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Employee Acquisition Experience: 20 Years at Gallery Systems

This article was contributed by Karen Waldemar, Product Manager at Gallery Systems, a Cultural Collections Management software company that joined Volaris in 2012.

20 years of continuity & change

My 20-year career at Gallery Systems has been a journey of learning and professional growth. Since I joined the company, I have developed specialized knowledge of museum operations and a deep understanding of database structure and software design. Gallery Systems is my professional home. My colleagues and I are close to each other, and to our clients, and we care about our work.

In 2012, we learned that Gallery was being acquired by Volaris Group, a buy-and-hold M&A company. I was nervous, and so were many of my colleagues. Why were we scared? Because we were afraid of what would change once a big corporation was “calling the shots.”

Cultural Collections Management is a unique market vertical. Gallery Systems makes software that helps the world’s most amazing museums care for and share their collections. Our systems track things like the history of a Van Gogh painting, its whereabouts, its value, its condition, and where it’s been exhibited. Our software is used in 800 cultural institutions worldwide in museums, government archives, and corporate and private collections.

Would Volaris Group respect our market knowledge? Would they help us improve our business, or would they turn it upside down? 

8 years post-acquisition, here’s my assessment of what changed and what didn’t.

What stayed the same after the acquisition?

From my perspective as an employee, leadership remained steady. I first met Gallery Systems’ founder and CEO, Jay Hoffman, when I interviewed for a junior position in 1999. Over the years, Jay and I bonded over challenges that called on our expertise and creativity, and we still work together. Jay continues to run the company, though his role has expanded to include managing a broader Volaris business portfolio.

There has also been continuity in the Gallery Systems team and client base, though both have grown. In addition to new colleagues, still have several co-workers who I’ve worked with for over a decade. We still really care about our work, our clients, and each other. The clients I worked with when I was just starting out are still with us today.

What changed after the acquisition?

Volaris made Gallery Systems an even better place to work by giving us access to incredible professional development and networking opportunities.

I have been invited to meet with peers from verticals as varied as transit, agriculture, financial services, and distillery management, to share common experiences and approaches. Having access to this network has broadened my professional perspective and has given me ideas for how to do my work better.

I’ve also received an ongoing education in business management. The financial metrics I’ve embraced have helped me understand how I can do my part to help strengthen and grow the company.

A stronger niche market focus

Some of us feared that growing might mean abandoning the niche market that drew us to Gallery Systems or being swallowed up into a large corporation. However, the opposite has been true. Volaris drives us to focus even more on our unique vertical market. They see that our value is in our ability to quantifiably improve processes for the Cultural Collections market we care so deeply about. Looking back, the acquisition has allowed us to focus more on our customers and to grow. We are a better company because of it.