You might not expect that a software developer and analyst would prefer to see his kids digging in the dirt instead of playing on iPads, but Brett Hillstom doesn’t fit the typical picture of an IT guy. As one of 16 kids growing up with the UP woods as a backyard, he and his wife Bethany want their kids to grow-up with the same. The Keweenaw makes that an every-day reality. 10 minutes from his IT systems management job, Brett lives in a sweet spot of nature: “It’s pretty remote and pretty awesome. Even my kids get the best of all worlds – they live fun and safe and get to go to a top-notch school that’s as good as anywhere in the country”.
Brett’s workplace — Xeratec — helps build and manage IT systems for major pharmaceutical companies and healthcare. Founded by his parents, Sara and Steve, in 2003, Xeratec began as a small IT consulting firm and progressively grew to include a number of Fortune 500 companies. Today, Xeratec’s 20 employees are helping to lead Michigan’s digital revolution.
Brett is energized every day with many titles: some days he’s a software engineer, the next he may be in business development. The common thread is helping customers solve problems. He explains, “I really like taking big problems and breaking them down so we can help customers find, implement, and understand solutions.”
Brett enjoys the balance of high-tech work and small-town living. At the office in Hancock, Michigan he interacts with clients from across the globe. Then in 10 minutes he is back to basics playing hockey or taking his family skating on the community pond. In summers he and the family feed the chickens, cows, and pigs they raise on their “hobby farm” property. Brett says, “I love how easy life is here. I can live way out in the country and I’m still not far away from anything.”
Another great thing about the small town culture that high tech professionals get to experience is how a sense of neighborliness extends to business. There’s a local CEO roundtable that encourages networking and support. The MTEC SmartZone provides a wide array of business services and guidance. As Brett sees it, “Other businesses want to see your business succeed because it makes our community stronger. The way we all work together to help each other grow…I don’t think you’re going to get that anywhere else.”
“It’s pretty remote and pretty awesome. Even my kids get the best of all worlds – they live fun and safe and get to go to a top-notch school that’s as good as anywhere in the country”.