From Chuck E. Cheese to the big cheese of IT

Find out how this leadership award winner's creativity and "good enough is never enough" attitude has elevated his construction company's IT footprint.

Award winner: Shawn Partridge, vice president of IT, Rockford Construction Company Inc.

Award-winning project: Utilized virtual private networks to Rockford's remote worksites, allowing better communication among its distributed workforce and the ability to provide quality information to clients more quickly using Voice over Internet Protocol and webcams at the job site.

Industry: Construction

Revenue: $355 million in 2007

Number of employees: 196

Time in job: One year

Educational background: Bachelor's degree in IT from the University of Phoenix.

First job: My first job was at Chuck E. Cheese. I was 16. I was the game room attendant, so I fixed the video games. There began my slide into technology, which actually goes way back to my childhood when, like most people, I took apart everything I could get my hands on. [Later at Chuck E. Cheese], I was an entertainment installation specialist, so I would go to new stores with a team, and we'd install video games, point-of-sale systems, animation shows and data links back to the office. It was the first quasi-technology-related position I had.

Best advice you've ever received: "Good enough is never good enough." You see it all the time: People get something to work, it works and then they're done. They don't go to the next step, which is, "Let's get it running as well as it can." There are a lot of inefficiencies, and you always have to go back and reinvestigate.

Best career move: Going back to school.

Biggest career influence: My father. He really taught me the value of a good work ethic. I've never met a man who worked as hard as my father. He really instilled in me that, just because everybody else is working a shorter day, or only does what he or she does, you have to go above and beyond.

Best technology decision: Recently, I'd have to say it's virtualization. … [At my previous job], I started virtualizing servers. It initially served as a test environment, but it allowed me into the production environment with less expense. Now, at Rockford, virtualization allows greater expandability, less redundancy and ease of use. You look back now and say, "how did we do this without it?"

Biggest IT challenge: Backup. I don't think there's any good way to do backup.

Best personality trait: I'm a creative thinker.

Worst personality trait: I take too much work home with me, mentally. When I'm working on something, I can't easily put it away, so I end up carrying it with me. It's great, because I come up with some creative ideas and solutions, but it's terrible when your wife is talking to you, and you haven't heard her for 20 minutes because you've been thinking about your storage network.

Hobby: I love scuba diving. I wish I could do that every day. Unfortunately. I live in Michigan.

Alter-ego career: I'd be a stay-at-home dad. I come from a very large family, with seven brothers and sisters, and lots of nieces and nephews. I love kids. It's the hardest and best job out there -- my hat is off to anyone who can do that. [Partridge and his wife are expecting their first child in December.]

Current reading: Every computer magazine under the sun. Also Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson, which is about cryptography. My reading has to have a technology slant to it, or I lose interest really fast. I also went through all of the Dan Brown books, and I'm definitely going through withdrawal.

One word of advice to IT pros coming up the ranks: Diversity. You've got to know a lot of things. I know a lot of people who are experts in one area -- which is great, you need that -- but you lose a lot if you don't have a broad base of knowledge to pull from in order to come up with solutions. You get to know so much more by having your fingers in a lot of things.

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