Yeah. That White House.
Last week, I was going on vacation. I hadn't taken any time off since Christmas, and what with the house renovation, the new job and all, I was feeling pretty vacation-ready. We had dropped off the kids at camp over the weekend, and were truly kid-free for the first time in about 13 years.
I was seriously looking forward to time away.
I told my assistant at work before I left, 'Don't call me for anything. I don't care if the place burns down. If that happens, I'll figure it out when I get back and I see a pile of ashes.'
On Wednesday, my Bride and I were driving our way out into the loveliest parts of Vermont to a beautiful inn for a few days. When we got there to check in, our room wasn't quite ready, so we wandered over to a restaurant for a leisurely late lunch on the porch. My phone buzzed with a text from my assistant.
I sighed, and pulled out my phone while my Bride gave me a nearly-tolerant glare.
Um. Ok. That makes the cut.
Let me back up a moment.
When we moved to Maine last year and I took up my new role as CIO at IDEXX, I spent the first few months drinking from the fire hose. Learning a new industry (it's awesome). Learning a new team (they're terrific). And engaging with a new community in Maine & the Portland area (I love it).
Early days, I had the chance to get to know a partnership program established a couple of years ago called 'Project>Login' - a joint effort between the university system across Maine and a number of companies in the state to create & highlight new paths to technology careers. I've always been a passionate believer in the value of internships, and was glad to add my voice to the conversation around what new skills are needed in the industry, to help degree programs continue to shape and evolve the skills of graduates & make them an ever more valuable pipeline of talent.
That's good for them, as it increases their market value. And it's good for me, as a guy responsible for making sure we've got the best talent we can get.
More recently, Project>Login launched an effort to create new opportunities that stretch beyond the typical university path. Identifying veterans, or those with a less traditional education, but with a knack or experience-based learning that builds technical expertise.
Since I'm both a veteran (5 years Army active duty as a translator) and a person of a less traditional educational path (I completed about 2 full years at Georgia Tech before I ran out of money and joined the aforementioned Army), I told them they could certainly count on me for whatever support I could provide.
So they wrote up a grant application for Federal support, to which I was able to add some specific commitments from my organization.
The White House liked it so much, they chose to recognize Maine as a 'Tech Hire' community, and provide support & development services to aid the training, apprenticeship and awareness efforts under the program (along with a few others like it across the country).
When the recognition came through, the program sponsor asked if I could join him as a representative partner from the industry side.
I looked across the lunch table at my Bride and asked her if she'd mind a bit of an interruption to our vacation schedule. You know. Just this once. Because: White House.
She's a pretty generous girl. She said I could go.
In the morning, we arrived in Washington, and the program director and I had the chance to go sit down with Senator King, who is also the former governor of Maine. I had met him before not long after I moved to Maine, along with a handful of other senior leaders at my company when he came to tour our new campus facility.
We talked a bit about hiring talent in Maine, our support for internships and other paths, and what we're doing to attract and retain good people. I had the chance to thank him for his past leadership in Maine in creating a program where every middle school child is given a macbook for their school work, and the digital tools are incorporated into the learning agenda (first program of its kind across the US at that comprehensive level). The Critter - now going into 8th grade - was a beneficiary of that program.
We took the obligatory picture together, and he asked us to walk with him to his Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, where they were going to be briefed on the proposed Iran treaty. It wasn't asked for, but I asked him as a constituent, a veteran, and a former member of the intelligence community to please consider voting in favor, as my best read of the alternatives kind of suck. He provide a very thoughtful response, indicating that at least for now, he was leaning that way.
Damn. It felt good to interact that way with a Senator.
The event at the White House included a few hundred people, and a list of thirty or forty start ups from all kinds of industries. Technology. Health Care. Civil Service. Bow Ties. There were entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and agency representatives from local, state & federal levels.
And after a bit, in came President Obama to greet & talk about what was needed to continue to lead the market place & discover new talent from all walks of life, and the support we all needed to come together to provide to ensure that those opportunities exist for small businesses and new ideas to succeed.
Look. I didn't vote for this guy either time. I'm more or less a small-government, leave-me-alone Republican. But I'd gladly buy the guy who gave this speech a beer. Because this was on point, and right in line with what I was glad to be present to support.
I didn't get to shake his hand, or to meet and greet - a few, select chosen were staged behind him to get that honor. But I was one of the ~400 or so in the room that got to sing 'happy birthday' to the man who holds the office. (it was actually his birthday). And that was pretty cool.
And then, I came home to continue my vacation. Which at the moment, mostly consists of unpacking boxes now that the house is finally certified & ready for us to live in.
I haven't written as much of late because, well, it's been busy. But I will share more of the house renovation shortly, now that it's all complete.
It's even more amazing than the White House.
Well. Pretty close, anyway.