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Twelve Takeaways from Talking to an IT Professional

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) manages a video series entitled “A Day in the Life” in which IT technicians and executives offer students their perspectives on the IT workplace. The hope is that hearing directly from a successful IT worker (rather than their professor) in a video interview may deliver a stronger, lasting impact on students.

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The third subject of “A Day in the Life” is Corey Kirkendoll, the CEO and Owner of 5K Technical Services, a full-service managed service provider for small and medium-sized businesses.  5K Technical Services was founded in 2006.

Below are 12 quotes from Corey’s interview that might make an impact on IT students when considering the reality of entering the IT workforce. Click on the above picture to watch Corey’s interview in full. The YouTube description offers a “table of contents” index with timestamps if you’re interested in specific questions.

What I tell everybody I mentor is if you’re going to go be in IT, then go be in IT.  You can’t say “I want to be in IT [but] I’m a cashier at Best Buy.”  You really have to go and be in it because it just changes so much.

We live by a motto here at 5K: if you don’t know, don’t snow. Which means you don’t make it up. Because once you lose that credibility, you can’t get it back.  We’ve actually let guys go because they had lost credibility with the customer.  They snowed.  I get a call [from a customer] that says “Do not send that person back.” That person is not valuable to us anymore.

If you come in for a one-hour interview and you didn’t prepare, [then] you’re going to get beat up for a whole hour.  A real interview should be half and half or you should dominate that interview because you should have questions for them just like we have questions for you.

Technically you can be really, really good and be a geek and know everything… but you have to be able to convey that to someone…  You have to learn how to eliminate that geek speak because people’s eyes glaze over.  It’s really exciting to us, but it’s not really exciting to them.

The most challenging day here?  I got a call from a customer and they couldn’t access their data. Come to find out their data from before we took them on was never backed up… Drives started to fail… This would have been 25 years’ worth of data… They would have gone out of business, no doubt… It probably took us about a week to rebuild the RAID… We pretty much rebuilt their entire system, had zero data loss.  That was a stressful seven days. We had no idea what was going to happen… We were just barely hanging on.

Us as engineers? We’re type-A personalities.  We know it all.  Nobody can tell us anything.  The problem is we don’t listen a lot… What we’ve found out here is [that] someone can be telling us an issue and if I’m strong-willed, I’ve already come up with a solution without even listening to what the problem is.  And when I do that, I almost always get it wrong.  Because I didn’t listen to what the real issue was.

There’s not one person that knows it all.  I tell everybody: being good in IT is not about knowing everything.  It’s about knowing where to go and using your resources. 

If you spend the time in class going through it, take the certification.  Most people say “Oh I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it” and they never take it. You’ve got to take the certifications.

I have accountability groups as well.  I have mentors that come in and it’s painful. Being the CEO, I’m not accountable to anyone but the customers, so I have a group of other CEOs who are accountable to me.  We sit down and go through the books. We talk about HR.  We talk about technology.  We talk about different things.  And they tell me, “Okay Corey six months ago we were sitting here and you said X.  How are we doing on that?”  Oh my gosh.  So it can be painful.

We just hired a guy and the only reason he made it through the cracks… was because he sent an email back and said “Hey thank you for your time, thank you for your interview.”  And before he left, he said “I think this is a great place. I would really love to work here.”  Out of the hundred people we interviewed, that is what got him in.

I tell all of my employees I want to make sure they spend a lot of time with two people in the organization.  Spend time with their manager and spend time with HR.  HR has all of the new opportunities that are out there and they know what’s going on.  They should be your best friend.  But you also speak to your manager so he or she always knows what’s going on.  That’s called managing up.  Making sure you’re not just sitting back and thinking “He sees me working.”  No, you need to be in their face, in their ear, tell them what you want to get done and how you want to get it done. 

Once I saw something that I wanted to do, I say “I’m going to go get it done, and I’m going to go be the best at it.”  And that’s exactly what I did.  So I went and took every class, every book, every user’s group, every meeting, whatever it was to grab more, more, more of that knowledge to make sure I was the best.

A big thank you to Corey for lending us his time to sit down for the interview.





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