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News & Press: Feature

What Did AITP Do For Me?

Friday, July 13, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Larry Schmitz, CCP, CMC

So many times people ask the question, "What benefits do I get from AITP?" Well, let me share my personal experience.

When I was in college, my Business Law professor encouraged our class to sit down and write down goals for the rest of our life: Where did we want to be position-wise and salary-wise at age 25, 35, 45 and 55. He then quoted an old Arab saying that said "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there". That struck a nerve with me. I had not really thought about anything beyond getting my first job once I graduated. So I did what he said.

In 1965, I graduated from UW-Whitewater and entered the "real world" as a systems analyst at Trane Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I learned a lot there and was fortunate enough to be part of the design team that developed the second nationwide online order processing system in the history of the U.S. (1966-67).

From there, I was recruited to join Walker Manufacturing (now Tenneco Automotive) in Racine, Wisconsin to help design an on line inventory management system and order processing system for them. And I loved what I was doing – leading edge development work. It was fun stuff.

But when I looked at my written plan, I was not where I needed to be and was approaching 25. So when the position of Data Processing Manager opened up, I applied. Twenty four years old, green as grass and 20 years younger than the supervisors that would be reporting to me. But I got the job. Now, how would I learn to be a manager?

One of my direct reports was a member of DPMA and invited me to attend a chapter meeting. At that first meeting, I met a number of sharp guys who had manager jobs similar to mine, and were much more experienced than I was. I was hooked. So I became a member in 1969.

I got involved in DPMA because one on my new contacts asked me if I would serve on the Advisory Board of Kenosha Technical College representing DPMA. Over the next 5 years, I significantly expanded my "network" of knowledgeable people I could call with technical or managerial questions. It was great. During my time at Walker, I also learned about the CDP exam (now CCP) that was offered through DPMA. So I studied, attended review courses in Milwaukee at their DPMA chapter and passed the exam. I was a CDP!!

I was also 30 by then and it was time to look at my "plan". The President of Walker was 41; the Executive VP I reported to was 36. There I was, road blocked by two very competent, but young executives that were not likely to leave or retire. So I went job hunting.

I found out that Price Waterhouse (PW) was hiring experienced IT people as consultants. So I applied. They really wanted people with IBM backgrounds (and Tenneco and Walker were Honeywell shops). But the thing that got me the job at PW was my treasured CDP. Being an accounting firm first and foremost, they were impressed with certifications. Thank you DPMA!!

Five years later I was the Senior Manager in Charge of their Wisconsin consulting practice, and heavily involved in the Milwaukee chapter of DPMA where I generated lots of contacts and new consulting clients for PW. It also gave me the opportunity to get on the public speaking circuit at a number of other DPMA chapters and regional and national conferences of other organizations on the topic of bringing professionalism into this new field of technology and how DPMA was a major part of that effort. And, as always, I was expanding my "network" of people I could learn from and people/companies I could sell to. Again: Thank you DPMA!!

In 1980, I was offered the "opportunity" (internally the staff called it the "velvet trap") to transfer to PW's Manhattan, NY office where I was assured I would be made a partner in the firm. I had spent enough time in the PW headquarters in New York to understand what that entailed (watching the time in the afternoon to be sure you didn't miss your commuter train back to Connecticut). With a wife and three young daughters, I said "thanks, but no thanks" and started looking for new opportunities. It was time to check my "plan" again. Being a PW partner fit well, but sacrificing my family did not.

I ended up being asked by another CPA firm, Schenck SC, in Appleton, Wisconsin to do a "green field" startup of a Management Consulting practice for their firm. And they would make me a partner. Best move I ever made. I knew enough vendors from the Milwaukee DPMA chapter who also covered the Fox Valley (Appleton/Green Bay) to know that this was a great place to start this kind of business and a great place to work and live. It all turned out very well and the rest of my career is history.

But that move really triggered my increased involvement in DPMA (now AITP). I got involved in the chapter (was President and many other jobs/offices), region (again, President and many other roles) and ultimately Association President and finally President of the Foundation for Information Technology Education. This has been my time to "give back" to AITP and our profession that have been so good to me.

And I am sure that Dr. Bowen, my old Business Law professor, is looking down from above and saying, "Aren't you glad you had a plan?"

My response would be, "I sure am – and thanks for teaching me why that was important – and thanks AITP for helping me make my "plan" a reality."

Larry Schmitz, CCP, CMC
Common Sense Solutions LLC
Box 311
Menasha, WI 54052

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