Todd Gillespie mixes tech savvy and people skills.
Todd Gillespie, information systems manager for Riekes Equipment Company (Omaha, NE), knows computers—but he also knows people. Gillespie, 33, often finds himself traveling between Riekes’ branches throughout Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa to ensure the branches’ information technology (IT) needs are met, and that the people using that technology are equally comfortable. “I’ve been told by many people that I’m not your typical IT guy,” Gillespie says. “I actually enjoy talking to people!”
Gillespie starts his day at 8:00 a.m. by checking his e-mail and voicemail to see if any problems have arisen since the previous day. Gillespie finds himself wearing many different hats during the day. “I joke that if something’s plugged into a wall, it’s my responsibility,” he says. “It can be as minor as teaching someone to copy and paste or as major as the entire network being down.” Plus, Gillespie helps with strategic planning to ensure the company’s IT infrastructure plays a key role in the organization’s future goals.
Technology Driving Material Handling
With technology, planning is key. Gillespie says computers and associated technology are becoming increasingly important in material handling, as evidenced by the changes he has seen in just his three years with Riekes. “With forklifts, laptops are becoming as important as wrenches for mechanics,” he notes.
Guided by Gillespie, Riekes’ IT efforts have translated into enhanced customer care. Each laptop now includes an aircard to facilitate wireless Internet access via cell phone. Technicians have real-time access to data, including schematics or a software update for a forklift. “It looks much more professional if the technician can sit in front of a customer and get the information instead of running back to the office,” Gillespie notes.
Gillespie says one avenue seeing rapid progression is customer portals, which provide access to account information and self-service options. He is impressed with the technological gains made by the material handling industry, especially given his ignorance of it prior to working at Riekes. “If you’d asked me a few years ago if I was going into material handling, I would’ve asked what it was,” he says. Before coming to Riekes, he worked for a retail chain in the Omaha area in a job he described as right out of the movie Office Space, a comedy about the dregs of working in Corporate America. He then started working as a freelance Web designer for area companies. “Things were going great some weeks and not so well others,” he remembers. “I needed something more consistent.” He responded to Riekes’ ad in the local newspaper, and, Gillespie notes with a chuckle, the rest is history.
Marketing and IT Not Strange Bedfellows
In addition to his IT responsibilities, Gillespie spearheads the company’s marketing efforts in conjunction with a marketing support specialist. It’s a natural combination of fields for Gillespie, who has a bachelor’s degree in e-business—a program at Nebraska’s Bellevue University that combines marketing classes with traditional IT subjects. The combination often raises eyebrows, Gillespie says, especially in material handling circles. He believes the blending of marketing and computing will be more common in the future. “The two go hand-in-hand. There’s room out there for people who have knowledge of both.” The marketing role also provides Gillespie with supervisory experience, a function he relishes, though it comes with its own challenges. “You need to make sure you’re pressing enough to get everything done, but not pressing so much you’re micromanaging,” he states.
Gillespie constantly tries to improve his management style, learning from the Riekes team, including President and MHEDA President-Elect Duncan Murphy, Operations Manager John Robine and Sales Manager Bill Herek. “I think you need to take time and listen to what everybody is saying,” Gillespie urges. “Have the courage to act upon it if it’s a good idea, and pass along the credit.”