If you want to get an accurate snapshot of how far the IT industry has come over the past several decades, a good place to start would be a conversation with Pat Randall. Now a Client Relationship Partner at technology staffing firm Kforce, Randall got her start in the industry 30 years ago as an IT recruiter who helped companies staff their data centers. “It was a different landscape,” she said in an interview. “Back when I started we either had to hand-deliver resumes to the client or occasionally fax them, whereas now everything is done by email or text. We used newspapers for advertising, and nobody does that anymore.”
But though the recruiting tactics have certainly changed, the workforce has seen an even more dramatic transformation. “People didn’t even need a college degree back then” she recalled. “They were working in data centers doing backups and running the network. We had clients who were still running card readers because they weren’t even on mainframes yet. The people we place now have to have a college degree and in some cases even a master’s. It’s also more of a global workforce with companies hiring many more foreign nationals.”
As the industry continued to experience seismic shifts and Randall transitioned from recruiting to sales, she began to realize that developing a strong professional network had become a vital requirement, if she wanted to continue advancing in her career. It was a colleague of hers at Kforce who, 16 years ago, first told her about the Society for Information Management (SIM), the most well-established association for IT leaders. He encouraged her to join the membership committee of SIM’S Boston chapter, and the size and quality of her network expanded almost immediately. “Within a few months they asked me to become the chairman of the group, and so I was the membership chair in Boston for four years,” she said. In that short time period, the membership size of the Boston chapter more than doubled.
Today, Boston is one of SIM’s largest and most successful chapters, and part of that success stems back to Randall’s recruitment strategies. “A big part of that was just reaching out to people and giving the elevator pitch on why they should become members of SIM,” she said. For much of its history, SIM Boston had relied more on passive word-of-mouth, whereas now they were more actively recruiting members. “Whenever I was meeting with a client I’d ask if they knew about SIM and would give them the elevator pitch. We’d explain that you don’t just join an organization like SIM when you’re unemployed and looking for a job. You join when you’re employed so you can have a network to fall back on.”
SIM Boston also shied away from a cookie-cutter approach to member services and crafted offerings that catered to local industries. “The Boston chapter tends to talk to our members and find out what they want and then try to start a program for it,” Randall said. “For example, we’ve had a CIO Roundtable for many years, but in the last few years we’ve added a Life Sciences Roundtable because Boston is the hub for life sciences in the U.S. We’ve also added an Education Roundtable because of all the colleges and universities here.”
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She served as President of SIM Boston in 2004 and 2005.Word about Randall soon began to spread to the national SIM Board, and it wasn’t long before she was recruited into national leadership. She joined the national board in 2006 as Director of Marketing but soon transitioned to Director of Membership, a position she’s held ever since.
In 2015, Randall won SIM’s prestigious Leader of the Year award; after speaking to her colleagues at SIM, it wasn’t difficult to discern why. Kevin More, who’s the current board of director’s chair and also a SIM Boston member, has worked on a number of committees with her at both the local and national level. “She’s connected to just about everybody,” he said in an interview. “If you want to know what jobs are available, or who in the industry is doing what, she’s someone you want to talk to. She’s the consummate networker and she’s got a great reputation no matter where in SIM you are.”
Randall’s strength, More said, was her ability to recruit SIM members into leadership roles. “She knows how to fill the bus with the right people,” he said. “I served on a nominating committee with her, and our job was to recruit new board members. She’s the go-to person for that. She knows the industry and she’s really good at matching people to open positions and figuring out how we could best leverage their skills.”
James Bowen, current Vice President of SIM Boston and Chief Operating Officer for Measured Progress was also a recruitment of Pat’s. “We met in 2012 when I worked at BJ’s Wholesale Club and Pat was our representative from Kforce and I knew the moment I met her, I liked her. She had this persona about her that you just knew she was someone you could trust. She introduced me to SIM and then asked if I’d be willing to serve on a committee and the rest is history. She is truly an amazing person who is selfless and kindhearted to all.” James has worked with Pat and Kforce over the years and has come to rely on her expertise in the staffing industry. “I’ve had two major initiatives where projects were at risk due to resource constraints and I called Pat each time. Literally, within days she had candidates screened, prequalified and on my doorstep ready to go. In fact, my VP of IT told his team, don’t call Pat until you’re absolutely ready to go because she will have people here tomorrow, so you better be ready.
While Randall has played no small part in transforming SIM, she also readily admits that she’s been transformed by SIM. “I’ve become a lot more self confident,” she said. “One of the people in my office teases me all the time because he said he’s seen me get up in front of 100 people to speak, and he pointed out that there’s no way that I would have talked in front of three people back when I first joined. He said, ‘It’s just given you so much confidence in yourself.’”
With so many industry connections and over 30 years of experience, one could wonder why Randall continues to devote so much of her time volunteering for SIM. But she explained that there’s a natural life cycle for SIM members; they join the organization to boost their careers, but once they attain a certain level of leadership the motivation then shifts toward giving back. To illustrate this point, she told a story about her early days at SIM Boston when she was serving as the Membership Chair. “I was trying to think of what we could do to attract more senior level people,” she recalled. “I didn’t know anybody and hadn’t been in the chapter very long. I called Steve Finnerty. At the time he was the CIO of Kraft Foods in Chicago, and also the Chairman of the SIM national board. He didn’t know me from anyone and I just left a message saying, ‘Steve I know you’re the president of the national organization, would you mind spending a few minutes telling me why you’re involved with SIM still when you’re at the top of the profession at one of the biggest companies in the country?’ Half an hour later his admin called me and said, ”Mr. Finnerty said to put you on his schedule. He’ll spend a half hour with you.” And he did. He told me that’s why he was involved, and he’s still involved 16 years later. He’s giving back.”