Thomson, who joined the Arizona Humanities Council in 2010, has a background in executive management, fundraising, human resources, public speaking, community relations, and strategic planning. The Yale Law School graduate was director of The Center for Law Leadership and Management at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU and was executive director of the Maricopa County Bar Association.
Surprising fact: “When I went to college I dreamed of being a composer and songwriter. To this day I play the piano, write poems and songs, and most recently have written several children’s stories.”
Biggest challenge: “Achieving my goals in a world where African-American women attorneys and leaders are not often at the helm with decision-makers, and are frequently underestimated despite decades of accomplishments.”
When it comes to new initiatives to promote and develop Arizona’s high technology industry, there is no telling how far the Arizona Technology Council will go.
Would you believe … China? A 10-day, fact-finding journey — led by Arizona Technology Council President and CEO Steven Zylstra — to one of the oldest nations on the planet ranks as the most spectacular effort to assist Arizona’s technology companies and individuals. But there’s much more.
For example, Consultants on Demand, a program run by Dick Stover, CEO of Go1099.com, connects businesses with consultants and professionals for various contract services. It’s free to all Tech Council members.
With the addition of Consultants on Demand to the council’s website, members can post projects and special assignments without charge. Consultants and professionals can access and bid on these projects, also without charge.
Then there is the Mentoring Program, launched in 2010 to provide Tech Council members with a venue for strengthening and building their business knowledge and network. A pool of talented and experienced business professionals is available to fill the role of mentors. Under the program, a mentor spends a year working with a Tech Council member on mutually agreed upon goals for business and personal growth. In addition, the Tech Council has speakers address the group throughout the year on various business topics.
“As the group progresses through the program,” Zylstra says, “new relationships will be formed via networking, and stronger companies will be built by learning new business practices for strategic planning and efficient operational management.”
Because the technology industry is still somewhat male dominated, Women in the Workforce is a program that provides an opportunity for women in technology to share ideas and experiences. Teresa Snyder, marketing director for OneNeck IT Services, says the program is an attempt to fill a need for women in technology.
The Leadership Excellence category recognizes that great companies have great leaders who share knowledge and inspire employees and the community.
Winner: Sundt Construction Category: Leadership Excellence Headquarters: Tempe Year Est.: 1890 No. of Employees in AZ: 850 Recent Award: Associated General Contractors of America’s Excellence in Education Award – 2009
The leadership of Sundt Construction is familiar and long standing. Sundt is 100 percent employee owned, its board has just three outside directors, and Chairman and CEO, J. Doug Pruitt, has been with the company since 1966.
Within the past decade, Sundt has developed two leadership development programs for employees. Started in 2000, LEAP, or Leadership Excellence Accelerates Performance, has graduated more than 150 employees. Most of the graduates of the LEAP program are now in middle- or senior-management positions at Sundt. START, or Sundt Talent Recognition and Training, began in 2004. Since then, it has provided leadership development for almost 80 “early career” employees.
Sundt’s Strategic Management Committee includes representatives from all operating divisions and support departments. This committee has several important tasks, including the annual development of a tactical plan for each department and operating unit, and quarterly progress reporting on each unit’s tactical plan. The committee involves employees from all over the company in the decision-making process for all units and departments.
Sundt has won the Association for Strategic Planning’s Richard Goodman Strategic Planning Award for large, for-profit companies. The company won for its efforts in strengthening the importance and performance of strategic planning, and for fostering continuing excellence in the field.
In addition to its in-house leadership, Sundt employees give their time and energy to several local and national organizations, including the Associated Minority Contractors of America, the Society of American Military Engineers and the American Institute of Contractors.
Finalist: SCF Arizona Category: Leadership Excellence Headquarters: Phoenix Year Est.: 1925 No. of Employees in AZ: 531 Recent Award: Equality Arizona’s Corporate Citizen of the Year – 2008
The leadership at SCF Arizona has stood up to the tough economic times, which has proven be a powerful asset to SCF’s employees. SCF has made budget cuts to ensure that the company wasn’t forced to lay off a single employee.
SCF’s President and CEO, Don Smith, is a major part of this leadership. Smith joined SCF Arizona 10 years ago, and has been the driving force behind changing SCF’s workplace culture for the better. Smith stresses to employees that SCF is a vital economic engine to Arizona, and its employees are vital contributors to the quality of customer service SCF provides. Smith tells employees that being active members of their community is important professionally — and he leads by example. Smith has served on the boards of several Valley organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Finalist: McMurry Category: Leadership Excellence Headquarters: Phoenix Year Est.: 1984 No. of Employees in AZ: 103 Recent Award: Great Place to Work Institute and Society for Human Resource Management’s Best Small Company to Work for in America award – 2009
McMurry’s leadership excellence started with Preston McMurry Jr., founder of McMurry, but it hasn’t ended there. Preston McMurry’s dedication to the values he started the company with is evident in his position as “Corporate Values Shepherd.” He speaks to employees four times a year about the values-based system the company runs on, so all employees can understand the importance of McMurry’s values.
Preston’s son, Chris McMurry, is now CEO and takes his leadership role just as seriously as his father did. Chris has taken the company from custom publishing to a full-service marketing communications firm. He also makes sure that his employees are satisfied with the company. He surveys the staff with the Best/Worst and Teamwork surveys. He also solicits staff opinions through his blog, “Conversations with Chris.” Through McMurry’s leadership, employees are invited to be innovative and are rewarded for their efforts.
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