I am an alum from the class of 1980. I think the class of ’80 was the second class to produce graduating Computer Science majors—all 5 of us—so I am ancient! There were really only two professors who led us through the dungeon in those days: Wally Roth and Dr. Leon Adkinson.
In case you are wondering how this graduate has fared in the dog-eat-dog world since graduation, I am happy to say that I have stayed gainfully employed in the field for the past 22 years (Holy smokes! I really am ancient. It seems like only yesterday I was riding my bike from the dungeon over to Ivanhoes for a milkshake.)
My career has taken me all over and through a variety of business industries. I started out at a management consulting firm that used to be known as Arthur Andersen & Co. I stayed with that company for about eight years. They sent me all over the world. I somehow became a specialist in large international networks. I got to build some pretty interesting and hard to manage beasts called “corporate networks” for folks like the U.S. Marine Corps, VisaCard International, and Solomon Smith Barney.
I finally decided I needed some roots because I was traveling way too much. So I took a network management position with a little company called Burger King and ran their global network. There’s nothing like having responsibility to collect data every day from 6,000 restaurants, and make sure orders from 22 global distribution centers got across the network so that the pickles and buns arrived at the restaurants before they ran out.
After I worked there for a few years, the unthinkable happened. A large British conglomerate bought Burger King. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had responsibility for running all the networks in the Americas for this global company. I had responsibility for all voice and data networks for Pillsbury Corporation, Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream, Pearle Vision, Alpo Pet Foods, Heublien Distillers, as well as, Burger King. After awhile, I found myself traveling way too much again and changed jobs to try to find some roots.
I wound up in a private bio-med-tech company in Florida that manufactures blood diagnostic machines. If you ever had a blood test, it is one of those machines that counted your red blood cells as well as that nasty stuff called cholesterol. I had expanded responsibilities there. Not only did I oversee their complex lab and corporate networks, I also ran their data centers. They had every flavor of machine under the sun (Apple, IBM, DEC, Sun, HP . . . you name it). You could probably guess that integration of systems was a nightmare.
The lack of standardization finally drove me nuts, and I moved on to another little company that is probably a household name. For a couple of years I ran the global networks for Blockbuster Video Group. It was a fun place because I got free movies and actually got to meet movie stars who stopped in our headquarters while they were on promotional tours. Blockbuster is a subsidiary of Viacom. The next thing I know, I was being loaned out to Viacom and found myself managing quite complex network projects for Showtime, VH1, MTV, and Paramount Studios. I think I can actually claim fame for putting in the first ATM backbone in the United States. It was a nifty project at Paramount where they wanted to be able to do “real time editing” so they would know if they could tear movie scenes down or film again the next day doing re-takes with the same scenes. A high-speed backbone between the filming location and the editing booth was in order. Blockbuster decided to relocate their headquarters, and I really didn’t want to move out of Florida. So I bid them goodbye and wound up at my current place of employment.
I am currently vice president of Technology Planning and Architecture for an $8 billion private company. I have been here almost six years and, of course, started my tenure here as the “network executive.”
It has been a fun but wild ride in my professional career. I never really did settle down. I am still single. Between all of the hard work, I have managed to acquire some fun hobbies. My out-of-work passion is sailing. I have sailed all over the world. I somehow managed to acquire my captain’s license. I also managed to obtain a private pilot’s license but don’t have time to fly anymore. I still ride a motorcycle. (I had a motorcycle while at Taylor!) Last year I rode across the country from California to North Carolina with a bunch of NASCAR drivers for a worthy charity event. I bet you can guess that they ride their bikes almost as fast as they drive their cars! The countryside was a blur most of the time, but at least I did it.
I guess my 22-year history since graduation would not be complete without saying that I am still walking with the Lord and expect His return is soon—at least I hope He comes soon. Those of us who are believers surely see the signs of the times.
Postscript: Kathy Donica died from cancer in November of 2002, just four months after sending us her story. We can think of no greater memorial than to post her story. It is a fitting tribute to an incredible person.
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