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This week's CxO spotlight is on Michael E Lemm, the owner at FreedomFire Communications. Michael has an exciting background that began in the US Navy, and he also has a wealth of IT experience. We spoke with Michael to find out more about what has led him to be the industry professional he is today. Your role as a Naval Officer spanned over twenty years and was an all-encompassing position where you oversaw a variety of areas within the US Navy. Can you share more about the responsibilities you had during this time? These lyrics from Grateful Dead’s song “Truckin’” say it best: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” I received a direct commission as an Industrial Hygiene Officer (IHO) right out of graduate school at the University of Michigan in 1982. An IHO is an occupational safety and health (OSH) expert for the Navy, albeit with application in an obviously unique work setting. As an officer, you’re involved in all aspects of strategic planning, programming, budgeting, team building, leadership, problem solving, decision making, field operations, and organisational design per your particular speciality for whatever position you’re assigned at the time. However, you also add additional responsibilities and experiences beyond your original role as you grow and your career progresses. Some of my growth opportunities in over 23 years included conducting the OSH portion of various inspections for just about every class of ship in the Navy, being attached to the Marine Corps for 7 years in Iwakuni, Japan and Camp Pendleton, California; establishing the first hazardous material management and hazardous material/hazardous waste emergency response capabilities for the U.S. Marine Corps, directing healthcare support and planning for Navy and Marine Corps assets during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, gathering medical intelligence and leading environmental assessments in support of operational planning for joint operations with NATO and others covering Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia, and performing OSH reviews of weapons acquisition programs (Acquisition System Safety Engineering) for the Navy’s Weapons Safety And Explosive Safety Review Board. Having been all over the world and involved in a variety of taskings, I can say that it was definitely a rewarding and memorable career. You have since moved on to become the Owner at FreedomFire Communications. What inspired you to make this transition? My military experience and being able to travel the world exposed me to the global demand for telecom and information technology (IT) services. This also afforded me the opportunity of professional networking amongst individuals and businesses around the world. An innate curiosity of the what, why, and how behind the technology kicked in and took over from there. One particular relationship led to mutually exploring opportunities for putting the experience and knowledge gained to good use. This resulted in a friendship and partnership that's covered 20 years and is still going strong. In 1998, while still on active duty, I started FreedomFire Communications. Due to the demands of the military, I was only able to work on this business part-time nights and weekends, obviously. The first few years were a “learning and gradual growth experience.” But today, we are doing business all around the world. What are the most notable changes in the industry you have seen during your time in telecoms and IT? The role, responsibilities, complexity, resources, and options for CIOs, CTOs, and IT Directors have grown exponentially over the years. It’s not about simple dial telephones and desktop computers anymore. Rapid advances in technology over the years have enabled improved overall business efficiency and effectiveness via applications such as wireless ecosystems for voice and data, voice over internet (VoIP) communications, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, robust network security strategies, software-defined networking (SDWAN), big data analytics, and much more. It’s all about doing everything faster, easier, cheaper, smarter, and more secure while getting more bang for the buck in the process. What would you like to see in the future of IT? It might sound simplistic and idealistic, but I’d like to see businesses of all sizes and all industry verticals fully embrace the opportunities technology presents. To be honest, unfortunately, not all companies get it, and too many drag their feet. IT leaders can positively impact the growth and bottom line if the boardroom would treat them as equal partners, listen, and give them a chance. I strongly believe that digital transformation, virtualisation, IoT, and Industry 4.0 are the roadmap every size business needs to follow now and into the future. Those who do will be out in front with the rest trailing far behind them. What motivates you to do what you do? I decided a long time ago that we weren’t going to measure our success the way most businesses do. It’s not all dollars and cents for me. Rather, we would measure it through the success achieved by the business clients we served. I absolutely love knowing that our free consulting services help save our clients time, money, and effort with their IT strategy, thus contributing to their overall success in whatever industry they may be involved in. In fact, our company motto "Helping YOUR Business, DO Business" is at the core of everything we do. Living the creed of "helping others" every day as our company culture is very self motivating for me. I am also very motivated knowing that we are at the forefront of innovation with the technology solutions we source and design for our clients. For example, helping a contact centre incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technology into their operations or helping a company embrace Industry 4.0 concepts with IoT connectivity is quite a rush, very exciting. Simply put, getting our clients the most cost-effective and innovative solution for whatever network application requirements they’re targeting is absolutely priceless to me.