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Staff Profile: Colin Owens – CAMACC’S Silver Fox
There are two kinds of Information Technology professionals working today:
- The stereotypic, pimple-faced tech nerd, who favours rainbow-striped suspenders and long blog posts about the upcoming Star Wars movie; and
- Not that guy at all.
Our Information Technology Manager falls firmly into the second category, even though Colin Owens does have all of the incredibly detail-oriented technical skills of the classic IT guy, and the ability to talk tech fluently with our customers’ own IT staff. Colin, the tennis-loving, music buff is the furthest thing in the world from an IT nerd. And it’s good news for our customers…
Dreams of Big City Life Lead to One Big Regret
Colin grew up in a little town called Ormskirk in Lancashire, England. At age eight, when his family moved to small town Salmon Arm, BC, Colin’s natural physicality turned him into a track star prodigy. However, the life of a pro runner – especially the demands of early morning practices and sweaty spandex running attire – didn’t sound as glamorous as the life of a corporate executive. “I dreamed of driving fancy cars, travelling to exotic places for business meetings, drinks by the pool, and wearing nice suits to work,” says Colin. “I’d only lived in small towns and wanted to get a taste of the big city life.”
After spending some time working for his father’s travel business, Colin enrolled at the University of Victoria to study computer science. This came at a steep price: his 1968 Ford Mustang. “Selling that car for school still haunts me to this day” says Colin, “it is my one regret in life.”
Helping Not Programming
Although losing his prize possession was painful, he learned a valuable lesson after his first year studying computer science: he did not want to be a computer programmer. “I liked learning what could be done with computers, rather than writing the code that tells them what to do. I would rather help a person solve a computer problem, than solve a script problem by myself.” So Colin dropped out of school to pursue a career in information technology.
Out of Left Field
If you asked Colin to explain his job at CAMACC Systems, you might expect him to say managing the network infrastructure, configuring analytics, and reviewing event logs and data health. While his IT Manager job does include all of these things, Colin chooses to describe his job in an “out of left field” way, with a soccer analogy:
“I’m like the referee,” he explains. “I’m there in the background to ensure that things go smoothly during the game so that the players can focus on playing, and people can enjoy the game instead of complaining about the refs.”
In Colin’s mind, IT should quietly-but-proactively run in the background, ensuring that workplace productivity is maximized and frustration is minimized. “When equipment is well maintained and working properly, people can concentrate on their jobs instead of technical issues,” he says.
The CAMACC Chameleon
Being responsible for maintaining all of the computer and telecommunication systems that allow all of CAMACC’s offices to work and communicate in an efficient and secure manner is a huge, critical task. “Being onsite gives me a big advantage,” says Colin. “I am intimately familiar with the setup of our severs, wiring, and interconnections between offices – which means if something goes wrong, I am in a much better position to quickly troubleshoot where the problem lies, and get people back to work. I can fix it right away whereas an IT subcontractor would have to fit us in their schedule before the issue would get solved. That equals a lot of lost time.”
Colin is the CAMACC Chameleon. Not only is Colin an integral part of CAMACC’s IT department, he also plays an important role in the sales and service departments. When a new account is set up or service is being done on an old account, Colin directly communicates with the client’s IT staff to address any client-side IT requirements.
“If we contracted out to an IT company that doesn’t understand our system as thoroughly as I do, that would cause huge delays for our clients,” he explains. “The client would have to file a service ticket and wait for the IT company to remotely connect to their site a few days later and then contact us to receive permission to make the necessary changes. I have the authority to make any changes myself and can directly communicate with clients’ IT departments which means systems get up and running faster.”
Colin’s chameleon powers don’t stop there; he can also act as secondary technical support to our field technicians. “If one of our field techs calls in from site with a network issue, I help them map out a topology of the system and troubleshoot quite quickly so that our technical support can move onto a different call,” he says.
A Worthwhile Trade-Off
Although glad he doesn’t have to wear rainbow-striped suspenders to be an IT Manager at CAMACC, Colin knows that IT is the right fit for him. “I love leaving work knowing that while I wasn’t front and center, I was part of the quiet, proactive team behind-the-scenes that made sure everyone was able to do their jobs, and that our customers had their problems solved quickly. It’s a very rewarding responsibility,” he says.
After eight years with CAMACC Systems, Colin can happily say that his biggest regret led him to making his best choice.