Up next in our Senior Leadership Team spotlight, we have our Director of Technology John Bleidistel.
Read about how John's positive, team first atmosphere is an ideal fit for our culture at PFSbrands!
Q: Can you tell us what you did before landing at PFSbrands?
A: Prior to joining the PFS team I worked in several different fields. I grew up in Southern California which houses a lot of industry. During college I worked full time and went to school at night. It took FOREVER, but I finally got my BS in Business Management.
After some flipping of burgers as a teenager, I worked a couple years at Northrop Electronics. I did everything from driving trucks, delivering materials, to working in a “clean-room”. My first leadership role was as a Plant Manager at a “Drive Axle remanufacturing” company.
From there I moved to manage another “Drive Axle remanufacturing” company (there’s a lot of FWD cars out there…). While that was very rough, greasy, nasty work, it provided me with a wealth of experience. I learned metal machining from my Dad growing up (he was a High School shop teacher), which was my “in” at these companies. Precision grinding was our remanufacturing niche and I became an expert in the technology. I trained dozens of people on that equipment (some hardly spoke English), managed over 60 production line workers, and really enjoyed the challenge!
Seeking “cleaner” work, I landed a job at Yamaha Motors as a Buyer/Department manager. I soon became responsible for the Accessories and Apparel department which handled riding equipment for all their motor-driven products (WareRunners, ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorcycles). This position certainly had a “cool” factor as I was privy to “top-secret” design/logo changes in vehicles before they were public since the accessories/equipment had to match. It was also interesting since, being Japanese-owned, the Japanese culture was apparent everywhere. For example, our Christmas gift each year was a very ornate Japanese statue complete with traditional clothing, sword, facial expression, etc.
Tired of the large Corporate life (and wearing a tie everyday), I went back to school in the evenings and got my MCSE certification from Microsoft. Throughout my life I’ve always loved technology and tinkering with ways to use it. I felt that in order to be happy, I was going to have to work in the tech field in some fashion. I took a leap and became an IT consultant (in Missouri of all places) and eventually landed a consulting position at MoDOT.
After 9 months solo, my wife moved out here with our daughter and we’ve been here ever since. Consulting at MoDOT for almost 10 years was awesome and I met many life-long friends there. The management trusted me and allowed me to explore new technologies and platforms to do whatever was needed to meet the needs of the department and the public. This provided the bulk of my professional technology experience since I interacted with all aspects of MoDOT’s IT infrastructure.
Q: What brought you to PFSbrands?
A: My wife (Paige) and Julie became friends through “Mom’s Club” and then preschool when Megan and Claudia were very little. I got to know Shawn gradually over the years as we were both involved with various activities and BBQs. Little did I know that the stories he was telling about his fledgling business would become what we know as PFSbrands today!
While consulting, I had a side business that provided IT support to small businesses. I started providing IT services to PFSbrands when it seemed the only office staff was Darrell, Roger, and Stacey! As the years passed and PFS grew, the conversations of my joining the company became more frequent. My fascination with what he was building drove me to finally accept the position in February of 2009. I joined PFS managing all of Operations. In this position I managed Human Resources, Print Shop, Marketing, Purchasing, Customer Service, Warehouse, drivers, and IT. To say I was busy was an understatement! With the rapid growth of the company in the ensuing years it became necessary to spin off various departments to be managed by others. Now as Director of Technology, I’m able to focus all my energy on what I really enjoy doing – managing technology!
Q: Tell us about you and your family a bit.
A: My family is what motivates me every day. Paige and I have been married 22 years and she teaches 4th grade at a parochial school in Jefferson City. We have two awesome kids who are both freshmen this year – one in high school (Matthew) and one in college (Megan). The 5th member of the family is Nikkie, our Australian Shephard. Matthew plays trombone in the high school marching band, is involved in Boy Scouts (rank: Life), enjoys video games and likes technology. Megan finished her senior year in high school as team Captain of the Varsity Volleyball team and is extremely artistic. She now attends MSU in Springfield and is majoring in Marketing (although she’s really not sure what she wants to do yet).
We’re at that proud moment as parents where we’re thinking “Wow, somehow we’ve managed to inspire them to do these things!”. We couldn’t be prouder! I’ve always tried to push them to think and dream big with crazy statements like, “Someone’s going to figure out how to populate Mars in your lifetime. You could be a part of that!” I must say I’m getting worse and more annoying with those statements now that I’ve read Grant Cardone…!
Q: What is a normal day in the life of John?
A: I usually get to work between 7:00 – 7:30am and try to work on whatever’s critical. The reason for hitting that stuff first is because in the world of IT, there’s going to be new issues every day. The only question is how many and what is their impact on the organization. I really enjoy being presented with a problem and working with my team to find the answer. In the early days at PFS it was just me. Now I have some of the brightest people I’ve ever known to help troubleshoot and brainstorm a way to a solution. It’s a lot of fun.
Q: What is the biggest impact you make on bottom-line here at PFSbrands?
A: I’d say the biggest impact on the bottom line comes in protecting the bottom line. What I mean by that is there are many cyber threats against companies these days and a large part of what we do is ensure we’re protecting our data and systems. The systems that run PFS are critical to daily operations and any interruptions can be devastating.
The other key thing the IT department does for the bottom line is to put data and reports at people’s fingertips. Namely our Sales people who are really the backbone of the company. Providing them with detailed, accurate data helps them be more informed and efficient at their jobs.
Q: Any insider tips when it comes to IT, Tech, Security or networking?
A: There’s an old adage in IT: “Nobody cares about backups until they need something restored.” To put it in perspective I like to ask people, “If your laptop or home computer caught fire or disappeared overnight, what would you miss?” That gets people thinking!
Everyone has thousands of photos, old tax returns, and other important info on these devices, but many have never backed anything up – ever! With an external hard drive or online backup system like Carbonite, you can set up an automated backup routine for very little money. You may forget it’s there after a while, but if something should ever happen, you’ll be glad you set it up! I can’t stress that enough – back your stuff up!
Q: Anything else we didn’t cover you would like to share?
A: The brightest spot in our work environment is definitely the people. Not just the A-Team in the IT department (woohoo!), but all throughout the company we have people who inspire, care, work hard, and have fun. I try to find ways to serve the team – whether it’s making their voices heard on an issue or helping them find a way to get past a roadblock in their work.
We’ve all got our usual list of tasks that need to get done, but helping a fellow team member accomplish theirs is not only personally rewarding, but it pulls us all together and keeps that flywheel spinning faster in the right direction!
From our team first attitude to empowering employees, check out more Senior Leadership Team interviews in our Pro Tips section.