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Meet Paul Bickford, Apex Systems’ Director of Emerging Tech for Back Office Systems

September 2017

Paul Bickford is Apex Systems’ Director of Emerging Technology for Back Office Systems (BOS). We recently sat down with him to hear his interesting career story. After going to school for a double major in Computer Science and Film, he spent a couple years in film production before transitioning to work at a family business. He started doing some IT-related tasks since there was a need for skills like a small-scale database, which Paul created after educating himself through a couple technology books. As many techies in a start-up know, Paul had to wear many hats and learn how to build and solve a number of issues, like a small database for tracking customers, to support the business. That’s the environment where he found his career passion though. As Paul says, “I loved learning about customer/business needs and figuring out a technology solution to solve them!”

What has your IT track/path been?

Paul: After starting at Apex as a consultant in 1998 as “the IT guy” at a small, startup company, I then joined full- time in 1999. It was an interesting and diverse experience, as I built a number of different systems based on the needs/wants of the three founders, and often experienced substantial scope creep! I’ve had four different “titles” while at Apex, moving from the IT Specialist to an IT Manager to a Director of Enterprise Systems and am currently a Directing Consultant of Emerging Tech for Back Office Systems.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

Paul: Probably the problem-solving component and streamlining/improving company processes and functionality. I enjoy finding the reason why something isn’t working, fixing it, and helping things work more effectively!

What hurdles have you encountered along the way, and how did you overcome?

Paul: One of the hardest things I’ve experienced is telling someone bad news and/or delivering tough or negative feedback and finding a way to be constructive vs. negative. I’ve evolved to be able to embrace more difficult conversations, which is a must for any manager. I’ve learned that when I don’t embrace them head on immediately, the harder it is when you eventually have to. Don’t dig yourself any deeper by letting it fester; approach it head on in real-time, and it will make everyone’s lives easier.

What are your top pieces of advice for individuals who are interested in an IT leadership or a strategic type role?

Paul: I have a couple major pieces of advice here! First, just do what you have to do to get the job done! Sometimes it’ll require extra hours, doing things outside your job description, and tasks you don’t enjoy. Second, become skilled at effective client/business requirements capture and clarification; truly understanding the needs of your owners/stakeholders is a great skill that will help lead to success and is a necessity for leaders. Third, learn as much as you can about all the areas/technologies you’re getting involved with supporting; become versatile! Fourth, education is important. I went back and received my Masters in Executive IT Management at VCU, and it helped me immensely. Lastly, learn to let go of the “techiness” of it. IT Management is less “getting your hands dirty” and more looking at the big picture. You can constantly “chase the technology,” OR you can excel at understanding the business needs and how to use technology to solve that business need. It’s rare that you can have both.

What’s a “fun fact” about you?

Paul: I still use my film degree through television directing at my church!

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