A Hybrid Degree for an Ever-Changing Industry
In the IT industry, you have to be multilingual. And no, that doesn’t mean being able to converse using the romantic languages you studied in high school. We’re talking about something very unromantic, in fact: programming languages. Not everyone is passionate about coding, development, and IT infrastructure, but in order for the digital world to spin on effectively and efficiently, we all depend on those multilingual IT experts.
Nic Mann is an exceptional IT multilinguist because he’s also fluent in the language of business and management. Mann knew he wanted to hybridize his expertise, combining computer science with business management, and that desire led him to the University of Minnesota’s Information Technology Infrastructure Program (ITI).
“I’ve always liked the process and strategy side of business,” Mann says. “And I’ve always been a big fan of technology. I feel the two sides complement each other. Having a business background helps you see how you fit in the organization you work for. And at the end of the day, the business is your customer, and you have to understand your customer’s needs.”
Mann dove headlong into the ITI Program, enjoying courses centered on storage administration, computer science, and more. Learning from adjunct instructors who work full-time in the IT field gives students a deeper, more practical understanding of the material they study. And when it comes time to complete an internship, most students are already well-positioned to get hired. That’s what happened to Mann—multiple times.
Not Your Typical Intern
“I got a two-year contract internship with Thomson Reuters,” says Mann. “The internship was broken up by six-month increments, or rotations, organized by the data center operations group. I got to work with a new team every six months to learn the ins and outs of IT infrastructure work at the company.”
Mann kicked off the circuit with six months in the virtual team. There, his experience was primarily building new VMware clusters (a cluster is a group of hosts) and troubleshooting issues, such as licensing. Amid the virtual team’s creative thinking on how to pull off a mixed cluster maneuver in the company, Mann volunteered his script-writing skills to solve the problem, using Python (which he learned in the first CSCI course in the ITI Program) and PyVMomi to allow interfacing between applications.
The idea for this project had come up in a monthly meeting with Thomson Reuters’ Virtual Architects, and it was suggested that one of the senior engineers take it on. Instead, Mann surprised everyone and solved the problem for the virtual team.
After his success with the virtual team, Mann moved on to the network team, where he wrote script that could convert old Cisco Hybrid Switch configurations to newer Cisco IOS configurations, saving the team lots of time.
From there, Mann advanced to the ServiceNow team. In this cycle of his rotation, he worked to incorporate the new ServiceNow platform, which would be replacing Thomson Reuters’ ITSM, asset management, knowledge, and ticketing systems—the backbone of technology support for the company. Mann ended up building a portal that allowed Business Service Owners to create and manage their own services. Thanks to Mann’s portal, service owners could associate different request items with the different services.
After his major successes in the virtual team and the ServiceNow team, Mann spent two months in the cloud team before he had to turn in his notice to Thomson Reuters. He’d been offered a contract position at IDeaS, a subsidiary of SAS Institute. There, he would work as a DevOps Engineer, writing and maintaining automation scripts used to do deployments of new software builds for products.
From Intern to Employee
“Our flagship product was a Hotel Revenue Optimization platform called G3 that was a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, designed to use statistical analysis to determine hotel room rates that would generate the highest possible revenue for the hotel,” Mann says.
Mann wasn’t with IDeaS long before he was offered another job, which he currently holds, as a ServiceNow Developer with Virteva.
“At Virteva, my work has a 70/30 split. Seventy percent of my time I’m developing, while the other thirty percent I’m doing business process and customer interaction work,” Mann says. “I do maintenance, visit customers periodically, make changes and enhancements, and make sure customers are happy with the product. It’s a cool mix.”
Having the agility to mix it up on the job is something that has accelerated Mann through the various opportunities he’s had so far—before he’s even graduated from the ITI Program.
“I never thought I would enjoy coding and programming, but that’s my favorite part of my job now,” Mann says. “My work is a mix of half-code, half-business. I love to solve problems. Problem solving is a different kind of creativity than art.”
That creativity, balanced with business savoir-faire, is quickly launching Mann’s career in the diverse IT industry. Once he completes his degree, he’ll be unstoppable.
“I could see this was the direction the industry was headed,” Mann says. “So I enrolled in the ITI Program at the U of M.”
Learn more about the Information Technology Infrastructure program.