Not Your Average Joe – Get to Know DataGroup's CEO
It has been nearly two decades since Joe Thigpen’s passion for problem-solving inspired him to start his own business in IT. From jumping out of airplanes to sailing the salty seas, the CEO of Greenville’s leading IT company is not your average Joe. Keep reading to get to know the founder of DTI.
Where did you grow up?
Lexington, North Carolina.
What did you do pre-DTI?
I was a soldier in the Army for 20 years. I was an airborne reconnaissance guy, so I jumped out of planes, ran through the woods, and did all that combat stuff you see in the movies.
What got you interested in IT?
When I was stationed in Germany, I didn’t have anything to do with IT, but I was given the responsibility to go down every day and stick this tape thing into a machine. That was my first exposure to IT, so I started taking some college courses to try to learn something else because there aren’t many jobs that translate. You can’t leave the army and get another job jumping out of airplanes, so I chose IT as something to start learning. I started going to college at night, retired from the Army, and finished up my degree. Then, I couldn’t find an IT job that I liked, so I made a job.
" I couldn't find an IT job that I like, so I made a job..."
A lot of ex-military end up in IT. It’s a pretty common thing. Why do you think that is?
The military teaches you problem-solving. Everything is about accomplishing a mission and moving on to the next. IT works the same way.
Who are some of your mentors?
There are so many. When I joined the military, I met so many outstanding people, so I would say the guys who served with me were my biggest mentors.
Your Moment of Realization...
Describe your aha! moment when you realized your business venture might be a success.
My aha moment was the first time that I hired someone other than myself. That’s when I knew that I could be successful. Up until then, it felt like a hobby, but once I hired my first person and opened the doors to my first office, I knew we could be successful.
What do you do for fun?
For fun is my sailboat. I sail. I don’t know why it gives me such enjoyment, but it does. When I go home at night I’m thinking about DataGroup. When I go to bed I’m thinking about DataGroup. When I wake up the next morning I think about DataGroup. I can’t stop thinking about DataGroup! When I step on that sailboat and raise the sail, that’s the only time I have peace.
So it’s like your escape, in a way.
It’s the only thing that can take my mind off of this company. Don’t get me wrong – it makes me happy to work. Improving this company makes me happy, but sailing keeps me balanced.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
We’re in America, where every crazy idea turns into a success – so, as long as you’re willing to work hard and long for the first five years of your career, you can do it.
Where do you see DTI five years from today?
I see us at about double our size with more than one location. Maybe in New Bern or Wilmington – somewhere closer to the coast! Preferably, the Caribbean!