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Impel Employee Spotlight: Mike Case

Team Impel includes musicians, foodies, avid animal lovers, athletes, and more, and their passion, energy, and grit make Impel successful. Impel’s Employee Spotlight Series highlights one of our incredible teammates each month, giving you an authentic and behind-the-scenes look at our culture. This month we’re introducing you to Senior Manager of IT, Mike Case.

Tell us about a typical day for you in your role as IT Manager.

I generally start the day by making a good cup of coffee (most often pour-over, though I’ve been enjoying my AeroPress more and more as of late). I’ll check my messages for any urgent issues before I head into the office. I prefer to get into the office well before most folks get there; I don’t always succeed (I’ve never been a morning person), but I prefer to have some time to settle in before I jump into meetings. I’ll generally sync up with my team around 9 to put out any major fires, touch base on projects, and make sure everything is running smoothly. I’ll usually have at least a few morning meetings (morning is a crucial time particularly to sync up with our international teams given the limited workday overlap). From there it’s a mix of tactical responsibilities (helpdesk tickets, new hire hardware/system prep, etc.) and strategic responsibilities (improving our infosec program, planning out system connections/automation, etc.). It can vary significantly depending on the day, and given the nature of IT, there’s usually a gap between my plan and what actually happens, but if nothing else, it keeps things interesting!

How long have you been working in the IT field, and what led you to pursue a career in technology?

I’ve worked in IT for ~14 years or so. I’ve always been interested in technology, but it actually stemmed from a pursuit of music. I’ve always been a musician and played in various bands in high school. We needed a computer capable of handling audio and video production, and since I couldn’t afford to buy one, thanks to the generosity of a few friends (both in time and spare parts), I learned to build one. Once I graduated, I found that computer repair paid the bills a lot better than music did, and since I enjoyed it, I continued to pursue it.

Of all the IT projects you’ve been involved in, is there one that stands out as your favorite? What made it particularly rewarding?

It was much larger than just IT, but I think of all of the projects I’ve been involved with, my favorite is when we acquired Pulsar and added our Georgian team. The technical challenges were a fun puzzle to solve, but it’s my favorite even more so because of the people involved. Our Georgian team is awesome, and getting to know them professionally and personally has probably been the biggest reward for me.

Which Impel core value resonates with you the most and why?

This is perhaps surprising coming from IT, but by far it’s Relationships. Fostering good working relationships is key to accomplishing anything: you can have all of the Grit, Passion, Energy, and Inventiveness you want, but if you don’t have solid Relationships with the people around you, it’s virtually impossible to achieve any kind of lasting Results.

As someone deeply involved in IT, what emerging technology trends are you most excited about or think will have a significant impact in the near future?

Well, of course, the biggest topic of conversation in the tech space at the moment is AI, and large language models in particular. With the advent of tools like ChatGPT, we’re seeing shifts in user behavior like we haven’t seen since the early days of the internet and social media. I think there’s a great deal of potential in AI as a force multiplier, and I’m excited to see in the next few years how people leverage it to make them more effective in what they do.

We hear you’re on your way to becoming a 46er, someone who has summited the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Can you share what inspired you to take on this challenge? What’s been your most memorable hiking experience so far?

I am indeed pursuing the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, and at the time of writing, I’m at 41, so just a few more to go! I climbed my first high peak (Algonquin) at the age of 14, and while I didn’t then know about the 46ers, and it was a long time until I went back, I never forgot that experience. Fast-forward to 2017, and I had the opportunity to join my brother-in-law (who had only recently started his journey to becoming a 46er) on a hike. It was around 25 miles of grueling terrain, five peaks, and ridiculous amounts of mud – and I effectively couldn’t walk the next day – but it was also breathtakingly beautiful. It felt really good to take on a challenge like that and find myself equal to it (if only by a small margin then).

From that vantage point, on a clear day, you can see miles and miles of beautiful mountains, trees, and lakes, and conversely, on a foggy day, you can be on a bald peak in the middle of a cloud, and feel like you’re walking on another planet. I got hooked, and I’ve pursued it ever since.

Have you found any connections between your experiences as a hiker and your work in IT?

Hiking is often an escape from the world of IT (I see the lack of cell service in the woods as a feature), but if nothing else, it’s a fantastic way to learn grit. There are going to be times on the trail when you’re exhausted, your feet hurt, your pack is heavy, it’s muddy and rainy, and you’re wondering “Why am I doing this?” You have to grit your teeth and get through it anyway, because that’s the only way to get to the reward (the summit if you’re on the way up and a nice hot meal if you’re on the way down). It takes much the same mentality at times in IT (as with anything worth doing). In hiking, we often sum it up with the catchphrase “Embrace the suck.”

You’ve also been a musician most of your life. Tell us about how you got into music and share with us your most memorable gig.

Well, I come from a family of musicians, and I was surrounded by music at home, at gigs, and in church, so it was pretty natural for me to pursue it. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to make my own music. I’ve always sung, I’ve played drums since I was five, and guitar and bass nearly as long. I was always (and still am) playing in churches, forming bands, writing/recording music, and playing live.

One particularly memorable gig (though certainly not my most shining moment) we were playing at an outdoor amphitheater. The show had gone fairly well, and I thought we needed a big finish, so I got it in my head (being all of 16 at the time) that I should jump off the stage. The plan went well right up to the point that (in mid-air) I remembered that it had rained the night before, and the grass was wet and slippery. Suffice it to say, the landing did not go well. On the positive side, the biggest bruise was only to my ego.

Who are your musical influences, and how have they shaped your approach to playing and creating music?

There are a ton of them, and they’re all over the place musically. I probably live the most in the alt and indie rock world, so my influences tend to be bands like Anberlin, Relient K, or Switchfoot, but I love everything from jazz (Vince Guaraldi) to hardcore (August Burns Red), so it’s an eclectic mix. Sometimes I’ll listen to an album I haven’t heard in years and realize “Oh yeah, that’s totally where I stole that guitar lead from.”

That said, the single biggest influence on me musically is my dad. He’s written and recorded a ton of stuff over the years, and especially having had the chance to play with him on church music teams for ~20 years, I’ve learned a ton (understatement) from him in that time.

If you could collaborate with any musician, living or deceased, who would it be, and why?

Oh man, there are so many. First answer is (of course) my dad, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to collaborate with him frequently!

Outside of family, it’s hard to pick just one, but I think Matt Thiessen (Relient K) is one of the best and most underrated writers of our generation. He’s an incredible lyricist, has an excellent sense of melody, and he just keeps getting better and better as time goes on. Plus he’s co-written a ton of awesome stuff. I’d absolutely jump at the chance to work with him!

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my friend Stephen Phillips. He’s a local musician here in Syracuse, and I’ve had the chance to work with him a bunch of times in the last couple of years. He’s one of the best musicians I’ve ever played with, he comes up with stuff that just breaks my brain, it’s so much fun. Definitely keep an ear out for him, he’s always releasing new stuff!

Mike is one of those employees that feels like the glue holding it all together. In addition to the tremendous work he does to allow the office to function, he’s always eager to participate in company functions and events, is a great team player and motivator, and can always be counted on for a great joke – just don’t leave your laptop unlocked around him!