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Kent's IT career started with Star Trek. As a young boy growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, Kent loved watching the popular sci-fi show—“the original series,” he noted forcefully—especially the futuristic console. “Spock would look at those flashing lights on the screen and say, ‘This button: Press it and everything will blow up.’ I wanted to be that guy,” said Kent. So he vowed to learn everything he could about telling computers what to do.
But Kent couldn’t satisfy his curiosity about computers in high school. “The best we had was programmable calculators, which I did work on,” he said. Instead, he had to wait to attend the University of Kansas, where he studied computer science and learned FORTRAN and ALGOL, a predecessor to the PASCAL coding language. After graduating, Kent landed a job doing assembly language programming for word processors. “I was in the guts of the machines,” he said.
But technology changed, and the programming languages Kent knew fell out of favor. Kent transitioned from developing to supervising to project managing, which is what he does now. His proudest professional moment came when he managed a project for a dog food company. Hired on contract, Kent oversaw a team of 26 developers in rewriting an application that tracked referrals from customer influencers like vets and pet store owners, who then received rewards. With a hard deadline to develop and cut over to the new application, Kent’s team worked feverishly for seven months, completing the app on time and under the $2 million budget. The customer had anticipated a certain degree of user dissatisfaction after the app change, and had set aside a fund for referrer retention. “At the end of the six months, all they’d given away was three bags of dog food. … They ended up paying us [the contracting company] a bonus! That just doesn’t happen,” said Kent.
In the course of his IT career, Kent traveled the world and caught World Cup fever. “I learned that soccer is the world’s sport from some overseas folks—they were just so passionate about it,” said Kent. He passed a love of soccer to his three children, and started coaching them in the sport. But the ardent soccer fan wasn’t satisfied with just teaching the basics. He sought training, watched videos and talked to experts. He became a team coach, then a division representative, and finally the president of the Lee’s Summit Soccer Association, the all-ages recreational league for the city of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City. Kent helped build up the association, which runs about 150 teams for 2,000 players, from a small team of eight volunteers to three dozen, extending its mission and reach.
That passion for learning and coaching carried over into Kent’s work for TEKsystems. “I think some of that experience comes into play as a consultant, and what I do to help TEKsystems be better at what they do.” He has been at his current contract with North American Savings Bank (NASB) for about four years, along the way becoming a principal consultant for TEKsystems. When NASB decided they wanted to winnow their list of consulting companies down to just TEKsystems, Kent became an important liaison. “I’m TEKsystems’ eyes and ears. If I hear of an opening, I find out the type of people and skill sets they’re looking for, keeping TEKsystems in front of the client without being a salesman.”
His recruiter, Jennifer Dempsie, explained that Kent also acts as a lead for the TEKsystems consultants at NASB, helping them resolve problems or overcome barriers within their projects. “Kent is always finding ways he can create a better consultant experience for consultants he works around. An example would be: How do we onboard better at NASB? When there’s an issue, he’s the first person to take action and then contact us,” said Jennifer. “But the biggest thing Kent has taught me is that to be a true partner to my consultants, I really have to listen and seek to understand. Not just focusing on a consultant having a particular skill set—but what else are they looking for and what is truly important to them?”
Jennifer has used that insight in her role as retention program manager for the Central region, in which she helps implement new consultant retention initiatives and expand the overall program to better meet consultants’ needs. “We can truly be a partner to our consultants and take away some of their stress if we build trust, maintain open communication, take a long-term interest in their careers and lives, and always have a plan.”
Kent appreciates that level of commitment, and it has kept him coming back to TEKsystems for 10 years. He is passionate about helping TEKsystems succeed because he’s worked with great people like Jennifer and his two account managers. Although he works in IT, Kent is a people person, and he appreciates TEKsystems’ personal touch and emphasis on relationships. In fact, he compares it to his involvement with the soccer association, which allowed him to meet many people in the region: “Kansas City isn’t a small town, but I still see people every time I go out that I can call by name. That’s kind of how TEKsystems is to me now.”