NetWolves has, over the course of 3 years, entrenched itself in the Healthcare industry. We spoke with Mario Ricatti and got to learn more about the company’s role in this new vertical.
On his career
Roxanne Williams: Can you take us through the Cliff’s Notes of your career?
Mario Ricatti: I started off in high school as a Flash developer, and really took a liking to technology. While in college, I did development and worked helpdesk for a large military contracting company. When I graduated, I decided that development really wasn’t for me. Sitting at a keyboard hacking away 8-9 hours per day coding really did not interest me. However, infrastructure has always been in my blood, and my first real job out of college was an IT admin position for a postcard printing company in Clearwater.
Mario: No – Pure Postcards. PostcardMania actually bought them way after I left. But I started on the infrastructure side there. I did a little bit of development, infrastructure, and helpdesk. It was an all-in-one job, which is expected from a small company with about 50 employees. I worked for them for 2 or 3 years.
Then, I moved on to a startup, which was a water company called Seven Seas Water based out of Tampa. They operated water plants throughout the Caribbean and South America at the time. They’ve since gone global. I was the IT manager for them for 4 and a half years, and that’s where I really blossomed with my career. I reported to the CFO, and that was a huge step into learning the business side of IT. This position allowed me to work with really talented water engineers, civil engineers, and finance executives.
Roxanne: When you say water company, do you mean water treatment or water as a utility?
Mario: Water as utility, treatment, and as ultrapure water for gas or nuclear. It was a really good job after college, because it included a lot of travel out of the country. I got to see so many places and do things that most people won’t ever do in their career. A lot of people sit at a desk – I didn’t do that.
From there, I went on to Triad Retail Media. I spent about a year there. I was the IT Operations Manager and was responsible for all internal IT and customer-facing IT. We hosted many websites for large retailers across the world. As a result, we helped retailers monetize their e-commerce websites to bring them even more revenue.
After Triad, I went over to a company called CoAdvantage, a large nationwide Professional Employer Organization. They are a competitor of ADP – payroll, benefits, and outsourced HR. When I was there, they were the 4th largest PEO in the nation. I spent about 2 and a half years there as the Director of Infrastructure. I ran the data center, acquisition conversions, anything network, telephony – you name it. That was a pretty fast-paced environment, and really was a lot of fun to experience the challenges they had to offer.
After that, I took a short hiatus, and then went over to the City of Sarasota. I did a 6 to 8 week project for them, where I completely virtualized their environment and moved them to new storage. I needed something fun to do while I was looking for my new home. And then from there, I got a call from NetWolves – fastest hire I’ve ever had. I had a call on Friday, came in for an interview on Monday, and had a job offer in my email on Tuesday morning.
It’s been 4 years since that happened. I’ve seen the evolution of this business. When I first started, it was just a standard network MSP – we did nothing besides network, and it was very vanilla. I came in and helped build an engineering department to support data center, network, security, and we’re working on application now. It’s given me the opportunity to take my experiences from the enterprise side and bring them to the MSP side, and take a company that’s never had this knowledge or this experience before and bring it to the table. That’s where I stand today, in a nutshell.
On NetWolves / VasoTechnology
Matt Vaughn: For those who aren’t familiar with NetWolves / VasoTechnology, can you give us the high level of what you do?
Mario: We’re going through a branding transformation – we are going to be VasoTechnology by the end of the year. We are an MSP, and then we have a healthcare side of the business – we have a sister company that is a GE modality reseller, and we are also a GE PACS reseller and integrator.
After our sister company sells the modalities, we come in and resell PACS. PACS is the imaging backend that mammogram machines, X-ray machines, etc all have to connect to. It’s what radiologists use to diagnose patients.
I’ve been engulfed in this now for 3 years, and have worked with many customers and projects. I learned and absorbed a lot of healthcare over these years. Now, when we work with these customers, I come to the table and I try to level-set the technology to the healthcare piece and how we bring it together. For some of our smaller customers, we don’t just offer a PACS system. We offer the PACS system, and security at a reasonable cost.
Healthcare does have a lot of requirements around security, so these are things that we bring to the table and we can help combine it all into one solution and one bill. Internet connectivity, networking, security, data center services, and healthcare applications – we do it all. Healthcare is a vertical that we have entered, and we’re not going anywhere.
On culture and proud moments
Roxanne: Since you’ve been here for four years now, can you tell us why you’ve stuck around for so long?
Mario: The culture’s awesome, and we are very entrepreneurial-spirited. But the really big piece here is the freedom to build the business and serve our customers with 100% satisfaction.
When you have a great idea, a lot of bigger brands may not listen. But your idea could positively affect 2,000 customers and improve their business. Here, you’re not just a number – you’re somebody that has something to do with the foundation of the business and makes a difference.
Roxanne: That’s fantastic. I love companies that allow you to have creative time and share ideas.
Mario: You’ve got to develop, and the best way to develop your company is to listen to your middle management. Your middle tier is where all the action is happening. They’re the ones that are seeing it, they’re the ones that know what’s going on.
Matt: What’s been your proudest career moment so far?
Mario: I’ll go with my time at NetWolves: being able to build out a business unit that was just a thought at one point. Same thing with some of our technology here. We just built our own private cloud, which we call Vaso Cloud Services. This offering is bringing healthcare imaging platform as a SaaS model to our customer base, and is a very big accomplishment for my company.
There are just so many. It’s hard to justify just one project because to me, they’re all great and all the people involved have been a pleasure to work with.
Talent in Tampa, when it comes to infrastructure
Roxanne: You’ve been in Tampa for a while now – have you seen a positive shift in tech talent? We often get to hear about the dev side, but infrastructure, not so much. We spoke with Marcus Session from the airport a few weeks ago, and he mentioned that it was hard to find infrastructure techs with both server and cloud.
Mario: Yeah. Talent in the Bay area is hard right now. Last year, Tampa had roughly 33,000 technology jobs open and nowhere near a quarter of the people to fill them. I can tell you from an infrastructure perspective, it’s very difficult. The problem with cloud is, it’s more administrative than on-prem.
Roxanne: AWS is not an easy thing to learn.
Mario: Definitely not cheap either. From a talent perspective, it’s very difficult. A lot of the people out in the world right now are fresh out of college. The economy is good and businesses are paying well, so people aren’t willing to leave their jobs for new opportunities.
There’s more talent in development than infrastructure. I have a search out right now for HR to see if there’s any talent, and they can’t find anybody. They got two resumes in for a position that’s been open for three months.
Mario: We understand that talent companies like Full Stack Talent are out there and scouting. We’re not trying to pull people from their jobs. I don’t like removing people that are happy where they’re at. And for people to move, it’s not really all about money either. They’re looking to grow their career. If I don’t have something to offer them to grow, how do I offer them a job?
When I interview someone, I tell them, “It’s not just me interviewing you. You need to interview us too – you have to figure out if this is the place you want to work.” I’m very open and transparent when it comes to interviews. When the time comes, here’s the offer. There are no gotchas.
But yeah, talent has been hard. I’ve had to take people from other companies that outgrew their position and had nowhere to go. And people right out of school, just because they’re so fresh, they want the experience, and they’re hungry. That’s just the way I’ve been functioning these days. And then from the network side, I pull from my NOC and I transform them into engineers. We can teach them how the business functions, and we can teach them our way.
Roxanne: You don’t really have a problem with retention, correct?
Mario: No. We pay for training and certifications, and we want to keep our engineers’ knowledge up to par. When you’re not on the enterprise side and you do what we do, it’s a different customer and different project every week. You’re always dealing with the newest, latest, greatest technologies because you’re dealing with the budget of another business, not ours.
We are on the cutting edge of everything in our data center. We did an uplift 3 years ago, and we just implemented a new cloud-based infrastructure so we’re always up to par too. But yeah, it’s always fun. The variety of projects keeps our staff excited, and keeps the boring out of our world.
Matt: We have junior people reach out to us all the time either from coding schools or from a New Horizons equivalent, and they always ask, “Where should I go? What should I do?” Go be very hungry at an MSP for at least 2 years. You will touch every technology and get your butt kicked.
Mario: Correct, and it teaches you how to deal with stress. I always tell my employees, “Don’t bring your work stress home.” When you start doing that, that’s when you start disliking your job. If you like your job, you learn work is work, home is home, and you don’t bring work stress home.
Matt: What are your thoughts on certification schools? Are there any in the area that you would actually suggest to people? Or that you’ve had success finding talented people from? I’ve heard such a mixed bag about a lot of them.
Mario: Certs are great if there’s experience behind them. But a cert is just like a college degree: when you first get it, it’s a piece of paper that makes you credible. But if you have no experience, it’s hard to just jump right in.
To me, valuables in the Tampa Bay area right now are PowerShell and VMware. PowerShell brings automation, automation brings efficiency, efficiency brings more time for things that need more focus. Almost every product today that can connect to Microsoft has a PowerShell module. When I hired my last data center engineer, he was not a data center engineer, he was a PowerShell guru with infrastructure background.
VMware’s never going away. The big organizations use it, and that is a cert I do look for because it is valuable. When they train you and you go to the bootcamp, you’re really learning what you’re getting out of that one. The Microsoft certs, not so much. Those are a dime a dozen these days. But cloud certs are becoming more in demand in today’s market.
Roxanne: If you find yourself somebody AWS-certified, keep them forever.
Mario: Yeah. For cloud certs, many engineers do bootcamps. They have levels, so they can start off with free certs, and then get into the paid ones as they grow into their career. But from a training perspective, it’s pretty impressive that you don’t have to go to a New Horizons anymore.
On his involvement with our tech community
Roxanne: What’s your involvement in the tech community in Tampa? Do you go out to all the big events and small meetups?
Mario: I do, but not as much as I used to. Unfortunately, once you have your third child, it changes your free time calendar. I go to some of the Tampa Bay Tech community events, and I attend some of the local conferences around here.
However, I know a lot of people out in Tampa. Being that I’ve made so many friends and acquaintances, I don’t really have to attend these anymore. We’re pretty close to each other and when they’re doing projects, they call me for advice and vice versa.
The last major one I went to was HIMSS, a healthcare conference that was hosted in Orlando this year. It’s kind of funny, I walk into one of the largest healthcare shows in the nation and I run into people I know from all over the country.
Tech in Tampa
Matt: What do you hope to see in the next few years for Tampa when it comes to technology?
Mario: From a Tampa Bay perspective, we’re booming right now. The Tampa Bay area, from what it was ten years ago to now, has made a 180 degree shift. There really is no ‘wanting’ to see, I’m actually seeing it. We have Raymond James here, we have Bristol Myers Squibb that just moved down the street a year or two ago. Big companies are starting to hit the Tampa Bay area. But we’re also seeing the flipside with companies dying, like Laser Spine Institute.
From a technology perspective and from knowing people in the Tampa Bay area, I could tell you who the IT sweatshops are and aren’t. That’s one of the things I’d hope to see – maybe over the course of 5 years – is to hear about these businesses with really bad reputations change. I know one of them in Clearwater is starting to take that shift and change.
Last year was a really big hiring year for a lot of businesses. Everybody over-hired. This year is an optimization year for a lot of businesses. Dollars are hard to make and you can’t keep raising the price of your products. You have to figure out what the lowest common denominator in your business is, and then optimize that. How do you distribute that load across your performers?
We don’t like to blame Amazon for a lot of this, but Amazon caused it with cloud and retail. Every retailer is starting to shut their doors. They can’t survive with high rent, high overhead, and no sales. It’s the same thing with business. You can’t survive when inflation is making your product go up, but people don’t want to pay that and now you’re forced to compete with the big guys. And the big guys can create a lower price, but when it comes down to customer service and support, you’re the ultimate decision maker in your business and how are you going to deal with that. So, do you become just a number and a phone call and in a queue?
Roxanne: It’s definitely a tough spot for businesses to be in.
Book / podcast recs
Matt: What are some book or podcasts you’d recommend to our readership?
Mario: There’s a gentleman I met on a plane from here to Texas once and I actually have his card somewhere. He has a book of all Tampa Bay tech, all the companies in Tampa. I don’t know if you guys met him.
Mario: Sven! He’s a good read. He has the scoop on everybody. Tampa’s small – once you meet one person, you start meeting them all.
Matt: Big small town.
Mario: It really is. I use the same terminology. It’s a big small city.
Roxanne: Are there any further thoughts you’d like to share? Anything exciting coming down the pipeline for you guys, or for yourself?
Mario: Technology is in a transformation stage again. We’ve been in a status quo for security, network, and infrastructure for a long time. I think right now the vendors and manufacturers are starting to shift the way they’re producing products. From the infrastructure standpoint, we’re thinking about what our pain points are and how we’re going to start relieving those pain points. And that is shifting how we think about things.
When we used to think about data center, it was, “Oh, I need racks and racks and racks.” Well, not anymore. Companies aren’t afraid to virtualize. We have the platform and the technology – but the infrastructure, in some cases, holds us back. Traditional infrastructure works, but it’s starting to become antiquated. Doing a complete overhaul into the cloud is costly, so I’m noticing a shift in mentality when it comes to vendors. Their question now is, “How do we get somebody into the foray at a Honda price?” Vendors are starting to look into that.
Another thing for me is disaster recovery. Everybody wants to protect themselves, but nobody wants to spend the money. Relying on cloud vendors to give us technology where we pay only if we use it is another shift I’m seeing. As I explain to people, if you buy a brand new BMW but you put it in the garage because your Honda is your daily driver, you still have to pay for the BMW even if you don’t use it. What’s the point? If I can take a minimal cost and just rent the car when I need it, that’s the direction we need to go at this point. That’s what I got [laughter].
VasoTechnology/NetWolves is a broad reaching IT services and support provider that aims to improve efficiency and reduce risk across the enterprise.
They began as a network security company in 1998, and they are still built on that foundation of security, along with network infrastructure/topology, managed and professional services, and a unique expertise of Healthcare Imaging Systems. As you can see, unlike many IT vendors, they don’t focus on single segment of need. They engage each customer from an enterprise approach, in order to find enhancements that could lift performance, security and workflow.
Their mission is to provide technical leadership with a higher level of visibility into operations, flexibility in solutions, and 24/7/365, US-based expert support service, delivered with the personal touch of a true business partnership. Today’s infrastructure and cyber security needs have pushed corporate IT staff and expertise beyond what is economically feasible. This is where VasoTechnology comes in. They complement your IT efforts and push to reach the final mile, letting you focus on your core business.
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