This issue of the magazine highlights the 2018 graduating class. What did do after you graduated from Thomas?
The job market was pretty dismal in 1989, and I was lucky to find a job working for the American Heart Association in Augusta. It was a small operation, which made it a great place to start a career. Working every day to reduce heart disease felt meaningful.
How did your Thomas education prepare you for your career?
A couple things stand out. One is academic, and the other is the environment. Academically, the breadth of the business education has been a key differentiator for me. I’ve worked primarily with technology for my whole career. I’ve always said that I’m a “good enough” programmer but that I understand accounting, finance, marketing, and management because of Thomas’s curriculum. The combination of technical and business skills has generated great opportunities for me over my career. Environmentally, you can’t really hide in the classroom at Thomas. The professors know you and can have an impact. There was no place to hide but, at the same time, it always felt safe. That can be a powerful combination for an introvert.
Your wife Gale (St. Onge) Savard ’91 also graduated from Thomas. How did you two meet?
Even though I was living in the Village dorm as a junior, I spent a lot of time in the GPH lounge watching TV, shooting pool, and hanging out. Gale lived in the Heath wing of GPH. We became friends and things just evolved from there. Thirty years later, here we are with two beautiful daughters.
Tell us more about Tyler Technologies. What is the firm’s focus and what’s the nature of your work?
Tyler is the largest company in the nation focused on providing software and service to the public sector — cities, counties, states, and school districts. Nearly every key interaction with your local government or K-12 school can be supported by a Tyler product, including tax bills, water/sewer bills, building permits, municipal courts, student grading and scheduling, school bus routing, and public safety. Today, I’m responsible for the Product Strategy team for our MUNIS product. Strategy has been a great fit for me, and it’s a place where a business education really helps. When making build-versus-buy decisions, the ability to understand culture, financial statements, and business plans is really important. There were roughly 75 people in the company when we were acquired, and today there are more than 1,000 people in our division.
You’ve served on the Board of Trustees for a year now. What prompted you to volunteer in this capacity, and what has the experience been like so far?
A couple of things jump out at me when I think about this. The first is people. Laurie Lachance and Bob Moore asked to stop in for a visit. We talked for a bit, and they asked me to consider joining the Board. I was caught totally off guard and probably looked like I was going to fall out of my chair. Both Laurie and Bob are great ambassadors and advocates for Thomas. The passion with which Laurie speaks about the College and its students, faculty, and staff is impossible to ignore.
[Retired professor] Dr. Nelson Madore is another reason. Dr. Madore is like a second father to me and everyone else in Alpha Gamma Delta. He made a big impact on the lives of many Thomas students, and I figured if he could devote that many years to the Thomas mission, I could pay it forward by volunteering.
The second thing is the students. There aren’t many places targeting first-generation college students, let alone first-generation college students in Maine. The investment that my parents and I made to attend Thomas has been the best one we’ve ever made, and if by volunteering I can help other families experience something similar, then that’s time well spent. The Board is an amazing group of people; it has been great to catch up with some old friends and meet new people. I’ve been really impressed with how deeply they care about the mission, faculty, staff, and students. I learn something new every meeting.
You and Gale have been longtime supporters as alumni donors. What inspires you to give?
Gale paid for college herself and graduated still owing the school money in a time when interest rates were much higher than today. Thomas was very fair with her situation, and we’ve always appreciated that. We’ve hired a number of great Thomas grads here at Tyler, so that’s another factor. Joining the Board and learning more about Thomas has definitely validated our support.
What advice would you offer to this year’s graduating Class of 2018?
Be authentic and true to yourself. Instead of trying to be the “next Bill Gates,” be the first you. If you want to advance your career, get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Putting yourself in situations that are uncomfortable only helps you grow. For example, if you don’t like speaking in front of large groups, take on responsibilities that force you to. Listen to understand, not to respond. If you find yourself formulating your response while someone is still speaking, or worse, interrupting them before they’re done, you’re doing it wrong. Most of all, work to live instead of living to work.
*This story was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2018 Thomas Magazine.