Alumni Spotlight: Dave Rand

by Jamie Gonzales  |   


I AM UAA: Dave Rand

M.B.A. '99 Hometown: Marshfield, Mass. Fun Fact: Dave ran the Boston Marathon with his brother in 2012

Born and raised New Englander Dave Rand knew from the start he wanted to own a business. The now CEO of ATS Alaska, a facilities systems company, credits his entrepreneurial spirit to witnessing his father, a small business owner, become a respected and active pillar in the community.

"I saw first-hand the hard work and dedication it took to start a business and make it successful," he says. "I also saw how people in the community respected my father. Like a lot of kids I wanted to be like my dad, lead a team of employees and become an active and valued member of the community."

Dave's father's ethos stuck with him through the years and today Dave is a passionate businessman dedicated to serving the state of Alaska, improving the education of tomorrow's leaders and cementing a lasting relationship between ATS Alaska and UAA.

A natural leader

Some people are born to lead; Dave is one of those people. Energetic, active and athletic, Dave was involved in about every sport and activity his school had to offer.

It's not his days as an athlete and young student leader that spring to mind when he thinks about school days, though. It was one particular lecture in Mr. Martinez's seventh grade social studies class that made a lasting impression. The lecture forever etched an image of a place so beautiful, wild and far away that it left Dave yearning to visit-Alaska.

"It didn't take much about Alaska to entice me. I was hooked within a few minutes of hearing about it. I knew it was a place I wanted to visit or live one day," Dave says.

With Alaska lingering in the back of his mind, Dave tried the East Coast climate equivalent after high school-Maine. There he earned a bachelor's degree in business from Colby College.

But Dave's adventurous spirit hadn't had its fix. It was time for Dave to explore the place he'd been itching to visit for nearly 10 years. In 1991, Dave drove almost 10,000 miles from Massachusetts to Alaska visiting friends and family along the way.

Alaska-land of adventure or home?

"I think everyone thought I was crazy. They would say, 'what are you going to do? It's so far away,'" he laughs. "But I was set in my ways, I didn't have a worry in the world. I guess that goes with being young. I took a leap of faith and didn't look back."

Joining a college friend who worked on a fishing boat out of Dutch Harbor, Dave's trek to Alaska was a little risky. He landed a job for the summer as a deckhand on a commercial fishing boat.

"I enjoyed it for a little while," he says, "but commercial fishing just wasn't the life for me. I wanted to do more adventuring of the state to see what it had to offer."

He had a plan mapped out for his future: explore and enjoy Alaska for a while, then move to San Francisco and start a career. After Dave climbed, biked, paddled and hiked his way around Alaska's grand landscape, he scrapped his original plan.

"Alaska definitely changed my mind. The economy was pretty good up here, much better than in San Francisco at the time. There was more opportunity in Alaska, so I stayed," he says.

Dave didn't exactly reap the benefits of Alaska's opportunities right away; he lived in his car for a while before getting on his feet. Taking advantage of yet another connection, Dave landed a job at Johnson Controls.

"I don't think I slept in a bed for about a year," he jokes. "But working at Johnson Controls really got me going."

After five years as an account executive, doors began to open for Dave; he took a job as general manager at Siemens for another five years.

Both of Dave's previous employers provided him with the opportunity to further his education. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Dave dove into UAA's M.B.A. program.

"I love the classroom environment. Working alongside fellow students, engulfed in daily lectures is always fun. I wouldn't have been able to do it if it weren't for Johnson Controls and Siemens' help," Dave says.

Dave's plate as a graduate student was nothing short of full. Working full-time, he tried to balance his career and graduate coursework. "There were many late nights spent studying. I loved it though and I've made some lasting friendships."

After earning his M.B.A. in 1999, Dave was ready to dive into a new business venture of his own-ATS Alaska.

Taking a risk-ATS Alaska's launch

"It all started in a basement," Dave says about the birth of ATS Alaska, a facilities systems company.

Dave and his friend and business partner Dan Fawcett started ATS Alaska in December 2001. The company provides facility systems contracting services, including engineering, installation, integration and service of fire, audio, security and controls systems.

"We used his ping-pong table to work on," he laughs. "It was a fun, but hectic time."

Dave and Deanne Rand

Dave and Deanne Rand

Hectic is right. The two were not only embarking on their first business, but Dave's wife DeAnne was pregnant with their first son, Nolan. Nolan made his debut just one month after the business launched; fourteen months later, Dave and DeAnne's second son Evan was born.

"It was a scary time financially," Dave says. "Dan and I both left our jobs to pursue ATS. It was a risk financially so naturally we were nervous."

Their gamble led them to solid ground. ATS Alaska has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception more than 10 years ago. The team in Alaska has over 50 employees, bringing their employee and partner-companies count to 250 across the country.

"We try to offer as much as we can to our employees and future employees and engineers in the state," Dave says. "I want to give back and provide opportunities for students looking to break into the field right out of college."

Giving back to UAA

Today, Dave's connections to UAA run deep. Dave and DeAnne, who is also a UAA alum, both know the value of education and the impact a gift can have on a student's future.

Dave and his business partner Dan created the ATS Alaska Scholarship, which offers financial assistance for tuition and other educational expenses to students seeking a bachelor of science in engineering at UAA. Dave remembers being touched by the energy and ability of one of the scholarship recipients he met in early 2009. It showed him the power a scholarship has to change a student's life.

A shining example of a truly reciprocal relationship, ATS also offers intensive internships for UAA engineering students. Many end up staying on as valued employees.

"It feels like I am paying it forward and it seems like the right thing to do," Dave says. "I want to see young people benefit and help UAA grow."

Dave also stays involved with UAA as an alumnus. He is a former member of the Chancellor's Task Force Committee and UAA's Alumni Association. "I've been involved at UAA for a long time now. I love the university and love seeing the growth over the years. It's been tremendous to witness the great changes at UAA."

A family man at heart

Dave Rand and family

Dave Rand and family

Though he's been successful in business, Dave knows it wouldn't have been possible without the love and support of his family, especially his wife.

"Dan and I sacrificed a lot of time with our families working 80-100-hour work weeks in [ATS Alaska's] early years," he says. "We had many trips out of town, visiting jobsites, ensuring our employees and customers were taken care of."

"If it weren't for my wife and kids, I wouldn't be where I am today. I'm so thankful that they understand the time spent away was to benefit our family. So every opportunity where I'm not working, I try to spend with them."

His family also shares in Dave's sense of adventure and passion for travel. They have journeyed around the U.S. as well as London, Thailand and even Tanzania, where they delivered supplies to local schools and visited with teachers and students.

"I firmly believe that the world is the greatest classroom. When you travel, you're exposed to different cultures and environments and able to see how blessed we are in America. It's always eye opening," Dave says.

Though Dave's come a long way from the young New Englander of his youth, his father's passion for business and community fuel him to continue building relationships with UAA and throughout Alaska.  When he's not traveling, his adventurous spirit is allowed to roam free and he takes advantage of Alaska's big backyard, running, biking, skiing or watching his sons compete in swimming and cross-country.

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