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SPU alumnus Ian Cook – From small-town Alaskan boy to Seattle’s Slalom Build GM

Seattle Pacific University alumnus Ian Cook has been the general manager of Slalom Build for eight years now and manages over 1,000 employees across North America with teams handling hundreds of engineering projects every year for some 400 clients. 

Slalom Build is a BaaS (Build as a Service) company that helps businesses develop wide-ranging software tools including point-of-sale software, mobile apps for shipping companies to communicate and manage shifts with their truck drivers and products for exercise companies to assist customers in tracking workouts that consolidate data from fitness tracking devices.

Ian completed two bachelor’s degrees – Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science and Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration – and graduated summa cum laude in Seattle Pacific University’s Class of 2000.

On overcoming hurdles

Born in a house with no indoor plumbing and electricity until his fourth grade, Ian grew up on a homestead in the wilds of Kenai, Alaska, a small town with about 7,800 people.

Ian enjoying time with family on Matia Island in Washington’s San Juan islands.

In his youth, Ian recalls hauling wood in wagons and pumping water. “That certainly had a motivating factor for me in progressing my career,” he says.

It was around this time that he envisioned himself coding and working on computers. He decided to study computer science when he got into university.

Upon graduating, he landed his first job as a program manager of eSettleNow for five months before working in a number of software engineering jobs. He worked as Software Engineer at Inc for almost a year, Analyst at Inc for three years and Senior Manager at Accenture for over 11 years before finally landing the position of GM at Slalom Build.

On achieving success

For someone who came from a lower middle class background, Ian has overcome his hurdles and accomplished a lot in his personal life and professional career. He still continues to draw lessons from his youth and core values he developed through the years and put them to good use particularly in determining his priorities in life.

As GM of Slalom Build, he no longer builds software directly but he still likes to stay current in engineering and software development by getting certified in new programming languages.

At work, he runs meetings quickly and efficiently by communicating the reason for the meeting and providing a brief summary of what’s required. “One of my pet peeves is when people send me calendar invites with a vague title or subject and no description of what the meeting is going to be about,” Ian points out. “I especially dislike it when a meeting is blocked over another meeting I already have on my calendar.”

His advice for managing everyday work and life? “The most important thing to me is having a firm handle on your core values and knowing that those are being lived out.” He adds that there are so many competing demands for time both at home and at work that he goes back to his core values to anchor him, one of which is family.

Ian shares, “While at home, one of the rules I follow is putting my phone down and basically considering it the property of the family; that helps me stay present. Typically, if I need to use my phone or dedicate my attention to non-family related things, I’ll clear it with my wife. I try to talk proactively and intentionally about when I can come back mentally and fully be there, as opposed to looking up and realising I haven’t been present.”

(Sources: LinkedIn, GeekWire, Seattle Pacific University)