Brad Cranford - Class of 1990
Strategist, Tyler Technologies, Federal Division, Durham, NC

Brad Cranford has spent his career asking questions, seeking answers, analyzing information, and finding solutions. His current job is as a strategist for Tyler Technologies Federal Division, but his approach to examining life and finding new approaches began at an early age.

“My parents, both life-long educators, encouraged me to set goals, and I did, although I may have had to learn some goal setting lessons the hard way. For example, it was an early goal for me to become a detective. I have a third grade picture laminated with my name and the word ‘Detective’ to prove it. I did become a detective, but it didn’t end there.”

Many steps came before and after achieving that goal, and school activities played a major role in developing that mentality. “Soccer was the team sport of choice for me. It taught me camaraderie and coordination with others in addition to leadership. But then, I found the individual sport of pole vaulting. Winning or losing was dependent on the work ethic, skills, and tenacity of only one person. That person happened to be me.

“Technology always had an allure, even simplistic technologies. Maybe that was what drew me to being a media assistant in the library. I enjoyed coordinating the VHS recording of TV shows and movies for teachers, setting up TVs and VCRs in the classrooms, and tinkering with whatever was put in front of me. Those endeavors led me to becoming technician for drama productions directed by Phyllis Garrison as well the Miss East Burke Pageant. “

“One of the teachers who greatly influenced me was Jerry Murray. His approach to teaching chemistry was to keep us engaged with his topics. Mainly for me, it was interesting to see what he would do next. I recall the morning he had a beaker of a murky fluid (later to be advised it was fresh water from a ditch). He was discussing the importance of following instructions. He dipped his finger in the fluid and then a moment later licked a finger. He then passed the jar around to see if others wanted to try it. After a moment, he stressed again paying attention especially when the instructor dips with one finger but licks another. That lesson stays with me because paying attention to others has been a foundational life lesson.”

“Another person who influenced me was our school custodian, Roberta “Berta” Holmes. She was a quiet treasure of East Burke. She did not seek out attention. Unfortunately, many ignored her as being irrelevant and just a janitor. To me and several others, she was special. She always, and I do mean always, greeted us with a smile, a warm hello, and a hug. She would tell us about her day and what she was going to do later. She exuded humility and love. She simply wanted us to know that she cared for us. She reinforced the often-overlooked lesson of caring.”

“After East Burke, I attended Appalachian State University. So many members of my class enrolled at ASU that we joked at the time that it was East Burke’s 13th grade. Many of our high school group maintained the bonds of friendship while adding new friends and new adventures. One such adventure for me was joining the Burke County Rescue squad as a volunteer. From mountain rescue, vehicle extrication, scuba diving, and becoming an EMT, I experienced hands-on public service. Upon graduation, I received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in Industrial Technology focused on electronics. My first job after Appalachian was as a Regulatory Investigator with the Private Protective Services division of the NC State Bureau of Investigation. I then transitioned to a Criminal Justice Training Specialist, where I began training law enforcement on different technologies as well as report writing and crime statistics. My next transition was to the North Carolina court system. It was here that I was involved with the analysis and designing of civil and criminal computer systems.”

“Becoming more ingrained in the technology pull, I began attending graduate school at night and earned my Master of Science in Management Information Systems from Strayer University. Upon completion, I made the choice to leave employment with the State of North Carolina. I joined a small software company focused on regulatory / licensure software which to that point fit my past background and experiences well. I worked my way upward into operational management until after the acquisition of the company when I then transitioned into sales management. After several years, I then took my next adventure and joined Deloitte Consulting as a Manager until being invited to rejoin my former company which had undergone a merger with another company. Today, after yet another acquisition (not a rare thing in technology companies), I am a Strategist with Tyler Technologies Federal Division.”

“Those conversations with my parents about goal-setting were influential, but evidently I was only partially paying attention. I did become a detective as I had envisioned as a child. But I had an eye-opening realization after my first job as an investigator. I had met that early goal, but what I must not have heard or paid attention to was that my parents had said to always be setting new goals. Again, this advice ties to both the classroom lesson and the life lesson of Jerry Murray: ‘Pay Attention.’ I have had a lot of unique experiences. I continue to enjoy new ideas and opportunities. So, my advice to young people would be to follow your curiosities, set new goals, and try new things. Therefore, I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy my career. Every day brings something new. Yes, there are lots of similar responsibilities and tasks to accomplish, but even in those tasks, a person must strive to re-evaluate and question what if anything should he consider doing differently. Even if what we have achieved is working, we must ask what might be next. But more importantly, for those things that are not working at all or not well, a new direction must be determined. Those minor intricacies bring challenges, but they also bring new learning experiences. The most challenging life lesson I continue to struggle with is this: Sometimes through failure, you actually find the solution. Don’t simply give up; just keep trying.”

“Tyler is the largest company in the United States dedicated to providing software for the public sector, including federal, state and local government. A nationally recognized provider of integrated system solutions and professional services, Tyler serves clients in more than 27,000 installations across 11,000 state and local government locations in all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia, as well as more than 200 U.S. federal agencies. Here, I leverage my life and work experiences to strengthen our business position and our sales organization. My core responsibilities involve finding solutions and implementing strategies that make our users more productive and efficient. “

“It all may sound complicated, and in many ways it is, but I like to simplify the task by telling people that I dream with my eyes open and that nothing is unachievable, it just takes a vision of how to get there. I also tell people I am an octopus. I have my tentacles in lots of things. I don’t think I would like it any other way.”

Published August 2021

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