Getting to Know … a Ranching CIO
By Colorado standards, Mark Endry’s 200-acre Elkview Ranch doesn’t qualify as the largest spread or highest mountain setting. But Endry, a CIO with ARCADIS, a global engineering consultancy based in Amsterdam, undoubtedly owns some of the most wired if rustic acreage.
Yet, what’s more intriguing is how Endry applies technology not only to stay connected with work, even if he’s out driving a Bobcat, but also to monitor the residents of his donkey pen. He keeps track of a half dozen ‘rescue’ donkeys much the way that parents keep an eye on their toddlers with a day care cam, or pet owners spy on their dogs at play in the backyard.
Endry’s commitment isn’t just a matter of technology – he’s up at 4:30 a.m. come rain, snow or sunshine to feed them. Endry whose ranch is about 30 miles from his office in Highland Ranch, Colo., engages in video or audio conferencing from the ranch whenever possible.
He was kind enough to answer a few of our most pressing questions about his unique work-life balance and lifestyle.
Are there parallels between how you manage a ranch and run IT?
“A lot of people think you’re nuts. The whole idea that it is -18 outside and snowing and I’m outside tending to rescue donkeys - people think that’s unusual. These aren’t little ones; these are big 600-1000 pound, horse-size donkeys. People who like to be outdoors think it’s a very cool deal.
“It’s almost like having two jobs or two sets of responsibilities, and neither one of them stops at 5 p. m. They’re both 24 hour responsibilities, it’s a juggling act and a challenge for my wife when I travel. People are amazed that I’m doing both. There’s always something happening when you’re in an IT job or when you’re dealing with a ranch.”
Are there skills that help you as CIO that also help you as a rancher or vice versa?
“CIOs spend a lot of time budgeting and planning and that applies at the ranch too. You have to decide on equipment purchases, maintenance and ordering bales of hay. Tech plays a big role on my ranch. The whole place has wireless Ethernet, including outside. Remote TCP IP cameras with night vision allow us to track where the animals are and when my wife or I should go out and bring them in. Also, I use tech for tracking weather. Some of the same wireless technologies that I use on the ranch are applicable to remote company work sites. “
ARCADIS emphasizes sustainability on the job. Has that influenced your approach as a rancher too?
“Yes, we are very careful with practicing what we preach for IT usage in the company. About ninety-three percent of our servers in the United States Data Centers are virtual using VMware. We do a lot of recycling of old equipment. We manage e-waste and do a lot of reuse and redeploy old computers so we don’t have to put them in e-cycling. We have a program to erase old laptops and donate them to underprivileged schools so they’re not turned into waste.
“On the ranch, I was going to buy a diesel fuel tank but I learned from work that they can contaminate the water supply. So you think about things a little differently. I can take what ARCADIS does as a company – we’re health and safety oriented - so I end up taking a lot of that home to the ranch. We use what we call TRACK at ARCADIS. Think through the task, Recognize the hazards, Assess the risks, Control the hazards and Keep health & safety first in all things. I use this all of the time around the ranch.”
Why have you adopted rescue donkeys and do they play a role on your ranch?
“The donkeys came about when we bought the ranch, we thought we ought to have something living out there that will eat the tall grasses that were a fire safety risk..
“We looked at lamas, but they need something protecting them otherwise coyotes will eat them. Donkeys are pretty effective at chasing off canines. If you live near coyotes and get lamas, you ought to get donkeys to protect them. When we started looking into it we met friends with donkeys and lamas and donkeys were a whole lot friendlier. We gave up on lamas and went to www.longhopes.org, a local donkey rescue, for our first two. A year later we went to a fundraiser there and adopted two more donkeys. The last two we adopted were the babies of one we owned. They had been adopted out by the rescue after they were weaned but came back to Longhopes when those people couldn’t keep them so we reunited the family.“
When you’re performing ranch chores are you able to fully disconnect from work or do you tend to blend the two – and if so, does that lead to some awkward background noise on business calls?
“I’ll be driving a Bobcat, moving snow in the morning, and somebody will call me from Amsterdam. I can hear that the phone call comes in - it’s just a matter of getting the Bobcat turned off because it’s too loud. They will hear motors spool down and it takes a minute but they’re generally happy that I answer at a weird time.”
What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about simultaneously managing a ranch and running U.S. IT operations for a global company?
“That you need more than just office work in your life. It is a great break from tough days in the office when you can come home, put on some grubby clothes, walk out in the field and have six large animals who were rescued from the packing plant truck or an abusive environment run up for a hug.”
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