Travis Hollman – President, Hollman Media, LLC
Q: What is your role and what does a typical day look like for you?
A. I am the President / CEO of Hollman Media, LLC in Kearney NE. Our company builds websites and applications, and it also helps organizations improve their marketing efforts. A typical day for me could be anything from writing out paychecks, to speaking at conferences, to helping get a server/website back online, to trying to sell a web application or marketing service to any number of businesses. There is really no “typical” day for me.
Q: What types of skill sets are necessary for your job?
A. Because we started small (just two people) and have remained fairly small, (fewer than a dozen employees, but growing) we get to—and have to—utilize diverse skill sets. I started the company as an entrepreneur who handled sales, marketing, coding, designing, bookkeeping, and just about every other aspect of the company. That allowed me to learn how to grow a company from the trenches. Today, I am much more involved in management and human resources, but I still have an active rule in sales, marketing, and even cleaning the bathrooms.
To work for my company, you have to know how to work as a team to meet deadlines and give customers what they want in a way that is beneficial to both the customers and to the company. That sounds vague, but it is important and it is hard to teach. If I were to ask people to be good at only three skills, it would probably be:
1) Learn to work with people
2) Learn to work hard
3) Learn to code well (or design well, or whatever it is I hired you to do).
Q: How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? What was a pivotal moment?
A. I wanted to be an entrepreneur since the minute I was born. As a kid, I was always trying to find ways to offer products or services that someone would want to buy and that would give me the freedom to live or die by my own merits. In high school, I decided I wanted to start and run an advertising agency or a marketing firm some day. While in college in 1999, I picked up a couple web design and multimedia classes. I was good at it and I recognized that people wanted something I could offer them. I made the decision to start a web development business with my wife (then my girlfriend). We opened our doors in Kearney in 2000 while finishing college. I’m still doing it, but my wife never really left college. She still teaches “tech”, though, as an assistant professor at UNK.
Q: What is the one thing you wish you know more about before going into this career?
A. I wish I had access to a list of things that I still don’t know anything about. In other words, I don’t know what I don’t know and that drives me nuts. I feel there are so many things that would make me better, but I don’t know where to start. I have learned so many things the hard way and my journey would have been so much easier had I only known there were easier paths that would have let me work smarter rather than harder. Still, lessons sometimes stick better when they are learned the hard way.
Q: What are some things you think businesses can do to promote the impact technology has on their company and the economy?
A. Technology is so ubiquitous and people already talk so much about it. That needs to continue, but people need to put it into some kind of context that is understandable and focused. Otherwise it is overwhelming or just plain vague. For instance, I can tell you that technology makes my life and my job better. Nobody cares. But if I talk about a particular website that solves a specific problem and why I am passionate about it, then people will listen.
Q: What advice would you give to people seeking your particular profession?
A. I consider my profession to be “entrepreneur in the IT field.” If you think it will be easy or that you can just “settle into” a cushy job, you can’t. It’s competitive. It’s dynamic. It’s fast and exciting. It can also be intimidating and heartbreaking. And you will likely experience all these emotions over the course of one day. The key to making it is to just focus on not quitting today. Just worry about finding a way through today when you are down on your luck and your spirit is crushed. Things can change in a heartbeat.
Q: What are some improvements that you believe Nebraska needs in tech?
A. It has to start in the schools. So may kids and adults today believe that tech, and IT in particular, is about sitting in front of a computer and coding. That’s just a small part of IT. We have to do a better job letting kids know that they can totally hate coding and still love a career in IT or tech in general. Love building things and playing with technology, but hate coding? You sound like a network engineer to me. The problem is, we need to find a better way to educate people about all these other opportunities and stop pushing coding like it’s the only option.
Q: Do you have any ideas, from your career perspective, on ways to make these improvements
A. Again, it starts by educating people and getting them excited about the vast career opportunities in tech. We must break this stereotype that we all have the same jobs and the same skill sets (I can barely even fix my own computer). Those of us with a voice can get into the schools and help educate the kids and teachers about this. We could help create new curriculum, but unless it is going to meet some sort of existing requirement, then there is little incentive for the teachers to adopt an extra-curricular activity in their already-loaded day. I think this is a problem that can be solved if some of us in education and industry were to come together and figure it out together.