Learning IT from the Outside In
Published on August 12, 2013 by Staff Writer
(MERIDIAN) What makes a computer run? How does wireless technology work? Most people know what data is, but what in the heck is meta data? Learning technology is a large task. It takes a lot of brain power to listen, process information and then come up with ways to apply that information into practical, user-friendly solutions. Students in the information technology program at Broadview University have a leg up when it comes to learning. They regularly hear about IT—from the outside in.
It is not unusual for Tim Thorson, the information technology program chair at the Boise campus, to invite guest speakers into his classroom. Over the past few months, he has invited a number of IT professionals from the community to give his students the inside scoop on what makes IT tick. Most recently, guests from Idaho Power, MWI Veterinary Supply Co., and the Custer Agency have all shared their wisdom—helping students expand their own personal databases.
The Custer Agency is a private investigative, computer forensics and security consulting company in Boise. The owner, Neal Custer, specializes in information security. He is the kind of guy who buys old computers and hacks them just to see what he can find. He told students he has found all kinds of interesting things on computers that have been supposedly wiped, including pornography, personal contact information for clients and emails. During his 40+ years of experience working at various companies, Custer once discovered that an employee had been using a company computer to make drug deals. He believes all employees are responsible for information security.
“You can have all of the policies, procedures, laws and regulations in place,” he says, “but if you don’t make awareness, education and training priorities, then it’s all worthless.”
Diana Duncan leads the project management office at Idaho Power in Boise. Her main job is to bridge the gap between business and information technology. She “speaks” both languages, and emphasizes the importance of communication and the role it plays in any environment. She approaches her job from two perspectives: a company employee and a customer.
“I work for a company that supplies energy, so I am a customer as well,” Duncan said. “I want to make sure prices stay as low as possible from a project management standpoint and from an end user’s perspective. For example, our company is working on a new billing system. It is a big expense designed to save money, and it all comes down to IT. I must stay ahead of things in terms of cost.”
Vince Peterson works for MWI Veterinary Supply Co. in Boise as an ETL developer. ETL is short for three database functions: extract, transform, load. In layman’s terms, it means to pull data from one source and put it into another. MWI, which is based in Idaho, is a leader in distributing animal health products to veterinarians across the United States and the United Kingdom. The company depends on data to make sure its customers around the globe get what they need.
Peterson says, “Data is an asset that can be consumed and used to make money. There are many different ways to look at it, and as an ETL developer, it is my job to see things from more than one perspective.”
Peterson’s mission was to help reinforce what students need to get jobs in the industry.
“You must be able to talk the talk,” he says. “You need to learn the lingo, and school is the only place you are going to learn it. Pay attention to your instructors and learn all you can, because if you don’t know technology terminology and the acronyms, an employer will see right through you.”