My Education: BS, Computer Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute MS, Computer Science, Database Systems, Brown University
My Prior Experience: I started as a software engineer for Digital Equipment Corporation. While I was employed there, I applied to a graduate degree program within Digital that sent me to grad school full-time. After getting my degree, I returned to Digital and worked in their database system group, building a software application to get data to different kinds of databases (Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft) at the same time. Shortly afterwards, I took a job with a start-up company and got promoted into project management and then people management. I left there after 8 years and joined another small company where I developed custom software applications to run their field service organization. Again, I moved up the ranks and am now in charge of all computer services, infrastructure and applications and also run an $8M division of the company that provides data and voice cabling and services to consumers and small businesses.
My Company: My company is a national communications infrastructure service company, that provides structured cable and wireless communications solutions to Fortune 500 companies.
Job/Career Overview: My job has two primary components: I am responsible for all the software and hardware systems used to support the company's operations and I "run" the field service arm of our business.
I manage a group of people who take care of our employees' daily software and hardware needs. Most of our employees work outside the state where our corporate offices are located, and we're often in the position of having to fix their software problems remotely. Sometimes we use a tool that allows us to run a remote session, or transfer control of their computers to our system. Other times they have to send their laptops back to us and we send them a substitute while we fix the problems on the laptop they've relinquished. This happens a lot when people download things from the internet that are not safe or open emails with viruses.
My group also develops custom software applications that the company uses to do its job and keep track of its data. One system we use coordinates the work of our field technicians and allows them to log onto a web site where they download the details of their day's work and report the results of the jobs they've completed. We have 300 field technicians, each of whom visits 3-5 small businesses a day, and it is critical for us to be able to track all the data they accumulate. By listening to the other managers in the company, I try to think of ways to develop software tools that will make their jobs easier.
The data collected by the system I mentioned in the previous paragraph also allows me to do my other job better, which is "run" the field services division. I have a group of project managers who work directly for me; our field technicians work for them. Together, we use the data we collect -- how much time we spend on each site, what the typical problems on a job are, how much time the technicians spend driving between jobs -- to make the organization more productive and efficient. If all the technicians, for example, could be induced to do 5 jobs a day instead of 3, we could complete the same amount of work with fewer people and the company would, in theory, be more profitable while our customers would be just as satisfied.
I rate this career 8 out of 10.
As part of running a division, I get to meet with a lot of different customers. This is fun, because I get to meet new people, see how other companies operate and mostly hear how my team has helped them solve their problems. Another part of my job that I really like is when another manager presents me with a problem and I design a software solution. Seeing satisfied customers (both outside the company and inside makes me feel satisfied with my work. I also like to "coach" newer and younger employees and help them do their best.
The worst parts of my job are dealing with unhappy customers who are difficult to please. Our technicians perform over 1000 orders in the field a day and show up on time or are successful in resolving the customers' problems more than 98% of the time, but the other small percentage represents 10-15 orders a day and those 10-15 unhappy customers are difficult to deal with.
1. Listen to those with more experience and don't hesitate to ask for help or clarification. The best employees I have seen make sure they have enough information to do their job, and if they don't they go and get it. Most older and more experienced people are happy to share their knowledge and help out.
2. Turn failure into a positive. If you make a mistake or do something incorrectly, don't dwell on it. Figure out what caused the problem, learn from it and move on. Sometimes, you learn more from failure than success.
3. Regardless of what you want to do, take advantage of opportunities to work on public speaking now. Whatever you do, you will likely need to be able to "sell" your ideas to people you do not know, and the more practice you get the better.