Even at a young age, Red River College alum David Hodge had a clear idea of what he wanted: namely, a career in Information Technology.
So when it came time to stake out a post-secondary path, Hodge was drawn to RRC’s Computer Analyst/Programmer option — it was a perfect match.
“The program was practical,” says Hodge, who graduated in 1983. “It got right to the point of what I really wanted to study.”
“It was intense, but it brought out the best in a lot of people. And generally, it was right on the money as far as how practical it proved once I’d graduated.”
Hodge, who’s now Senior Vice-President and Chief Information Officer at Great-West Life, describes his college years as a highly positive experience — one that allowed him to collaborate frequently with classmates, while at the same time getting a feel for real-world working environments.
“One of the realities of the program is that it mirrors real life, in that things don’t always happen in a structured manner, or according to a calendar schedule,” he explains.
“There were times of intense study and of course materials that had to be presented publicly, so it matched real life, in that things weren’t always orchestrated nice and neatly.”
Hodge was also impressed by the scope of the CA/P program, noting the curriculum included a financial component with emphasis on accounting, language and public speaking skills. The I.T. components and application languages taught — as well as the methods used to teach those skills to students — were similarly practical and pragmatic, he says.
The comprehensive training even helped him weather an economic downturn in the early 1980s.
“In hindsight, the path I took was the best thing for me, but when I first graduated, very few people could find jobs,” he recalls.
“I went into computer retail, which in turn led to a career with Apple Computer. That launched me into a number of very technical areas and gave me some of the exposures I needed in public speaking, business travel and meetings with executives — which in the end, really helped my career.”
Hodge worked for Apple as a systems engineer for five years (and before you ask, no, he doesn’t still own shares). Since 1998, he’s worked with Great-West Life, where he’s now responsible for all aspects of Information Technology.
He’s particularly fond of the opportunity to lead teams and individuals, and strives to bring out the best in people by creating an environment in which they can employ creativity to rise to the top. The biggest challenge facing practitioners is the rapid pace of change, he says, which continues to accelerate — and to increase in complexity — as consumers demand more and easier access to information.
His advice for current CA/P students (and recent graduates now entering the workforce) is simple: Don’t shy away from new challenges or risks, and always have an exit strategy.
“By that, I mean don’t make it hard for your boss to promote you,” he says. “Focus on developing strong leaders in your team that can step in and take on their next challenge when you move up.”
He’d also encourage graduates to be prepared for multiple careers.
“I’ve worked the retail floor of a computer store, I’ve been a self employed developer, I’ve been someone who’s essentially in marketing, I’ve been in highly technical roles, and now I largely focus on leading others” he says.
“If you expect that you will encounter a lot of diversity and change, then you will thrive.”