Realityworks is Thankful for…

The team at Realityworks has so much to be grateful for this year. Here are the words that came to mind when asked what we are must thankful for this Thanksgiving:

A few team members shared more about what they are grateful for:

“I am thankful for friends, old and new.” – Sarah Philen, Account Manager

“I am thankful for my co-workers, some of the most supportive and hard-working people I know!” – Casey Kooiman, International Business Consultant

“I am thankful for all of the regular things…like kids, dogs and a warm house. But there are those that do not have what I have, and I am thankful for caring people who GIVE at this time of year so others can have also.” – Christine Medina, Account Services Representative

“I am most thankful for getting to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family.” – Lisa Rolf, Marketing Intern

“I am thankful for all of the dedicated educators around the world that take the time to care, nurture, inspire, and prepare our youth for a successful life journey.” – Timmothy Boettcher, President & CEO

Realityworks Employee Spotlight: May Edition

Meet Casey Kooiman, Realityworks’ International Business Consultant

Casey Kooiman was born and raised in Wisconsin Dells and later moved to Hammond, WI, at the age of 12. She spent seven years in Washington, DC, where she studied at American University and later worked as an International Market Specialist in the automotive industry. Casey’s fondest memory of DC life was when she worked in the media department for the Washington Capitals.

“I attended all of their home games and would get to go to the locker rooms after the games to interview some of the best players in the league,” she explained.

As a self-proclaimed Midwesterner, Casey moved back to Wisconsin in 2012. She lived in Milwaukee for three years before relocating to Eau Claire for her position with Realityworks.

“I handle just about everything pertaining to selling our products abroad whether it be working with our many distributors, lead generation, researching new markets, etc.” she said.

Working with our international distributors is her favorite part of working with Realityworks, Casey explained, because they are all incredibly unique.
“We have our small, mom-and-pop type shops like Virtual Parenting (Australia) and Babybedenkzeit (Germany) to our larger partners like Camera Mundi (Puerto Rico) and Studica (Canada & Nordic),” said Casey. “I am privileged to have the opportunity to work with them on a regular basis, whether it is via Skype or in-person.”

Casey has found the international travel to be the most interesting part of her job.

“I can’t get enough! For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for learning about and experiencing new cultures, particularly when it comes to cultural differences in how one does business,” Casey explained. “I’m always reading The Economist for world news updates, asking our distributors and international friends about their perspective on world events, and of course immersing myself in the culture when I do have the opportunity to travel.”

As for a favorite Realityworks product, Casey’s is RealCare Baby.

“When I explain where I work to family, friends (both domestic and international), and business contacts, they may not always know the name Realityworks, but they almost always know about RealCare Baby,” she explained. “RealCare Baby is where the company began, it provides a great segue to explaining our mission and it is darn cute too!”

From Chicken Legs to Life Skills: What I’ve Learned from Ag Education

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I learn something new every day. But what I learned this week reminded me of an old Bob Hope joke (remember who he was?)

Bob Hope once judged the mini-skirted fashion model Twiggy when he said “Give her an inch and she’ll make a skirt out of it.”

Today, I learned from an Ag Education teacher that you judge chickens, namely hens, by their legs – or rather, the whiteness of their legs. The whiter the legs, the more “seasoned” the hen, and the more eggs she will produce.

This is something useful to me, not just because I work for a company that sells experiential learning aids for agriculture education, but because I am learning how valuable Ag Education really is, whether or not students ever become farmers or teachers – because I am a consumer of food.

It’s kind of like when I learned how to drive in driver’s ed. I never had an intention of becoming a professional driver, but I needed to learn to drive in order to find work, food, or just see the countryside.

Ag Education teaches kids the importance of producing quality food, distinguishing what is healthy and what is marketing on labels. It teaches kids how to grow food in water, fertilized by fish waste. It teaches kids how to mend a fence or a tractor by welding. Life skills is really a central theme of Ag Education. Kids learn how to do just about everything around the home or farm, but it also allows them to decide what they will be best suited to do in life. And, like most of us, they won’t be doing the same thing their entire lives. When life throws a curve, they’ll have other skills to fall back upon.

Oh, and another thing, just to set the record straight: Chickens lay eggs with the large side out first, not the small. I learned that from our Chicken Model.

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

Spotlight – March Edition

Allen Jacobson has been a Designer at Realityworks for over five years. He grew up on a hobby farm in Alma, WI. They had chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, beef cattle, horses, pigs, dogs, cats and even a pet crow named Heckle. He and his wife Kim have been married for over ten fun-filled years and are the proud owners of a German Wirehaired Pointer and a Boxer. Two very energetic dogs.

When not at work, Allen enjoys travel, running, biking, hunting, golfing, basketball, kickball and most of all working on new projects. Growing up, Allen wanted to be an architect. Though he took a different path, he said he still enjoys dabbling in this field when working on homes and cabins.

“I’ve had my hand in constructing/remodeling over 10 homes with my dad. This all started at around the age of 12.”

Although he has fun building and remodeling homes, Allen enjoys smaller projects with faster results, like a bike trailer he modified out of an old burley and a pot rack he made for his kitchen.

As the Designer at Realityworks, Allen works on the website, literature, ads, videos, tradeshow displays, packaging and new product concepts.

“My favorite parts of working at Realityworks are the super friendly I work with and I get to work on so many different projects,” he said. “I really do think I have the best job.”

The best memory he has from working at Realityworks so far was at a recent trade show that he attended.

“At the 2016 ACTE show, when the booth was set up, Rick Jurmain (Realityworks co-founder) stopped to talk/gush about how impressed he was with the booth, new products, the great new people (in the company) and the overall growth of Realityworks into a real CTE company,” he recalled. “It was a very cool moment.”

Spotlight – February Edition


Mike Zaborowski is a Mechanical Engineer at Realityworks. He grew up in Owen, WI; the youngest child of 4. He and his wife moved to Eau Claire in 1988 when their daughter was born and fell in love with the area. Mike was working at The Hobby Master and made a lot of great friends he still has today.

At Realityworks, Mike’s responsibility is for the mechanical aspects of the products that are developed, whether they are designed in-house or not. Sometimes he gets the chance to brainstorm new designs too, which he really enjoys.

Designing the painting processes for the baby product has been one of Mike’s proudest moments so far at Realityworks.

“It was a huge challenge due to shape of the heads, as well as understanding adhesion and overcoming opinions on looks,” he reflected.

Mike’s favorite part about working for Realityworks is the empowerment the company provides.

“They don’t just make you feel like a member of the team, but give you the support that makes you know you ARE a member of the team,” Mike said. “I also really enjoy seeing products start and end. From concept to shipping and everything in between.”

Growing up, Mike said he always wanted to be an Engineer, just not the kind you might think.

“Pete McMillan was our school guidance counselor,” said Mike. “With a name like Zaborowski we spend a ton of time last in line. Only Tico Zukouski was behind me. I sat down in front of Pete and he said, “OK Mike, what do you want to do when you get out of school?” I said that I want to be an Engineer. He said, “That’s great, mechanical or electrical?” I looked at him somewhat dumbfounded and said, “NO, I want to drive a train!” He said, “NEXT!””

From vacations to his spare time, Mike’s hobbies impact his life outside of work.

“To sum it up, my hobbies revolve around cars, planes, helicopters, boats and rockets,” said Mike. “I have a level 2 certification for Model rocketry and have flown rockets to a mile high and 500MPH. I also have a few rocket designs on the market though Estes products. When people think of model rockets, I do that too, BUT… on a MUCH larger scale!”

“The IRCHA Jamboree was my favorite vacation,” said Mike. “It’s the world’s largest RC Helicopter event and lasts 5 days. Great time with my kind of people. I look forward to it each year.”

Spotlight – January Edition

Brad Berg has been the Shipping Coordinator at Realityworks for 12 years. Though Brad was born in the area, he grew up in Osceola, returning to the Eau Claire area in 2000. He says that being able to focus and his attention to detail are his hidden talents, which are good for art projects that he enjoys while not at work. Brad said he can get so focused that his wife has to remind him to eat sometimes!

As shipping coordinator, Brad handles shipping of all domestic and international orders. He also serves departmental needs such as helping with small trade shows, quoting and keeping the company current with federal customs regulations.

The most interesting part of his job, Brad said, is that every day is a different challenge.

“The constant variations among domestic orders keeps me on my toes and the federal regulations involved with international orders are often an exercise in patience,” he said. “But seeing where and how far our products travel is great.  It shows how many people are understanding the needs our products address.”

Though the company has a lot of new and exciting products coming on board, Brad said that RealCare® Baby is still his favorite.

“It’s almost personable enough to be a real child, but the mission behind it – to teach firsthand the often unprepared experience of taking care of a child completely reliant upon you – that’s a powerful experience, and I don’t think it takes much for kids to really understand the enormous responsibility involved,” he said. “Whatever cute pipe dreams they have about having a child early are strongly grounded and discouraged by the experience when they see how deeply and completely a child takes over their lives.”

Brad said the culture of Realityworks is the best part about working for the company.

“Having a communicative, collaborative, and supportive group of departments and management team, our efforts at bettering the community – it’s just huge,” he said.  “The effort to lift society instead of break it down is so worth it.”

Honoring Dr. King

By Timmothy Boettcher, President & CEO of Realityworks, Inc.

2015 ACTE Business Leader of the Year

Today is a very special day. It is not a day of rest but a day of service to recognize the great Dr. King’s life work and ultimate sacrifice leading the civil rights movement in our country. Not only has his work greatly influenced the rights of African Americans but also of women and other marginalized groups. As one of the greatest orators in history, he exposed truths about our country that many would rather not face, but in a way that made them take notice and make change.

If you don’t know how this day came into being, after a long struggle, legislation was signed in 1983 creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.” The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

While the Company did not close our doors on this day of remembering, as we don’t with many federal holidays, we do empower each of us to bring Dr. King’s vision to life in our communities. Each year the Company provides every employee with 4 hours of paid service to help strengthen our communities. In addition to this, we have a charitable giving program that is designed to take a portion of our profits to help provide resources to organizations that help families and children in need in our communities. I strongly encourage you on this special day to take time to remember what Dr. King did for our country. Thinking about how we make our communities stronger is the cornerstone of Dr. King’s mission in life. His work focused on empowering and energizing people to make our communities stronger. Through our collective work we can make a difference in our communities. I encourage you to take today and identify the action you can take this year to work to make a positive impact on the community you live in.

Reflections on VISION 2016: Why I’m Proud of the Realityworks Team

By Timmothy Boettcher, President & CEO of Realityworks, Inc.

2015 ACTE Business Leader of the Year

Last week, the Realityworks team had the pleasure of exhibiting our experiential learning tools at the largest gathering for Career and Technical Education professionals across the country: the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE)’s CareerTech VISION 2016 Conference. As President and CEO of Realityworks, Inc., and a member of ACTE’s Board of Directors, I was extremely proud to be exhibiting and presenting at such a gathering for several reasons

We debuted over a dozen new products for technical education. Educators have long been telling us of their need for innovative new ways to provide targeted skills training and prepare their students for careers. As Chair of the Industry Workforce Needs Coalition and the Western Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, I have seen first-hand the importance of ensuring that today’s students have the chance to learn relevant job skills. The Realityworks team worked hard over the last year to research and design several new products that help educators engage students and prepare them for success in the workforce, and the ability to get live, in-person feedback from the very professionals we designed them for is truly exciting.

Timmothy Boettcher of Realityworks at ACTE's CareerTech VISION 2016

Watch Timmothy Boettcher, President & CEO of Realityworks, Inc., review Realityworks’ new products at ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2016 Conference, which took place in Las Vegas December 1 & 2.

 

We connected with our customers. We wouldn’t be the company we are today if it weren’t for the dedicated, passionate educators who support us. From the teachers who first used RealCare Baby® (our flagship product) over two decades ago to those who now implement our new Geriatric Simulator in their health occupations programs and our virtual reality welding simulator in their welding programs, we are thankful for each and every one of them – and we jump at the chance to thank them in person.

We created and fostered partnerships with educators. We are dedicated to meeting the needs of 21st Century educators, and are excited to announce several new solutions to help them engage their students and prepare them for success in the workforce. Attending events like ACTE allows us to learn what educators are struggling with in the classroom and what they are interested in exploring in the upcoming year. That knowledge gives us insight into what is on the horizon for Career and Technical Education, which, in turn, helps ensure we can create products and programs that are truly useful to today’s educators.

Our success as a company depends on remaining profitable, yet profitability alone does not define our success. We measure our impact by how many lives are changed in positive ways, and how profoundly they are changed, as a result of our efforts. The recent Career and Technical Education conference was a wonderful opportunity to connect with our employees and our customers, and I am already looking forward to next year.

Spotlight – December Edition

Meet the Realityworks Team

andre2Andre Vestnes is an Engineering Test Technician at Realityworks. He lives on a hobby farm in Eleva, a small town next to Eau Claire. His family is originally from Norway and he was the first of his siblings to be born in the U.S.  Andre’s love of new foods and adventure is supported by his interest in travelling and hiking, and he has had the opportunity to travel all over the world.

As an Engineering Test Technician, Andre helps on product design, product engineering, testing in the test lab and writing test cases, test labs and scenarios. He also is a member of the company’s Culture Committee which takes care of charitable giving, helping educational charities and organizations locally and nationwide, along with planning company outings and events for all Realityworks employees.

He is currently working on Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) on new potential products that either Realityworks has designed or brings in to evaluate as options to add to product lines.

“I analyze an item as a whole to evaluate any potential/current failures or risks surrounding the product to determine if we need to mitigate or make changes to a product to ensure we have a safe, high quality product that we can provide to our customers with confidence,” said Andre.

So far, Andre’s favorite project at Realityworks so far has been guideWELD VR.andre1

“Implementations and feature enhancements in guideWELD VR is one of the accomplishments I’m proudest of during my time here so far,” he said. “This has been exciting because it allows in-depth training for students in the welding profession.  We have created a user-friendly and functional product.”

Andre says that the most Interesting thing that has happened to him at Realityworks would probably be a time he was welding in the maintenance shop.

“I was welding in our maintenance shop with my coworker, and we forgot to open the ventilation system and set off the fire alarm,” he said. “We walked out of the building and saw the entire company was lined up outside. Luckily it was a nice sunny day out, and everyone got a little fresh air.”

The people and the work atmosphere are Andre’s favorite things about working at Realityworks.

“Working at Realityworks is a unique experience, the people treat you like your family, they are kind and caring and never miss moment to help each other out when they need it,” he said. “The atmosphere is simply inspiring, people hold themselves accountable to do their work, and they strive to do their best. We all want to see Realityworks grow and succeed, and it shows with the everyday dedication, hard work ethic, and good communication each person shows in their work, and even outside of work. I am proud to work with the people I do, and they inspire me to work harder and smarter every day.”

Spotlight – November Edition

Meet the Realityworks Team

kathi_peck Kathi Peck has been with Realityworks for 13 years as our Accounts Receivable Clerk. A friend told her about the job opening, she was friends with an employee who worked here. In her role, Kathi handles a lot of different tasks including working with accounts receivable, processing credit cards, cash receipts, mail, bank reconciliation, and many other odds and ends.  She enjoys helping things run smoothly and problem solving issues that come up with both customers and the sales department.

“If I made a list of the things I like about Realityworks, the top one would always be the flexibility,” said Kathi when asked what she likes most about working for Realityworks. “My flexibility needs come with having a daughter who is 23 and autistic.  It is just her and me at home.  No other employer has come close to understanding how important she is to me.  It makes me feel more loyal to the company for that understanding.”

One of the most interesting things Kathi finds true about Realityworks is the huge impact we make in spite of being a very small company.

“To know we can make a difference even though we are a small company means we can all be proud of the work we do,” she said. “It takes every person here to contribute to make that happen and at the end of the day that is a good feeling.  When our customers succeed while using our products, we succeed.”

When not working, Kathi spends a lot of time with her family. She has two adopted kids, three biological kids and another daughter who she has all but adopted.  Kathi also has four granddaughters and a grandson.

Kathi said she has many hobbies and also enjoys travelling.

“I went on an Alaskan Cruise, zip lining, dog sledding,” she said.  “I also went to Mexico.  In the future, I would like to travel more within the United States.”