John Filippe

This Old House

I was talking with a friend the other day and telling him about being out of work and how much it was taxing me. I explained that it seemed that my experience was pigeon holing me into only top positions. After all what VP or CIO wants to hire a former CIO as a Director? That would take a strong confidence in your company, which I don’t think a lot of people have. I also mentioned that it seemed like there was a lot of inventory out there, meaning that people were getting promoted and moving up, and the “old guard” was no longer being considered.

My buddy just said simply, “John, you’re an old house.”

I asked him to explain that.

Press play to listen to the audio version of this article

This Old House by John Filippe

He said that he was trying to sell his old house about two years ago and he was having a lot of trouble. You see there was a whole bunch of new houses coming out on the market and everyone was checking out the new houses. They were big and shiny and had all the latest appliances and modern conveniences.

The problem was they all looked the same to him, they didn’t have character or depth. He had taken the time to upgrade all the wiring and appliances, making sure the little flaws were cleaned up, but people only saw the new houses. They never looked at the uncertain future, but were really only interested in the now, thinking that was the tomorrow.

In a year, the new house would settle and the cracks would begin to form, and in five years the appliances would need to be upgraded and the bathtub caulking would crack and peel. In 10 years, the new house would be the old house, and everything would start to get worn down unless they updated and maintained it like they should.

He said, “you are an old house my friend. You are excellent at your job, no one better. You have taken the time to update yourself, keep ahead of technology and trends, learn strategies, understand all aspects of the business, far beyond IT, but you are not shiny anymore. People know who you are and what you can do, but they can’t resist gambling on the new guy, because he is shiny. Sometimes it’s a good gamble, and sometimes it isn’t. In the end, we all rely on the wisdom of other people to make the right choice.”

I felt like going to get a face peel and work out for a couple of hours after talking with my friend, but he was right. I am an old house. Like an old house though I needed to do an inventory of my wiring and appliances. Where am I weak, where am I strong, what gaps do I have in my education that all the shiny new houses have? Is there something that I need to do to remain competitive?

But that is only the first phase of what needed to be done. Now I have to sell the old house, in short, how am I expressing the character and experience of the house? Am I approaching it like many people do, by discussing the history of the house like, who you know, and where you have been? I found out that this approach doesn’t work all that well, it’s entertaining, but I just look like an old house.

I found out that the approach should be to discuss the updates to the house, wiring, appliances – all the things the new owner won’t have to worry about. Discuss the newest trends and how they relate to the overall business, how your experience is being enhanced by the upgrades in technology, and not being made obsolete. Tell them how the character and experience of a settled and well-maintained old house is a better and safer bet for the company.

Now, since talking with my friend I have been employed by a wonderful company, but how did they look past my exterior cracks and small exposed flaws? My appliances were updated, by talking about the latest trends and how we would apply those trends to our industry. By marrying those trends to what we have been exposed too in our past, and by creating an analysis of how our industry could embrace those trends. It is something that we all should continue to do – not only keep the appliances updated, but make sure they work in our neighborhood, especially as our neighborhood keeps growing and changing.

So as an old house, talking to a new house, all I can say is that you must always keep updated and grow your character and experience. Build your contacts, learn your business and everything about it. The ability to think around corners is dependent on your ability to understand all aspects of the business, not just the technology of it. You are in the land of learning still and you always will be, but like driving a car, eventually you won’t have to think before hitting the brakes to avoid a collision. You will just know to do it, or not to do it, based on what the business needs.

If you are an old house be proud of the fact that we have stood this long and created something that has made it so much easier for the new houses to do so well. And more importantly, remember to keep the spackle and putty knife available!

“Experience is the teacher of all things.”
– Julius Caesar

John Filippe is an accomplished Casino Executive with over 20 years of Casino IT experience.  He has worked nationally and internationally for several properties, and across many types of gaming from commercial, tribal, and riverboat entertainment facilities. He was a vendor with Bally Gaming and Systems in the late 90’s, and worked with the large expansion of tribal gaming during that time. His unique style of IT management was featured in the book “The Tech Buzzkill: How Top IT Leaders Fend Off the Tech “Buzz” to Focus on the Business” by Gerry Robinson and Manish Sharma. He is currently the Executive Director of MIS for Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Washington state.