CCCC graduate Kevin Wind finds success in technology world
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Central Carolina Community College graduate Kevin Wind is a network field engineer working as a contractor ... (more)
SANFORD - Information technology keeps your head spinning. It seems like new ways to process, store and use data are popping up every single day, along with new equipment and systems to make it all happen. It's moving so fast that what you learn in the classroom gives you a solid foundation to understand the principles and roll with the change, even though the specific details of what you learn today could soon be obsolete.
That can be a real challenge for many new recruits entering the field, but not for Kevin Wind, a network field engineer working as a contractor for Cisco Systems, the multinational conglomerate producing cutting-edge networking hardware, software and telecommunications equipment. Because, while he's now spent more than five years as a Level 3 VSET Engineer for Cisco, Wind started his career at the very beginning of the technology revolution, climbing telephone poles.
"When I graduated high school in 1995, I never fathomed that I would ever use a computer in my entire life -- or even need to know keyboarding," says Wind, a Virginia native who moved to Sanford when he was 10 years old and now lives in Broadway. "But then came the dot-com boom and I knew a lot of my peers were going to the little telephone school up on U.S. 1 and getting great jobs. So, I said, 'Why not?'"
That "little telephone school" began as a career training program at Central Carolina Community College, where students learned to climb telephone poles, run cable and install phone equipment. As the industry grew, so did the program, next becoming the North Carolina School of Telecommunications before that school closed, and focus shifted to CCCC Information Technology, where students develop knowledge and hands-on skills to work in the computer industry.
Wind more or less followed the same path as the industry. After finishing his telecommunications certificate a few years after high school graduation, he began with what he calls a "little short-term gig" installing PBX systems and fiber-optic cable in the Research Triangle Park. Then he did "a little tour" testing equipment with Motorola before moving to another company, now known as Acuative, to handle DSL installations. He worked there for almost 14 years, installing equipment and maintaining computer networks as everything evolved.
Then, it was time for a change.
"I was in my mid 30s going through some life changes and had an opportunity to go back to school," he recalls. "I had some peers telling me about the networking program at Central Carolina and I knew I would never get out of field work unless I went back to school."
Making the Change
About eight years ago, Wind made the change, returning to CCCC to pursue his Associate of Applied Science in Network Technologies and even working at the college as a lab assistant. Constance Boahn, who leads CCCC's Department of Engineering and Computer Information, recalls Wind because he was always helping other students, a sort of big brother in the networking group. "He was at a kind of middle age, so he wasn't fresh out of high school," she recalls. "He was old enough to have some life experience, but had not had a full career yet. He was really dedicated."
For several years, Wind somehow managed to mix full-time work and full-time school. Two years after graduating with his associate degree, he enrolled at East Carolina University to complete the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, a degree Boahn and her colleagues encourage their students to pursue. She says the ECU network management program is designed for an easy transition -- it's available on campus or online, and the university accepts CCCC's entire computer degree as one block of credit, putting students well down the path toward a bachelor's degree.
Wind graduated from ECU about two years ago and now works full-time with Cisco as a contractor -- one of only 10 field technicians globally. When customers have a problem with the Cisco Unified Computing System that service technicians can't fix, company representatives escalate the case to Wind and his colleagues on Cisco's Virtual Support Escalation Team. Most of the time, they can resolve the problem remotely; other times, they'll visit the work site for a closer look.
It's been rewarding work. Instead of being limited to a narrow geographical region, Wind could be working simultaneously with customers in France, Russia or Brazil -- different kinds of people on different issues every day. And not having to crawl through attics pulling cable. "Without CCCC," Wind says, "I would never have gotten to that point."
Wind calls himself a "jack of all trades, a master of none." That may be true, but his extensive experience growing with the industry may have helped set him up for success. He says being able to visualize the telecommunications closets and data centers -- and knowing the nuts and bolts of hardware and how structured wiring moves from one place to another -- helps when he's trying to resolve more intricate problems. "I can visualize everything," he says. "Some students may never see the hardware and may not even know how it's connected. That's helped me, being able to sit there and see in my mind how everything is connected."
Leaving an Impression
Though Wind tends to downplay his own success, others don't. John Ainsworth was in his first year as a network management instructor at CCCC when Wind showed up in his course on Cisco security and left a big impression. To this day, Ainsworth and his colleagues describe Wind's success to other students, not only for his accomplishment in the classroom, but for managing to complete his bachelor's degree while working full time.
"The ceiling for Kevin is wherever he wants it to be," Ainsworth says. "He has natural talent and incredible resolve. He's a humble guy and probably wouldn't expect his name to be invoked as a tool for inspiration and motivation, but we love to sing his praises."
When Wind first decided to try that "little phone school," he was more interested in biology. But he had to set priorities and at the top of that list was working to pay his own bills. As a teenager just out of high school, the cost of higher education seemed daunting. So did spending six or more years in school to earn the master's degree he thought he might need.
There are no regrets. Looking back on the journey, Wind says he was blessed by the opportunities he's had through CCCC and its partnership with ECU. He's had some great jobs. He's had a good income. And, most of all, he enjoys diagnosing problems and finding the fix. "Danny Baker, who ran the telephony school, told us, 'Once you get into this, it gets in your blood and will stay with you forever,'" Wind recalls. "I guess it did for me."
For more information on Central Carolina Community College - which is dedicated to providing pathways to achievable dreams, visit www.cccc.edu.
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