Shane Peabody, The Fulton Companies | Podcast | Open Source Integrators
June 8, 2021
Shane and Greg talk about Shadow IT, the power of Open Source, and pickles
Shane Peabody started as an intern at Fulton companies, a multi-national collection of heat transfer equipment companies, while still in college and is now its director of IT. His path has included milestones such as designing Fulton’s first website and transitioning to cloud-based platforms. His experiences have left him with a strong sense of the value of trust and teamwork as well as pride in Fulton companies.
Greg Mader: [00:00:00]
Today, I’m speaking with Shane Peabody, director of IT at the Fulton companies. The Fulton companies are global manufacturers of steam and hot water boilers and thermal transfer systems. They’re based out of beautiful and snow covered Pulaski, New York. If you have ever enjoyed a craft beer, it may have been made with a Fulton boiler. So, is that a good introduction, Shane?
Shane Peabody: [00:00:24]
Yeah, I like that.
Greg Mader: [00:00:25]
Shane, I always start out with the same question for everybody as a way to warm things up. What’s your favorite snack food?
Shane Peabody: [00:00:32]
I don’t know. I’m not much of a snacker or, at least, I wasn’t before COVID hit. I find myself going upstairs and grabbing a pickle out of the refrigerator probably more often than my sodium levels should allow.
Greg Mader: [00:00:48]
You are the first person to mention anything that’s remotely a vegetable, so you already win the healthy award here. Very cool. Tell me a little bit about how you got to this place in your career, Shane.
Shane Peabody: [00:01:01]
Right out of college, I started at Fulton. Halfway through my senior year, I started interning. And I went to school for computer science, that’s what it was called when I graduated, and started basically just as a help desk, desktop support. My company has really embraced me and allowed me to grow in my position as my interests grew. I went back to school for programming, picked up network engineering, and became a rounded computer guy. And then, I just stayed on long enough that before I even realized it the department was mine.
Greg Mader: [00:01:38]
Tell me a little bit about the Fulton companies and your products.
Shane Peabody: [00:01:43]
It’s a family owned company. It’s 70 years old. We make large industrial heating equipment for the pharmaceutical industry, for heating water for schools, and for chemical processing. If there’s an industrial heating application, there’s a good chance that we’re involved in it someplace. Like you said, distilling has been a big one in the recent years.
The family’s been very involved since the day I got here. If I saw something I thought I could help with, I’ve been encouraged to do that, even if it isn’t directly related to the information sector. When I started, we were just all in one building in little Pulaski, New York. It was the early days of the internet, so I got to be here and help design the first website that Fulton ever had, and then the first ERP implementation. And then, as we built new buildings and expanded throughout New York and then internationally, I’ve been able to see a little bit of everything of a growing business. It’s really what’s kept me in this place for so long, just the new opportunities that come up.
Greg Mader: [00:02:51]
Fulton was very resilient throughout the last year. Were there certain innovations or changes that you had to do in order to help foster that innovation or that resilience?
Shane Peabody: [00:03:02]
We’ve always been a very innovative company. A couple years ago we made a deliberate effort to go more cloud-based, whether it’s through our ERP system, Odoo, or Office 365. When we were forced to decentralize, at least we had that as a backbone for technology. We had teams before anyone even booted it up. We were fortunate that we were in a position where we could nimbly go from fully onsite to fully remote. Of course, there’s other challenges: people being the biggest one of them, a new way to work, and a new way that you have to communicate. I think being part of that family company, everyone just came together and helped me help them, so they could get work in.
Greg Mader: [00:03:48]
Okay, that’s great. Given that it’s a family owned business—I know a little bit about you—you do have a professional management team, the family’s involved, but you hire the best people from wherever they are in order to build that great management team. How does management realize you need to charter a business change project?
Shane Peabody: [00:04:13]
Fulton is a very innovative company. Processes that have worked for us for a decade based on new opportunities or new challenges may need to be adjusted. It comes at me, personally, from all fronts.
The leadership team will approach me with a challenge or a direction, but I might also get it from the users. The end user may have a challenge that we haven’t seen so a lot of
times it’s taking that problem and framing it into what the larger processes look like. So, part of it is just resolving it against the overall strategy of that particular department.
Greg Mader: [00:04:54]
So I’ve got a couple of things I’ve noticed about you, Shane, that I think are part of this. I’ve known you for a few years now. You come across as very honest and straightforward and really looking out for the interests of everybody. How important is trust in IT leadership, especially at a company like Fulton?
Shane Peabody: [00:05:16]
Trust is my currency. I’ve been here a long time. I’ve built up a lot of experience with the people and a lot of success, and that’s given me a lot of latitude, a lot of trust, as you say.
Greg Mader: [00:05:29]
How do you feel about shadow IT, guerilla IT or grassroots?
Shane Peabody: [00:05:34]
I love it. I absolutely love it. It’s gotten me where I am, really. As I said earlier, the company has supported my growth, but really what happens is I’ll find something and I’ll tackle it, just on my own time or the downtime, and then present it. This is a new system that becomes adopted just because I saw something that wasn’t there. I provided them that thing that they never knew, that they never would have asked for. And then it becomes an integral part of the system. I like being able to find new things that we haven’t we haven’t asked yet and trying to come up with an answer before it’s asked. So I love it.
On the downside, you end up owning these things forever. You know, those fun little projects I did 15 years ago that come back to bite me every now and again.
Greg Mader: [00:06:19]
This is maybe the healthiest response I’ve heard yet. What advice would you give to other people with the same job title? Executives and IT management who maybe aren’t comfortable with guerilla IT or that shadow IT?
Shane Peabody: [00:06:34]
I totally understand. In a director or manager level position you want to have control over everything. You want to have that scope and that plan so everything fits into a piece, but really it goes back to that innovation. Are you really innovating if you have all of your answers already? I think you have to embrace some of that chaos. Of course, everything needs to be framed and fit into the larger strategy and the plan in the same direction that your company is going, but I think that you need those guys that can go off and come up with these innovative solutions that you can’t necessarily just Google for. Some of it’s IT; some of it’s process.
Greg Mader: [00:07:18]
That is really interesting. We’re in that marketplace of ideas and as we’re learning more, new options may present themselves.
What tools do you measure the progress of a project with, Shane? You’re managing so many projects in your organization. So how are you keeping track of them?
Shane Peabody: [00:07:36]
This is new for me taking more of that project management role on. It’s been a struggle, but as I get more mature in it, I find a true project management plan is what I use. You need to know what’s coming up next, what depends on what tools or Microsoft projects, but just having a whiteboard with post-it notes would be sufficient as long as you have that project plan.
I’m fortunate that I have great teams around me for my different projects. I hold them accountable and they hold me accountable. ,
Greg Mader: [00:08:07]
I have a motto for this podcast, Shane. Let me read it to you quickly because this is partly where I think you’ve done really well. The mission is that we’re here to empower business leaders to focus on what actually matters rather than focus on the pain of technology.
Are there tools that you use to keep buy-in among the stakeholders? What tools do you have to keep the leadership and management on the bus, here, as you’re going through a project?
Shane Peabody: [00:08:40]
The foundation of a company is its people. So in order to get the most buy-in for these things, you have to bring those people in as part of the project.
That’s why I mentioned my team earlier. I make sure that my team is diverse and they’re as close to the actual work being done as we can possibly get. It’s easy to make decisions at our leadership level, but a lot of times you lose the forest for the trees.
It’s bringing in those people that are going to have to do these transactions. You know, to get them involved early, and they’ll help you carry it across the finish line.
Greg Mader: [00:09:18]
Your company is in the thermal transfer business. You’re in the boiler business. You’re not in the IT business.
Shane Peabody: [00:09:24]
You know it’s a good day when no one calls you, right? You know, you’re in the background and you’re facilitating, making sure everything is getting done, and you’re as transparent as possible. You never want to be a impediment just because something seems a little fancier. You need a service that the guys out in the shop floor.
Greg Mader: [00:09:48]
How much do open source solutions play in your software decisions?
Shane Peabody: [00:09:52]
Oh, I’m an open source advocate. I mentioned the website way back. We use Apache, MySQL, and PHP. That really set my direction for the rest of my professional life, the ability to go in there and create my own stuff, extend what was already out there. There’s never a perfect tool for the job, so open source has always been something that you could lean into and help. You could form it to what your business needs were. I could never go back to that closed ERP world after experiencing the open source movement.
Greg Mader: [00:10:30]
People listen to this podcast who are at all different stages in their career. And with that, I have a question that I think is actually really important. You
must have a good story or two from the school of hard knocks.
Shane Peabody: [00:10:43]
Yeah. I mean, I’ve got a few. I’ve done everything here at this company. Like I said, I started fixing computers and fixing printers and the network and the website. I built the first web server we had here and, knock on wood, I’ve never had that kind of—I’m jinxing myself bad—I’ve never had catastrophic failure.
I can tell you something. I mentioned how we did a lot of development, alongside of the website, we built an intranet site. So what I did, starting out, is if someone had a request, I would do it. I didn’t look at the larger strategy. I would just say, “This person has a request. I can make it happen.” I would do it, and I did that time and time and time again. And what I really ended up doing was building a monstrosity that was unmaintainable. And a lot of times what I did was contrary to what I know now is good process. So I built this
Frankenstein system that now, 20 years later, I’m still trying to send to the great beyond. I just can’t do it, so this thing is haunting me to this day.
That’s another thing with Odoo. This is my key outta this internet zombie this can be the tool that I can use to finally put it in the ground.
Greg Mader: [00:12:03]
So you’re not planning on retiring soon, but this is your retirement plan. You have to build the replacement tier for a system.
Shane Peabody: [00:12:11]
Yes, for sure. They joke around here that they’re not going to let me leave the office or a bus will hit me because I’m the last one that knows how this thing was put together. They won’t let me leave until I can get rid of this thing.
Greg Mader: [00:12:25]
What’s been the project you’re most proud of there?
Shane Peabody: [00:12:27]
I think it’s just the sum of all of it. I got to where I was because of how all the pieces that I have done fit together. I can walk from one side of the building to the other and see everything I’ve done. I ran that CAT-5 up in the roof. I installed that printer ten years ago, the monitors on the walls, the computer system that everyone’s working on all day. I just take a lot of pride and ownership in what I’ve done. And when I say me, I don’t mean exclusively me, I have a great team I work with. And, I wouldn’t be here without them.
It’s just the entirety of these things. One of the things I’m most proud of is being able to let go of something and give the network over to my network admin.
Greg Mader: [00:13:10]
Any closing thoughts, ponderings, or musings that you wanna share?
Shane Peabody: [00:13:17]
No, other than that team aspect, we have a team internally that I lean on extensively. Also OSI, they’ve been a great partner to me. They’ve made me look good.
Greg Mader: [00:13:29]
Let’s try one other thing here too, Shane. I’ll see how it works in editing, but give a pitch for Fulton boilers. Tell the world why your products are the best.
Shane Peabody: [00:13:39]
Don’t do that to me. I’ve worked here twenty years, twenty-five almost, and there’s a lot of innovation going on out there on the product line. Like I
said, the company has been around for 70 years. There’s products that have lasted almost that long, honestly. There’s boilers out there that are older than, we are, Greg. They’re still running.
Greg Mader: [00:14:00]
Shane, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Shane Peabody: [00:14:04]
Hey, thanks Greg. I appreciate it.
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