Living (and Working) the Tech Dream in Utah

This article was published in the Tech Summit 2020 issue

by Jack Reid, VP of Worldwide Support, Accela

I’ve spent most of my career in Utah. After starting out as a software engineer coding secret radar systems for government defense, I eventually migrated to more customer-facing roles, where I heard all the action was. And boy was it!

In the late 90s, Pulitzer Newspapers hired me to run the fledgling online business for one of its daily publications. Although newspapers had been around for a few hundred years, I quickly learned their revenue came primarily from advertising and was shocked to find many publications didn’t readily have access to the data and information needed to answer some fundamental business questions, such as readership demographics.

But our newspaper’s online business, which I had been brought in to manage, was drastically different. We could track who visited the website, how often they returned, what articles they read, and which ads they clicked, allowing us to provide advertisers with an unprecedented amount of detailed information. Within a few years, we could see all the data in real time. We reached a new age of “big data,” data-driven decision making, and the disruption of traditional media companies. This marked the dawn of an exploding tech environment in Utah and rapidly launched a set of entirely new industries which have been unstoppable ever since.

Witnessing how technology could drastically and instantaneously revolutionize an entire business that had scarcely changed in the two centuries prior became a pivotal point in my career. Since then, I have been captivated by technology that fundamentally changes the way we do business and have always gravitated toward progressive companies.

Applying Media Lessons to My Work Today

Today, I lead global technical support and services organizations at Accela, a government technology company that is quickly becoming another one of Utah’s technology jewels since opening offices here in 2017. Similarly to how Pulitzer Newspapers leveraged emerging technological capabilities, my work at Accela helps disrupt the old way of managing and providing government services to people. As the leading provider of cloud-based solutions for government, we help cities, counties, states, and government agencies around the globe become faster and more agile, saving tax dollars and allowing leaders to devote more time to strategic initiatives and innovations that improve people’s lives.

More than 80 percent of America’s 50 largest cities have implemented at least one of Accela’s many solutions. Salt Lake City is an Accela customer, and as a resident and/or business owner, you may have already used Accela software and not even realized!

Mission-Driven and Committed to Utah

I’ve worked for several incredible, game-changing organizations over the course of my career in Utah. I’m good at what I do and take a lot of pride and satisfaction in my work. There is inherent honor in a job well done. But for years I wanted to join something with a greater impact on the people around me. Although I regularly volunteered for several worthy causes, I wanted more. I longed for a career with greater meaning and really wanted to do something that would be especially rewarding and potentially life-changing for the people around me.

Accela is the mission-driven organization I was looking for. In my role, I manage how our government customers connect with our cutting edge technology to solve incredibly complex problems and improve the lives of the people in their community. Our technology solutions make it easier for people to open and run a business, get permits, obtain licenses, and schedule inspections online, 24/7, without ever having to step foot inside a government office. It helps government agencies keep up with citizen demands, improve the security of their citizens’ personal data, reduce costs, build and manage dynamic communities, rapidly grow businesses, and protect the safety of their citizens.

Did you miss all the fun?

I was speaking with a recent graduate who lamented the fact that they had missed the early days of all the incredible innovation that kicked off over a decade ago, which drove Utah’s tech explosion. They feared they had been born too late and missed the growth opportunities that came from experiencing first-hand a career in a truly disruptive industry.

If you are worried you have lost out on something great, you haven’t. Most government agencies are still using outdated tech, homegrown solutions, or pencil and paper. (Yes, pencil and paper!) They have been patiently waiting and watching the technology advancements over the last decade (cloud, SaaS, big data, AI, and ML to name a few) and are now ready to use these proven approaches to build the smart cities and communities of the future. Your chance awaits.

Why is Accela invested in building its presence in Utah?

In Utah, Accela discovered a tremendous opportunity to tap into the diverse and motivated talent base residing in the Draper/SLC area. There is a palpable spirit of innovation here that rivals other tech hubs around the world—from Dublin, Ireland to Silicon Valley to the United Arab Emirates.

What might be most exciting is that Accela is growing quickly and investing in Utah. We have expanded into a larger office space centrally located in Draper and have built a world-class technical training center to offer our customers and partners hands-on or virtual training on all of our products and solutions so that we can drive modernization and digital transformation in cities, states, counties, and villages around the world.

After several decades of leading professional services, engineering, and technical support teams for some of the biggest players in the valley, one of the things I’ve consistently heard from customers over the years is how much they love working with the people in Utah. Lucky for me, I absolutely love working with them as well and am very proud to call Utah home.

Read the rest of the articles in the Tech Summit 2020 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine

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