Positive Change

When asked which experiences shaped his positive and exploratory approach to life, Rick O’Dom doesn’t skip a beat: “Being raised in a military family and moving around a lot has had a significant impact on the way I approach life. I’ve been able to view changes not as detriments, but opportunities. Whether it was moving from the West Coast to the East Coast to work in the Atlanta area, without knowing a single soul, or managing the migration of an entire datacenter—changes tend to be more profound and deliberate than we initially realize.”

The wife of an army officer on MacArthur’s staff, O’Dom’s mother was one of the first American wives to arrive in Japan after the end of World War II. O’Dom was born in Japan and spent the first eleven years of his life outside the United States, traveling back and forth between Japan and Europe. Eventually, he and his family returned to the States, while O’Dom’s father completed his military duty at Fort Lewis in Washington and O’Dom spent the remainder of his childhood in Tacoma, Washington, just south of Seattle.

Following high school, O’Dom decided to pursue his interest in business at Western Washington University, later transferring to the University of Washington and graduating with a degree in Business and Economics. However, as a result of graduating during the time of the Vietnam War, O’Dom felt compelled to serve his country and made the decision to become a Naval Aviator following the completion of his degree. It was shortly after O’Dom’s acceptance into the Naval Aviation program that his first career was cut short by a drunken driver. The force of the impact from the accident caused O’Dom to suffer severe whiplash, which resulted in a loss of his depth perception and resulted in his resignation. In spite of this setback, O’Dom was still intent upon giving back to his country and chose instead to return to school where he acquired a degree in History Education and became a teacher. It was not until after teaching middle school students for eight years and pursuing his Master’s degree that he considered a career in IT.

Following his decision to leave education, it was at this point that O’Dom finally considered pursuing a career in IT. As a result of his positive experiences with IT classes during college, he applied to a company where he was accepted as a programmer trainee. O’Dom recalls, “That was in 1977. I’ve been in the field ever since, for about 35 years, and there has never been a dull moment.”

Some of his most interesting experiences were during his consulting engagements, one of which involved directing the movement of an entire datacenter. The move took ten and a half months of meticulous planning, which O’Dom and the move team executed seamlessly; the clients never knew they were down.

O’Dom also led the process of converting an entire 4GL application into a mainframe CICS application, which was accomplished on time to project specifications. “My responsibility was to build out program templates and to ensure that they were built in such a way that someone could come in two years down the road and still maintain our programs efficiently,” O’Dom says. “Without well-written routines, the programmer that gets the responsibility of maintaining the application—it’s a nightmare. My team and I made sure that our routines were created in such a way that if an error occurred, first of all, you could find the error in minutes, not hours. And, secondly, we made sure that that same error could be fixed and enhanced with relative ease…In fact, the application has stayed actively in use since then. It’s in its twelfth and final year.”

After numerous engagements, two of which were located in the Atlanta area, it was through O’Dom’s work as a consultant that he finally returned to Atlanta for good. While working for the state of Georgia, O’Dom constructed a CICS based system that enabled people to donate money for the funding of energy assistance for low income families.

Lastly, he consulted with SunTrust for several years and was offered a permanent position with them. Overtime, he moved into management with responsibilities ranging from software control libraries to technology development and support that centered around infrastructure support software for help desk services and systems management, such as IBM Tivoli suite and HP Service Center.

“For right now,” O’Dom expresses, “I don’t see myself any place but SunTrust; it is an excellent place to work. Their banking services are wonderful, they have excellent employees, and I see a visionary leadership here that is hard to find.”

5 Secrets to Success:

  1. Be Bold – Be bold enough to know when to call out issues with your peers, with your subordinates, and even with your own management team. It is important to point out when a process or the final delivery of a project is not up to par and to express when there is a need for improvement. This is not about putting people down, it’s about being able to have the confidence and courage to stand up when things are not right and to point out when there is more to be done.
  2. Be Brief – Get right to the point. Understand what you’re trying to deliver and make sure that you are able to articulate it well because everybody that you deal with is busy, especially in IT.
  3. Be Gone – Once you’ve made your point, it is important to solidify the discussion and conclude by ensuring that what you committed to gets delivered. It is about following through on your commitments and delivering what you promised to do, when you promised to do it.
  4. Understanding and accuracy are a must. Part of the issue that occurs within many organizations has to do with a failure to define accurate requirements. You have got to be knowledgeable about every aspect of a project: what is expected, what is required, what is realistic and what is not, who is responsible, etc. If you’re very clear and knowledgeable about the requirements, then it allows for an accurate delivery because you have the necessary information to compare with the final result; the success of the project has already been clearly defined.
  5. I have a wife and young daughter who are just tremendous, and they have taught me the importance of balance and fulfillment in life. In all the years I’ve worked in IT, I have never had a day where I said, ‘I don’t want to go into the office’. I really enjoy what I do and I think part of that has to do with having that external gratification in your life, outside of your everyday profession. It makes for a much more fulfilling life when you have a personal life that you enjoy, with people in it whom enjoy you and who are supportive of you. It gives life that balance that is necessary to understand and appreciate the bigger picture.

Rick O’Dom is a Manager of IT Infrastructure managing Software Manufacturing and Quality Center at SunTrust. Atlanta Trend expresses its thanks and deep appreciation to Rick O’Dom for sharing his thoughts with us.


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