We sat down with Elantis CEO, Dave Roe, for a special edition of our Employee Spotlight. In this interview, Dave shares what sparked his interest in the IT industry and what inspired him to start Elantis nine years ago. Dave imparts his best advice for anyone starting out in the IT industry and why it’s so important to be open to continuous learning. He also gives insight into his proudest moments at Elantis, what makes him most excited about Elantis’ culture, and his vision for the future of the company.
Andrea Nwobosi: Welcome, Dave. I am so grateful to have you as part of this special edition of our employee spotlight, for a CEO spotlight! Thank you for carving out a little bit of time in your day to answer a few questions so that we can get to know you and Elantis even better.
What inspired you to start Elantis Solutions about nine-and-a-half years ago?
Dave Roe: I wanted to create a company that brought together sales and delivery, so that we actually did what we said we were going to sell. I know that sounds a bit funny from a consulting perspective, but at a lot of companies I worked in the past, it was very much, “Sell it and we’ll build it,” and they didn’t really have much alignment between sales and delivery that way. I really wanted to create a company that when we went out and met with customers, we said what we could do, we said what we couldn’t do, and we made sure that the things we said we could do, we delivered.
I also wanted to create a people focused consulting company. Whereby, we focused on people more than technologies. What I wanted to happen was that as a person came into Elantis, they’d know a specific type of technology such as SharePoint, but as those technologies change over time, we want to keep our employees. We want to make sure we’ve got great employees who want to learn and can transition between technologies—rather than just have an employee for the life cycle of the product.
Andrea: What moments in Elantis’ history are you most proud of?
Dave: Oh wow, there’s tons of them! The things that come to mind are our first employees when we first set up the company nine years ago. It was hiring our first employees and getting our first customer—I always remember those. It’s very exciting times and challenging as you start up a company.
Also, I’m very proud of when we opened up our office in Vancouver. That was another challenge that we had and then further from that, we opened an office in Bellevue. I’m really proud of doing that and opening up those offices. More recently, the thing that comes to mind is the fact that we’re working with multiple Fortune 500 companies in the United States. It always seems weird to me that a small company that started in Edmonton is able to work with some huge companies like General Motors, British Aerospace, and companies like that. I’m very proud of how we’ve developed and matured our processes to align with those types of customers.
Andrea: From a delivery and customer standpoint, what is it like to work with Elantis?
Dave: Customers are really important to us at Elantis and we really value the relationship, above anything else. I think where that comes into play is a lot of the projects we deliver and a lot of the solutions we develop with our customers. We’re very much about having a relationship with them, so we understand that there’s a formal side—there’s the contracts, proposals, sales, and there’s the status reports. We also want there to be a human side as well, where we can have a relationship. We can work together to get the solution that best suits the customer and best suits the needs that they have. So, we’re very much a relationship-based company.
Andrea: From an employee perspective, what is it like to work with Elantis?
Dave: I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask for this one because I’m probably biased. (ha ha) We try to create a team atmosphere here. A big goal of ours is to create an environment where everybody’s helping each other and working toward the same solution.
What we don’t want to do is we don’t want to have individuals working on projects who are struggling to get through it. So, we’re very much about mentoring and training our employees so that they can better their careers and move up in the company. One of our main goals is to start hiring from a junior level and then promote them through to intermediates, through to seniors, and then through to architects. We want to create that type of environment so that people can learn, enjoy their career, and then get to where they want to in their lives.
Andrea: So, it really is a culture of growing and learning from each other. Is there anything else that you’d like to describe? What makes Elantis what it is from a culture perspective?
Dave: Yeah, I think there’s that side of it, which is the training and learning that we really encourage. I think we want everyone to be the mentor that they wish they had when they were younger. But there’s also the fun side of things as well. We come to work so much—it’s such a big part of our lives—that we want to make sure people have fun when they’re here. You can have a good laugh. You can go for lunches, go for a beer after work. We’re going for a river cruise in a couple of days. It’s that sort of thing where we want people to be feel part of a team, feel supported by the team, and really enjoy what they’re doing here. So that’s a huge part of it because no one wants to go to work when it’s not fun; I don’t either!
Andrea: What first sparked your interest in technology? Can you describe when you realized that this was a field that you wanted to get into?
Dave: Yeah, I’ve been in it for a number of years, obviously. (ha ha) I first started doing IT when I was at school. My career started off from the technical side. I originally started working on the mainframes and the mainframe programming and then gradually move into the Microsoft network side of things. I did some more development work with C# and then moved into sales, of all things. So, I’ve had a pretty broad experience of IT. I’ve always really enjoyed it because I’ve always been big about solving problems and I think the thing that excites me is when a customer or someone needs something done, they’re really struggling, and you can put a solution in place that you know can save them 10 hours a day or 8 hours a day. So, I’ve always enjoyed that side of it and automating things that make people’s lives easier.
Andrea: We previously talked about mentorship, learning, and training. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the IT industry?
Dave: Yeah, it’s a tough industry. I sometimes wonder why I’m doing IT and joke around with my friends. Why did we ever pick IT? (ha ha) I think the advice I would give is it’s really all about pushing yourself through, challenging yourself to solve these problems, and being open to continuous learning. I think if you want to especially come into consulting, technology is always changing. The customers always have different environments. It’s about pushing yourself through and understanding, “Yeah, I’m not going to know everything. I never will know everything.” Get comfortable with that fact and know that, as a team, we will know how to solve the problem and then be able to work it through.
So, I think just having the flexibility to understand that you don’t know a lot and you always need to learn a lot, keep pushing and driving yourself. It’s what will get you there in the end. If you sit back and don’t drive yourself, you won’t move forward. Whereas, if you come here and you join our company, for example, and you’ve got some drive and some go, we’ll help you get there and help you get to where you want to go in your career.
Andrea: What do you wake up looking forward to every day? What do you enjoy most about your role at Elantis?
Dave: Well, besides the coffee and the doughnuts. (ha ha) The thing that I enjoy the most about working with Elantis is around the expansion and the opportunities available to us. I get really excited! This goes back to one of my earlier answers around working with Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies. I get really excited about opening those sorts of doors and working with the next huge enterprise-based client, delivering there, and making sure they have a fantastic customer experience—which also gives our team the opportunity to work with those types of clients. That’s the sort of thing that gives me a buzz, wakes me up in the morning, and gets me running into work to grab my coffee.
Andrea: I have one more question for you, Dave. What is your vision for Elantis over the next five years?
Dave: Over the next five years, I’d really like to see us expand down the western coast of the U.S. and down from Bellevue into, say, the San Francisco and San Diego area. I think that’s very exciting for us. I’d really love to do that. We’re a company that wants to be a total of 20 to 30 employees at each location rather than a big cube farm. I think the expansion down there would be a fantastic thing for us over the next five years.
I’m also really excited to see the growth of our team over the next five years. I think it’s fantastic when we hire people, and you see them develop and mature over a few years and grow into the leaders that we’ve got at the company today. I love watching people grow through the company or grow with the company. I love that side of things.
Andrea: We have lots to look forward to over the next five years and beyond. Thank you for your time today and for taking time for this interview. It was great to learn a little bit more about you and Elantis at the same time. Thanks so much, Dave.
Dave: Great, thank you, Andrea.
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