Evolution in the Face of Change

My first contact with TechServe Alliance was over 25 years ago when I attended my first Northern California chapter meeting as a recruiter. Stepping into the role of President of the Board of Directors for 2015 really got me thinking about this industry and how it has changed since my first days in the late 1980’s. Way back then, recruiting technology consisted of a well-organized series of file cabinets, each with candidate resumes (obtained by consistent & expensive Sunday newspaper classified ads). Drawer 1 was mainframe programmers; drawer 2, mainframe + online; drawer 3, mainframe + database and so on. Most of our billing consultants were in the first half of the alphabet because a recruiter would pull open the drawer containing the skillset required and start calling. The majority of orders were covered before the recruiter reached the second half of the drawer. Creative recruiters would start at the back of the drawer and reach the less-contacted resources.

Even back then, our industry faced constant change – whether it was the steady advance of new technologies and skills we needed to provide our clients, or the transition to a mature, more commoditized market for staffing with the implications on margins and control over rates. I found TSA Chapter meetings and the National content and conference to be the best places to learn what was changing, and how companies across the country were responding and adapting to be able to thrive in the new circumstances. I found that access to conversations with competitors at both the local and national level accelerated my progress along the learning curve faster than doing it solo and overall helped make the industry better over time.

Over the years it has been fascinating to see how TSA members have changed and evolved as the landscape we operate in has changed. My company has changed substantially too. For 25 years, Future State was a staff aug company focused on IT staffing in Silicon Valley, with a specialty in tech writing and training. When the industry and economy changed, we looked at the variety of ways colleagues in TSA were responding and tried many of them; we avoided the largest clients with the most onerous vendor programs (we were good at relationships, not being micro-managed), considered different industry verticals to sell to, and eventually got out of the ultra-competitive, off-shored IT arena. We used the TSA OPR reports to weigh various options to redo our business model for the next 25 years.

Future State, a member of the association for more than 2 decades, eventually chose to evolve from pure IT staff augmentation to professional services focused on helping our clients thrive through change as an Change Management consulting company. My TSA network was extremely helpful in getting ideas to consider, integrate and incorporate in to our way of working through the process.

I just returned from the first TSA Board of Directors meeting of 2015 in Tucson earlier this month and had a great time connecting with the other volunteer board members from TSA companies across the country. The association still focuses on providing information and actionable data, a legislative voice, best practices, contract templates and networking opportunities. The environment we all operate continues to be ever-changing. TSA will continue to find ways to aggressively support members companies in their success, no matter where their focus is in the IT and Engineering services sector.

I’m excited to work with the entire board to continue the legacy of TSA, examining what we do for members today, and looking ahead so the future continues to be bright for our industry and our members.

How has your business evolved in the face of the changing dynamics of the industry? How do you believe the association can help as you and your team confront the challenges and opportunities of the future?

I would love to hear from you. Email me at steven.laine@futurestate.com.