Roosevelt Giles’ story is the atypical one of farm boy turned technology maven. “My family were sharecroppers,” says Giles. As a young child growing up in Union, South Carolina, he plowed mules and picked cotton. “You name it, I did it,” says Giles. But there was no keeping him down on the farm. Even as a youth walking the cotton fields, he was dreaming of owning his own business. A degree in computer science from the University of South Carolina, and several years working in his chosen field, would transform this farm boy into tech maven and lay the foundation for the launch of Atlanta-based Information Management Systems (IMS).
IMS is an integrated technology company that develops computer networks, and trains engineers and systems analysts on how to use those networks and key software. Among IMS’ clients are Delta Airlines, American Express, Cisco Systems, General Motors, Anderson Consulting and E*Trade.
IMS focuses on five primary areas of IT development: providing software and computer technical training to systems engineers and analysts at large companies; building prototypes and conducting proof-of-concept testing on networks that its clients are considering purchasing; developing security systems for clients who use the Internet to conduct business; creating and building computer systems networks for customers; and providing distance learning (training via the Internet) of technical and software systems. Giles’ staff maintains such a cutting-edge command of new systems and software that IMS is often hired by computer companies such as 3Com, Cisco and Microsoft to train internal employees on how to use their own systems.
Giles got his start working at Milliken & Co. as a computer programmer back in 1978. He stayed there for four years before moving to AT&T and then BellSouth, where he worked as a systems engineer while starting his own company. “Our first check was for $50. It was from a customer for whom I [had] just… installed an application,” says Giles. He no longer remembers the name of the company, but he does remember that he liked the idea of generating his own business and successfully responding to his client’s needs.
Giles continued to do small jobs while working his nine-to-five, but he and his wife, Sharon-who is IMS’s vice president of finance-hatched a plan that would eventually enable them to devote their attention to IMS full-time. “We bought rental property so that we could maintain our standard of living while we were getting the company off the ground,” explains Giles.
In 1988, the founder and president of IMS took the big leap and quit his job. Giles bid on and won a $550,000 contract to develop all the computing and networking software for the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta that year. Among IMS’ challenges were building IBM mainframe systems, developing registration and delegate-tracking databases, and creating a remote access service that allowed people to communicate from different locations.
“We had a Fortune two company, meaning my wife and myself,” he jokes. With the help of a couple of friends, the couple linked over 1,000 nodes and