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Mention Howard ("Howie") Brooks to others at ACS and right after "knowledgeable," "smart," and  "dedicated"  you hear words like "balanced," "calm," and "level-headed."  Howie is able to juggle the many and varied demands of his job as the Manager of Product Development with rare aplomb. The leader of a team of eight development engineers who work on enhancements to the software, as well as new modules and functionality, Howie has that rare ability to keep the big picture of the entire structure of the Advantage software in his head.  He can look at a proposed enhancement and know just how--and where--it will affect the current software. Dick Hile, VP of Product Engineering and Howie's boss, describes him this way: "Simply put, Howie is indispensable.  He is like an orchestra conductor who can channel scores of individual musicians to produce one harmonious sound.  Howie is able to achieve a great outcome from what might appear to some to be chaos." Howie joined ACS in 1995—a banner year for him.  He graduated in June (with a degree in computer engineering from Michigan State University), got married in July and started work at ACS in August.  Then, like now, he handled the major life events with unruffled calm. Howie started his ACS career on Karl Davis' team and worked on client implementations learning conversions.  He then served as the lead engineer for Boy Scouts, UCG, American Medical Association and Palm Coast Data, among others.  Along the way he earned his Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certification and he took over as Product Development Manager in 2003. Most of his time now is spent facilitating, he says.  He is always available to answer questions or make suggestions on the projects being worked on by his team.  But he also works closely with the analysts, the sales staff, the product planning folks and the QA group. "Howie is the perfect buffer between engineering and the rest of the Advantage worlds," says Alan Cherney, an engineer on Howie's team. "He always knows the best way to communicate an engineering situation, problem, or response to the Quality Assurance team or the Support Center.  I always find that he has either great advice – or he is simply willing to go to bat for me!  He's not just a good boss, he is a great "leader" in the sense that he's willing to represent his entire team.  He doesn't pass blame or responsibility to his team members when things go wrong, but is quick to deflect praise to the individuals under his leadership." One of a select few Michigan State grads among a plethora of University of Michigan Wolverines at ACS, Howie doesn't let the rivalry get to him.  He good-naturedly accepts the ribbing that comes when a U of M teams beats the MSU Spartans, and he gives it back with gusto when MSU comes out on top. Bob Gray, another team member, has this to say about Howie:  "He's a great manager.  He excels at multi-tasking and keeps a level head when things get intense.  He has tremendous product knowledge, plus a wealth of technical know-how.  Howie has a great concern for the integrity of the software product, and he balances this beautifully with his commitment to the needs of clients.  He sees both as being highly important, and is well-balanced in his approach to managing them." Even with the constant interruptions and distractions that go with his position, Howie loves it.  His favorite part of the job is the people he works with, says Howie, both coworkers and clients, and he also very much enjoys learning new things.  Although he doesn't get to set aside as much time as he would like to work on them, he does get involved with the major "background" projects going on mostly behind the scenes in Advantage.  These include the recent new user interface development, the Business Intelligence initiative and learning C#. Howie and his wife, Amy, live in Ann Arbor with their three daughters, Ella, 7, Melanie, 4, and Nora, 2, a chocolate lab named Sophie, a cat named Sunday, and two guinea pigs.  On weekends and vacations, Howie and Amy like to go with their girls to parks and zoos and also spend time at a family cottage on Saginaw Bay.  Howie doesn't like to miss the Cheeseburger Festival there every August! In his leisure time, Howie likes books—nice "light" reading such as theoretical physics texts, with some science fiction and classics thrown in.   He is currently almost done with Les Miserables.  Other hobbies include fooling around with 3D animation software as well as teaching himself another programming language—Python, for instance--just for kicks.    With all he has going on, Howie is a multi-multi-tasker!



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