mean, Sarah and I have this conversation a lot.  It’s like I can tell somebody’s been off the last couple of days.  If there something going on, you know.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Veanne Smith:        Then we try to do something for that person, you know.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Veanne Smith:        We talk about we all have highs and lows in our journey here, and so having people there to help pick you up. I always say help pull me up the hill.  I need people to help me because sometimes I have lows too.

Steve Seidner:        Absolutely.

Veanne Smith:        Anyway I think if you’re good in your role, I think a lot of times they don’t even have to tell you. You notice, you know.

Sarah Lodato:         Especially when you’re working in like mixed personalities, too.  You know, some folks are more willing or capable of communicating that kind of stuff.  So the closer you are to those teams, the more you can pick up on it or you know, however it comes your way.

Steve Seidner:        You have to be very humble as a manager.

Sarah Lodato:         Yeah.

Steve Seidner:        In IT and I’m not afraid to say it, like I’m geeky.  You have to just be comfortable with who you, are and the more you are, you show other people that they can be comfortable who they are.

Sarah Lodato:         Exactly.

Steve Seidner:        You don’t judge them for their own peculiarities.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        You make fun of it, maybe, every once in a while, and hopefully they can take it.  You don’t put them down for it.

Sarah Lodato:         I think making fun of it makes everyone more comfortable in their skin too.  Like hey, this is an okay thing to talk about, yeah, for sure.  I think leading by example is huge.  You know we talk about transparency in leadership and things like that, and you still need to be that rock for people and the guide.  You have to instill that confidence, but the more you show it and the more you’re kind of leading by example, I think it makes your team much more willing to do that as well.

Steve Seidner:        Well, let’s face it, I mean as a manager you do have to have a vision.

Sarah Lodato:         Sure.

Steve Seidner:        If you don’t have a vision for what you want to accomplish, even if it’s a project manager role, you’re not going to inspire any confidence in anyone else.  Once you have that vision and you have a core set of philosophies that go along with it, you can articulate that to anybody.

The Importance of Mentors

Sarah Lodato:         Right.  So I’m curious to know for you, and this is getting a little bit personal, but…

Steve Seidner:        Uh oh.

Sarah Lodato:         …here we go.  If there is a leader that you sort of admire or look up to or if you’ve had mentors in your life, you know, we talk a lot about mentorship and how important that is for leaders.  Is there somebody that you admire or think about in that way?

Steve Seidner:        Yeah.  I would tell you it instantly came to mind as soon as you asked me that question, James Dallas.  I don’t know of anybody; in Atlanta he’s fairly famous.  You know James.

Veanne Smith:        I do, yes.

Steve Seidner:        Well, I know GP, right, he was famous.

Veanne Smith:        GP, nice guy.

Steve Seidner:        A very nice guy, and again, so was a mentor of mine.  He was my first mentor, and he instilled in me, I would say reinforced.  I think everyone has these qualities. He reinforced the idea that communication is the key to success and understanding who you’re talking to is the key.  The other part of it is he was a world-class showman.  So as a mentor or somebody you want to aspire to be like you have to have, wow.  I could never do that, right.  You always have to have somebody like, and I could never do.  He gets on the stage and there’s music and whatever he’s doing it’s another world of level.  So you would say, wow.  If I could be half that good; then that’s something I don’t do well now. So one of the things that he made me do, he made me go to a public speaking but in a way were as video. So I think it’s called Speak Easy or something.  I would highly recommend any developer to do this on their own.  Your company probably won’t pay for it, but you actually get filmed, and they critique you.  It’s horrible.  The first time I was on the camera, it was like I was the worst weatherman possible [laughter] you know.  I was stiff and I’m like, I’m not going to be a public speaker ever.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        You can image just the skills you pick up after the fifth time being on video saying the same thing.  It’s not like a thought thing.  It’s just how you present yourself and the comfort in your own skin because it just carries to everything.

Sarah Lodato:         Right and public speaking sometimes happens like to a team of five people, you know, instilling confidence. It can be in its own environment, but the more you kind of nurture that, it’s important. I going to get not off topic, but share a [inaudible] [23:10].  I read this book. It’s called the leadership playbook, and it’s interesting.  It has a lot of good, some things that are less relevant.  Anyway it talks about practice, like you do in a sports team, and I think that’s something that leaders kind of forget to do, right, like when you’re speaking in front in your team.  That’s not practice. That’s the game, and so engaging in opportunities like you said, like that, sort of film and you look the same thing over and over.  That’s practicing, and I think it’s something that we all kind of need to do.  You’re right, even as a developer you’re communicating with team members.  It doesn’t have to be C Suite, or whatever it is.

Steve Seidner:        That’s right.

Sarah Lodato:         You’re growing the skills.

Steve Seidner:        As a developer and every position you’re in IT, just imagine that if you thought to yourself that I am doing the best I can.  I am trying to understand what all these inputs that are coming at me, both the technical and the softer skills where somebody’s asking you your opinion on how to do something, and you’re trying to communicate that the most effective way possible, there’s always a way for improvement. You don’t want to get down on yourself…

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        …when you go through that analysis, but if you don’t take the time to do the analysis and you’re rushing to the next project, you’re going to find your progression to be slower, I think.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        Whereas if you just pause and step back and say, all right, you’re almost like replay, right.  I play video games.  I’m not ashamed to admit it. You always think, well could I have done that better or is there a different way.

Sarah Lodato:         Sure.

Steve Seidner:        Right, you can replay; where in your career it’s harder to replay.

Sarah Lodato:         That’s so true.

Veanne Smith:        Yeah.

Steve Seidner:        So you have to put that in your head, right, it’s like if I did it this way. Just take a couple of minutes and think through how you would approach it in the next time you get with a customer.

Sarah Lodato:         Yeah, and that’s that kind of just looking back on it, always growing.  I think we play the game too much one way through and I like that.  The video game is a good metaphor.  [Laughter]

Veanne Smith:        Well, let’s talk about advice to young people getting into technology today and early in their career.  Just curious if you have any perspective on pros and cons in terms of do you start at a big company.  Is it better to start at a small firm, a startup; any opinions on any of that for those just getting out in the technology field today?

Steve Seidner:        So again, mine’s the same size of a one, and I would say I’m biased because I started at a big company.  So naturally I’m going to say, look a big company lets you benchmark your skills against more people.

Veanne Smith:        That’s good.

Steve Seidner:        For me like I had no idea how to do networking or any infrastructure part.  I was a developer, but I got exposed through different roles to that side of IT, then moving over being CIO of a smaller company.  We’re a billion dollar company, but still much smaller than GP.  We have the idea in IT that we can’t have five people doing email, right.  Whereas GP there were twenty, you know, and gobs of servers and things.  So your discipline if you’re any particular role, you’re kind of not as deep, but you’re very much wider.  So if you love all the different things about IT and you want to own a lot, a small company’s going to be to be good for you.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        I think from a progression level, you’re not going to be an expert at any one of those different fields because you’re going to have to rely on consultants or other people to tell you the specifics.  Whereas at a large company, you’re probably going to be focused more in a strategic position in a silo for what it’s worth, and that will give you a specific level of skill that you might not be able to get because you’re just going to be spread too thin at a small company.  Again it depends.  I mean there’s startups in a lot of things, but I get the sense that if you start out at a large company and you focus on a particular skillset and then maybe move to different areas and get more, you’re going to be better prepared for when you have to own more at a smaller company.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Veanne Smith:        You talked about how you did it.  Every two years you tried to get in a different position.  So you had a large company that you were blessed to be able to stay at the same place for many years but do multiple jobs to get more exposure that probably paid off for you later when you did you know progress into the C Suite there.

Sarah Lodato:         I think that’s just kind of a mindset thing, right, like knowing that you can move and it’s not just a silo, and that could be something that’s kind of temporary.  If you have that positive attitude, okay let me explore other areas that I can go into so I can get that sort of startup experience of switching between things.

Steve Seidner:        Yeah that’s right.

Sarah Lodato:         The stability of one company and the knowledge.

Steve Seidner:        If you have a great attitude, you can pretend you’re in a startup even at a large company.

Sarah Lodato:         Exactly.

Steve Seidner:        You can pretend you’re in a startup at a small company.  You can pretend what you like to do because a lot of your attitude is in your head, and you have to believe that you’re making a difference.  If you’re not it’s not the right fit for you, you know, and that’s the thing.  Don’t be afraid to switch especially in Atlanta.  There’s so much opportunity to move around.  I’m not saying that any of my folks should be moving right, but there’s so much opportunity to move around that a good manager, a good boss, will always want the best for that person.  They’re always going to say, you know what, if this isn’t the best fit for you, you should go somewhere else.

Veanne Smith:        I want that for you.

Steve Seidner:        Now that’s a positive thing.

Sarah Lodato:         It might be even in the company in [crosstalk] [inaudible] [28:46]

Steve Seidner:        It might be.

Sarah Lodato:         …if it’s not that point in time.

Steve Seidner:        That’s right.

Sarah Lodato:         Even at SOLTECH we’ve had folks that dip out for a bit and then they [crosstalk] come back…

Veanne Smith:        Come back

Sarah Lodato:         …you know which is awesome.  Like they’re always part of the family, but everyone can’t offer the right thing for everyone at their point in their career.

Veanne Smith:        True.  Well this has been great.

The Work-Life Balance

Sarah Lodato:         Yeah. So I’ve got a surprise question for you because…

Steve Seidner:        Uh oh.

Sarah Lodato:         …I can’t let you go and we’ve only talked business here.  [Laughter] Just out of curiosity, if you want to share with everybody.  So outside of the tech world, you mentioned gaming.  What kind of… [Crosstalk]

Steve Seidner:        I started playing video games; now I’m a gamer.  [Crosstalk]

Veanne Smith:        Now a game, never a gamer.  [Crosstalk]

Steve Seidner:        Now I’m a gamer.

Sarah Lodato:         You’re a gamer in my mind. You said geek!

Steve Seidner:        Yeah, all right I admit it. My family would tell you that I’m a gamer. 

Sarah Lodato:         Balance is important, and I think that you know when we’re looking at folks to hire and we look at lot, like you said, about their personality outside of the work and the skills that they do.  So I’m curious to know what do you outside of work, and then how do you keep that balance in your life.

Steve Seidner:        Well so I do love technology.  I love what I do as I said, and I am always trying to solve the next best problem.  I am a developer at heart.  You know, even though you move around and you end up managing people, you still have to figure out what cool tools are out there.  So there’s always a cool, and my background is really business intelligence right from a pure discipline.  There’s so many great tools out there that can present data in a cool way.  So, on the side I have to admit I tried to come up with cool dashboard and ways to visualize data, and it’s kind of like work, all right.  Yes, so I do play games on the side too, but with the kids and everything.  I don’t call it work because I don’t want anybody to get the feeling that I go home and I do more IT stuff because it’s different.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        I’m not really focusing on it at work because I’m not doing business intelligence at work. 

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        At home I still like to figure out like what’s the newest gadget, right.

Sarah Lodato:         Right.

Steve Seidner:        So that’s kind of what I do in my spare time, but look I have twins.  I have an older son who’s twenty.  So I’ve got three kids, you know; we’re aging.  So I’m booked. [Laughter] So I don’t have a lot of free time.

Sarah Lodato:         I think it’s cool.  I don’t know.  I think it’s good and it says a lot for the work that you do when your hobbies are kind of related and it’s not like a switch off.  I’m the same way, and if it’s related that’s awesome because work doesn’t feel so much like the traditional work, you know, that people think.  So thank you for sharing that.


So just for our listeners out there, if you’d like to learn more about Yancey Brothers, you can visit their website at,,

Veanne Smith:        Steve, it’s really been awesome having you here today talking about your journey from developer up into the CIO role, which is you know the title you wanted to have and can’t wait to see where you go from here.  So I also loved learning about your perspective on leading people and managing people and looking at people as a whole, not just as employees.  I thought that was great, and I loved your comment about it’s what’s up in your head.  What you believe you can do is what’s you’re going to do.  So I thought this was really, really awesome.  I’m sure they’re going to be people listening that are going to get some great tidbits and help them in their journey here.  So thanks for joining us today, and…

Sarah Lodato:         Thank you.

Veanne Smith:        …have a great rest of the day.  I appreciate it.

Sarah Lodato:         This is great.

Steve Seidner:        Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

                                      [Background music sounds]

Steve Seidner:        It’s good music! [laughter]

Voiceover: The Atlanta Business Impact Radio is a project developed by SOLTECH, a software consultancy located in Atlanta, Georgia. Our host, Veanne Smith, cofounded the firm 18 years ago with her husband, Tim Smith, and together they strive to bring education to the community about technology leaders to improve the path to innovation for all. For more information about the podcast and learn about the work we do at SOLTECH, visit, or find episodes of the podcast on iTunes. Also, if you’re interested in joining us as a guest for an upcoming show, send us an email at Thanks for listening, stay tuned for more insight into the tech community on our next episode.

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