New BidPal CTO Mark McCorkle’s familiar AND surprising career (so far)
Last month, BidPal announced Mark McCorkle will be the mobile fundraising software company’s new chief technology officer. He’s charged with leading an accomplished team of technologists into the future of philanthropic giving — whatever it may bring.
Since its founding in 2007, BidPal has helped thousands of nonprofit organizations raise more than $1 billion through over 10,000 fundraising events and campaigns. BidPal pioneered mobile device-enabled silent auctions and earned the company its successful reputation.
Additionally, the rise and ubiquity of smartphones opened up numerous opportunities for charities to engage with their donors in new and different ways, and BidPal has helped them harness the technologies and platforms to do just that.
I had an opportunity to talk with Mark about his new role as well as his previous gigs and life in Central Indiana. His is a career story that’s both familiar and surprising.
Starting near the beginning, Mark was born and raised in Southern Rush County, Indiana near the small town of Milroy. It’s worth noting that his older brother Scott McCorkle is the former CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and the new board chair for TechPoint. Like Scott, Mark attended Ball State University and studied computer science.
“I loved Ball State,” Mark said. “I got a great education there and I think, compared to other computer science programs around the state, it probably doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. It’s kind of the under the radar school.”
Outside of academics, it was an early internship (they were called co-ops and practicums at the time) in the IT department at BorgWarner manufacturing near Ball State in Muncie that helped Mark discover his passion for technological challenges and problem solving.
After graduation he took a job as a software engineer at Ontario Systems in Muncie. Admittedly, he thought it would be a short-term position while he waited for his wife, who was a year behind him in school, to graduate too.
“We were young, adventurous, fresh out of college and we had these designs that we would go off and travel the country or something and move away after she finished her teaching degree,” Mark said. “But I got in there [Ontario Systems], and loved what I was doing, plus our families were all here and the next thing you know we’re buying a house, she has a teaching job, we’re having kids … The whole thought of moving just slipped away from our minds, and we settled into a life we really enjoyed there.”
And so that short-term position turned into a 19-year career, and some life-changing experiences that still impact Mark today. Ron Fauquher, one of the co-founders of Ontario Systems, took Mark under his wing, mentoring him and introducing him to the business side of the growing technology company.
Ron was known to be generous with his time — the company was still fairly small at fewer than 100 employees — but he found something special in mentoring Mark. He even took the time to explain company financials and strategies, “all the parts about the business that I just really hadn’t gotten much of in college,” Mark said. It was a critical discovery for Mark; he loved learning about how the technology he worked with every day impacted the rest of the company.
Though it was uncommon for a software developer to meet with clients or to go out on the road with the sales team, Mark was afforded those opportunities too. “A developer out on the road and talking to clients? It just didn’t happen like that in the 90s,” remembered Mark. “We were supposed to stay in the dark recesses of the building coding away.” In addition to finding it fun, Mark found client meetings fascinating to be able to bring the experience full circle from beginning to end.
It was Ontario’s other founder, Wil Davis, who taught Mark a different critical skill that has helped shape his career and leadership style. Will demonstrated the importance of being a servant leader.
“Everywhere I go, the most important factor is the team,” Mark said. “There are lots of different ways to create really great software, and lots of different teams can do it lots of different ways. As a servant leader, the most important thing is to understand the team personality, the team dynamics, and for me find out how I can best serve them so they can do their jobs better, and ultimately serve our customers better.”
Mark was able to put the leadership lessons he’d learned at Ontario Systems to the test outside of his long-time employer when he left in 2012, taking advantage of several different opportunities with area tech firms that had big projects or products that they wanted moved forward in a major way. “Even a high-performing team — actually, especially the high-performing team — can perform at even higher levels just by being a good servant leader for them and helping them grow,” Mark said. “Imagine it as pushing on the gas in a finely engineered sports car.”
Mark says he’s very excited about what’s happening at BidPal as the company prepares to launch major enhancements to its core mobile bidding product and start development on a new peer-to-peer fundraising software product this summer. The activity is fueled by $6 million in financing that has already been deployed in part to double the size of the development team.
“One of the other exciting things about BidPal right now is our new executive team as well. We just recently hired a new CFO Mark Ward, and a new VP of Sales Parrish Snyder, which means long-time Sales & Marketing VP Karrie Wozniak is now able to narrow her strategic focus as vice president of marketing,” Mark said.
“When I met the whole team I couldn’t help but think ‘these are people I just really want to work with …’ This is truly a perfect opportunity for me to jump in and leverage all of the lessons I’ve learned over the years from previous experiences and really help to accelerate the sports car, so to speak, at BidPal.”