For our most recent installment of our “Meet the RocketBuilder” series, we bring you Jason Ward, Chief Innovation Officer. With previous careers in all three major sectors (public, private, and nonprofit), Jason lends his knowledge and diverse background of experiences, including his own technology startup, to help our clients make the best use of and scale their technology. He’s a jack-of-all-trades with a portfolio of expertise centered on effective communication and positive relationship building. As CIO, he’s always exploring and reimagining how corporations, entrepreneurs, creatives, and technologists collaborate to result in the best software possible.
Q & A with Jason Ward
Q: What is your role at RocketBuild, and what does it entail?
A: Chief Innovation Officer. I have three primary duties at RocketBuild…
- Helping customers take their ideas from a concept to a product plan during the sales and discovery processes
- Seeing to the health and culture of the brand and company
- Managing the company to create and hit our annual goals
Q: What three words might people use to describe you?
A: Reliable, trusting, and creative
Q: What got you into your career?
A: Dumb luck, mostly. My work history is a tumultuous one. Honestly, I have to credit the folks at SmallBox back in 2012 for giving me a chance to switch from the nonprofit sector to the creative space. I never really felt at home in a large bureaucracy, but I have really enjoyed working in small companies with tight-knit teams. I am fortunate to have met Topher Overstreet and for him to have been willing to hand me the reigns to his company.
Q: Describe your educational experience?
A: After five years as an undergrad at Purdue, I finally chose a major and finished with a Sociology and Psychology degree. Some years later I attended UIndy to get a Masters in Sociology. My real education happened during my 20 years working in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors post-college.
Q: Describe your professional experience?
A: The collection of experiences throughout my career and life are a bit of a hodgepodge, even to me. But there is an underlying theme that has begun to emerge in my work…I help others cut through the clutter, connect the dots, and arrive at decisions. What I have learned in the past 25 years is that design isn’t a result, it’s a process—a journey, if I don’t mind sounding cliche. That process exists for one purpose—to arrive at the best answer to address whatever problem or opportunity is presenting itself. I have dedicated the past 10 years of my career to mastering the skills of creative problem-solving and using design processes to arrive at better decisions. A wise man once told me that it is really hard to identify your passion, let alone follow it. He said, “instead, focus on following your interests, and maybe you’ll discover passion along the way.” That’s what I have been doing ever since!
Q: What is your current favorite coding language or framework?
A: English. Maybe with a few errant html 4 tags just to annoy my team.
Q: What’s your favorite type of project or client to work with?
A: I like the early stages of product design/development. There is so much energy and a lot of change. I thrive in that chaos.
Q: What are you super passionate about?
A: A number of things…
- Fighting the ecological trauma caused by the climate crisis
- Designing board games and table-top RPGs
- Finding new bourbons to try and appreciate
- Making sure my kids are decent human beings
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I love tabletop gaming—lots of traditional board/card games as well as new boutique titles. My favorite games right now are Elements and Muse. I also listen to a lot of sci-fi and fantasy audio books and numerous podcasts. I just finished the entire Neil Gaiman collection and am powering my way through a post-apocalyptic story called Sea of Rust.
Q: If you had to stay up all night for a hackathon, what drinks and snacks would you need to keep you going?
A: Plain old coffee with Sweet & Low and some creamer. Food is secondary, but I’d probably go with beef jerky. Nothing would please my wife more than me showing up at 6 am with beef and coffee breath!
Q: Favorite local lunch spot?
A: Shout out to Red Lion in Fountain Square!
Q: Favorite band or artist?
A: My all-time favorite band is Tool… always Tool. But lately (circa 2021) I have been listening to Aesop Rock almost non-stop.
Q: Favorite place you’ve ever visited?
A: The most memorable and impactful trip I have ever taken was to Yosemite National Park. The natural beauty of that place is staggering, and its scale creates perspective like nowhere else (aside from the Grand Canyon, maybe). The hiking is superb, and the people we met while hiking were all wonderful and friendly.
Q: A fun fact about yourself?
A: A fun fact about me is that I am also the founder of a local Indianapolis tech startup called Boardable. Boardable is a SaaS company founded to help boards of directors at nonprofits function more effectively and efficiently. The software is in its third year, and it has been a ton of success watching the company grow and thrive.
Q: A random fun fact?
A: A hyena can apply more than 1100 PSI with its bite. That makes it only the 7th strongest bite in the animal kingdom.