Technology Association of Iowa & BluPrairie
TAI Member Spotlight: Q&A with BluPrairie Founder Michelle Bates
Technology Association of Iowa: Tell us a bit about BluPrairie and how you got started.
What is BluPrairie? BluPrairie, based in Coralville, Iowa, is an independent cloud strategy and design partner that helps businesses, governmental agencies, start-ups and institutions of higher education of all shapes and sizes leverage new technology to do business differently. It has the distinction of being among Iowa’s few women-owned technology companies.
What Services does BluPrairie Offer? The company offers a full suite of cloud services, from ideation and strategic planning to enterprise and solution architecture to lean process improvement and technology optimization to organizational change management. Specialty services include security assessments, third-party technology brokerage, economic development support, contract CIO, and more.
Michelle Bates: I am an accountant by trade who took a left turn and ended up working in technology after helping to implement a policy management solution at my father’s insurance agency, Hochstedler Insurance, in Kalona, Iowa. Following the implementation I went to work for the company whose solution we implemented.
For more than 20 years I have actively worked to advance my knowledge and skills, with the goal of being a CIO for a small to mid-market company. This has lead me to work in various market segments—financial, manufacturing, a startup, and most recently, aerospace and defense. I have followed the companies investing in the latest technologies to stay at the forefront of technology.
Most recently I was the Director of IT Architecture Services at Rockwell Collins. During that time I was responsible for revitalizing the Enterprise Architecture organization and leading the development of the Cloud Strategy. I championed the the transition of Rockwell Collins to Google for Work and began working with companies like Google and Amazon Web Services. I established great relationships with these companies and developed a passion for the business benefits of moving to the cloud.
Today, startups and enterprises (Fortune 1000, 500 etc) are leveraging the cloud, but there is a gap for small and mid-sized businesses, state and local government entities and education providers. These organizations know they need to do something with their technology to stay relevant in their markets, but they aren’t sure how to get started, who to turn to, or how to get their people on board with the changes coming their way. BluPrairie was born to fill this need.
I am excited to leverage my experience, my relationships with companies like Google and Amazon Web Services, and the business value of the cloud to fill this gap in the market and serve these customers.
Our mission is to use modern technology to enable businesses to grow and adapt to the needs of their current and future customers resulting in economic stability, growth and development of Iowa and the Midwest.
TAI: What would you like to see more of when it comes to technology in Iowa?
MB: We are at a critical juncture with the pace change in technology. I would love to see programs made available to help incent business and organizations to invest in modern technology to ensure that they can stay relevant in their markets. Regardless of the “shape or size” of an organization a strong technology foundation will be required to support growth and stability.
TAI: What can other entrepreneurs and business owners do to help get more women involved in our state’s technology community?
MB: The STEM programs in the state are terrific and we are making progress in this area. Entrepreneurs and business owners should get engaged with organizations such as Iowa Women Lead Change and TAI. It is important to really understand the “why” behind the gap in engagement of women in technology and for companies and organizations to build a plan to actively close it. Providing internship opportunities for both high school and college students is also imperative to begin to give practical exposure to the “business of technology” and to create excitement for the changes and impact that can be driven by tech. Converting these talented interns to full-time employees is also critical. The earlier that companies can engage with them, the better chance we have of keeping talented young women in the state.
We also need to encourage experienced women in tech to find their voice and to make it easier for them to find the resources needed to step out, take a risk, and chart their own journey to entrepreneurship. I’d love to see a joint effort with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, IWLC, and TAI to create and promote this type of program.
TAI: Share one piece of advice that you’ve found invaluable.
MB: My dad, who founded Hochstedler Insurance in 1963 (which is now a second generation business run by my brother Kevin), always said, “Business is all about people.” He taught us that if we focus on people first, success will follow. This is the approach that I have taken throughout my career and why even though we are a technology company, we start with “people first.” I want to make the cloud accessible and understandable at all levels of an organization, from those familiar with technology to those who are new to it. At the end of the day, if people don’t embrace, adopt, and use technology, there is no value in it, and our goal is to bring value to our customers.
TAI: How has being a member of TAI helped you build your business?
MB: TAI has been a great partner in generating awareness for BluPrairie! They have actively worked to get the word out about us, connect us with great people and were a key partner in the success of our brand launch that we held on June 9, 2016 in the Corridor We look forward to partnering with TAI as we introduce our company’s services in the greater Des Moines area and across Iowa in the coming months.