In his 31 years at AdvantageCS, Tom Burbeck has left his mark on nearly every area of the company.
Tom began his career at AdvantageCS in 1982 when he was hired into the Product Services division of (then) T and B Computing. Although his title was product analyst, Tom actually developed side systems for clients, writing the specs, programming the software in INFO, and doing the documentation, the client training and support. This wide-ranging experience served him well throughout his career. A few years later, Tom left T and B and took a position at EDS as a Project /Account Manager for the GM Corporate Information Group.
With new business leadership and organizational skills acquired from his stint at EDS, he returned to TSM Computing Group in January of 1990 as Director of Customer Service, T and B Computing Division. He was no longer hands-on with the software and began to build a team of analysts that he could work with and rely on. He was promoted to Vice President, Publishing Division on January 1, 1991, then VP, and then Executive VP on July 1, 1999.
As Executive Vice President, Tom has overseen the Client Services division and worked to find the most effective organizational structure for optimum efficiency and effectiveness. Through cultivation and promotion of talented subordinates which began years earlier, Tom has been able in recent years to entrust the day-to-day workings of the division to his staff and concentrate his talents on building and maintaining relationships with current and prospective AdvantageCS clients. This is something he does very well.
A frequent traveler to Europe, Tom has developed strong working relationships---and friendships---with many Advantage clients across the continent and in the UK. His skills in listening to concerns and working tirelessly to solve problems, in addition to his very real interest in getting to know people, have made these relationships strong and effective.
Philippe van Mastrigt, Director of European Operations, has this to say about Tom: “Tom taught me the ‘art of negotiation’ and how to handle difficult situations. I have never seen Tom lose his temper, and he always works out solutions. He has given me great feedback on how to face challenging circumstances.”
Philippe goes on to add: “Tom has also been a great boss. He always looks at the positive side, at what can be brought out of somebody, how to leverage skills and personalities. He is sensitive to others, always curious, and eager to learn. He has done well in learning other cultural contexts, especially in Europe. He has always been interested in learning what should not be done in a particular country.”
Other coworkers chime in about their experiences in working with Tom:
Bryan Varblow: “I’ve known Tom for much of my life and my relationship with Tom has evolved in conjunction with our dress code, Tom’s personal style, and his knowledge of European culture.”
Bryan goes on to explain: “Back when we had only US-based clients and a strict business dress code, I remember Tom’s nicely trimmed mustache and short hair style. As we moved to business-casual and started winning clients in Europe, Tom correspondingly adapted his style to be a bit more laid-back and grew his hair out.
Most recently, sans facial hair, longer hair, and an even more casual dress code, Tom has continued to incorporate his sensitivity to European culture into his habits. Working closely with Tom in the past few years, I learned that I hold my fork in a very American fashion. Apparently, when going to dinner with European clients, they can pick up on our backwards way of holding a fork!”
Jackie Clark, travel coordinator, says: “It has been a pleasure working with Tom for over 17 years. We have booked hundreds of trips together! It seemed like each trip was a new adventure for him, which often resulted in fascinating stories upon his return. Tom has always made me feel valued and appreciated and for that, I am thankful. I am so happy and excited for the new adventures that lie ahead for Tom and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Tim Zapawa: “Over the last 20 years, Tom and I have worked together on close to 50 projects. I feel fortunate to have worked with Tom and learned so much from him. We have gotten to know each other well and together learned how to best leverage one another's strengths to tackle difficult situations and develop a wide range of ACS services offerings. I have fond memories of working with Tom on many projects. Best wishes, Tom, on your newest projects with the land development and farming!”
Tom grew up in Whittier, California---actually in the hills and chaparral forest above Whittier---where horses, pigeons, snakes and falcons were all part of his life. He started college at California Polytechnic at Pomona as an agriculture major, and his goal was to have a commune and grow all his own food. However, he switched to psychology and transferred for his junior and senior years to Berkeley. (Little did he know that his life would come full circle.)
Tom earned 3 degrees (all with a GPA of 4.0): BA in Psychology from University of California, Berkeley; Master of Social Work, Research Methods from University of Hawaii, Honolulu; and Master of Arts in Sociology from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
As for that full circle, Tom and wife Marti now live on a 15-acre farm near Ann Arbor, and are pioneers in---and champions of---eco-friendly home design. In late 2017, their farm house was the second in the world to receive Living Building Challenge Certification, the most rigorous performance standard for buildings, encouraging "regenerative design" to create spaces that give to the natural environment more than they take. For instance, they use no fossil fuels for heat or power, instead harnessing the sun's energy through passive energy design augmented by a 16.8 kW solar electric system. In addition to producing more electricity than they use each year, they grow all the produce for their own table and additional produce donated to local community food banks for the poor. (Click here for a more complete description of their Beacon Springs Farm.)
Although Tom is now retiring from AdvantageCS, he says that between working 40 hours a week on the farm and associated speaking engagements and awards ceremonies, he is working more than ever. Tom and Marti plan to continue to develop their land and hope to become a sustainable non-profit organization that provides a high volume of produce to local food banks and charitable groups. One day, they hope to add livestock such as goats, sheep, chickens and cattle.
Tom remains a minority shareholder of the company, as he has been since the management team purchased it from the previous owner in 1992, and he will still be involved in AdvantageCS affairs, although perhaps behind the scenes.
Congratulations, Tom, on your retirement after many successful years at AdvantageCS. You will be missed!