As Pro-West President & CEO, Annette Theroux, retires and is succeeded by former Vice-President of Programs, Kendis Scharenbroich, we asked the company’s former and future leaders a few questions about their careers, the company and – after 17 years of working together – each other.
Annette Theroux, outgoing President & CEO
Q: Annette, you have been involved in the GIS field for almost 30 years. What initially led you to a career in GIS?
A: I returned to college in my 30s and was intent on a career that invigorated me. I naturally gravitated towards geography. Organizing the world through location and using maps to tell the story made sense! A rich and engaging endeavor – I was hooked. Although, I must admit, just plotting color thematic maps was darn exciting in my earlier days.
Q: You moved up through the ranks at Pro-West over the last 24 years, starting as a Data Technician and 12 years later becoming President & CEO. Tell us about your career journey that led to you leading the company.
A: At Pro-West I was given many opportunities to grow in both GIS skills and leadership by Pro-West founding partners Greg Proper and Lee Westfield. I was invited to become an owner in 1999, followed by Vice-President, and then President & CEO in 2007. It has been an exhilarating time in the expansion of GIS and the growth of Pro-West. A journey indeed. Leading Pro-West has been an inspiring and rewarding experience.
Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of as President & CEO?
A: My focus has been to implement a business model that promotes collaboration and know-how to drive our success. It has been a privilege.
Q: What’s the best thing about being President & CEO?
A: The people I work with every day. It feels strange to look back on my career in total, when the real magic happens every day. I have witnessed small “aha!” moments when staff figure out a particularly vexing GIS issue (we jokingly refer to those sparks as “remember that one Tuesday?”) to the truly epic decisions that have altered the direction of our business.
Q: You’ve worked with Kendis for many years. Why is she the right person to lead the company?
A: Kendis embodies the finest traits of a strong leader. She can immerse herself in the technology and provide landmark direction for our company. Her leadership will make a difference to who we are as a company, to our staff as professionals, and to the GIS industry as a whole.
Q: How to you see her shaping the company as our new President & CEO?
A: Kendis has a talent for seeing opportunities others do not; it is a unique ability that has been key to Pro-West’s success and will continue to shape the company. She brings out the best in everyone she works with and is gifted at building trust with staff and clients, both of which are fundamental building blocks for a successful company. Kendis’ intelligence and intuition will keep Pro-West, its staff and clients ahead of the curve in a constantly evolving industry.
Q: Do you have plans for your retirement?
A: As many adventures as possible. Hopefully getting lost often.
Q: Where do you see Pro-West in five or 10 years?
A: In the next decade, I think Pro-West will be a strong force in developing pioneering GIS processes, supporting our communities and collaborating on a global level. The Pro-West team has what it takes to grow beyond the market in which we currently operate, with a solid business foundation and unrivalled technology skills to help our clients navigate the world. Sometimes people are surprised that an industry-leading company is located here in the Minnesota Northwoods; we are proud of that and are ready to expand our reach even further.
Kendis Scharenbroich, President & CEO
Q: Like Annette, you are a GIS professional “by trade” and worked in other roles at Pro-West before becoming Vice-President of Programs and now President & CEO. Tell us about your career progression.
A: I received my Master’s in Resource Analysis/GIS from St Mary’s University of Minnesota. Leading up to working at Pro-West, I worked for several government agencies. I worked hard, I asked questions, I failed, I solved problems, I tried things that scared me and I contributed. In 2006 I was invited by company founders, Greg Proper and Lee Westfield, to become a shareholder and became Vice-President in 2009. Greg, Lee and Annette built a strong foundation at Pro-West that I am proud to continue.
(I also had a paper route when I was in the 4th grade that taught me about hard work, responsibility and communicating with others. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for teaching me how to count back change!)
Q: What’s been your favorite thing(s) about working at Pro-West over the last 17 years?
A: Who wouldn’t want to collaborate with creative, supportive, smart, talented, motivated people that try new things and are hungry to solve tough problems? I love this about Pro-West. And seeing a client “take action” after the hard work is done…I never tire of it.
Q: What have been the most important changes in the GIS industry over the course of your career?
A: GIS has migrated from a technology reserved for the GIS professional to a location intelligence platform used by all. This transformation has evolved how government agencies solve problems and support citizen engagement. It has exposed a diverse set of solutions, business workflows, system integrations and data that have empowered end users of location technology to solve tough issues in real time.
Q: How would you summarize Annette’s term as President & CEO?
A: Where do I start? Her foresight and leadership have expanded our capabilities and reach into the market. She is also a smart, courageous and empathetic leader and mentor. It has been a privilege working with someone who cares so much about the success of others and pushes others beyond what they think they can do.
Q: What do you see as the key moments on the horizon for Pro-West in the coming months and years?
A: Pro-West never stops moving forward. We have more strategic partners than ever before and I see our partnerships growing in the next year and beyond. With partners, we are able to provide mores services, solutions and support for our clients, while providing professional development opportunities for staff. In addition, the areas of field operations, business system integration, 3D, automation and indoor mapping will be key areas of growth and opportunity.
Q: What is your vision for Pro-West as President & CEO?
A: Pro-West’s talented team is taking on the tough challenges our communities face, innovating all the way. With this team, I look forward to expanding opportunities for staff to grow personally and professionally, as well as grow Pro-West’s service offerings. Our ability to provide strategic direction, business system integration with location intelligence, solutions that empower others, data that drives strategic thinking and decision making, all while having a deep passion for client success, is a formula for ongoing success.
The Pro-West team is thankful to Annette for her years of service and to Kendis for taking on the challenge of being our President & CEO. We are excited to see what the future has in store for our company!