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CCN FOCUS: Jason Mitchell, Lansing Community College

As a part of the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) featured blogs, we would like to introduce to you 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 Jason Mitchell, professor of Computer Information Technology at Lansing Community College in Michigan.

What do you teach? With a wide variety of industry experience and certifications, I teach in a subset of departments including Computer Support Repair, Networking, and Cybersecurity areas. I mainly focus on certification prep courses including: A+, Network+, Security+, Certified Wireless Network Administrator, and others.

How long have you been a teacher? I have been teaching full-time at Lansing Community College for six years.

Did you have a job in industry before you became a teacher? I’ve been in the industry for 25 years mainly within Healthcare. I started off as a Technical Trainer/Writer, moved into a help desk position, slowly worked my way up at all levels in a traditional IT department: Network Administrator, Network Engineer, HIPPA Security Officer, IT Manager. In addition to teaching, I own a technical consulting service specializing in cybersecurity and manage services.

What sparked your interest in teaching?
The first job I had out of the Domestic Peace Corps was traveling around the State of Michigan teaching state employees computer skills. I loved the instant reward of someone being enlightened by shared knowledge. I enjoyed the fellowship in the classroom and the creativity that was needed for engagement. I knew one day I would go back to teaching. It feels like home.

What is the secret to successfully teaching IT to students?
Several things come to mind – having a passion for technology and what you teach can inspire those around you; being a life learner, keeping an open mind, knowing that students can teach you as much as you teach them. I feel like I am lucky. The students that show up to my class are eager to learn. This is what they came to college for.

What’s the biggest challenge teaching IT? Everyone brings a different experience into the classroom. It’s hard to juggle the classroom and challenge those that have an advance skillset. I make it my goal that everyone takes away something from each class.

Do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why? Not a class, but I love running our Ethical Hacking Student Club. It’s a chapter of the National Cybersecurity Student Association. We meet once a week for two hours. There are over 50 members and we discuss current cybersecurity events, compete in CTF competitions, and practice penetration testing prepping towards CEH and OSCP industry certifications. I love the freedom and the ability to go down the rabbit hole on any topic brought by the students.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? It is not boring. It is challenging. Every 12-16 weeks, time resets and you get to do it again with an opportunity to do it better. Within the IT world, every two to three years you are forced to adapt. I love being on my toes and constantly learning from others.

What advice would you give an IT student about to graduate and enter the workforce? Employers are looking for those with passion and soft skills. Don’t worry about not having experience and ignore job posting requirements. Apply to any job that sounds interesting and presents a learning opportunity.

IT is always changing – how do you keep up with the ongoing evolution of IT? I participate in a number of local and national IT groups; I read forums and tech news; I have a hefty home lab, and provide consulting services that always presents new challenges. I’m constantly reading and prepping for industry certifications to make myself more marketable and in the know.

How do you see the IT landscape changing in the next 5 years? Machine learning, AI, and automation for everything (both used for good and evil). Also, the pandemic has taught us that remote work is viable and those at home can be highly productive. Due to this, we will see more companies doing away with brick and mortar and moving into the cloud.

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