Staff Spotlight: Blair Ferguson, Chief of Staff
by Blair Ferguson | Mar 8, 2022, 12:24 PM
I’ve spent the first 16 years of my career at ComputerTalk. As a fresh grad with an interest in people and business, Human Resources seemed like the best fit for my passion and ambition and this “little” company took a chance on me.
I have an innate ability to build relationships, and it’s something I enjoy and have a passion for. I quickly fell in love with the culture of the company. Our CEO has created a place where there are no “managers”. To many, this may seem counter-intuitive, however, I was fascinated by the opportunity to work closely with Function Owners to grow their teams.
To be successful, I’ve had to roll up my sleeves and dive into the technology, the customers, the processes, and of course, the people. By deeply understanding what makes each person tick, what turns them on, and what their ambitions are, I was able to cross-functionally match the right people to the right tasks, and guess what!? People who have a passion for what they do need very little oversight to get it done, and to do it well! Organically, the business grew and scaled. Behind the scenes, there was me, and I was proud of that. I still am.
When my CEO offered me the title of Chief of Staff many years ago, I had the same question as most people did, “What does a Chief of Staff do?” At the time, it wasn’t common practice to have a Chief of Staff in a growing tech company. It was a label that no one would understand, and I’d constantly have to explain what it is that I do. Like most, I wanted to be recognized for what I had accomplished, and wondered “would a Chief of Staff do that?” I embraced it. I have a passion for the grey area, and I told myself I don’t need a label to make an impact and earn respect.
As the Chief of Staff at ComputerTalk, I am responsible for supporting the CEO in building, implementing, and overseeing the business’s high-priority strategic growth initiatives and people. That is what is written in my job description. For simplicity, I prefer to group my tasks into the following 3 buckets:
- Doer Of All Things Not Being Done: I am an incubator for new functions and special projects. I jump in and handle projects that do not neatly fit within the organizational chart or that fall between functional areas of responsibility. I work cross-functionally to identify leadership talent for new projects and in most cases, roll my sleeves up to work alongside those folks to make it happen. I can leverage my internal relationships and knowledge of the industry to work with our partners, customers, vendors, and industry experts on growing our business strategically into new markets. I have been fortunate to touch all aspects of the organization so far in my career and that’s what keeps me going.
- Mastermind Puzzle Solver: I look at the entire organization as a giant puzzle. Our People are our biggest asset and it’s my responsibility to ensure they are passionate, motivated, and contributing in the right roles. When there are gaps, I take a look at everyone and see if we can juggle things around. Can we shift roles? Is there someone who is eagerly looking to take on new challenges? How does one priority project impact another? I have no allegiance to any one function, and I can take an impartial look at all corporate priorities for the greater good of the entire business. To connect the dots, I need to have an intimate understanding of our talent, direction, projects, and corporate outlook for the near and long term. To get everyone on board with what I’m trying to accomplish, I need to be able to sell myself and the need for change. I’m a hustler.
- Corporate Communicator & Chief Cheerleader: It’s my responsibility to bring everyone together and eliminate, as best I can, functional barriers. I bring together cross-functional information and share it corporately. Monthly, quarterly, annual information sharing is critical to ensuring everyone is informed and feeling like a part of the business direction – especially in the “new world” of hybrid work. Often, I provide motivation, encouragement, and a bright light perspective to the challenges of growing our business. I “fake it till I make it”! I act as the voice of the Executive Team when sharing messages on how our business is adapting, growing, and setting priorities. My responsibilities expand externally to the organization as well. I’ve been involved in partnership with our legal teams, facilities management, financial and commercial growth initiatives, and key client engagement. I am a cheerleader to the outside world for building new growth opportunities attracting top talent to grow our business and advocating for everything awesome about ComputerTalk.
In essence, I like the organized chaos of growing a business. I love that I show up to the unexpected and navigate a myriad of exciting challenges every day. I’ve been at the executive table for every discussion on how to make our company better and I’ve rowed with the team through the good and the bad.
Today, I’m not asked as frequently, “what does a chief of staff do?” It’s a role that is becoming more and more common in the industry. For me, it is an opportunity to be a catalyst for change– To lead by example and with compassion. I have the opportunity to stick my fingers into all the inner workings of operating and navigating a business in a changing world. I’m fortunate to work for an organization that highly values the contributions of every individual. Not all days are flowers and sunshine. Prioritizing is crucial; hard decisions must be made, and limited resources require calculated planning. But it is rewarding, and I can’t imagine a better group of people to be surrounded by.