By Randy Olinger

Whittaker Associates has a new Associate. His name is Randy Olinger. I am he. I’d like to tell you a little about myself, in addition to what can be found in a brief biographical sketch elsewhere on this website.

I met Dean Whittaker through our mutual love of sailing and found that we share an interest in things like technology, nature, and a curiosity about what makes people and communities tick. This past summer, during an extended sailing adventure, we discussed relativity, evolution, and neutron particle accelerators, as well as the virtues of simplicity, patience, and compassion. We agreed, and disagreed. And often, as the sailing day was brought ceremoniously to a close, we came to conclusions like “there is only now; there is no then.” (?)  Once back on land, we set out to find a way to work together, pledging that our mutual endeavors would strive to be meaningful, fun, and profitable.

So, now I come to work with Whitaker Associates having followed an academic and professional path different from most of the existing staff. I will likely bring some ‘different’ ways of looking at problems and devising solutions. Some will be welcomed, some may not. Some will work, others may not. It will be an adventure.

In my new role here at Whittaker Associates, one goal is to ensure that our operating practices effectively support the mission at hand.  What resources are needed?  What strategies are appropriate?

It will fun for me to learn new ways of doing things from the youthful group of information professionals already in place here, and I’ll offer proven ‘old school’ solutions in return.  I admit, I’m not yet sure how I feel about texting, twittering, blogging, and Bar Camps. But then, I was never quite sure what to think about CB radios, dial-up BBS, video games, or primal scream therapy.  Besides, it doesn’t really matter what I think because they just are! The best we can do is to keep an open mind.

One of the many reasons I find the Whittaker business intriguing is the raft of similarities to other arenas in which I have worked (mostly science and technology).  In each, there has been an explosion of available data in recent decades. And, whether it is the task of deciphering the 3 billion+ base pairs that encode the human genome, or trying to capitalize on the rapid proliferation and dissemination of data, ideas, and opinions over the internet, the question becomes – what do we do with all this information?  Whether we are trying to cure cancer or determine what makes corporations act the way they do, the trick is to discover the patterns of intelligence that emerge from these seas of information and boil it all down into simpler buckets of knowledge that provide usable insights and lead to effective actions.  Whittaker Associates has now been providing such services to the economic development and real estate communities for more than 20 years. In the future, we will develop and employ new analytic techniques and tools for giving meaning to the emerging mountains of available corporate data.

Just as important in this process will be a commitment to not lose sight of the Human Element – maintaining a strong connection between WA and not only the companies for which we do work, but also the faces and values of those individuals with whom we do work.
How does one accomplish this?  Where does it all start?

Perhaps, as Mairead Maguire, Nobel Prize winner once wrote,

Take time to listen to the birds, the waves, the wind.
Take time to breathe in the air, the earth, the ocean.
Take time to be silent, to allow God to fill you up with deep peace and love.

(GO SAILING! – r.olinger)