“We Read, We Succeed!,” repeats Scott Kuch after seeing a library’s slogan for the first time. “I love that. It’s exactly my mantra.”
As a child, Kuch was fortunate enough to have aisles of library shelves to wander through and piles of books to get lost in and inspired by. Now, this Seattle-area Boeing executive is working with nonprofit Page Ahead to make sure local kids who lack their own resources have the opportunity to read—and succeed—in all they do.
A reader from the start, it’s no wonder that Kuch sort of created his own career by exploring available tools and processes and figuring out how to improve them. Before his senior year of high school began, Kuch began working as a teller at Seafirst Bank, a position he held while he earned his undergraduate degree in history from University of Washington and following graduation.
In his next job, he worked for an operations organization doing general accounting work. There, his employer introduced desktop computers into the workforce. “I just took to it naturally,” he says. “I started automating jobs that took 10 to 12 hours to complete down to 45 minutes to complete. People took notice.”
His contributions to the organization were rewarded. His responsibilities grew by leaps and bounds because of his innate curiosity and initiative.
In 1990, Kuch was offered an opportunity to continue to grow in his career at the world’s leading aerospace company, and he jumped at the chance. Initially at Boeing, he was hired to work on the company’s new 777 airplane program, providing digital design IT support.
Kuch’s career was also exploding. Over the next few years, he was promoted from one new challenge to the next. Kuch decided to bolster his skills by earning his MBA in Technology Management from University of Phoenix, which he completed in 2003. “I was able to take what I was learning straight from the book and map it to work in my IT organization,” he explains.
His initiative, commitment and unwavering passion for learning ultimately led him to his current role at Boeing. Today he’s serving as IT director of PDM Systems, a role in which he provides computing solutions that support standardizing business practices across a wide range of business units that each have their own sets of goals and priorities. Success means a seamless transition for all parties. “When we get it done and we get it done right, we never hear from [our internal clients],” he says with good humor. Of course when things go awry, it’s another story.
With his executive-level responsibilities comes a desire to give back to the community. Kuch has honed in on one area to which he is dedicating his time and skills: literacy.
A colleague asked him to participate in a Books and Backpacks back-to-school-drive program. Through this event, he became connected with the executive director of Page Ahead, a children’s literacy program designed around the belief that reading as a child translates to reading, learning and succeeding as an adult. When a six-year position opened on the board of directors of Page Ahead in 2008, he was thrilled to join.
“Reading is one of those things I feel really strongly about,” says Kuch. “If you don’t get children started reading early enough, they never recover. You have to learn to read to read to learn.”
He’s working to get this message across to the community at large and to his colleagues at Boeing. He’s created opportunities for Boeing employees to make contributions to literacy improvement programs, and includes his co-workers in on-site book fairs for which half of all proceeds benefit Page Ahead. “We can make a difference for these [under-resourced] children by giving them this start at being successful so they can keep up with their peers who do have access.”
In his various roles on Page Ahead’s board, including vice president and board president, Kuch has overseen program direction and policy decisions. Kuch is proud to be able to contribute to Page Ahead’s efforts, which include a Community Partnership Program in which more than 50 corporations and community organizations hold book drives and adopt program sites. It also includes connecting volunteers with children to share their love of reading. In 2012, more than 400 volunteers read with almost 4,000 children at various partner sites. In addition, Page Ahead collected and distributed more than 100,000 books to children who might otherwise not have the opportunity to own one.
Kuch is bolstered by success stories from children who participate in Page Ahead’s programs. Though his six-year term is up soon, he will continue to volunteer his time to promote literacy, whether in an advisory role with Page Ahead or with other literacy-focused organizations. After all, his personal passion is what has helped him succeed in his own life. Now it’s his passion to help others have this same opportunity, regardless of whatever resources they have at their disposal.
“We know that if we get books into the hands of kids, they’ll read them. If they read them, they’ll learn,” insists Kuch. “I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had access to books.”