“Don’t let things happen to you. Make things happen.” 

These sound words have shaped the career of Mohawk graduate Peter Rakoczy, whose walk-the-talk style has made him an international player in the world of IT business.  

Since his graduation from Mohawk in 1980, Rakoczy hasn’t stopped to cool his heels. In fact, his love of learning and drive to be challenged have launched him onto the international technology scene as the new GM of Worldwide Microsoft Consulting Services Strategy. 

“Worldwide Services’ primary mission is to deliver high-quality services and transfer knowledge to customers and partners, in order to accelerate the adoption, deployment and long-term acceptance of Microsoft products, technologies and solutions that drive significant business value and satisfaction,” explains Rakoczy. “I am responsible for leading the development and communication of Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) with supporting value propositions and offerings to meet market needs. I have responsibility for the acceleration of Microsoft technology adoption, through the leadership and management of Accelerator Teams, focused on strategic ‘go to’ markets.” 

“Mohawk provided me with a good foundation of computing fundamentals and a pragmatic approach.” 

Even hearing the job description makes information technology neophytes glad to have Rakoczy in their corner. And as the explosive growth of the IT industry continues to propel his career forward, this Control Systems Technology/Computer Electronics graduate credits his Mohawk education for providing a solid educational basis from which to grow. 

“Mohawk provided me with a good foundation of computing fundamentals and a pragmatic approach. The co-op program was particularly instrumental in demonstrating the application of education to a work environment. It provided me with a great stepping-stone into the working world, and I appreciate what it gave me. The co-op program provides unique views into a variety of companies and career paths, which gives you a running start into the working world. 

It was this “running start” that first launched Rakoczy’s career. He was offered a full-time job at Royal Bank of Canada at the end of his final co-op work term at Mohawk, and stayed there for the next 12 years. In his position, he was able to work with a variety of small technology companies, and was impressed with the way they operated. 

“It is important that your family understands and supports what you do. I am fortunate to have that support.” 

“It was at Royal Bank where I worked with LinkAge Software as a client and really liked the commitment and professionalism of the team. I approached the president about a role at LinkAge, and he took me up on it. LinkAge was a great small company with many talented people, and I had to learn to wear many hats.” 

And it was at LinkAge where the future of Rakoczy’s career began to take shape. 

“LinkAge was on a growth path through the development of essential e-mail connectivity software to Microsoft’s Exchange. Microsoft was deciding whether to develop their own equivalent software or acquire it from another company. They chose the latter in 1997 after an intense period of due diligence.” 

And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Though he hadn’t thought much about working for Microsoft previously, Rakoczy says he had grown to respect the company and where it was heading. With his combination of large customer and small technology company experience – along with his expertise in enterprise computing – Rakoczy knew he would be a good fit. 

Once on board, he was assigned the role of Managing Consultant with a worldwide Microsoft consulting practice focused on e-mail connectivity, called EC3. He rose steadily through the Microsoft ranks: Practice Manager of Microsoft Consulting Services in Toronto in 1998, Senior Practice Manager of the Canada-wide division in 1999. By 2002, he had reached the level of Senior Director of Enterprise Services in Canada, where he stayed until earlier this year, before becoming the GM of Worldwide Microsoft Consulting Services Strategy. 

Now based in Redmond, Washington, 46-year-old Rakoczy admits the climb has been a rewarding one, albeit hard work. 

“It is extremely busy I must confess, as Microsoft is a very intense work environment. The culture is one of passion and commitment, and people are compelled to work very hard. It isn’t demanded, it just happens.” 

But as a married father of three, he understands the need to balance this dedication to his career with the ever-present demands of family life.  

“It is important that your family understands and supports what you do. I am fortunate to have that support. My wife is a part-time, Deputy Small Claims Court Judge, but spends the majority of her time at home with our three children. This makes it possible for me to spend the time I do on my work. I manage balance by ensuring that I am home each night to spend a couple of hours with the kids. After they go to bed, I usually do e-mail and other work from my home office. On the weekends, I am focused on being a husband and father, although I am back on the computer Sunday evenings. 

My position requires travel, which presents an opportunity and a challenge. When I have to travel – which is typically one week per month – I stay in daily contact with my family by phone, e-mail, messenger and web cam. Would I like to spend more time with my family? Absolutely – but the reality of the industry is that there are demands for long hours. I also believe in a strong work ethic and wish to be a good role model for my children in this regard, but not at their expense. I believe it works for us because I love what I do at Microsoft, am committed to my family, and have their support.” 

When asked about the secrets of his success, Rakoczy replies that there are many. He has composed a list of tips, in fact, that he follows in his career: 

“Be observant, and continuously learn. Your education continues after you graduate from Mohawk. Love what you do, and it doesn’t seem like work.” 

Even aside from his impressive career accomplishments, Rakoczy’s fervent love of his work makes him a standout and a mentor in the business world. He enjoys working with talented people and exciting technology. He gets as much satisfaction from watching those around him develop and get stronger as he does from his own contributions. And he cites one of the greatest joys of his work as the chance to learn and be challenged. 

“Be observant, and continuously learn. Your education continues after you graduate from Mohawk. Love what you do, and it doesn’t seem like work.” 

What a wonderful notion indeed. It’s the kind of advice that should be written in fine print at the bottom of every Mohawk diploma. 

PETER’S “WORDS TO LIVE BY”: 

  1. Do what you love to do.  
  2. Be realistic about your own strengths and weaknesses and develop both.  
  3. Be accountable and acknowledge mistakes.  
  4. Make decisions for the right reasons – do the right thing. Career advancement is a by-product of doing a great job in your current role – not the end in itself.  
  5. Observe the best traits of everyone you come across and decide which traits to emulate.  
  6. Develop your own style based on your unique combination of capabilities.  
  7. Take some risks and be uncomfortable.  
  8. Accept feedback without being defensive.  
  9. Be pragmatic.  
  10. Help to develop people around you through constructive feedback and coaching.  
  11. Recognize when it is time to take a stand, and then take the stand with passion - Pick your spots.  
  12. Don’t let things happen to you, make things happen. 

By Kate Schooley 

This story was originally published in Fall 2004 of the Mohawk Alumni In Touch magazine.

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