John Fite has served in the US Marine Corps, taught English in Japan, and indulged his nerdy side through work in the IT field. It's this last pursuit that Fite has really dug into. He steadily climbed the IT ladder at the University of Minnesota through his work as a U of M technician as well as being a student of the Information Technology Infrastructure Program (ITI). His hard work landed him a challenging position as an Infrastructure Solutions Architect for UnitedHealth Group. Below, he answers a few questions about working and studying in the IT industry.
CCAPS: What's your earliest memory of solving an IT problem?
JF: When I was a teenager I wanted a powerful gaming computer, but I couldn't afford to buy one. Instead, I bought individual, less-expensive parts, then built it myself. That experience drove home the fact that much of the cost of IT is not necessarily the hardware, but the expertise required to configure and use it well.
CCAPS: Where did you work before enrolling in the ITI program?
JF: I was an English teacher in a junior high school in Japan for eight years. Trying to make lesson plans for 30 kids that would challenge and interest all of them was difficult. I discovered that when I used computers for them to use when studying, they enjoyed lessons much more because I could personalize the material to suit their interests and abilities.
CCAPS: Describe typical day at your current job at UnitedHealth Group.
JF: As an Infrastructure Solutions Architect, I divide my time by gathering requirements from the customer, coordinating with our Systems Engineers, Developers, and Project Managers about implementation, and then creating design documentation. With my remaining time I try to learn as much as I can about new technologies and how they can be implemented without breaking what we have now.
CCAPS: Why is the IT industry worth pursuing through a lifelong career?
JF: IT is no longer just a separate department in the organization we work at. We are all IT now, to varying degrees. Having in-depth knowledge of one or more areas of tech is not only a great path to an exciting and rewarding career, but it also makes one's non-work life better because we can apply it to so many hobbies, interests, and useful tools.
CCAPS: What does the IT field offer that's more fascinating than any other field?
JF: People keep finding ways of using tech to do cool things that nobody imagined when the hardware and software were originally created. I'm excited to get to work every day because there's a feeling of tremendous possibility and discovery!
CCAPS: Was there a favorite class in the ITI program that reshaped how you think about the IT industry?
JF: One of my favorite classes was Information Security. We had a great time using a specialized version of the Linux operating system (Kali) used for penetration testing, and were able to get a sense of how vulnerable our hardware, code, and especially users are to attackers. There is a great need for tech workers who have an understanding of security. I highly recommend that course.
CCAPS: What is one thing about the ITI program that would surprise people?
JF: Most of the courses are offered in the evenings, which is great for those of us who are already working. Also, they are taught mostly by individuals working in the tech industry. This makes for a good mix of perspectives and styles of assignments when combined with the required Computer Science courses, which are taught by full-time professors.
CCAPS: What is the best piece of advice you've received?
JF: I love this quote from Steve Jobs: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference."