netDirective Technologies Senior Engineer
In an issue focused on YP’s, we thought of doing the whole interview on Twitter or as a series of text messages. Instead, we sat down with Anthony Parsells of netDirective Technologies, since the multifaceted umbrella of “information technology” is so synonymous with the next generation of business leaders. Parsells, who majored in molecular and micro biology, found that the approach and procedures he learned in the laboratory were directly applicable to his role as Senior Engineer for netDirective, which provides a host of IT services. Equally surprising, he sees people skills, a broad array of interests and a balanced approach to life are the keys to success in the IT business, as opposed to being a “computer nerd.”
SCB: Tell me about your background and how you got to netDirective.
AP: I grew up mostly in Florida; my father was an executive with GE, so we moved several times due to his career track. When I graduated high school, I wasn’t ready for college, so I joined the Air Force, where I served for ten years. My final duty station was Patrick AFB, where I also met my wife and began attending classes at BCC. I thought about going into medicine and even considered physical therapy as a possible field, but working in that arena, to test the waters, quickly showed that it wasn’t for me. So I gravitated toward micro and molecular biology, which I seemed to have both an aptitude and a strong interest in. However, it was rather restrictive; doing research under a Ph.D. at a university lab like UCF and the job offerings for that major weren’t plentiful at the time. netDirective was a relatively new company and I had a pretty strong background in computer and information management, so when Dave (Soper) and Frank (Huston) offered me a job, I took it.
SCB: Jumping from micro biology to IT seems like a quantum leap.
AP: In some ways yes, but I found that science is all about critical thinking, logic and essentially trouble shooting – the same skills that you utilize in IT work. The biggest difference is that bio-research takes months, if not years to get results, whereas in IT work, you are talking hours or minutes.
SCB: Beyond that link, what were the things that attracted you to the field?
AP: You are in an industry, working with technology that is constantly evolving and the colleagues you work with are pretty bright. Also, people go into IT consulting because they want to help their clients get back to work. When systems are down, work halts and for every minute networks falter, productivity and therefore dollars are lost. Personally I enjoy the challenge of finding and solving their problems, whether that is immediate or long-term. And frankly, when you fix the issue, for that moment you are the hero, there is a huge payoff, in terms of the human need to be helpful and needed.
SCB: What are the key elements you look for or what is the process you go through in hiring staff?
AP: We use a consulting company, a sort of headhunter outfit, which we contact when we need someone with a certain skill set. Then, they refer people to us for consideration. First, we look at their qualifications and background: do they have the knowledge and experience base we are looking for? Then we do a peer review, with current employees who know the job better than anyone else. If they pass that muster, then members of our upper management interview with them. Basically I want to see if they can sell themselves to me; if they can do that then they can probably sell themselves to our clients, and that is one of the most important elements.
SCB: The soft skills of people management?
AP: Exactly, if someone is a computer wiz, but can’t interface with the client, help them understand what we are doing and why, put them at ease that we will solve their problem and get them back to work, they aren’t in the right position. We don’t just want a computer nerd.
AP: Someone who doesn’t have a life outside of cyberspace, who can’t relate to clients who may be older or unfamiliar with computer technology, whether they’re a lawyer, a doctor or a municipality. We want people who can relate to people, that are broad-based and have multiple interests, who have a sense of balance in their life…not who simply live to play Halo.
SCB: You mentioned relating to older people, please explain.
AP: The younger generation has grown up immersed in technology; it is a part of their life and frankly they can’t imagine, or many times understand, life without it. Because of that, some YP’s oftentimes have a lack of sensitivity or lack of empathy for people who are a little more awkward or even intimidated by technology. However, I am old enough to remember when every job didn’t have a computer connected with it and everyone wasn’t wired to the Internet 24/7. I also remember having to learn to use computers therefore I like to talk to clients about their life and interests, which seems to have a calming effect, as I work on their technical issue.
SCB: Is traditional education – i.e. finish high school, go to college, then find a job – a primary factor or do you look for other things?
AP: IT work is more certification-based; college degrees, even in subjects like computer programming, don’t necessarily prepare you for the kind of troubleshooting and analytical thinking you have to do every day in this type of work. Quite honestly it takes a ‘baptism by fire;’ you have to learn to quickly solve problems or explain to clients what will be required to solve their problem and all the time the clock is ticking.
SCB: You mentioned earlier that you met your wife in this area. Do you find the community attractive to people your age?
AP: I suppose it depends a lot on your interests. Both my wife and I are in technical fields, she is a software engineer with Harris and teaches classes at BCC part-time. We sort of de-tech when we are recreating. We both love the outdoors; I particularly love cycling. For us this is a wonderful place to live, because we like outside activities. If we were to look to relocate, the only area that would attract me is the mountains.
SCB: If you could go back in time and meet with yourself when you were 13, what would you tell or advise yourself?
AP: You mean besides what stocks to invest in or games to bet on? I don’t know that I would tell myself anything. I don’t have any regrets; even the mistakes I have made have proved to be great learning opportunities. To do that would remove the mystery and adventure that life should be.