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1/12/2003

From bottom up

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

GUNBARREL — It’s a long way from the loading dock.

Starting his career with Big Blue in 1976 as a shipping and receiving clerk, Larry Longseth has worked his way all the way to being top dog at IBM’s Boulder plant.

Longseth’s title is vice president, Service Delivery Center — West, but he added an additional title to his job description last month: senior state executive for IBM Colorado. He already had held the position of senior location executive.

Not bad for the Longmont High graduate who is a former newspaper carrier for the Daily Times-Call.

“In this job, you just never get tired of what you do,” said Longseth, who was 21 when he started at IBM. “If you get complacent, that’s your fault.”

While his new title involves a lot of community outreach and involvement, his “day job,” as he calls it, is managing a portion of IBM’s global services division, a big part of what is done at the Gunbarrel facility and the division that generates more than 40 percent of the company’s overall revenues.

That job title has him directly responsible for 7,200 IT professionals — 3,000 of whom are at the Boulder site — in 171 locations around the world.

A native of Iowa, Longseth moved to Longmont with his family when he was 3 years old. Sugar beets and Longmont Foods were the big industries locally, but Longseth can remember when IBM built its plant here in the mid-’60s, and he sensed, even then, that things were about to change.

“The way I saw it was through friends,” Longseth said recently, as he sat in an IBM conference room casually dressed in an open-necked shirt and sport jacket. “Kids my age were moving in because their parents worked at IBM — and we all thought they were rich.”

Throughout his teen years and all through high school, he got to know people who worked at the plant and hoped that it would someday be the place for him.

“That was my goal,” he said. “I actually wanted to work here. Whether everyone did, I don’t know, but I did.”

After high school, stints in retail and construction gave him the qualifications to land a job at Big Blue, as a shipping and receiving clerk on the loading dock.

Once there, however, his career advanced, as he began taking programming classes at Regis University. After moving over to programming for IBM, his first management job was overseeing seven buildings in the Boulder area and all the staffing that went along with them.

Through the years, he kept taking classes — internally and at Regis — that helped him move up through the managerial ranks.

Five years after he started at the company — in 1981 — IBM introduced the world’s first personal computer, and Longseth knew things were about to get a lot more interesting.

“That probably had the most profound effect on my career — my technical career,” he said. “You could see the potential of what the future was going to be at that point.”

The other big technical landmark occurred a decade later, with the advent of wireless technology and with the advancement of “client-server computing,” which allowed computing “to be done from anywhere.”

“That actually ended up being a huge boost to global services and coincidentally was a huge boost for my career, because I had a lot of knowledge in that area,” said Longseth.

While IBM launched global services as an official division of the company in 1996, the company had actually been offering many of the services for years, and that’s where Longseth had focused his career.

These services can include consulting, maintenance for support of the products IBM and other companies sell, outsourcing — or running systems for companies — and these days, “e-business on demand,” which is currently being marketed heavily by the company.

When the global services division was launched, Longseth estimates, there were about 30,000 to 40,000 employees working in that area. These days, there are about 180,000.

“We’ve seen very heavy growth in running customers’ data centers,” he said. “That’s how we got into this business, and we still do a lot of that business.”

With his two grown sons now on their own, Longseth lives not far from the Boulder facility with his wife. He feels fortunate that, over the past 26 years working for a global company, he’s been able to both advance his career and stay in this area, which he loves.

That may change, but moving is not something he’s looking forward to.

“In reality, I probably will have to move at some point in the next three to five years” in order to keep moving forward in his career, Longseth said. “But I’m trying to delay that as long as I can. Things change so quickly, the challenge is always there.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.