Robert Treat

Position: Chief executive of OmniTI Computer Consulting, an IT company based in Fulton.

Robert Treat had little prior technology experience when he decided to apply for a job that required computer skills. Somehow, he got the job, and he has been in technology ever since. Throughout his career, he has worked in Web development and database consulting, and now leads OmniTI Computer Consulting.

What made you successful enough to go from your first job, where you had no previous computer skills, to now running an IT company?

Working hard and taking on responsibility are key. I’ve always had a laid-back view when it came to jobs and clients and working with people. I always felt like things will work out the way they’re supposed to work out. I didn’t plan to take a job to get another position. I looked for interesting problems and wasn’t afraid to take on challenges when they presented themselves and kept moving forward. That got me to where I am. I don’t look back on any of the jobs I took and thought I made a mistake. I got a lot out of all the positions I took.

How have you grown most as a leader over that time?

The core skill I had to develop from a leadership standpoint was empathy. The larger the group you are managing, the more things pull on your people both internally and externally. That is something you need to understand. People generally want to do a good job. If they make mistakes, understand why they made those mistakes. Was there something about the system that made them think they were doing the right thing? I try to have enough empathy to put myself in their shoes and look at it from their point of view and use that to adjust what we’re doing as a company. People have different things that drive them. If you want to build a team, you need to understand how that works.

Where did you learn that best?

Once I got to OmniTI and I started building the database team, that’s when those external things became more of an issue. I had the most control over my situation. I had more control over who I was hiring here than any other position. Then you start thinking about what’s most important about the person we need to hire. Is it the skill set? The hours they need to work? If you’re too rigid about how many hours they should be in the office and the skills they must have, you probably end up building a weaker team. Having flexibility makes your team better in general. You have a wider variety of people you can choose from.

Which business books are your favorite?

“Good to Great” [by Jim Collins] had a good impact on me. Also “EntreLeadership” by Dave Ramsey. It’s one that probably doesn’t get a lot of press in the tech community. There’s a lot of wisdom packed in that book. I also liked “Who Moved My Cheese” [by Spencer Johnson] and “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” [by Stephen R. Covey].

— Interview with Vanessa Small