Push the Envelope

By | 2017-08-15T16:14:48+00:00 December 27th, 2010|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , , , |

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

My internet experience dates back to 1995 while I was with AT&T’s HR Information Systems Organization.  I had been handling AT&T’s medical claims information system and I proposed using a corporate intranet to deliver summary level reports to executives and decision makers.  HRISO had implemented Peoplesoft (before it had a web interface) to support its 150,000 employees (worldwide).  We had a “research group” that, in my opinion, spent more time playing with the web over 2 years versus developing practical uses.  I was 34.  I was impatient.  I wanted to do something that meant something.  I was also too direct sometimes…well, often.  I will never forget that day while sitting in yet another fantasy discussion about the internet with decision makers when these words jumped out of my mouth before my brain had a chance to block them:  “Are we just going to talk about this forever, or are we going to do it?”  Deafening  silence.  Uh-oh.

I went back to my office looking for available boxes to start packing up my stuff – certain that my AT&T days were numbered.  My boss came by my office the next day and surprisingly said, “We’re done talking about it.  You are in charge of developing a self-service model for all AT&T employees to use.”  I think this was management’s way of saying, “Put your money where your mouth is”.  They called me on it and now I had to walk the talk.  I was allowed to assemble what I still believe may have been the most awesome technical team ever (except of course, the current Beacon Team) and within 6 months we launched AT&T’s Employee Services Website.  It served ~150K employees worldwide.  It was ahead of its time.  It allowed employees to manage their own personal data, view their paystub online, access standard forms (vs printed versions that may have been in their desks for years), utilize online FAQs, contact the HR Help Desk and much more – all with a single, secure login & password (distribution of which was a very difficult component of this project).  Yeah, yeah…this is no big deal nowadays, but in the mid-90’s, it was cutting edge.   I was dubbed “Father of AT&T’s Intranet”, but it wasn’t me – it was an entire team that made this happen very quickly.  This team included John Scaramuzzo who has been my partner here at Beacon since we started over 13 years ago.  He handled the infrastructure, which in itself, required a mammoth effort.  There’s no one better than John to be at the helm of Beacon’s state-of-the-art web hosting services.  People forget that a website is worthless if its hosting infrastructure is poor and not dependable.  No news is good news for his team.  Our data center has been humming along now for 13 years.

Enough about me and John.  That’s really not the point of this post.  It’s more about my excitement about the mix of people in this terrific team we have here at Beacon as we head into 2011.  I have noticed a new energy in Beacon, one that reminds me of my days at AT&T in the mid-90’s when I “stirred the pot” or “rocked the boat” or “pushed the envelope” or whatever cliché works best for you.  Whether it’s creative social media marketing campaigns, new conversion optimization tools & techniques, unique technical solutions for content management, migration to virtual dedicated hosting solutions, utilization of cool aspdotnetstorefront plugins or the start of our new offering of IAPPS, Bridgeline Digital’s fully integrated platform for content management, ecommerce, marketing and analytics – the folks here at Beacon seem to always be thinking about how to take everything to the next level.  That’s how progress is made.

About the Author:

Mark Dirks
Before becoming Beacon's CEO, Mark climbed through the technical ranks, starting as an application developer for RJ Reynolds. He then spent 15 years at AT&T, where he led the creation of one of the world’s first corporate intranets. Co-founding Beacon in 1998, he has driven consistent growth, long-term partnerships and a unique culture for 20 years. Mark was instrumental in forming relationships with Google, Accenture, KPMG Consulting, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Department of Education (when Beacon developed FAFSA on the Web). These relationships during the company's early years, coupled with Mark’s leadership and business development skills, foreshadowed the growth of Beacon's Higher Education portfolio over the last 10 years. Mark holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Wake Forest University and an M.S. in Computer Systems from Kansas State University. He serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Technology Association, was named Small Business Person of the Year by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and received the Entrepreneurial Success Award by the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.