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40 Stories: Barbara VanKirk of IQ, Inc.

CEO and Founder Barbara VanKirk started IQ Inc. in 1994 with a three-pronged focus on employees, clients, and company. This focus has served IQ Inc. well, with the company having been chosen by Pittsburgh Business Times for multiple years as one of the city’s Best Places to Work. VanKirk herself was the 2020 winner of the Tech50 CEO of the Year Award!

The Tech Council’s Sheena Carroll recently spoke with VanKirk about IQ’s employees, origins, and her thoughts on Pittsburgh’s future:

IQ, Inc.SC: Can you give us some background on IQ?

VANKIRK: I started the firm in 1994 as a consulting software solution company, really trying to address what was at that time an underserved engineering industry. We work on medical device products, transportation solutions, and energy solutions. Our team has grown from its early stages out of my bedroom to our brick-and-mortar location in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

SC: IQ is nearing 30 years in business! Can you share some major milestones you’ve reached in that time?

VANKIRK: We've had many things to celebrate! Certainly, you have your landmarks like hiring the first employee, which is always a great celebration. And that landmark happened rather quickly. That Number One Employee is still our Number One Cheerleader – while not currently employed with us, we still celebrate the relationship. We celebrate every new hire; we’re a very open, collaborative company. We want team members who really want to impact the quality of life through technology.

We’ve also celebrated homing in on our mission and vision. That kind of came in around our tenth year. We realized that we've really been impacting a lot of lives by helping our customers bring products to life, so let's talk about that vision impacting the quality of life through technology. That happens in so many different fashions, from presentation of material to life-saving devices to the speed of transportation. So it’s just wrapping your mind around, what does that really mean? And what's the impact on potentially millions of people around the world?

SC: Where do you see the future of Pittsburgh tech in the next 30 years?

VANKIRK: It's only as big as we can imagine!

Employers once wanted to see you at the office from nine-to-five, five days a week. When I started IQ Inc. in 1994, my vision was to allow everybody who worked for us to work at their own cadence, at their own perfect times. When I say perfect times, we still understand that we must be able to match the client's cadence and when they want to see us. But also, there are many very bright individuals who don't necessarily work the best in a daytime position. Their moments of brilliance may be at midnight, so we set up a flexible workspace. Fast forward to 2020…it’s important being able to navigate through hybrid/work-from-home/remote work.

When it comes to opportunities over the next 30 years, we can't even imagine what that's going to look like. But we have the key opportunity to mold and figure out what that is, as we all work through these multi-generational workforces; our workforce goes from people in their twenties to, you know, up to me! It’s important being able to collaborate across the world on any project and not feel that any one person is left behind.

SC: Why did you join the Tech Council?

VANKIRK: We joined right when we started the company and have been members ever since. Year after year, I've been so thankful! We joined to build our business connections and to meet people, but it's been so much more than that. Getting to work with the Tech Council on introductions and visibility has been great; I'm so impressed with what you guys do. You foster an environment of working together. It's amazing what you've done for this community and this region.

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Powered by DQE CommunicationsFaros Properties|Nova Place and UPMC Health Plan, 40 Stories is a special series celebrating the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s 40th anniversary through the diverse stories of our members, old and new.