Spotlight on Burt Powers
Meet Burt Powers: Senior Director at Dell EMC, Burt infuses his team, community, and customers with entrepreneurial thought and innovation.
Rachel Leigh Gross: Tell us a little bit about your work with Dell Small Business!
Burt Powers: I have been with Dell for about 17 years and have worked within the consumer small business framework for the entirety, though exclusively Small Business for the last five or six years. It has been exhilarating being a part of this team as we have grown exponentially in the last three years after putting new initiatives in place.
I am excited by my role every day for a number of reasons. Firstly, I love our customers and the diversity they bring to Small Business. There exists such a broadness of perspective that it inspires me to be creative in my work with the community. Secondly, I deeply appreciate that the technology we bring to their adventures inspires and empowers their success. Finally, I work with some fantastic people. We have a large organization in Round Rock and Nashville and a number of young professionals work within our department. Being earlier in their careers, they arrive motivated and eager to engage with our people; this encourages the rest of the team to have that energized mentality.
RLG: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
BP: I have a more rural background as I was born and raised in Central Texas. I was incredibly involved with Future Farmers of America and had a passion for large animals in the agricultural industry. I even studied poultry science at Texas A&M because of my fascination with the industry and aspects that abounded from anatomy to physiology to businesses. Ultimately, I wanted to be a large animal vet, and, when the time came to start vet school, I questioned where my interests and motivations lie. At 22, I thought I knew what I wanted but my perspective shifted. Getting into the workforce sounded like the best option at the time. It was a bit of serendipity; I moved to Austin with a close friend of mine and began working at Dell in 2002 as a sales rep.
I didn’t have aspirations to work for such a large company when I began, however, I quickly realized that I loved the environment. You were side by side with passionate and enthusiastic people that loved talking to customers. The pace we worked at was pretty rapid and stretched our innovative capacities. My manager and Vice President, Erik Day, inspired me to recognize that I could be great in this environment and the role, taking a career path that was wholly new to me. He allowed me to see the path 10 years down the line and connect the dots that I couldn’t find myself at 22-years-old.
It’s an interesting backstory as technology was a bit foreign to me when I first started here. But it took that inquisitive mindset and brink of an existential crisis to get me to this point. I want to highlight that because so many at that young professional age have an intense fear of not knowing the path or where their passions connect with their careers. I very much went through that around the same age, but facing that discomfort head-on has led me to love the path that I have taken.
RLG: Was there one thing in particular that helped guide you to that career path?
BP: At the time, I really leveraged the influence of people I trusted and who knew me intimately. I would describe the environment that Dell had built. Instead of them telling me I would be miserable, my connections would share their excitement for me. They knew I loved a fast pace environment, connecting with individuals, and pushing myself into new directions. This role, though different from what I imagined for myself, was a perfect fit.
Coupled with my close friends, I also started to build out a network of new people I had never interacted with. I identified mentors and relationships that could connect me to broader circles where I would find guidance and direction. The onslaught of perspectives and advice I gathered helped me feel comfortable about the new industry I had found myself in.
RLG: Do you consider yourself entrepreneurial?
BP: I think I have become more entrepreneurial in the way I think and interact with our customers. I appreciate more and more what our technology can do for our customers and the ways we can continue to engage with them, which goes much deeper than selling them something. I’m becoming more entrepreneurial in recognizing the emotions and the community that you build as you share a product.
RLG: What’s the best piece of advice you can share with our community of entrepreneurs?
BP: Through observation and firsthand experience with entrepreneurs, I can definitely share that there is power behind pursuing something that gets you excited - really, really excited. It’s hard to fabricate that energy and a lack of excitement continues to build upon itself.
Another piece of advice is to make sure you are doing a ton of customer research as you build out your venture. Entrepreneurs are very passionate about the industry or category they are impacting. If you are going to turn that into a profitable business adventure, there are so many elements you won’t be an expert in. Seek counsel and advice. Feel comfortable to seek that constantly and do your homework. There are so many variables to get right, and support helps you get them right. Use your community to get influence and information for all of the elements you must consider in your venture.
Book that changed your perspective: Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Favorite place to work: Australia
Healthy habit: Drink lots of water.