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Unlikely Path: CoreBTS president does IT her way

It might be hard to believe that Teri Bruns, president of CoreBTS, an IT solutions company, actually stumbled into the world of technology. And while her career path might be considered unconventional for someone of her stature, Bruns has rarely been a follower, choosing instead to do things her own way.

An early tomboy who spent the bulk of her childhood in Reading, Pa., Bruns played kickball and baseball with the boys and remembers hating being excluded from overnight sleepovers. In her teen years, she vacillated between career options and for a short while considered nursing – until she saw someone get hurt. "I couldn't tolerate it," she admitted.

One day, when a number of tech schools visited her high school, she wandered over to one touting careers in IT – not because she had a particular interest but because there was nobody in line. "I thought you'd have to have a huge engineering and math mind," she said.

Something clicked.

Years later, she became a programmer and moved to Madison in 1978 to work at National Guardian Life Insurance Co. for two years. "I was thrilled someone would pay me to do what I really enjoyed," she said. But there was another side of IT that called to her. "Back then," she said, "computers were often located behind glass, in separate rooms. When problems arose, I would often see what seemed like an elite group of people going into that room, then come out and all the problems would be fixed.

"I wanted to be one of those people."

Bruns worked for the state of Wisconsin and then General Casualty as a systems programmer before going to the "other side of the desk" with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). By 1995, she was working around the state for large enterprise accounts, building infrastructures to support business initiatives. At the time, she recalled, IT was exploding around the risk potential of "a thing called Y2K" as the world's computers crossed into the year 2000.

She remembers that night clearly – Dec. 31, 1999 – as the world nervously anticipated either Armageddon or an anticlimactic fizzle. When the clock ticked into the new century, celebration ensued. "Whew!" she said, recalling the event. She compared it to being an IT "fire chief," putting out another fire, and she realized then that she'd become one of those elite people she'd admired so many years before, exiting that glass-enclosed computer room.

Bruns joined Inacom in 2005, which was later sold to CoreBTS, and was named president last year. The company has 11 offices in seven states, and 340 total employees (about 100 in Madison).

Paralleling the economy, CoreBTS has experienced spikes and troughs, Bruns said. "Maintaining a healthy company and riding through those ebbs and flows with the team and staff we have has been a challenge," she admitted. "How do we continue to be profitable? But those moments also present opportunities to help other companies adjust to economic changes. What makes me happy is seeing our customers prosper.

"We don't just want a happy customer, we want a delighted company."

Bruns' corner office, with a bird's-eye view of the Beltline and UW Arboretum, often sits empty because of a harried travel schedule that keeps her on the road nearly three weeks out of every month.

When she is home, the golf aficionado (low score: 89) hits the links with husband David Bruns and enjoys gardening. And no matter what city she wakes up in, her day always starts off with a run. "I've been running for over 20 years, she said, "and I do it as much for mental clarity as physical exercise." At the age of 45, she ran and finished the Madison Marathon in 4:08:00.

Bruns, 52, attended tech school in Fairfax, Va., then went to Edgewood College many years later, after establishing herself. "I didn't conform," she said. "It was like I started in the mailroom of IT, and that gives me an appreciation for all the stops I took along the way."

This year, she's looking to pursue a master's in business at UW-Madison, though she admits it will have to be done in a non-traditional way, given all her travel.

But then, that's how she's always done things.

 

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