Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with 3545’s newest member of our management team as of January 1st, 2018, Robert Rice. Robert, husband and father of two based in Dallas, Texas, is well-known professionally for his consulting and programming skills. At 3545, where he has been a team member since the inception of the company, he’s respected as a technology expert and well-liked because he is just a really nice guy. The following is an excerpt of our conversation where Robert discusses some big questions surrounding his role as a technologist and how he fell into that role in the first place.
MLK: How do you see technology progressing in the next few years?
RR: I used to wonder why technology changes very slowly over periods of months and years but a lot seems to change over a period of 3-5 years. After some research, I realized that although it may not always be immediately perceivable, technology is rapidly moving on an upwards curve. In the technological community, everyone always wants to know: “What’s the next thing? Where is technology going to move to?” but that change is a really difficult thing to track linearly. Tracking technological change in a society is more complex than simply drawing a line between point A and point B because point B is actually way higher than one imagines it would be. So, if we shoot in a linear way we’re going to miss the target every time. Therefore, as technological professionals, we need to think big and realize that society will go a lot further and faster technologically than we think it will. For example, I think major technological advances like Artificial Intelligence and Block Chain will have big effects for a long period of time but that “long period” will actually be a lot shorter than it has been in the past. It’s not going to be 15 or 20 years, it’s going to be more like 3 years. That’s one thing I try to bring to 3545: encouraging people to look at how fast things can change and keep their eyes on the target as a moving target and not a static one. The target is going to go faster and higher every year so we need to start adjusting our thinking.
MLK: Where do you see your role in that change?
RR: As these changes happen, of course there are huge ethical considerations that go along with them and lawyers, our largest clientele, are going to be called on to be our ethical compass for these types of things. I sometimes feel as though I have to be sort of a clarion call in the desert to say: “You need to start thinking about this; You will be called upon to make ethical guidelines and regulations so you really need to understand the technology.” For example, things like sticking patients’ heads in an MRI or FMRI machine, connecting the machines to a super computer and watching brain patterns to figure out what people are thinking are pretty accurate nowadays, more so than I think most people realize. That opens a huge can of ethical worms that nobody has really talked about at all. Maybe that’s because there’s a fear that it may become more widely used once the ethics are really hammered out, so no one is really pushing the discussion. However, in the past decade a woman in India was convicted on a brain scan- that may seem distant from us in the United States but India is also a democratic society. So even though these huge legal and ethical technological dilemmas haven’t been talked about very much they are not without precedent. Because lawyers interpret and sometimes create laws, I think ultimately the legal profession will be expected to give guidelines to help us understand these complex ethical questions. I feel like as a technologist, I also have a responsibility to educate attorneys about technology and how it changes so that they will be able to help make ethical decisions for society.
MLK: How did you get started working in technology?
RR: I began my career in technology over 20 years ago, while living in Munich, Germany and working in the travel industry doing automation work. My undergraduate degree is actually in German Language and Literature and I received my first introduction to a basic computer education working with the American Airlines ticketing system. Around that time my mother started doing bookkeeping for lawyers back in the United States. After she began doing bookkeeping and billing casually, she realized that the way her clients were billing was pretty inefficient. While looking for a cheaper and more effective way to bill she found Timeslips and really liked the program. When she received the software, she noticed a little flyer in the box, (because back then software actually came in a box), that said: “take this test to become certified in Timeslips.” So, she took the test and she became a consultant. Eventually, as she gained expertise, she began selling her services reviewing Timeslips to other law firms and effectively built a business doing so. After I wrapped up my MBA in Munich and found it was hard to get into the corporate world there with an American diploma I decided to come back to the states work in the new family business: legal time and billing. After that, I became a Timeslips consultant for many years.
MLK: How did you become associated with 3545?
RR: While working with Timeslips, I eventually started working with a program that linked to it: Time Matters. I found that he really liked both the people who worked with Time Matters and the program itself. So, I started doing more Time Matters and less Timeslips as the years went on. It was over a cup of coffee at a Time Matters conference about ten years ago that Nancy Griffing, Arthur Cruz, and I began discussing teamwork in the consulting world and how large groups of consultants are easier for software companies to work with and can also handle larger projects. After already having worked together cooperatively and effectively for many years we talked about forming a regional consulting agency. So, the first incarnation of 3545 was born.
Over a different cup of coffee at the same conference, Laura McCord and Ken Kennedy decided to form Circle Management Group. Several cups of coffee and around ten years later, these experienced consultants and longtime friends enthusiastically merged together to form 3545 Consulting as it exists today. We are very excited to reintroduce Robert Rice in his new role as a member of our management team and lead of Design & Development and look forward to his exciting next chapter with the company. Congratulations, Robert!