MISSOULA – Working as an information systems technology consultant can be fast-paced and fascinating, but somewhat mysterious to students who are pondering going into the profession, according to David Firth, professor of management information systems at the University of Montana School of Business Administration. From 2:30 to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, Firth will take his students to Advanced Technology Group Missoula Solutions Center to demystify just what technology consultants do on a day-to-day basis.
Up to 75 students from UM’s School of Business Administration and the Montana Information Systems Association will head downtown for an onsite visit to learn how the 60-plus technology consultants at ATG spend their days. After the presentation, students are invited to stay and network at “Club MSC” and learn about the work hard/play hard company culture. Firth has taken his students to visit ATG once a semester for the past three years.
“Sometimes it’s hard for students to see outside the classroom,” Firth said. “It’s easy to get caught up in homework, intramural sports and volunteer activities. Visiting a technology company can be transformative.”
When Firth’s students see young professionals a year or two out of college doing work for clients throughout the world, they often have a moment of “self-actualization,” he said.
“They can see themselves in the consultants’ shoes,” he said. “Students think, ‘he or she may be shorter or taller – or have blond hair instead of brown – but they’re not that different from me. I could be a technology consultant, too.’”
ATG has grown rapidly since it opened the Missoula office with a couple of employees in 2011. Out of more than 60 employees, over half are fairly recent graduates from the UM. Located in the historic Studebaker Building, ATG is a high-tech firm that does business with multimillion to multibillion dollar companies throughout the world – including CenturyLink, Atlassian, Sungard, Yodle, Concur, Constant Contact, InterCall and many others. ATG’s headquarters are in Kansas City, with offices in Missoula, Denver, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Dallas. Missoula now is the largest office at ATG.
The UM-ATG partnership has been instrumental in growing the Missoula tech company, according to Tom Stergios, vice president of ATG Missoula Solutions Center.
“It’s a great partnership where ATG recruits the best and the brightest from the University of Montana and hires graduates who have the opportunity to deliver world-class consulting to national and international clients from Missoula, Montana,” Stergios said. “Montana graduates don’t have to leave the Missoula Valley and head to Silicon Valley to find fast-paced, high-paying technology jobs.”
According to Larry Gianchetta, dean of UM’s School of Business Administration, “ATG is an example of a high-growth technology company that provides an opportunity for students to stay home after they graduate and earn a salary that is competitive nationally. Tom and I both are very proud that a high percentage of ATG’s workforce are University of Montana graduates.”
Being able to visit a consulting firm as an undergraduate is important, Stergios said. After college graduation, Stergios signed on with Accenture, a multinational technology company, without ever having been in a consulting firm before.
“It was all a mystery to me,” Stergios said. “I made a good decision but not an informed decision.”