July 02, 2008, 10:35 PM — This interview is part of ITworld's regular "How I got here" series which focuses on the career path of successful IT professionals.
Steve Conley credits his combination of technical and management skills as a marketable combination for an IT Director's job. What he didn't imagine when he first started his career was that he would be heading IT for major league baseball's World Champions!
How did you start your career? I majored in computer engineering at Northeastern University and they had a "coop" or internship program where I would work for periods of several months in real-world companies doing IT. I did extra coops to pay my way through school, and one of these jobs involved converting Ernst & Young's tax department to a local area network at a time when there weren't many people doing that yet. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
How did you get introduced to the Red Sox? There was a change of ownership there, and one of the things the new owners wanted was someone who would reshape their IT department. One of the Ernst & Young partners I had known during my internship years had joined the Red Sox organization. He remembered me and asked me if I would be interested in the job.
What were some of the skills that you think made you an attractive candidate? By that time, I had held several progressively responsible positions for various firms in networks and IT management. I also had a background in companies going through acquisitions. This was useful to the Red Sox at that time since they were in an ownership transition.
You had been with another company a number of years when the Red Sox opportunity opened up. Were you at all nervous about going into a situation where there was new ownership and a little bit of uncertainty? I knew that there might some uncertainty, but I decided to take a chance. The risks were nowhere close to the rewards, and the end result was that I got to do a job I really love.
Do you ever work directly with the players? Not really, since they are pretty much separate from the team's general operations, but I do get to work directly with the coaching staff. One of the systems they use is a video unit that literally tapes every pitch of the game real-time. A player can go into the clubhouse directly after an at-bat and review the sequence of pitches that he faced. This system carries seven terabytes of data, and is in a customized case because we have to haul it along with us on the road! It can be a challenge-like the time it fell off the plane in Baltimore - but the players really rely on it.
What is your personal greatest IT "all star moment" with the Red Sox When we won the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007. With all the media coverage and the additional demands on our communication systems, everybody in the city knew what we were trying to do and was 100 percent behind us. They did anything they could do to help. There was no feeling like it. When we won, we were out on the field, watching the guys celebrate. It was great.