Welcome to episode 180 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 1 of an interview with Bill Kindle, discussing his entry into the technology field through vocational school, experience at MSPs, learning the importance of customer service, and constantly aspiring to grow professionally.
Original Recording Date: 03-14-2022
Topics – Meet Bill Kindle, Learn a Vocation, Constantly Learning and Shifting, Lessons Learned at Walmart, Focus on Customer Service, Goodwill, Spiceworks Community, Other Connections, Out of Nonprofit Space, Bored and Recruited
2:49 – Meet Bill Kindle
- Bill Kindle is a Cybersecurity Engineer and has been in IT over 20 years, doing a little bit of everything over that time period.
- As a teenager Bill would play around on his aunt aunt and uncle’s computer (which ran Windows 95).
- After playing a lot of Nascar he got introduced to Mario Teaches Typing
- After tinkering with this Bill began to do some basic web design upon entering high school. Part of his study hall period was normally spent tinkering on a computer in the classroom.
- Bill was able to talk his aunt into buying him a book on how to build computers. He later saved some paper route money and leveraged it to buy some computer parts and build his own PC.
- People started paying Bill to take viruses off their computers once they knew he was capable. Getting $30 or $40 is a lot to a teenager, and the money he made generally was used as gas money.
- Bill’s family suggested he go to school to study computers. A guidance counselor encouraged him to tour a trade school in the area, and he did that for his last 2 years of high school, studying information studying computer information systems and computer networking.
- It came pretty easy to Bill, and he did better there than at his high school.
- Bill later attended ITT Technical Institute and got his associate’s degree.
6:22 – Learn A Vocation
- The vocational school was a joint vocational school to learn trades while in high school.
- Bill is a huge proponent of vocational schooling. College may not for everyone, but that does not mean you cannot learn a skill. Many trades out there need skilled people, and learning a skill can help you no matter what you do in your career.
- It was not hard for Bill to find a job or side work doing IT after high school.
- He is extremely grateful for the early conversations with family and the guidance counselor mentioned. It has not let him down yet.
- Nick mentions Reddit posts about high school students not knowing what to do with their career direction, usually encouraging them to go and get experience in something.
- Sometimes you have to do a couple of different jobs before you figure out what you don’t want to do.
- Bill has known folks who learned how to lay bricks and stud walls, skills he wished he had. Bill has even considered going back to school to learn some of these types of skills.
- Getting the experience through his vocational school was priceless (and a turning point) for Bill.
- Bill recommends that any high school student check out vocational / trade schools as an option.
- John sees technology trades closely associated with the apprentice system we see for electricians / plumbers / carpenters, for example.
- Before you can be a master electrician you have to be an apprentice and a journeyman (part of the reason for John’s Twitter handle of @vJourneyman).
- There’s nothing really like this system in the technology industry.
- People don’t realize how good of a living you can make in some of the trades that aren’t as "popular." As a result viable trade schools and specific trades may be getting ignored (i.e. nurse, electrician, carpenter, etc.).
- Bill is thankful the vocational experience was there, and it started with someone telling him about it.
- Many of the things that Bill learned during school are now obsolete / outdated / irrelevant. That happens in IT, and Bill said he had to be ok with constantly learning in this industry.
11:05 – Constantly Learning and Shifting
- For those with kids listening (of any age), it’s important for all of us to be mindful of what our kids are interested, to help them learn about themselves, and help them learn about what they could do with the skills they already have.
- This is hitting Nick harder and harder as he spends time on Reddit and continues speaking with people on the podcast.
- Bill has felt strongly about trade schools for a long time and applying that to our industry. It was refreshing for him to read Be the Master by Don Jones (see Episode 137 and Episode 138), one of the most influential he has read.
- The latest iteration of this is Own Your Tech Career by Don Jones.
- You can juxtapose the stories on top of what we do today.
- Bill hopes to one day see a shift away from people hoarding knowledge but to sharing knowledge more often.
- John says if people hold onto something they learn and hope the world is not going to change around them, it is unrealistic to continue to believe this and can make you irrelevant.
- None of us made it to where we are without a hand up or a little push forward from others. One of the reasons we started the podcast was to help people understand some of those possible paths forward.
- John says when he went through high school and college he saw his path as something that must be linear, with anything else being failure. That is not true (since his career has been very much nonlinear).
15:24 – Lessons Learned at Walmart
- Unfortunately for Bill, no one wanted to hire an IT person straight out of high school even with strong grades and provable skills. He lacked certifications.
- Bill needed a job, and they were building a new Wal-Mart Supercenter near him. He went to a local store, filled out a paper application, and heard nothing back (even though they were actively hiring).
- Bill walked back in and got 25 paper applications, took them home, and filled every one of them out by hand. The next day he dropped them off at the store.
- Bill received a call not long after this that they wanted him to come in for an interview (part of a mass hiring event).
- He ended up being interviewed by the store’s co-manager who had all 26 applications stacked together. She told him for someone as young as Bill to fill out that many applications it was only fitting that she call him.
- Bill got the job and worked with the lady who interviewed him for about 3 years, learning a lot about retail and people in the process.
- Customer service is a lost art to a lot of people. Bill’s managers drilled the importance of this into the employees every single day. The managers empowered the employees to make decisions (at all levels). It’s been a rarity in Bill’s career to have management like that.
- Bill knew he didn’t want to stay with Wal-Mart long term.
- He had interviewed for a management training program there but was not accepted.
- Bill kept trying to break into Wal-Mart IT, but it didn’t go anywhere.
- After trying a couple of different things he decided to look for greener pastures.
- Bill ended up doing an internship at the vocational school he had attended earlier.
- John makes the observation that Bill had a vision for either progressing or leaving. After pursuing multiple avenues that were not going to pan out, the only choice was leaving.
- There were a few times where people would ask Bill to setup the computers he sold at Wal-Mart at their homes for a little side money, which kept him excited about IT and allowed a little moonlighting.
21:41 – Focus on Customer Service
- Most all of Bill’s customer service skills came from his time at Wal-Mart. The managers during that time were very people oriented and would go above and beyond.
- Bill tries to keep these lessons in mind when he helps people even now.
- It would be extremely beneficial for anyone in IT (regardless of your level, even if you are just getting started) to do some type of work that involves dealing with people on a regular basis.
- You will learn so much about people, what makes them happy, and what makes them mad.
- This is about listening to someone’s problem and trying to help the person resolve it.
- You will learn to spot those who genuinely want / need help and those who need to be heard. You may have to be the person that lends an ear so someone feels they are being heard.
- Bill says working retail (even for a short term) could be a rite of passage for IT professionals because of what you learn doing it. There are not many IT jobs where you don’t have to interact with others in some way.
- John’s wife shared an article with him about the hidden costs of emotional labor.
- Part of making someone feel heard is the emotional labor (the above and beyond and doing things with a good attitude, etc.). Unless you have been doing this kind of work (i.e. a bartender, waiter, etc.) you may not understand the labor part of it. And this can fall under "other duties as assigned."
- "You have to be willing to help people and take care of them in IT. That’s what I have always strived to do." – Bill Kindle
25:44 – Starting Small in IT
- Working for the vocational school was the only job from which Bill was fired.
- There were some things Bill needed to fix that he wasn’t told about until the day he was let go.
- This was his first IT job, and he was pretty devastated after being fired (felt like a failure).
- Bill’s future wife issued an ultimatum, saying he needed to get a job if she was going to stick around.
- Bill had flirted around working for the railroad, signing up for a conductor course with a class 1 railroad.
- About 30 minutes after getting a call about an opportunity to have an all expenses paid trip to conductor training, he received a call from a local IT shop wanting him to come in for an interview.
- Someone got Bill’s name from a former director at ITT whose son liked to recommend recent graduates to this particular IT shop (a small MSP, or Managed Service Provider).
- Bill went in for the interview and was hired on the spot. There was a lot of commuting involved to get to work, so he decided to move closer to his work.
- The work was interesting, and Bill was there about 3 years, feeling it was his first real IT job and starting as a bench technician working on repairing various computers.
- Working for a MSP is like drinking from a fire hose and an opportunity to learn a great deal.
- Bill progressed to network technician after about a month, working with CAT5 cabling, patch panels, etc. He learned about digital surveillance systems, how to do physical security, etc.
- Bill liked MSP life and even thought about opening his own location closer to home, wanting to get more involved in the business. The owners said no because it wasn’t financially feasible at the time (housing market around this time was becoming a bit unstable).
- Bill decided to begin looking for something else and got a job working for Goodwill Easter Seals, which to this day might be the best job Bill has ever had.
- John makes the observation that Bill wanted advancement in this case too (transitioned to network engineer), and when further advancement was not something that could happen (i.e. opening his own branch / making more money), he had no choice but to move on.
31:03 – Goodwill
- Bill realized he was not going to be able to advance or make more money at the MSP and started looking around for alternate options.
- Bill applied for an IT Support Engineer job at a local Goodwill and was hired on the spot after a conversation at a coffee shop.
- This was one of the best moves Bill feels he has ever made and where he started really maturing as an adult.
- It irks Bill to this day when he comes across people with poor work ethic, especially after seeing someone who struggles with severe health issues be thankful that they are able to do simple things like hang clothes up each day.
- Bill cherishes his time there and learned a lot but did not make a lot of money.
- He had not worked with nonprofits this deeply before this job (visiting a few churches when part of the MSP).
- Bill learned to do IT on a shoestring budget thanks to this job, taking care of around 27 locations with point of sale devices at each.
- He also learned a lot about the challenges non-profits have in getting funding.
- Bill also helped get security cameras in all the stores, working with the loss prevention manager at the time to accomplish this and engaging his previous boss at the MSP to help with supplies for the project.
34:33 – Spiceworks Community
- Bill didn’t learn about the Spiceworks Community until he was working at Goodwill. He would do basic Google searches for answers to questions, and Spiceworks kept coming up.
- Bill started by shadowing some of the forums. He was able to create his own solutions for people taking information from a number of posts (putting his own spin on things).
- There was a lot of knowledge in the Spiceworks community to leverage, and it kept coming up time and time again.
35:45 – Other Connections
- When not troubleshooting network connections, Bill enjoyed making connections with people.
- Bill felt like his work at Goodwill mattered much more so than for the previous to places he worked. This is something he needs from a company (feeling like his work matters / is making an impact).
- "I have to feel like my work matters. Because as soon as I don’t feel like it matters, I just can’t do it any more." – Bill Kindle
- This remains one of Bill’s top need from a job. If the work matters, you do your best work.
- For both financial and career reasons, Bill needed to move on.
37:34 – Out of Nonprofit Space
- Bill became the first full time employee for a small MSP. They only had a few contracts with customers and struggled with contract employees.
- Once again, Bill was hired on the spot.
- Bill was to be bind of a manager but in title only from what he found.
- Bill became self-sufficient and started using PowerShell a great deal (around the version 3.0 days). There was a school that was a big client and had a lot of Active Directory user accounts to create and modify on tight timelines. He had heard of PowerShell previous to this and decided to start using it.
- People were using batch files and VBScript to accomplish some of the tasks already, and Bill was trying understand it well enough to rewrite it in PowerShell.
- The people who made these scripts originally were so entrenched and set on using what they had created.
- Bill would run his PowerShell script to make all of the same changes.
40:28 – Bored and Recruited
- This MSP was also not interested in business expansion much like the other one where he worked.
- Nursing school for wife required health insurance, and Bill didn’t have it.
- A former friend from the Wal-Mart days called Bill saying the company he was leaving desperately needed IT personnel.
- He was once again hired on the spot (hasn’t happened since).
- This was Bill’s first experience with multi-national company with main offices in the UK, but he worked in a small office in Cincinnati.
- It was a good job but was a bit boring.
- Bill could only do so much troubleshooting and had to work with development teams in the UK. There was some downtime between support calls that he would spend in the Spiceworks community.
- This was the first place bill had his own office.
- It was a job with good benefits, good pay, and could have been done remotely. Bill lobbied to work remotely but was denied.
- Bill knew an IT manager in the UK was getting ready to retire, approached the owner, and asked to apply.
- It turns out they had already hired a replacement around the time Bill spoke to the owner (which Bill learned later), and Bill felt he was lied to and that his work was not valued. It was time to go.
- At this point Bill’s wanted to move closer to home. Bill came across a job for a multinational identity company out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- Bill received a call from a recruiter, and it was one of the best recruiting calls he’d had.
- Bill said he wanted his work to be valued and communicated that he was bored (doing more help desk work than he wanted).
- Bill told the recruiter how much he was making and ended up getting a raise to move to the new company.
- John says you need to know what you need. Bill said he knew he wanted to be valued and respected. People don’t always have all those answers.
Contact us if you need help on the journey.
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