Executive profile: Midco chief technology officer Jonathan Pederson
As chief technology officer at Midco, Jon Pederson’s role is a diverse one.
He manages a team of 65 people, taking care of core customer-facing technology: Internet, video service, phone service and business services.
He also represents the Sioux Falls-based company at the highest levels of its industry, assisting with industry relations at a national level.
This month, he marks 34 years with the company – the result of a career that started with a job during college that led him down an unexpected path.
“My major was psychology,” said the Sioux Falls native and 1979 Washington High School graduate, who went on to Augustana University.
“And while I was going to college, I got a job working as a computer operator. I realized that was a little more my aptitude.”
He finished his four-year degree and then went on to Southeast Tech, where he spent two years completing a computer programming program.
“They were really the only organization that had a quick computer option,” he said. “Otherwise you were looking at a four-year computer science degree. And it seemed like a good way for me to invest in a career that was in demand and where you could make some money right away.”
An internship while at Southeast Tech led him to Midco, where he was put to work – for free – writing computer programs.
“It was pretty eye-opening,” he recalled. “At the time, Midco was doing a lot of different things. We were even writing code for IBM. We had radio. We had KELO-TV. We had the No. 1 rock station in Minneapolis. So it was varied. But at the time, personal computers weren’t even a thing. There was a lot of technology head room over there.”
But there wasn’t a full-time job when Pederson graduated. Instead, he took a contract job through Midco for three months working on programming related to student loans.
“It went really well, and then a position opened up and I started full time as a computer programmer,” he said.
Through the years, he has held roles including systems programmer, network manager, IS manager and vice president of technology.
Along the way, he at one point returned to Southeast Tech in the late 1980s to learn a new programming language as the Internet began to take root.
What became Midco’s Internet service began with Pederson and a part-time contractor “who was my instructor at school,” he said.
“It’s interesting, because as I progressed in my career a lot of what got me started – because it’s technology – changed. So what I learned in school doesn’t apply that much any more, but I learned how to learn,” Pederson said.
“And I find myself now leaning a little more on my liberal arts education, because that teaches you some softer skills – how to write, how to speak and how to manage, especially with the background in psychology.”
He’s now a robust supporter of the company internship program that led him to his career – which has grown with Midco and helped recruit new talent. Looking back, he says the company led him exactly where he hoped to land.
“When I started, I wanted to be in technical management and that’s what I’m doing. I’m happy where I’m at,” he said. “It frightens me a little bit to look at the calendar and see I’m not all that far from retirement. But I’m having fun. And it’s fun to see the company grow and expand and gain notoriety. You like to think you had something to do with that, too.”
Here’s some more insight into Pederson and his unique career.
Question: What’s been one of your most memorable times at work?
Answer: There are a couple. Back in the mainframe days, when you had a big room full of computers, we had a crash. I lost the tape you had to use to get it back for a while. I finally called somebody and they said normally people keep it in the lower left hand drawer. And there it was. That was the only thing that got the whole system back. It was a tense couple hours.
One of the other things involved a service we used called At Home to provide Internet service. In the early 2000s, they went bankrupt, and I wrote a white paper on how we could start our own Internet service back up again. It was approved. I got a blank check. And three months later we resurrected Midco Net and we were back again. That was awesome.
Question: What’s something people might be surprised to learn about your career?
Answer: About 30 years ago, I wrote a program for a theater point of sale system. Up until March of this year, it was still running at the West Mall 7 Theatres, which is amazing that a program ran continuously for three decades. So that’s a fun fact.
Question: Who has been a mentor for you in your career?
Answer: That’s a tough one, but I’ll say Tom Simmons and Dick Busch. Dick was my first boss, and I worked for him for 20 years, and Tom was instrumental in serving as an example that it’s important to be involved in the community.
Question: How do you connect with the broader business community in Sioux Falls and give back?
Answer: This will be my ninth year on the board of the Great Plains Zoo. I’ll be termed out at the end of the year. I credit Tom with getting me interested in the Leadership Sioux Falls program, which in turn sparked my interest in volunteering for a board position.