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CCN Focus Feature: Shawn Lampe, Kirkwood Community College

For the past three years, the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) has featured blogs that introduced some of our professors and instructors in the Convergence College Network (CCN) community. The CCN is a select cohort of community colleges and universities from across the country that connects IT educators with a wealth of resources to enhance their programs. In this week’s Q&A blog, we’re featuring Shawn Lampe, Instructor at Kirkwood Community College, and Network & System Administration (NaSA) Program Coordinator. Caucasian male in a blue and white stripe shirt smiling.

What do you teach?
I teach in the Network and System Administration Program (NaSA) at Kirkwood Community College where we have courses such as Network+, Computer Concepts, Windows Server Admin, Network Security Basics, Cloud Infrastructure, and VMware VCP. We also teach courses as a participating academy for AWS, Cisco, Microsoft, VMware, and Red Hat.

How long have you been a teacher? How long have you been a teacher at your current college?
I started teaching as an adjunct at Kirkwood in 2017 and had an opportunity to join the team full-time as of fall 2020.

Did you have a job in the industry before you became a teacher? If so, what was the name and how long did you work there?
I worked in a local government IT department fresh out of the Kirkwood LAN Management program (now NaSA) starting one month after graduation. I worked there for 14 years and held five different positions in the department starting with Service Desk Specialist and ending as the Infrastructure Manager.

What sparked your interest in teaching and teaching IT?
When leaving Kirkwood as a student, I had thought it would be great to return someday and have the opportunity to give back. My interest was sparked many years later when an application I received for an open position in my division was a graduating Kirkwood student listing a former student-peer of mine as a reference. The former student-peer became an instructor at Kirkwood after completing the same program as I did several years back. She invited me to speak with the Associate Dean at the time, and that same fall, I began teaching as an adjunct.

What is the secret to successfully teaching IT to students?
Well, I’m not sure it’s a secret but on day one of coming to Kirkwood I tell students four things to remember about technology:
• IT is problem-solving not a prescription.
• Troubleshooting is a process and can take time;
• Don’t overcomplicate the solution;

Just bear in mind, you know, as you hit one wall, you’ve got to go down a different path and see what you can figure out and not throw your hands up and give up right away because it’s often not very clear what your path forward is to fix it.

Things go wrong with technology. You know computers come off an assembly line, and technology comes off an assembly line. But they do sometimes behave differently. So you have just got to be patient and walk through your process and just keep working towards that solution. So, they hear that from me several times, semester after semester.  As I said, a lot of my lessons learned are coming from keeping that sort of philosophy in mind that most things technology works that way.

I saw a lot in the industry, and I remind my students, don’t overcomplicate the solution. More often we find people like going down way down the road where they don’t need to. And the problem is simpler than that. So even if something is as simple as rebooting the computer, first, make sure that it’s got a fresh start.

What’s the biggest challenge in teaching IT?
Hitting the mark for all students in teaching technique and content. The program is designed to appeal to students with basic skills in technology but allow them to quickly evolve into skilled technologists. Some students come in with several years of experience working with technology, so it can be a challenge to make sure everyone is engaged and learning at a similar pace without being overwhelmed on one end of the spectrum or bored depending on where their skill level was when they entered the program.

What advice would you give an IT student about to graduate and enter the workforce?
Get ready, now the real learning begins! I often tell students that not a day passed where I didn’t learn something new, even with all the prior experiences I had. As time passes your experience builds, of course; however, even similar problems can often have a bit of a twist for you to problem-solve.

A Caucasian man in a blue shirt holding a sign with that says I (heart symbol) Working Connections.

IT is always changing – how do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT?
Some days it’s tough! I felt behind a lot, even when working in the industry. I find myself continuing to read, even more so now that I’m an instructor to make sure I keep myself as current as possible on the latest technologies and trends within the industry, so students are getting current information along with an outstanding foundation in IT fundamentals.

How do you see the IT landscape changing in the next 5 years?
As virtualization became such a strong presence in the IT private cloud back when I started 15 years ago, public cloud technologies have taken such a strong foothold in the industry in recent years. I think much of the early apprehension around public cloud computing is subsiding, and industry professionals are becoming more willing to move workloads to the public cloud. I think this speaks loudly to server-less environments becoming more and more prevalent for businesses. This lends itself to why we as technology educators continuously adjust our programs, and how we approach the course design to make them more adaptable and less rigid as the technology landscape continues to quickly change.

What’s your favorite recent student success story?
That would be a student I had in my very first semester teaching as an adjunct. He was an outstanding student, which translated well to becoming an outstanding technologist in the industry. Shortly after graduating, he helped develop an online security training program, as well as holding a security position with a Fortune 500 company. He also recently told me he will be participating in their management development program for future opportunities within. He is now giving back by participating in our advisory committee here at Kirkwood, helping us with revisions from the very program he graduated from just a few years ago.

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