How my commitment to Colorado defines my career
I'm staying for the inspiring entrepreneurs and amazing public lands.
When Level 3 Communications set up shop in 1998 to concentrate its communications services, I was friendly with a few members of the founding team, who asked me to join the nascent ranks. As they went back and forth about where to plant headquarters, contemplating several cities, Colorado was the only option that would lure me away from my Midwestern post.
When they purchased property in Broomfield along the Denver-Boulder corridor, I packed my bags and moved out that summer.
I’ve dedicated more than a quarter-century to working in technology development and deployment, software architecture and implementation, strategic planning and operations for early-stage startups all the way to Fortune 500 companies.
But here’s the thing: No matter what opportunities that have in the past or will in the future present themselves, I am not moving. I refuse. I have, instead, intentionally sought points on my career path that keep me in Colorado, collaborating with inspiring entrepreneurs and exploring the state’s incredible public lands.
My earliest memory of this place I now call home was from a family trip at age 4. I remember driving into the Mt. Evans Wilderness, up the highest paved road in North America, and being scared stiff, panicked we would plummet to our untimely demise. Since, I have cycled that same scenic byway that climbs more than 7,000 feet in just 28 miles more than a half-dozen times.
An average day-in-the-life in Colorado – from the cityscapes of Denver to the foothills and Flatirons of Boulder and westward into the Rocky Mountains – is buzzing with activity. Hikers congregate for early morning scrambles. Runners sprint by parks that are dripping with downward-facing-dog yogis. Wooden canoes are towed behind mountain bikes and rock climbers take down sun-soaked routes.
This is not to say it’s all play and no professionalism. Rather, the same ambitiousness applied to recreational pursuits is achieved in the workplace, lending itself to a strikingly successful cross-sector economy. In fact, a 2013 study found that Boulder had more startups per capita than any other metro area in the country; Google expanded its footprint to include 1,500 employees in Boulder; and unemployment hovers below 2 percent, well better than the national average.
Perhaps the difference between us and everyone else: office hours are vital – but powder-day polices are prevalent and lunchtime rides are a frequent source of inspiration. Talent, hard work and the necessary infrastructure to support business are met with an outdoor lifestyle that increases productivity, refreshes our bodies and minds and lends itself to a strong identity and well-defined commitments.
I live between Denver and Boulder and ride road and mountain passes regularly enough that lycra-clad, 100-mile jaunts aren’t out of the realm of possibility. I ride the Big Dry Creek Trail and Farmer’s High Line (both National Recreation trails) and have enjoyed the South Table Mountain trails in Golden to climb up Lookout Moutain, a 7,277-foot hill on the eastern flank of the Front Range.
I cycle with coworkers. I casually drop my activity-of-choice into small talk, an icebreaker with enough stickiness to instigate almost immediate camaraderie in business and friendly interactions. I’ve found over the years that tech startup guys can’t help but weigh in on their favorite rides, races and gear. The lack of humidity I recall from my childhood and seemingly ceaseless sunshine sold me once and for all.
When I first started with Level 3, I dragged several talented professionals I worked with along for the Colorado ride. Word-of-mouth has since passed messages of mild seasonal weather, ample economic opportunity and unbeatable public lands offering countless recreational opportunities.
As a result, the business community ― and for my particular brand of interest, the tech community ― has expanded exponentially, and we have recreation to thank as one of the key economic engines in the Rocky Mountain West. Today, I find myself telling inquisitive tourists not to move here, to eliminate some of the traffic and amateurs clogging my favorite rides.
The truth is, in Colorado, you really can have it all – health, happiness and prosperity. Yet with the greatness of a big backyard in which to play comes great responsibility. It’s about balance – of work and play – of economic vitality, recreation and conservation. It is our collective duty to protect this piece of paradise we are fortunate enough to call home and preserve its natural resources so that we and future generations can continue to grow our economy and enjoy the matchless environment.
Mike Osborne is the president and COO at bieMEDIA, a high output video facility specializing in video content creation for corporate clients on a global scale. He has worked with major telecom and cable companies to optimize data and video deployment as well as development, with a focus on ensuring operational success and return on investment.