Bobbye Benson was an entrepreneur trapped in the role of a business owner. By any other metric, he was doing incredible things. His career in the US Marines landed him a US Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for the creation and deployment of critical IT assets, a certificate of commendation for superior performance, and over $700,000 in cost avoidance in operation and maintenance funds.
Following his service, Benson became the owner and operator of Evermist Technologies. He started out by training computer repair technicians out of his garage, but eventually realized he’d created a small army that could put their skills to work. Benson’s business carved out an incredible niche in the Phoenix, Arizona, area but he wasn’t satisfied.
“I found out that I was self-employed rather than an entrepreneur,” Benson explains. “I was making great money, but I had no quality of life. It wasn’t the kind of building I wanted to be doing.”
Benson’s third act, of sorts, is to calm the chaos and be the turnaround thought leader. As VP of technology at Western Alliance Bank, where he’s been since 2016, Benson has helped the acquisition-prone bank grow from $25 billion in assets when he started seven years ago to over $60 billion today.
“Chaos is just an opportunity,” Benson says. “I love bringing order to chaos. The second you achieve order, you can start tackling those objectives, and high stakes moves that you know you need to make.”
It wasn’t just the Marines that taught Benson this kind of ordered approach. His résumé is full of consulting opportunities where a turnaround was essential, and Benson was the man to call. His first success story was a company that had just been hacked and needed a reset on its entire IT environment.
“We shut down the entire business over a weekend and got rid of every user account,” Benson remembers. “We implemented all new standards and processes in an organized fashion and really purged their system. We made sure to minimize any possibility of a breach while also making the process auditable and predictable for the future.”
How to Grow Food in Arizona
Bobbye Benson is an entrepreneur, a coach, a technology expert, and . . . a farmer? He owns several dozen acres of farmland in Arizona, on some of which he allows students from local Future Farmers of America chapters to grow their own food with no charge to the school.
“I just love being out there, figuring out what it takes to get things to grow in Arizona,” Benson says. “I’m able to give away harvests to my neighbors and friends and help out some school programs. Every year it gets a little bit better.”
Benson has helped merge technologies for new health organizations and, in coming to Western Alliance Bank, was initially tasked with helping the organization make it through the rigorous Federal Review Board process. But with all the M&A, Benson’s usual “show up, save the day, and leave” MO has been lengthened by a number of years.
“I’m usually someone who shows up, builds, turns things around, and I’m out,” Benson admits. “But at Western Alliance Bank, I built the infrastructure, architecture, and engineering department. But then, every time an acquisition happens, it’s back to that chaos that needs to be brought to order again. It’s kept me growing internally, and it certainly keeps me entertained.”
Along with his daily responsibilities, Benson is also regularly called upon to offer his expertise on panels and conferences where he speaks about technology trends and best practices. Benson says he especially likes speaking on university technology panels because it helps shine some light on what kind of skills future technology professionals need to bring to their first roles.
“Taking it back to the Marines, you want to know what your boot private is showing up with,” Benson explains. “How can I build my internship and my mentorship programs so that they best cater to the style of learning I’m seeing from young people today?”
Benson says he also winds up learning about new industries that he would never have encountered otherwise. In the last panel he spoke on, he says a speaker presented on a specific topic Benson encounters every day, but the speaker’s thinking was in such stark contrast to his own that he has since been able to think about it in an entirely new way.
If it sounds like Benson gets as much as he gives, it’s true. The tech executive is as much a student as he is a coach. In his spare time, Benson coaches girls’ club volleyball and has been an assistant coach for five national qualifiers at the AAU and USAV levels.
“It’s the exact same thing I do in business,” Benson says. “We look at patterns. We look at process. We look at anticipating what’s going to happen next.”
Whatever the chaos may be, Benson finds a way to bring order. But the order isn’t the victory. It’s only the beginning.
AgreeYa Solutions is a leading global provider of software, solutions, and services to global Fortune 100, medium, and small organizations. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Folsom, California, AgreeYa has over 2,200 professionals and provides leading-edge solutions around workplace modernization, decision science, hyperautomation, cloud transformation, application and product development, quality engineering, user experience, and talent management. AgreeYa’s key recognitions include certifications like Microsoft Legacy Gold Partner and Cloud Solutions Provider; AICPA SOC 2 Type 2, SEI CMMI, and ISO 9001:2015; and awards including Dream Company to Work for, and Best Employer Brand. AgreeYa Solutions has been a trusted technology partner for its clients globally and works closely to help them scale changing market conditions, stimulate growth, and create lasting value.