Graduate Spotlight - Computer Technology

Degree means greater growth

Tony Costello began work at Nuvox 10 years ago as the 237th employee of the now 1,300-employee firm. Over the years, Costello has grown with the company, taking every opportunity to learn.

Still, he has always known that if he had a degree, there would be more opportunities available to him. So several years ago, Costello enrolled in the Information Management & Systems program at Greenville Technical College. The two-plus-two program allowed him to earn 75 credits at Greenville Technical College and transfer all but three to USC Upstate, where in his first semester, he is a junior, taking all of his classes at the University Center so that no travel to Spartanburg is required.

Costello’s classes have a direct application on the job.

“When I was in high school, I wasn’t a big fan of school as far as learning. I was there because I had to be there and my friends were there,” he says. “Now I understand the need. Classes in Visual Basic and database analysis are things I’ve done on the job, so it’s a real application more than algebra and English.”

Costello’s children are another motivating factor in earning a college degree.

“I don’t want them to be able to say that they don’t need to go to college because their dad didn’t go,” he says. “And they can’t use the excuse that they have to work or they’re busy. I’m about as busy as you can be right now.”

Even though he’s busy, Costello has enjoyed his college experience so much that he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. Once he completes his bachelor’s degree at USC Upstate, he plans to continue on to receive a master’s.

“Experience helps a lot, but most everyone wants that paper on the wall,” he says. With an associate degree completed, a bachelor’s degree underway, and plans for the next step, there will be no shortage of wallcoverings in Costello’s office.

Manufacturing veteran finds stability

After 28 years in the manufacturing environment, Britt Releford’s job went overseas. Eligible for education as part of his layoff, Releford enrolled in the Network Administration program at Greenville Technical College.

There, the self-described shade tree computer guy found a perfect fit. Now, instead of being the hard-working network administrator for the Releford family, he’s working in information technology for Elliott Davis, the well-known CPA office headquartered in Greenville.

Releford chose his second career carefully, making sure that he entered a field that wouldn’t go the way of his last one.
“With IT, there has to be someone on site to touch the machine,” he says. “It should be less likely to leave the country than anything else.”

Though he had been out of school for 28 years when he enrolled at Greenville Technical College, Releford felt comfortable in the classroom, graduating with honors and qualifying for both Phi Theta Kappa and the National Technical Honor Society. Now he plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in a computer discipline in the near future.

Unlike many people who leave manufacturing only to find lower salaries in other fields, Releford has been fortunate to find comparable compensation in IT, but money isn’t the only reward. His position with Elliott Davis is what he considers the job of his dreams, and Releford hopes to spend as many years in his new field as he spent in the previous one.

“I was fortunate to get a job with Elliott Davis. I like working in a professional, corporate environment.“ he says. “I’ve turned my hobby into a way to make a living doing what I love to do. It’s night and day from my previous career.”

Landing the job

pic-FayeJasman 200Faye Jasman is a Level 2 Helpdesk Technician with a local private insurance company. She and another Greenville Technical College graduate are responsible for troubleshooting and maintaining approximately 300 desktop and laptop computers at two different sites. They operate on mostly a Windows Server 2000/2003 and Windows 2000/XP Professional client/server network. They have a variety of computer equipment and printers, and a mix of licensed and internally developed applications. Additionally, Faye assists with maintaining the company’s recently installed Cisco voice over IP phone system, the company’s older Nortel PBX, and is training to with SAP system administration.

"The education I received at Greenville Tech is directly responsible for landing my current job. My Greenville Tech education gave me the technical knowledge of computers and networks that enabled me to quickly perform the daily tasks required on the job. I only needed to learn the company’s procedures; I already had the technical knowledge (learned at Greenville Tech). The knowledge of computer hardware components and how to troubleshoot them, learning the different operating systems, network fundamentals, and even the programming learned in class has been used on a daily basis on the job. Because of the solid foundation that my Greenville Tech education provided, I was able to take on the additional phone and SAP responsibilities. Also, learning from instructors who have worked in the IT field was of particular benefit as they were able to relate to students situations they might face in a real situation, and how to best approach a problem and solve it.

If a person has an interest in computers and wants to work in the field, Greenville Tech is the place to start. Employers can appreciate knowledge that a person may have attained on their own, but they also know the value of a Greenville Tech diploma. Completing a degree program at Greenville Tech says a lot to a prospective employer about commitment and desire. Additionally, the classes provide a sold foundation if a professional certification is a future goal (e.g. A+, Network +, etc.)."

PC Support Specialist

Tanya Cochran works as a PC Support Specialist for a global manufacturer. She is responsible for handling all hardware, software, and networking issues as they relate to client personal computers. Such issues include installation, troubleshooting, break/fix, etc.

"Greenville Tech’s Computer Technology program has provided me with the necessary tools and resources to excel both personally and professionally in the areas of time management and technical knowledge. I found the hands on experience I received at Greenville Tech to be invaluable as it relates to my day-to-day responsibilities. I was able to apply what I learned in the classroom to what I was being tasked with at work. I would highly recommend Greenville Tech’s Computer Technology programs to anyone aspiring to gain success in the IT field."


Avery Currie says,"I started work as a Network Technician for a company providing commercial, wireless WAN service about six months before completing my degree at Greenville Tech. We provide VOIP, Internet connectivity and basic WAN connectivity for commercial accounts using wireless technologies. This allows us to provide customers with anywhere from 10M-100M throughput on the WAN without the use of cabling outside the local building. I went back to school to prepare for a career change after working in, or in support of, the textile industry most of my career. My responsibilities involved maintaining the wireless WAN networks for our customers in the Upstate, SC and upper Georgia region. I was responsible for configuring/replacing wireless Ethernet radios, switches, antenna alignment, cabling, maintaining UPS’ and any other device that was included in the network.

After eight months working as a Technician I was promoted to Network Maintenance Manager with responsibility for all networks in GA, NC, SC and VA. My new responsibilities involved maintaining all wireless WANs in those states. I hire, train and develop entry-level technicians to maintain the WANs in these states. I am also responsible for improving the quality of the network when possible. For example, I was able to eliminate over 60% of the service calls in one network located in NC by changing one aspect of the topology of the WAN.

Changing careers has been one of the best things I have ever done. Instead of being in an industry that was dying a slow death, my current industry is vibrant and growing. To date, after less than 2 years in the industry, I have achieved one promotion, expect to have a second raise within the next month (the first more than doubled my starting salary), and also expect to have responsibility for even more networks in the near future.

While at GTC I tried to take as many courses as possible. Even though I was following the Cisco Network track, I took classes in Linux and software in order to attain as much knowledge as possible. Even though I am a “network guy”, having a basic understanding of Linux commands allows me to understand how our Linux servers affect the network and, when necessary, to make changes to them. The training I received was immediately applicable “on the job”. While every company has different methods of doing things, GTC will provide you with a basic understanding of the process. Subnetting is a perfect example; our WANs use private IP addresses all using 10 dot addresses. We have networks in 20 states. Without the use of subnets we could not monitor the devices in those networks. If you do not understand what I mean by subnetting, take the class!

I would not be working at this company if not for GTC. The person who hired me came to GTC and asked the instructors for recommendations. That is how I started. To date, I have hired 4 new techs and each was hired from the local technical school in their geographical area. I went to each school and asked the instructors for their recommendations. The techs that I hired were recommended by their instructors. I would also note that after visiting numerous schools, GTC has been the best by far.

While it might be possible to attain an IT or Telecommunications job without having a degree or certificate, it is much more difficult to do so. I would not hire anyone without a degree or certificate to show they had attained at least a basic skill set. With the training from GTC I know that any tech I hire will have at least a basic understanding of how systems operate and how to perform basic job functions. I have encountered job applicants who do not know what a static IP is, much less how to set one. You can not troubleshoot a network if you can not even set a static IP address. Even after attaining the first job, it is very important to continue your career and learn as much as possible. The people who get ahead are able (and willing) to perform more than one job function. GTC will provide you with a basic skill set that allows you to get that first job. If you have an interest in the IT or Telecommunications field, enroll at GTC."

Getting the promotion

pic-BradyGilbert02 200Brady Gilbert says, "I was working at a corporate help desk when I joined the Networking program at Greenville Tech. I was very happy with the quality of instruction, learning materials, and the amount of hands-on experience. With the knowledge and skills I acquired at Tech I received a promotion to my company’s Server Infrastructure Team where I am personally responsible for 30-40 servers, the corporate antivirus management, NetIQ Security and Vulnerability Manager products, and have participated in a Server Consolidation project, Active Directory implementation, a VLAN implementation (from a flat network), site upgrades, and more.

After my promotion I completed my Associates Degree, and continued on to earn a Cisco Certificate and my CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), all while working full time. I feel confident in my contributions to my team and have continued to learn more every day. I have also started my own business, Call Brady Computer Services ( where I service home/small business computers, networks, and perform webpage design.

Greenville Technical College’s Network program was an excellent investment in my career and in my future."

Layoff turns into career payoff

pic-RichardKostiuk 200Rich Kostiuk got the present everyone dreads right before the holidays in December 2001. His job with Kemet was sent overseas. So Kostiuk took advantage of retraining opportunities and enrolled in the Programming Certificate at Greenville Technical College.

About a year later, Kostiuk wrote a term paper on careers for a management class, comparing programming with networking. The research he did was enough to convince him that networking offered the opportunities he was looking for. He switched to the Network Systems Administration program, graduating in 2004.

Today, Kostiuk works for Greenville County Schools as a network technician. He appreciates the fact that no two days are alike as he goes out on service calls, helping students, teachers and principals with their computers. “You run into some of the same problems here and there,” he said. “Things break down, hard drives go bad, and power supplies go out, but it’s different every day.”

Keeping up with changing technology keeps Kostiuk on his toes. As the district has moved from Novell to Microsoft, he’s pursuing certification as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.

Kostiuk said that without the impetus of a layoff, he probably would have remained a machine technician until retirement. Finding a career that he enjoys more has been a wonderful by-product of that unexpected bump in the road. “So far, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said. “I love my job, and I love the challenge.”

Job finds student before graduation

Most people hope that their college major will enable them to find a job after graduation. But not everyone has the smooth transition from college to career that Jay Pote experienced. Enrolled in Greenville Technical College’s associate degree program in Network Systems Administration, Jay saw a position posted on the bulletin board at the college. He didn’t pay much attention to it until an instructor urged him to apply. The company, Unimark Plastics, hired Jay to work part-time while he was still in school. Three days after graduation, he was offered a full-time position with salary and benefits. It was almost as if Jay never had to look for a job. Instead, the job came looking for him.

Working for a small company means a wide variety of duties. Jay describes himself as a combination of held desk, troubleshooting, applications support and network support. Pote says the job isn’t everything he expected – it’s much more. “This was a chance to get in, take what I learned in class, and expand on that knowledge,” Pote said.

The hands-on aspect of Greenville Technical College’s program, Pote says, is one of its greatest strengths. “Having the ability to learn in a hands-on lab environment instead of reading how something should work is an advantage,” Pote said. “Things can sound one way in theory but be much different in practice.”

Pote recommends that people considering the IT field get in touch with people who are working in the field and see how technology relates to what they are doing. He also suggests connecting with students in the classroom to get the benefit of different points of view. This, he says, is necessary in the real world of work.

By the first of the year, Pote will have built on the foundation he started with his associate degree by adding the Microsoft MCSE Certification. And while some people go straight into a certification track, Pote thinks a better progression is from the foundation of a broader perspective with the associate degree to specialized certification.

So even though Pote got a job before he even graduated from college, he knows that the learning will never stop. “With some fields, you go to college, earn a degree, and never look back. With this field, you have to be ready to learn as technology changes,” he said. “You’re never done!”

Building on natural talent

pic-BlakeWilson02 200There are people who run into a problem on their home computers, switch them off, and vow never to let an inanimate object frustrate them to that degree again. Then there are people like Blake Wilson. They run into a problem and calmly troubleshoot until it’s resolved. This attitude led Wilson to a sideline helping others with their computer problems and eventually, to seek an associate degree in Networking Administration from Greenville Technical College so that he can make a career out of something at which he’s a natural.

Wilson says he spent his twenties trying to figure out what made him happy and what he wanted to do in life. He waited tables, worked for UPS, and even owned his own restaurant. In fact, there were eight or nine different careers in all before Wilson made the decision to go to college. Coming from jobs that were labor intensive, Wilson was seeking something that’s mentally challenging.

He investigated a number of different colleges, both two-year and four-year. And even though he lives five minutes from Clemson, he liked the hands-on aspect of Greenville Technical College’s program so much that he was willing to make a 40-minute commute.

Soon after enrolling at Greenville Technical College, Wilson accepted a work study position in the college’s Computer Technology lab. There, he works alongside a network administrator, assisting with all the duties he will soon be responsible for. These include connecting on a daily basis with the user and the computers, installing software, adding users to the network, troubleshooting problems, using preventive maintenance, and designing an efficient network, a task that is continuous to keep up with changes.

Wilson has found that communication skills are a requirement. “Communication skills are just as important as technical skills in IT,” Wilson said. “It’s a challenge to take what you know and communicate that knowledge effectively.”

In the two-year Networking Administration program, Wilson feels he’s gained a firm foundation and has built on that knowledge over time. “This is a field you cannot learn overnight. There are institutions that advertise giving you these skills in six months. But experience is just as important as book knowledge and that takes time. You can’t use a quick fix,” he said.

For people like Blake Wilson who enjoy working with computers and troubleshooting problems, there’s Greenville Technical College’s Networking Administration program. For everyone else, it’s good to know that there are knowledgeable people like Blake a phone call away.

Update From Blake on 02/14/06: After obtaining a Network Systems Administration degree I continued to work for Greenville Tech taking a position as Communications Coordinator at the Brashier Campus. Then I decided to take a Computer Technician Position in the Engineering Technology Department with Greenville Tech to return to school part time. Now I am working on my Geomatics Certificate in GIS software. The education I have received from Greenville Tech has open more doors and potential opportunities that would not have been possible without it. I look at the degree as not only an IT foundation but a spring board to other areas of discipline. I am grateful and blessed for the impact it has made in my life.