Ubon Boutsomsi – RIM Architects (RIM)
- Written by: Mary Raitt Jordan
- Produced by: Ross Fields
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Born in a refugee camp in war-torn Thailand, Ubon Boutsomsi says the first problem he had to solve was staying alive.
Named after the city in which he was born without a birth certificate, was Boutsomsi’s starting point. But with a knack for figuring things out, he became a technology specialist with an uncanny ability to sort through complicated systems to better align them with business needs. After years revamping IT departments, he currently serves as CTO at RIM headquarters in Anchorage.
Hired two years ago, Boutsomsi’s chief project was to organize and upgrade the global design firm’s IT initiatives, a necessary move to support CEO Larry Cash’s vision to expand the firm internationally, he says. With offices in Anchorage, San Francisco, Tustin, Honolulu and Guam, each location specializes in multiple facets of the architectural business, he says, but needed to come together as a single operating business entity.
“No question, RIM was growing,” Boutsomsi says. “But it was piecemeal, and they needed best practices to stabilize and standardize business operations. The time had come to develop a seasoned IT department that would be a partner for business initiatives within the organization.”
Finding the pain point
RIM, Boutsomsi says, has won multiple awards for its portfolio of innovative architectural work for hotels, offices, visitor centers and convention centers. A special feature of its environmentally-focused designs is the use of natural lighting.
But its networking closet is another story.
“Rebuilding was a big task,” Boutsomsi says, noting he was welcomed to a spaghetti-like mass of wires for starters. “The only way I could eat that elephant was one bite at a time.”
With 75 employees scattered across its worldwide offices, Boutsomsi explained it’s not anyone’s “fault” that technical practice lacked efficiency. He says organizations everywhere are grappling to keep pace with the ever-changing technologies and adapting those processes to newly defined business strategies.
“Part of my job is to understand what the business side is experiencing. With RIM, I sorted out what I thought could get done quickly with a punch list to plug the holes temporarily, while we took a longer view of what needed to get done,” Boutsomsi says.
Straightaway Boutsomsi developed a service desk—a necessity for an organization of RIM’s size. That served two functions: it mapped out IT operations so the technical team could stay focused, and diffused the angst of the staff so they didn’t feel their requests were “dropping into a black hole of nothingness.”
Boutsomsi says his next order of business was updating all the hardware and software to better support the organization and enhance communications. He then took the system’s redesign into a hyperconverged environment, a reliable and cost-effective way to make sure everything was operational.
“Without tech, everyone’s job is a lot harder to do,” he says. “My job was to establish best practices and give employees the assurance that if things were broken, we are going to fix it.”
The success or failure of any given project, Boutsomsi says, relies on the strength of internal partnerships between corporate leadership and the technology team.
“The best companies realize they cannot treat IT as an afterthought; they will make sure IT is sitting down with them at the time plans are being strategized,” Boutsomsi says.
Boutsomsi credits the executive team at RIM for recognizing what was lacking in terms of technology and understanding the need to create the CTO position.
“They’ve been one of the better organizations to work with,” Boutsomsi says. “Sometimes people don’t like the answer, but it’s really refreshing to work with a team that takes it seriously.”
Tinkering with technology
Boutsomsi’s jobs in IT came about as a natural progression of his interests. Whatever project he encountered, his inherent nature was to troubleshoot and find the path to get things to work.
Playing around with hardware, soldering circuit boards for fun and learning programming was how it all started before he embraced traditional IT studies. To that end, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information technology engineering from Charter College in 2005 and an MBA in information and communication technology from Alaska Pacific University in 2007.
Boutsomsi’s initial technical and mechanical work experience came in North Carolina, when he worked as an assembly lead at RNS International from 1997 to 1998; as a machine department supervisor at Oem Worldwide from 1998 to 2000; and as an automation insertion supervisor at SMTC in Charlotte from 2000 to 2002.
Alaska-bound, Boutsomsi moved out West in 2003, gaining exposure to industries such as mining, oil and gas, government and now design. Moving throughout the state, , he served in capacities from network technician at Mercury Data Group to vice president of information technology at Petro 49 Inc. from 2015 to 2016.
Coming on board at RIM in 2017, Boutsomsi also continues to operate his own firm, Binary Consultants LLC, which he started in 2015, simultaneously. His overall specialty, he says, is serving mid-to-large size companies where he develops and manages operational budgets for technical departments and develops strategic plans.
“RIM is not my first rodeo. I’ve come to at least four companies as the person who rebuilds IT departments—that’s what I do,” he says, noting that he’s developed a solid network of vendor relationships to help him achieve his goals. “From my refugee camp experience forward, I’ve learned there is no alternative but to keep pushing forward, to fix things and never stop. Quitting is not an option.”
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