IT Support Is a Career in Problem Solving: Chris Stewart Interview
by Dom Fonce
October 3, 2023
In celebration of National Techies Day, I sit down and talk with MCCTC Technology Director, Chris Stewart, about his path to becoming an IT professional, the difficulties and joys of his job, and how he continues to train himself for technological changes. Chris was hired by MCCTC 8 years ago and started his journey as an IT professional while a Columbiana high school student. As early as the 9th grade, Chris’s technology teacher noticed his knack for IT support and, by the 11th grade, he was taking special advanced tech courses designed just for him, as well as working for his school’s IT department as a student.
At MCCTC, Chris now oversees a handful of students in his IT department as part of the Networking and Cybersecurity Program. Chris says, “I look at what MCCTC offers, and this school is amazing. The opportunities these students have is amazing.” From Chris’s perspective, it’s impressive how many ways MCCTC finds ways to educate students and give them hands-on experience in a field. Chris wants his student employees to learn as much as they can while they’re here. He says they are essential to the IT department, especially by helping classes held in the evening. Just as Chris was primed for a career in IT by an older mentor, he hopes to pass the torch to younger IT talent as well. When Chris was a student employee, he learned that making a good first impression, then consistently working hard on the job, helped him get hired in IT immediately after graduation—now, he gives the same advice to his own employees.
Chris has worked in the IT private sector, but says he much prefers working in education. He says, “I get to work on everything here. From cameras to door security panels. It helps make my days more interesting.” To Chris, working in IT support is fundamentally a problem-solving job. There are times when fixing a tech issue is routine, but other times where fixing an issue is time-sensitive and high-stakes. Chris says his job requires quick thinking, which is something he loves about working at MCCTC. Additionally, Chris says his job requires a specific demeanor—while the MCCTC faculty and staff love the IT department because they help fix problems, Chris occasionally deals with others’ frustrations. For Chris and his employees, having a calm and reassuring demeanor can elevate stress and tension within any situation.
Chris says the teachers, staff, and admin at MCCTC are always appreciative of his work. He feels that, when he solves a technological issue, his colleagues value his skills. For Chris, this makes him feel like an important part of a larger team. He says, “We have it so good at MCCTC.” Chris says whenever his IT department needs something to do their job, whether that be specific tools and equipment or further certifications, MCCTC is there to support them.
Regarding new tech advancements that are exciting him, Chris is paying close attention to blockchain technology, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. He thinks the rise in popularity of those three fields is inevitable. Chris says, “AI like Google’s Bard or ChatGPT are powerful tools, and they are doubling their knowledge every single day.” For Chris, AI is exciting, but the speed at which it is growing gives him reason to be cautious.
Overall, Chris’s IT staff are extremely dedicated to serving MCCTC and keeping the school operating as smoothly as possible. MCCTC’s continued dedication to giving students opportunities to gain hands-on skills remains impressive. Chris’s drive to be a quick-acting problem solver on the job should be lauded. It remains exciting to see how Chris and his team serve MCCTC, fix the myriad of issues that arise, and continue to grow.
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Dom Fonce is a Marketing Content Writer for Mahoning County Career and Technical Center Adult Career Center. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Youngstown State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the NEOMFA. He has published two books of poetry. His work can be found at domfoncepoetry.com.