Geoffrey Mason – Thomas Allen
Ask Director of Information Technology Geoffrey Mason, and he’ll tell you that the people who work for Thomas Allen don’t do it for the money alone. There are no fancy perks like ping pong tables or kombucha on tap.
Rather, for many who work at the Minnesota-based social-services company, which runs group homes and case management services for the developmentally disabled, there’s a higher calling to be answered.
“One of the reasons that people come to work with Thomas Allen is because we are providing things that really help people,” Mason says. “This is a place where you can know that the effort you’re putting in is actually going to provide a specific benefit to people.”
When he arrived at Thomas Allen in 2008, the company was unprepared for an upheaval like the COVID-19 pandemic. It was largely dependent on paper, for example, and most of the computers were more than 15 years old, with hardly a laptop to be found. Many workers lacked reliable internet access at home, as well.
“There were a lot of things that should have been in place for organizations of our type that just weren’t there,” Mason recalls.
Leading a paradigm shift
Over time, and especially during the pandemic, Mason led the organization through a sweeping tech transformation, one that encompassed everything from IP Phones to virtual infrastructure.
Working with phone-systems provider Zultys, Mason and his team ensured that employees had the ability to work from anywhere with modern applications to support them. He also coordinated with staffers to ensure their home internet access would support their needs, particularly when the pandemic hit.
“We had to make sure that everybody was able to operate regardless of what they had in place,” Mason says. “By the time we came out of the pandemic, pretty much everybody within the organization was able to operate in the new hybrid work environment.”
With that transformation accomplished, Mason turned his attention to other pressing fixes that will allow the organization to function more effectively.
For example, Mason has been working with his team to build a new case management services tool using Synergy, a product from the European company Exact. Intended to replace some of the organization’s proprietary applications, the new system provides better tracking for things like care coordination, case management and guardianship teams.
The broader goal is improving data management across the company. That’s particularly important because state funds available to Thomas Allen can come through multiple counties, a quirk of how Minnesota distributes them.
“In the end, our main objective is to centralize and secure our data in a way the company previously wasn’t able to do,” Mason says. “We needed to move away from less secure tools like MSAccess and use a far more robust solution like Synergy, to easily share information in ways that complied with HIPAA requirements.”
A people-centric business culture
Mason didn’t start out in the IT field. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he earned his B.A. in Communications in 1985, Mason launched his IT career at Deluxe Corporation, where he began as a credit and collections manager in 1987 before moving into a programmer analyst role four years later. In 1998, he became an information systems manager at Access Cash International, rising to senior manager of systems development after Access Cash was acquired by eFunds.
Following a stint at Lisec America, Mason joined MoneyGram International as the settlement systems manager. But he eventually came to feel that something was missing in his work life—a void he was able to fill by accepting his current role with Thomas Allen in 2014. (He’s done part-time work for Thomas Allen as a programmer while still with Moneygram).
“When I was at Moneygram, the IT organization alone probably occupied 20,000 square feet of a building and was basically a big sea of cubes,” Mason says. “You have a different kind of business culture. We’re a for-profit organization, so the bottom line still is very important, but we always temper that with, ‘How does this affect the people that we provide the services to?’”
Listening to the workforce has also contributed to Thomas Allen’s more recent focus on diversity, which Mason calls “a major, highlighted” part of its agenda. The organization is working on helping and hiring a more diverse pool of people; Mason notes it recently included that goal in its five-year strategic plan.
“That’s something we are serious about, and that as an organization, we are going to strive to do,” he says. “The company wants to be a leader in building a diverse workforce and I want to be at the forefront of making that happen.”
View this feature in the Spring I 2023 Edition here.
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