Tell me about what you do for work.
My formal job title is currently “Manger, Information Technology”. This can mean many things, but what it currently means is that I spend quite a bit of time working on and with computers. My present employer, NavCom Defense Electronics, Inc. is a small company, and because of that, I am the only full time technical IT person. (I say full time, because we do have a programmer that is on contract, and my boss, the Director of IT, does some technician type work too. I am just responsible for the bulk of it.)
I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of all the company computers, servers, and connected devices, as well as all the bits that tie them together. On any given day I could be doing anything from clearing a paper jam deep from inside a photocopier, to creating a custom report on the database sever for the accounting department.
How did you get to where you are?
The US Marines
It is perhaps easiest to start at the beginning of my career: In 1997, after graduating from high school, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, with the promised job of “Small Computer Systems Specialist” after boot camp. In early 1998 I found myself in the Marine Corps’ computer school, which was in Quantico, Virginia at the time. (It has since moved to 29 Palms, California.) After a bit of training I was stationed on Camp Pendleton, California, and was assigned to the 1st Force Service Support Group (1st FSSG), Network Operations Center. It was there the real training began. Not to say the school was pointless, but you really start learning this stuff when you have to do it for real. I soaked it up, transitioning from Banyan Vines, to the brand new Windows NT, and on up. I learned coaxial, twisted pair, and even fiber-optic cabling, and played with some of the first consumer grade WiFi stuff on the market. I had to learn mail and database server skills, and by the time I left active duty after eight years of service, I had pretty much done a little of everything, and a whole lot of core networking (routing, switching, desktops, and servers).
A Plumbing Company
After a brief bit of on-call temp work with Robert Half Staffing, I got a job as the Network Engineer for Executive Plumbing, Heating, and Air, Inc., a regional housing subcontractor with offices in California, Nevada, and Arizona. Here it was much of the same: I was responsible for pretty much doing anything that was needed. Sometimes mistakes were made (like the time I accidentally unplugged the core switch, and took out the corporate LAN for 8 minutes), but I learned a lot more and had fun doing it. The one thing I couldn’t predict was the housing crash, and as the market fell, the company dwindled. When it became clear that advancement (or steady employment for that matter) wasn’t on the table, I took a jump and landed with a local managed service provider (MSP).
Managed Services Provider
An MSP is for small businesses that rely on technology, but aren’t big enough to have a full IT staff. I was the “Senior Network Engineer”, and I maintained both my new company’s own network, and oversaw all of the customer networks. If supporting one company is hard, supporting many is like trying to herd cats. More learning, many a late night, and plenty of stress later, it was time to move on. It was fun having a job where you never knew what would be your next task, but too many customers and not enough techs wears you thin, fast. When an opportunity was presented to me by my former boss, for a position as the IT manager for a stable company, I took it, and am still there today, and couldn’t be happier.
So what technical skills do you have?
Many. After 18 years of doing this, you pick up a thing or two. I have worked on every version of Microsoft Windows since Windows 3.1 and NT Server 3.51. I run Linux servers at work and at home. I have worked on VMware, Hyper-V and Virtual box. I used to hold a Cisco CCNA certification, and took all the CCNP courses (the certification ceased to be important to me after leaving the MSP). I work on Exchange mail servers and SQL database servers almost daily, and have written database reports and stored procedures. I dabble in application development, in C#, Visual Basic .NET, PHP, AutoIT scripting (~3,000 lines of code to migrate data between databases!), and a bit of Java and even COBOL (don’t ask). I am very good at network troubleshooting, and have been doing wireless since there was an 802.11 standard (I even have an FCC Radiotelephone operator’s license). Due to my history of working in small shops, I am also familiar with high and low voltage wiring, and can do solder work for pretty much anything electronic. Oh, and I know a bit about web development, including HTML5, CSS, and stuff like WordPress (which is what this site runs on).