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Community Rockstar: Matt Passini, Co-President of the Midwest User Group

By DAVID Jenness posted Wed September 01, 2021 10:04 AM


Matt Passini is a Manager of Information Systems at Acuity Insurance and co-president of the Midwest User Group, which maintains a presence in Wisconsin and Minnesota, with co-president Michael Custard. As the Midwest User Group gears up for its annual User Group Event on September 22, I spoke with Matt about his career, commitment to Community, and his goals for the User Group.

DJ: Tell us about your day job at Acuity Insurance. How do you work with IBM Automation?

Matt:  Acuity is a property and casualty insurance company writing commercial and personal lines.  From a technology perspective we pride ourselves in writing our own systems, from quoting, policy management, claims, billing, and everything in-between.  However, we do not re-invent every wheel, and therefore look to take advantage of foundational platforms that allows us to extend and customize to meet our unique business needs.  From a business perspective, we pride ourselves on customer service – and by that, I mean human customer service.  Balancing Automation along with the human factor is important to us.  We are looking to automate trivial processes and augment our employee force provide value-add technology to aid in exceptional customer experiences.

DJ: How long have you been on the Acuity team?

Matt: I started at Acuity right out of college, being hired on as a programmer.  I love technology and learning and have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to continual expand my horizons, having worked in most of our business domains and various technologies.  The latter part of my experience at Acuity has been heavily focused on further enabling our fast-growing technology department by furthering our web infrastructure, middleware, AI, building out our Service Oriented Architecture, and most recently focusing on enhancing our Enterprise Content Management stack, looking to take advantage of the latest OCR, cognitive, and automation capabilities.

DJ: How did you get involved with the Midwest User Group?

Matt:  Acuity has participated in various IBM user groups for many years, WDUG, CM8, and CMOD User Groups, for example, and historically more passively involved in the current Automation user group.  We’ve been investing heavily in this area with IBM products and are finding that communities and partners are two valuable and perhaps overlooked key components to a successful roll-out of these next generation platforms.

DJ: And now you are the Co-President (with Michael Custard of State of Minnesota).  What goals do you have for the group?

Matt: Well, from a bit of a selfish perspective, I am looking forward to Acuity hopefully taking advantage of what the user group has to offer. But I also want to help build the Community and give back, so that we have a wide group of peers that can trade best practices and help each other out – as the learning curves are steep and fraught with peril. Conferences and webcasts help provide important information and are a good first step, but I would like to see a more grassroots and bi-directional flow of information at the user level.  Looking forward, I am a little worried about the future of user groups.  While remote work and virtual collaboration is fast and efficient, it can be a little too easy to become silo’d and separated.  While a fully virtual user group meeting is better than nothing, it isn’t quite the same as getting together to trade frustrations and breakthroughs.  One reason for joining on as President is to hopefully help spur user group collaboration virtually for now, and with some luck, in person in the future.

DJ: Congratulations on a terrific Agenda for this year’s Midwest User Group (Virtual Edition), which will be held on Wednesday, September 22. (click here to register for the free virtual Conference).  We may not be able to safely gather in the same room yet, but hopefully soon we can.

Matt: We were hoping for an in-person event this fall, but decided to wait, and is proving to be the right call, unfortunately. The virtual meeting is the next best thing.  For a user group, structured meetings are needed to set a solid foundation and create connections to further build upon.  As we move forward, I would appreciate any and all feedback on how to help build comradery and connections through the user group.  I personally am a fan of having smaller meet-ups, more often. It’s easier for people to fit into their schedule, and the discussions can be more timely – perhaps we’ll look to have mini meet-ups with focused topics in 2022.  Please share your ideas!

 DJ: Best of luck to you and the Midwest User Group. To close our conversation, what do you do for fun, aside from cheer on the Green Bay Packers football team?

Matt:  Well, we certainly do that. I went to college in Green Bay, so it is ingrained pretty well. I have a wife and two younger children who keep me busy.  I’m also a volunteer firefighter and EMT with my local fire department, so that keeps me busy outside of any family activities.

 DJ: Ah, it makes sense now. Being a firefighter and EMT is a commitment to your local Community in the same way that being a User Group leader is a commitment to your IT Community. Thank you for being you and I hope you get a nice turnout on September 22. 
Here is the link for September 22: