Jesse M. Patchak, Wisconsin Department of Transportation

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Jesse M. Patchak, economic development chief, Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

1. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Economic development is extremely important for Wisconsin. My team makes the link between transportation and job creation and/or retention. We collaborate daily with state agencies, local units of government, other state DOTs, and businesses to make Wisconsin an attractive place to do business. The ultimate goal is to provide a transportation system that is safe and efficient for all users. While all of this is challenging, it is very rewarding when we deliver products and services that meet these objectives.

2. Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I am really into Indra Nooyi’s “performance with a purpose” philosophy right now. Scarfing down junk food and guzzling soda isn’t really an “in” thing to do anymore, yet Indra has been able to hold revenues in a time when all logic tells you they should be in decline. She pays remarkable attention to tiny details that make the difference. The level of detail and desire for perfection is a great inspiration. Although, I believe perfection doesn’t exist because you can always better your best. It is nice to see corporations like Pepsi focusing in and honing any edge they can find. The soft-drink industry must be brutally competitive.

3. What has been the high point of your career so far?

Every day is the high point of my career. I try to improve each day and foster an environment where my team is comfortable pushing the envelope. I feel like I am still on the upward swing of my career and haven’t hit that high point, and honestly, I hope I never do. When I start to feel the decline, I will know it is time to move on to other things in life. In terms of my career, I have two very large work tasks on my plate right now. We are writing the first-ever Wisconsin State Freight Plan and have assembled a Freight Advisory Committee for the first time in department history. Years from now, finishing the plan and having consecutive successful advisory committee meetings will certainly rank as high points.

4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Slow down and take the time to learn. I read more now than I ever did when I was in school. I might even go so far as to say that I learn more now than I ever did when I was in school. There will be some difficult economic times coming and your work ethic will be something that will drive your career. If you stay sharp and work hard you will be rewarded.



5. What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

Recreation has to be one of the top benefits of Dane County. I love enjoying all of the great parks and hiking trails, and my kids love the playgrounds. Our parks are nice and clean, and it seems like you are never more than 20 minutes away from a body of water. The residents of Dane County are awesome, too. I went for a jog in a city in another state and you would have thought that I was from another planet. Runners certainly don’t receive a warm welcome everywhere. People in Dane County actually wave, give you a thumbs up, and provide encouraging words when they see you on a run. I think we are used to having recreation as part of our daily lives.

6. Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I can carry two babies and two gallons of milk with a fully loaded diaper bag on my back. About a year and a half ago, my wife and I welcomed our twins to the family. I used to think I was organized and a task master, but my twin-dad self is unbelievable at time management. It is funny how much your children shape your work abilities. I have a 5-year-old son, too, who just started kindergarten and sports. We have already had our first scholastics vs. sports conflict.

7. What are your guilty pleasures?

I love to eat gas station food. I have no idea why because it is almost always a bad decision. It is extremely rare for me to buy gas and not go inside to buy something else. By the time I pay for these convenient delicacies I could have eaten at Ruth’s Chris. It drives my wife nuts.

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