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Excellence in Technology

2018 Excellence in Technology Awards

Business runs on technological advancements, and Biz 417 partnered with AITP of the Ozarks for the second year in a row to honor the innovators and pioneers who are creating a robust technology community in southwest Missouri.

By Adrienne Donica, Evan Greenberg, Rose Marthis and Claire Porter

May 2018

Excellence in Technology Awards

The business world would be nothing without the technology that supports it. That’s why, for the second consecutive year, we’ve partnered with the AITP of the Ozarks to honor the innovators and pioneers who help create a robust technology community in 417-land every day. Our independent panel of judges pored over more than 50 nominations to determine the finalists and winners, announced at an awards ceremony in March, for our three corporate and three individual awards. The winners sometimes work in the shadows, but now their accomplishments are in the spotlight for all to see. 


Excellence in Technology Judges

Greg Burris

Greg Burris
Greg Burris has served as Springfield’s city manager for nearly 10 years and is responsible for a $350 million annual budget. A recovering computer programmer, Burris worked at Missouri State University for 25 years.

Shannon McMurtrey

Shannon McMurtrey
As assistant professor of management information systems at Drury University, Shannon McMurtrey teaches cybersecurity courses. His interests include artificial intelligence and offensive security techniques.

Kim Collison Farr

Kim Collison Farr
For nearly seven years, Kim Collison Farr has been part of the Mercy Innovation team and now serves as director. Prior to joining Mercy, she worked at Discovery Center of Springfield and conducted physiology research at University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and in St. Louis.

Jeff P. Morrissey

Jeff P. Morrissey
Since 2008, Jeff P. Morrissey has served as Missouri State University’s chief information officer and has been responsible for the strategic planning, management, security and coordination of the system’s technology resources. He has been on faculty at MSU since 1984.

Heath Rust

Heath Rust
Heath Rust is network security engineering manager for Jack Henry & Associates, where he has worked for more than six years. He also owns Twisted Pair LLC, a local managed service provider/managed security service provider. In 2015, Rust started nonprofit DreamIT MakeIT with his wife, Stacy.


Myke Bates

Developer of the Year

Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Eagle Speak

Back in 2005, when Myke Bates was at tech school in South Dakota studying network security, he took a required programming class and hated it. Naturally, it’s now how he makes a living.

Bates started out fixing computers and servers for franchise restaurants including Long John Silver’s and KFC. There was a stint at PFI Western Wear, too. In November 2015, Bates and his business partner, Jason Arend, pitched Eagle Speak, a voice-activated communication program, at a startup conference. Bates, now planted in Springfield, splits time between Eagle Speak and the web developer role at Marlin Network he’s had for eight years. He is also founder of SGF Web Devs, a 500-member organization born out of Bates’s experiences at Florida developer meetups.

Bates hopes to put Springfield on the map as an idea incubator. His younger self would’ve scoffed, but programming is a part of who he is now. “I kind of get a high from solving problems and cracking code,” Bates says.

Tim Dygon (Left) and Andrew Goodall created The Daily Scholar
Photo by Brandon AlmsTim Dygon (Left) and Andrew Goodall created The Daily Scholar to reimagine where and how productive dialogues happen. Purchase Photo

The Daily Scholar

Most Innovative Startup

Since launching in July 2014, The Daily Scholar has changed the way the next generation has conversations and handles conflict with a comprehensive cloud-based publication software. Co-founders Tim Dygon and Andrew Goodall took their beta software through The eFactory’s accelerator program and used market research and beta testing to learn where their software fits best. Introducing the software in higher education demonstrated how many students come to college with poor communication skills. So, they pivoted and went straight to the source: high school classrooms. “We’re focusing on selling our product to large public school districts who already have a budget for e-learning and new software,” Goodall says. Beta testing in 13 school districts allowed the co-founders to meet teachers’ requests. They added educational pieces and made the site more dynamic, allowing admins to pick modules, change labels and adjust color schemes to create a site customized for their classrooms. 

The spirit of The Daily Scholar lies in how technology should supplement, not supplant, human interaction. “So many areas of life are qualitative rather than quantitative,” Dygon says. The software capitalizes on two proven retention techniques—teaching peers and discussing—to develop students’ communication skills. And it works. “We’ve seen students interact more in person after interacting online through the software,” Dygon says. Tapping into the familiar communication patterns of social media helps bridge the gap between social and academic communication. “The way [students] interact all the time is online,” Goodall says. “We’re taking those core features and intuitively taking the way they learn and share.” What’s next for the pair and The Daily Scholar? The partners are developing a stand-alone app with their debate platform and raising capital to go to market this fall. 

What The Daily Scholar Has Learned Since Launching Five Years Ago 

“The financial industry is so much more savvy. Even four years ago it was easier for a startup to get funded. The Midwest has a different concept of a startup, and tech companies want to invest with revenue. We’re slowly gaining traction to meet in the middle. We really want to raise funds in 417[-land] and bootstrapping is priority No. 1.” —Andrew Goodall 

“How to say no and stick with no. When you’re idea people, it’s really hard to say no.” —Tim Dygon 

“The startup world can be a lot of smoke and mirrors. There’s lots of support when starting, but when it comes to follow through and progress beyond the idea it’s a lot more rare. You have to prove yourself in this space. It’s not that easy or fun all the time.” —A.G. 

“Going through this process means competing advice. Be confident in your idea but be flexible. And if your heart’s not in it, don’t do it.” —T.D.

Aimee Hendrycks

Rising Star

Engineer, Mostly Serious

The majority of IT experts say their love for the industry stemmed from a fascination with building things and taking them apart. Not Aimee Hendrycks. “I guess I liked my remotes and TVs in functioning order,” says the 21-year-old with a chuckle. Instead Hendrycks traces her passion back to her involvement with Marshfield High School’s math team, which taught her problem-solving skills, and the theater department. “I think being involved in theater for several years trained me for project-level thinking because there are many pieces to accomplish in a given number of months, and the only way to deliver was to plan each chunk appropriately and not procrastinate,” Hendrycks says.

Those are skills she has used every day since joining the staff at Mostly Serious in February 2016, shortly after completing an eight-week web development boot camp in Utah post–high school. Her first project? Helping build a new website for CoxHealth that includes 1,300 pages, more than 1,500 images and 200-plus documents. Hendrycks quickly distinguished herself and took the lead role in developing a website for Missouri Safe and Sober. That success proved she was ready for another challenge: serving as project lead when 417 hired Mostly Serious to rebuild its websites, including biz417.com. [Editor’s note: No 417 staffers were involved in the nominations for or judging of these awards.]

“People are quick to say, ‘Do what you love,’ but this can be confusing for people at any age,” Hendrycks says. “It usually just doesn’t come to you. I wasn’t in love with programming, but I knew I was good at it, I enjoyed it and I could make money doing it. And with the right company and attitude, I found something I really love.”

Eagle Speak, founded by Jason Arend (left) and Myke Bates (right), is gearing up for an official version 1.0 launch.
Photo by Brandon AlmsEagle Speak, founded by Jason Arend (left) and Myke Bates (right), is gearing up for an official version 1.0 launch. Purchase Photo

Eagle Speak

Enterprise Technology Award

Eagle Speak was the first name that came to mind when Myke Bates and Jason Arend pitched their idea at Springfield Startup Weekend in 2015. The streamlined communication application would be a way for people like Bates and Arend, who had become frustrated with their ability to collaborate while living in different states, to work more effectively and efficiently. 

“It did well and won that competition, and there was a snowball effect after that,” says Bates, who is the company’s chief technology officer and co-founder alongside Arend. “We didn’t really think much of it [from a] business standpoint, but there was all sorts of interest being shown in it.”  Two years later, Eagle Speak is gearing up to launch the official 1.0 version of its platform. 

The startup is both a victim and beneficiary of its ingenuity—the tech it uses is cutting edge to the point that Bates and Arend sometimes have to wait for the world to catch up with their ideas. “We kind of re-envisioned how we think communication should be happening,” Bates says.

Although still in beta, Eagle Speak has nearly 4,000 users on its web version, who have mostly joined through word of mouth. That chatter is bound to get louder as the startup becomes even more accessible this year. “Because we’re in so early with the technology choices we’ve made, we’re kind of at that forefront,” Bates says. “We kind of get to blaze the trail a bit.”

IT Executive of the Year, Stephanie O'Connor
Photo by Brandon AlmsIT Executive of the Year, Stephanie O'Connor Purchase Photo

Stephanie O'Connor

IT Executive of the Year

Associate General Manager - Administration, City Utilities of Springfield

Twenty six years ago Stephanie O’Connor started as an information technology intern at City Utilities of Springfield. Little did she know that position would lead to a role as CU’s Director of IT, the position O’Connor held when she was nominated for this award. O’Connor now oversees the entire IT department—plus the human resources and management services departments—as Associate General Manager - Administration. 

“As you move from a follower to leader, I think you learn from your mentors as to the kind of leader you want to be,” O’Connor says. Recognizing the value in helping others, she is a Missouri State University College of Business mentor to a young woman pursuing an IT career. “In the IT industry, it’s typically a male-dominated field,” she says. “So seeing women be interested in that field along with the shift and change in what the workforce looks like, I am very happy to be part of that.”

The leadership values she tries to exemplify are on the bracelet she wears daily: “Be true. Be you. Be kind.” O’Connor leads with a heart for people, which played a role in one of her milestone accomplishments. Noticing a lack of a centralized IT assistance help line for employees, she introduced the help desk concept to CU in 1998. And all these years later, O’Connor keeps looking to the future to see how CU can better serve the community.

Jason Arend, Kimberly Cooper and Sherry Coker help make MATA a source for all things tech in 417-land.
Photo by Brandon AlmsJason Arend, Kimberly Cooper and Sherry Coker help make MATA a source for all things tech in 417-land. Purchase Photo

Mid-America Technology Alliance

Community Impact Award

Nine years is an eternity in the technology world. Think about your office’s client relationship manager back then or simply what phone you were using. Who could have guessed what was to come? Nine years ago, Springfield’s technology community was also nascent, but it was clear there was opportunity for greater interaction and collaboration. So Ozarks Technical Community College applied for and received state funding to build an IT consortium that would build a sense of community. They called it the Mid-America Technology Alliance (MATA). 

Today MATA, now a 501(c)(6) stand-alone organization and member of the Technology Councils of North America, is still doing that same work. “Our mission, it’s to connect the people and resources together to make Springfield a leading technology community,” says Founder and Executive Director Sherry Coker. Each month, the organization gathers local technology leaders for roundtable discussions, at which attendees share current projects, successes and challenges the group can troubleshoot. These discussions have led to the creation of an all-in-one calendar for local technology-related events, a Slack channel for improved communication beyond the meetings and Hack4GoodSGF, Springfield’s first coding competition during which participants compete to create an app that addresses a regional social issue such as homelessness. MATA also serves as a touch point for people looking to become more involved in the region’s technology community by sharing information about networking groups on its website.

“Even to this day, I don’t think people realize all of the technology that exists within [Springfield], whether it be an actual software development company or whether it be a company that relies heavily on technology—think O’Reilly Auto Parts or think Bass Pro,” Coker says. That’s a sign that her work and that of MATA’s board of directors is far from over, but it’s a welcome opportunity—just like it was nine years ago.

Missed the Awards?

See the Photos

See pictures from Biz 417's 2018 Excellence in Technology Awards presented by Total Highspeed Internet Solutions. The ceremony took place on March 1, 2018 at The Old Glass Place.