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Meet the CEO: Michael Schutzler – WTIA

Michael Schutzler is the CEO of WTIA, the largest technology association in Washington state. Michael brings over 30 years of experience in the technology industry, launching products and building companies as a product manager, co-founder, and angel investor. In 2013, Herd Freed Hartz placed Michael in his current position and we recently caught up with him to learn more about his philosophy as a leader, WTIA’s mission and his work leading this successful organization over the last several years.

1) Tells us a bit about WTIA:
WTIA is the unifying voice of the 10,000 tech companies in WA state. We inform and motivate industry, education, and government leaders to build a better world for all of us. Our programs and services help attract, develop, and retain the most talented and creative entrepreneurs and engineers in the world.

2) What is the pitch on why someone should join WTIA and use your services?
WTIA has served the tech industry for more than 30 years. WTIA is dedicated to help tech companies achieve their goals in every aspect of talent management.
* We recruit hard-to-find talent
* We run the only nationally registered apprenticeship
* We provide a turnkey HR benefits platform for small and mid-sized companies
* We provide peer level introductions and facilitated professional networking in education, government and industry
* We are one of the most influential state advocacy organizations

3) What was it about WTIA that attracted you to join?
The WTIA was at an inflection point in its evolution. The board gave me a very wide mandate – almost a blank slate – to try to reinvent what it means to be a viable trade association in the 21st century. Plus it was a great opportunity to develop public policy chops.

4) What challenges keep you up at night?
Running a non-profit is a lot like running a startup. You are always in fundraising mode and you long for the ability to focus more on building a product or running the business. Non-profits are inherently unstable and must be especially vigilant about their value proposition and delighting those who donate funds. Companies who provide unearned income are just like investors in a for-profit company. It’s a highly leveraged act every day of untenable schedule requirements and far more demand for our effort than we have supply of staffing. Without strong partners and delighted donors, we are dead.

5) What are you most proud of at WTIA?
We have built a really smart, engaged board of industry, education, and government leaders. We have built a really smart, skilled, loyal team of execs and staff. And we are getting a lot of good work done that delights those whom we serve.

6) What makes a good CEO?
Actively listening in the present, compelling storytelling about the future, skillfully negotiating in multiple dimensions, and always attracting talent. The greatest of these is attracting talent. A CEO working alone is delusion. No CEO can get anything valuable done without the help of others who are smarter, stronger, more skilled, or more experienced.

7) What experiences have best prepared you for this role?
Trying. Failing. Getting up and not making that same mistake again. Over and over and over. I did that as an athlete in high school and college. I’ve done that as an engineer on a workbench in a lab. As a salesperson dialing for dollars. As an entrepreneur raising money or building new products. And most recently acting like an overly eager labrador puppy in a public policy china shop, having to ask forgiveness more than once, learning from those mistakes, and building credibility anyway on principled integrity and genuine intent to serve.

8) Who are your influencers?
My first hero as a human and leadership archetype is Mahatma Gandhi. He’s my go-to role model. My dad was an entrepreneur (he was a cofounder of Mapquest after some other less successful efforts earlier in life) so I have the DNA and also had a professional role model since birth. My mom taught me the love of cooking and the joy of experimenting with flavors, intentionally reinventing recipes to see what might happen and celebrating failures as more entertaining and inspiring parts of success. My wife, who taught my kids (and me…) that every person has value to offer, even those few people we don’t like very much.


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