Mentors of Michigan Tech: ApprenTek Founder Tim Marsh on Recruiting Young Talent
By Laura Cowan
Laura K. Cowan is a tech editor and journalist whose work has focused on promoting sustainability initiatives for automotive, green tech, and conscious living media outlets.
On the day we met him, local IT security tech consultant Tim Marsh was on the phone dealing with a data breach for Equifax. He's a consultant with 20 years of experience working in Fortune10 IT including working for Ford, Hewlett Packard, and GE most recently. But that's not all he does. In addition to his work as an IT security consultant, Tim Marsh is also owner of ApprenTek, in which role he recruits young local talent out of Michigan colleges like Eastern Michigan, the University of Michigan, Concordia, Western, and Michigan Tech for Fortune500 tech support jobs. "I recruit for Fortune500 companies for short-term engagements," he tells us, "and also local recruiting for young people getting into tech support."
The focus on support is mostly because that's one of the only tech positions companies can easily hire in part-time for, and it's not a huge part of his business, but Marsh says he's happy to support the local ecosystem of connecting talent and work that's available to young people, and he also recruits for positions in hot industries like security. "I find programmers at U of M and Wayne State," he says, "and Eastern has a security specialty. Security is definitely hot, not just here. I never have a problem placing talent if people will travel. But of course that's harder for student internships."
Why not stay in traditional employment? "I wish I'd done it sooner," Marsh quickly says of his switch to business ownership. "There is a lot of fear in starting a business, and I had to get past that. Office Evolution co-working space gave me a ready-made network of entrepreneurs. If one of us is not sure what to do we can usually find someone going through the same," he says of points in his journey when he realized it wasn't uncommon for new business owners to need to find a great attorney or find someone to help with a question on payroll. "The business challenges are the same [for all of us]," he says.
Marsh splits his time between his own consulting work and recruiting because "I do want to grow the business," he says, "but in a managed way. I could handle 3-4 more employees on the consulting side of the business," but, he says, he's happy to do the recruiting work for now to break even just for fun. Consulting in security for the last decade, he has a lot of contacts he can leverage for business development.
Plus, there's a lot of work out there for IT security consultants, Marsh says. "There is a lot of concern in the industry," he tells us, "with breach after breach, fines getting larger. One thing I do is support clients for audit." There is a lot he can't tell us about his work for privacy reasons, of course, but he says there is a lot of work in this space right now, and that he's happy with the people he's meeting. "A good hire is when the person is truly interested in technology," he tells us. "I'm looking for someone who says I don't know the answer to that but I'm going to investigate it, an eagerness to learn is the mark of a true technologist. [Being] teachable is more important than solid tech skills."
The Office Evolutions space where Timothy Marsh has a private office.
Unfortunately, this balance and happiness came about due to very sad life circumstances. Marsh lost his wife in 2014, and he needed to find a way to support his daughter and be there for her while still working. "I changed roles," he says. "When I was managing a team, I look at that as helping people work through their issues. I didn't feel in a place to help 20-30 people work through their stuff." He started taking on clients based on his ability to work with them in person up front but then work more remotely so he could be a single dad who wasn't always on the road or at work, and he says he has no regrets, only some hesitation on the way in because with a corporate and especially automotive background there was some stigma against going entrepreneurial. "People told me to keep VP of Operations on my business cards to describe my job role instead of my title as owner so people would know what I did," he says of the fear-based thinking he had to overcome to start his own business. "Because if I ever came back, entrepreneurship was frowned upon."
It doesn't look like he's going back, though he speaks respectfully of people he's worked with in the past. He travels part time, and he says he's learned to look for people looking for balance when recruiting, which is unusual. He clearly has lived the need for balance in his own life working through the major transition of losing his wife, and extends that respect to others creating balance for themselves so they can be more sustainable employees or consultants for tech companies. Marsh says he stays connected through his co-working space at Office Evolution, but also recommends local groups for those like him who are independent and a bit off on their own. "Meetups are great," he says, "and I use Handshake and other tools for recruiting and to meet people to work with." And the connection he values most of all he never lost--the one with his daughter that is clearly so important to him. If you would like to connect with Tim Marsh for recruiting or to talk security, you can reach him via ApprenTek.