Editor's Note: The IT Leadership Awards, presented by Pride Technologies, celebrate local IT professionals who help local, regional, national and global businesses run better through engaged leadership and a commitment to innovation. For the next 6 weeks, check back each Tuesday and Thursday as we highlight one of the 20 honorees of this year's award.
After three years in the military and trying his hand at a few professions, Ralph Watkins found what he was looking for with the help of his wife, Tracie.
She was working for a Microsoft solutions provider that needed help setting up its training courses. Tracie encouraged Watkins to try it out, and he found not only a job, but a passion for technology he brings to his work nearly two decades later as vice president of technology for Pure Romance, a global company based in Cincinnati.
"You could say I came to technology in a trial by fire way," Watkins laughs as he remembers the early years of his career. "But it never feels like work. Regardless of the situation, I’m very fortunate to have as a career that feels like a hobby."
With Pure Romance since December 2010, Watkins began with a holistic view of the company’s IT needs. "We’re a tight, family-run organization that has incurred a tremendous growth spurt," he says. "First and foremost of what we do is support our large base of consultants. They’re the heart of this company and we wouldn’t be successful without them or our leaders, Patty (Brisben, founder and chairwoman) and Chris (Cicchinelli, president and CEO)."
In addition to supporting consultants, Watkins has built an internal team so Pure Romance is able to take on tasks internally instead of outsourcing work. And that team is gearing up to tackle a large enterprise resource planning shift in 2015. But just because Watkins has the internal team doesn’t mean they’re creating IT solutions for IT sake.
"Everyone wants to focus on what’s next, but we have to look at what’s now," he says. "As we expand into more countries, we have to keep in mind what’s working and what could be better. We’re all a team here. That’s what keeps us moving forward."
Previous honorees featured: Michael Braine, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Retail and Vision Care Services for Luxottica Retail; Jay Brown, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for UC Health; John Kellington, CIO and Senior VP, The Cincinnati Insurance Companies; Vinit Kohli, Vice President of Management Information Systems for Sibcy Cline; Annette Marksberry, Associate Provost and CIO for Information Technologies at Xavier University; Anup Nair, Chief Information Officer of Vantiv