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Why I’ve joined RTP

I love this time of the year when my social feeds fill up with back-to-school photos from friends and family. Whether images of the first day of kindergarten or moving into a college dorm, it’s interesting to see the range of emotions on the faces–pride, excitement, hope, anxiety, and even fear at times. I can relate– it’s been awhile since I went back to school, but I started a new job this week and I bet if my photo had been taken on my first day, you would see many of these same emotions.

As a quick introduction, I’m Michael Pittman and I’m coming aboard to lead the Research Triangle Foundation’s marketing and communications efforts. I’ll be in charge of telling the story of the Research Triangle Park–its history, what’s currently going on, and what’s planned–as well as engaging RTP’s audience–those who work in the Park, visit the Park, partner with or could potentially do business in the Park. I’m so excited about this opportunity and wanted to quickly share with folks my background and why I’ve chosen to work here.

How’d I Get Here?

I was born and raised in North Carolina and have lived here all but 10 years of my life. In the late 90’s I was fortunate enough to be hired by Red Hat when it was just getting too big to be called a start-up–I was their 80th employee. Red Hat was where I really learned marketing, branding, and project management. By the time I left the company 7 years later, it had grown to over 600 employees. I left to move to Portland, Oregon where I worked in digital media producing interactive websites, apps, and exhibits for major museums and universities. Some of the projects were the Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Archives and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 2013, I came back to North Carolina to join Citrix; I helped grow and optimize the ShareFile and GoToMeeting marketing teams and open the new Citrix offices in the downtown Raleigh warehouse district.

Since coming back to the area, I’ve been really impressed by the growing buzz being generated in RTP. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t hear about something interesting going on in the Park–a new start-up or product, an idea share event aimed at entrepreneurs and inventors, the free co-working space at The Frontier with reservable meeting rooms, lunch-n-learns, happy hours, fit runs, and more. So when I found out RTP was looking for someone to lead their marketing and communication efforts, I was interested and intrigued.

Why I’m Here Now

Looking back over the course of my career, I’ve realized that the best jobs I’ve ever had have certain things in common. Knowing this, it was really important for me to make sure that the position at RTP met these standards. At this point in my career, not meeting the following characteristics would be a deal breaker:  

Strong Leadership | The best jobs I’ve ever had, have come with a boss that pushed me and my team to do more–one that was visionary and inspiring, one that sets high goals but communicates why the goals are important and why we should make the extra effort to get there. I watched Bob Young and Matthew Szulik do this when they were taking Red Hat public and growing over 100% a year. I watched Jes Lipson do the same at Citrix in growing his start up ShareFile into a major part of Citrix. I see this same visionary, inspiring leadership at RTP. Every time I’ve talked to RTP CEO and President Bob Geolas or heard him speak, I’ve been impressed at the consistency of the vision he has for the Park and his passion for making it happen. I’m also impressed by the team he’s assembled and the Board of Directors that advises the RTP team. Check them out, there are some very smart folks sitting around that table.

Potential | I’ve never been that interested in just maintaining something great that has already been created. Instead, I’m much more interested in creating and growing something, making it better through my efforts. RTP has been a success story for decades–there are roughly 200 businesses and 50,000 people working in the Park. And yet, if you look at the 2012 RTP Master Plan and the RTP Park Center redevelopment plan in particular, there is so much more that the Park could be. There is no reason to think that by the end of the decade, there couldn’t be another 10-25,000 more people working (and eating, and exercising, and playing!) in the Park. The potential is there.

Meaning | In my 20s I was motivated by learning my craft–becoming good at creative marketing, storytelling, and project management. In my 30s my ego took over a bit and I sought out work with award-winning designers and nationally known brands. Now that I’m in my 40s, it has become much more important to me to do something meaningful with my skills and time and feel like I am making a difference. What could be more impactful than helping develop and grow RTP? Creating additional jobs and incubating companies that are developing cutting edge products will have a great effect on this area, the Triangle, and North Carolina as a whole.

In closing, I couldn’t be more excited about Research Triangle Park and its future. I think we can do great things in the coming years and add to the Park’s already great legacy. To do this, we are going to need everyone’s help and input–I myself have a ton to learn and look forward to hearing from anyone and everyone who’s interested in RTP. Please feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and ideas: <>