During our opening keynote today, we did something we've never done before. We gave a guitar to one of our customers. That's right, a guitar. Thomas Smith

You might be asking yourself a few questions: Why did we give someone a guitar? What made this person worthy of such a prize?

As winner of our Customer Advocate of the Year Award, Thomas Smith has been one of the most involved, helpful, and knowledgeable customers we've had the pleasure of working with. It is because of his dedication to being one of our awesome #IvantiInsiders that we gave him this award.

Read on to learn more about this year's Customer Advocate of the Year, Thomas Smith.

Q: How long have you been working in the IT industry?  

TS: This is a strange one to answer. My father was an IT executive when I was little, so we always had computers in the house, from the VIC-20 all the way up.

I took programming in college but then left the computer field altogether to join the army, where I was a nuclear biological chemical warfare solider for most of my 10-year career. For my last four years in the army, after the leadership realized I had an IT background, I took over the automation management office.

In 1999 I left the army and have been in an IT leadership role ever since.   

Q: What do you love most about IT and your job?  

TS: As a leader, I love to mentor and guide future leaders who are new to the industry. As for IT, I love the idea that working in IT is like a puzzle you are always trying to solve. 

Q: What is one project you are most proud of having initiated/completed?  

TS: While I have many projects that I have completed over the years, two are a highlight for me. The first is bringing our IT department—that was mainly offshore—back onshore to our corporate team. The second is the ability to save large sums of money by working contracts with our telecom vendors to consolidate a lot of our excess spend. 

Q: What’s the most important trend you see happening in the IT industry today?  

TS: The most important trend I am seeing recently is companies working to get a hold of the security beast. We have historically been a society where IT has been ahead of its users, but that is not always the case anymore. We are being hacked and falling victim to hoax all the time. I just read today that someone fell victim to a $50k hoax, and this was a highly educated individual. 

Q: We know there’s an art to cigar smoking. What is your ritual around buying, cutting and smoking your cigars?  

TS: Yes, it is an art, and if you ask my wife, it is an expensive one. If you are wanting to get into cigars, the first thing you have to do is learn about the cigar—what makes it and what is inside of it?

For me, I am the type of cigar smoker where what I'm smoking depends on what I'm doing or drinking. For example, if I'm on my tractor mowing the land, I use a cheap sweet cigar (not a Black & Mild or Swisher Sweet; I still have standards). If I am drinking a good whiskey, I might smoke a full Cuban or good 58+ ring. A ring is the size of roundness of the cigar. 

As for cutting, again, it all depends on what kind of cigar I am smoking. If I have a square cigar (box pressed), I use a punch that puts a small hole in the area to suck on it. If I am smoking a nice round one, I use a traditional guillotine cutter to get a good sharp cut. 

I am sure I will spend many evenings at Interchange winding down with a cigar. Come out and talk to me about cigars and ITSM and follow me on Twitter.

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