This Q&A with Senior Vice President Jerry Kerns shares valuable insights to planning ahead in the world of technology and the importance of happy employees.
In 2000, Jerry came on board with Netfor as Contract Field Technician. In his 20 years he has become an expert in everything technology, customer service, relationships, and what it takes to build a successful company. His positive attitude and determination to improve start to rub off on you when you spend a few minutes with him.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges our industry will face in the next 5 years?
A: From the technology end I would say a challenge is how to manage and support the continued commoditization of hardware and moving of the real work into virtual space. We’ve heard for years that the desktop was going to disappear and while those predictions haven’t fully come to pass, dedicated purpose computer devices such as points of sale, phone systems, and the whole embodiment of the Internet of Things (IoT) has changed pretty much everything else. Even entire software application ecosystems have moved beyond the computer system so that local installation of an application is increasingly rare unless it’s something from the App Store and even then it largely interfaces into virtual space.
From the human capital side the specialized skills that are becoming necessary to the support of the technological changes we’re seeing can be antithetical to the need to not only do it right, do it better, but also do it more friendly with a top shelf customer experience and high empathy. Those combinations of skills and traits are not exactly the most common.
Q: How do you keep track of Netfor’s company progress? Any specific metrics?
A: We are data driven people in a data driven company so metrics, KPI’s, SLA’s are all daily topics and insight to what’s working or not working. So for my own sense of whether we’re on the right track as a company overall, I tend to watch for less tangible things like how many people love their jobs even when the job is difficult. I watch for people taking on a role and owning it rather than just going through the motions. I watch for people going above and beyond to help their subordinates and teammates because they want to, whether that’s coaching, buying someone lunch, helping someone move or helping someone jump their car when their battery dies. How people here treat each other reflects on how they treat the people we are here to support. I believe that testifies we’re on our way to building the company and culture that we envision. We have amazing technology but without the people to use it skillfully and with the right sense of purpose all that tech has little value.
Q: How would you describe our company culture?
A: Simply put, our culture is based on caring about and helping people. That sense of caring and desire to help ranges from strong team camaraderie, our clients and their clients, each other and our community. It’s one where people want to come and make a life rather than just a stepping stone in their career, though we pride ourselves on that as well. When people do leave, we’ve left our mark on them to carry forward, Netlanders forever. We get some of them back years later with new skills and a passion to use those skills to make us even better.
We work hard, no question, and it can be trying at times. We face challenges as a team and we win as a team – and that gets into the blood.
Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
A: When I’m not working I like to work around our property, play with our 3 dogs and spend time with my wife of 30 years. We also like to spend time cruising the back roads of Indiana on the motorcycle. And, as vacations, have ridden from the Outer Banks in the East to the Blackhills, Wyoming and Montana in the West logging over 220k miles in the last decade.