My Path to Sappington

James Denyer - Technology Strategist


Most of us have heard that old poem by Robert Frost, the one about taking the road “less traveled by,” which seems to make “all the difference.” In the brief narrative, the poet predicts that it’s unlikely that he’ll ever make it back to the place where the two paths diverged—that’s just not how life works.

But for me, after 20 years following what Frost might call the safer path, I almost feel like I’ve been given the rare opportunity to get on that other one. And yes, I do think it will make all the difference.

Speaking of paths, many of you might remember those exciting days of the dotcom boom. We’re talking about almost two decades ago. A lot of paths got defined on the west coast for the younger generation of the period. Many seized the opportunity—some of them did really well. But I was just too unnerved to consider leaving my good IT job. That choice set me on another journey, and it’s one that I’ve never regretted. In fact, it’s led me to where I am today, and why I’m even writing this blog! Instead of the tech startups, I had the fortune of working for two amazing companies: REI and Starbucks.

Both organizations have a strong set of values and commitments to social and environmental issues. Both recognize that they can do great things for this world through their scale and impact. And both are well known and respected for their technology innovation, which spoke to my tech-loving geeky nature. So while some of my colleagues were out there huffing it in the competitive digital world, it always gave me a sense of pride knowing I was a part of a mission and helping to improve the quality of lives of people around the globe.

So… why after 20 years would I want to leave this world, you might be wondering?

Lately, over the last few years, I’ve noticed my own pioneering spirit starting to really take root. As I've gained more experience and as the tech scene has evolved, I've felt that it's time to explore a new chapter of my professional life. As I began to explore my entrepreneurial passion, I was able to get some great advice from a colleague that taking big risks and journeying into the unknown can lead to a grand adventure and, with any luck, continued success.

Enter Sappington and its leader, Tim Goggin.  

Sappington isn’t exactly what you’d call a tech startup. The agency—with strong pedigree with companies like Microsoft, VMware, Nordstrom, and F5 (to name a few)—has been around for 15+ years. But its agile approach and unfailingly fresh perspectives and lean work force make it feel like a startup. And I was impressed with Tim and his team from day one.

In my early days at Starbucks, as I was taking over delivery of a struggling Intranet project, my team had recently been introduced to Sappington. They had helped to shape the story of "What is collaboration?" for Starbucks, aimed at driving organizational support and alignment among thousands of employees worldwide. As I interacted with the Sappington team, I was impressed by their ability to facilitate meaningful business discussions about our goals while driving clarity on the path forward. The tools and techniques they provided gave our fledgling program instant credibility and polish.

Sappington went on to help design the user experience and visual design for our new SharePoint Intranet (the Partner Hub), which launched to great success. This was my first experience as a pure IT guy, to see the power of professional stakeholder facilitation, communication, storytelling, and branding.

With technology changing so fast and the business demands on IT ever-increasing, today’s organizations and leaders need new types of tools and guidance. They need help defining overall tech strategy in line with business goals. They need to make good on large-scale technology promises that can affect every aspect of the company. And now more than ever, IT decision makers need to prove value through thought leadership and business collaboration at the highest levels.

I'm excited to join the Sappington team, and to guide our clients through the tough challenges they face, whether it’s in turning a struggling project into a success, or making sense of pervasive IT myths around DevOps and agile. 

I've been a part of these joys and pains that many change agents are coming up against. And I’m glad to put my skills to use in making sure that each company we work with goes on to achieve their vision and mission.

So here I am. Back at the diverging paths, and trying out the other one. It’s never too late. I always asked myself, what if you could have the energy and ambition of a young entrepreneur, combined with the experience and knowledge of a seasoned tech professional? I want to bring this mix to Sappington, and do the best work of my career on behalf of you, our clients.



James Denyer
Technology Strategist

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