Sr. Systems Engineer, CCC Technologies Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Danny Poull attributes the launch of his IT career to the person who told him that the clocks on the company's phone and computer networks couldn't be synched. "After three hours, I was able to fix it," Poull recalls. "Then I was like, 'What else can I fix?' "
That happened in 2006, when Poull was an intern at CCC Technologies, working internal IT support, spending his day changing passwords on VoIP phone system terminals. By the end of that summer, his employer started giving Poull data-centric problems to solve. "I took it and ran," says Poull, now 26.
Poull began working on the CCC helpdesk, sorting out routing and talk path-related phone issues on data networks. "I found myself standing between the (client's) voice team and the data team," he says. Many times, those teams were in conflict — no one wanted to change their settings to enable the phone system to run on the network, for example. "I always believed that we had to work on this together," says Poull.
Ultimately, Poull's IT career developed with CCC Technologies' data-related business.
CCC Technologies, from its founding in 1984, had been focused on phone systems—first Nortel, then Avaya. In 2008, the company began laying the groundwork — using Poull as the technical lead, and a company salesperson to head up sales development — to offer data-centric services.
"It was something I could take control of, take ownership of and make it mine," Poull explains.
In 2009, Poull began installing Fortinet network security appliances. Fortinet led to managed backup services and eventually to complete managed IT services The next year, he began hiring and managing other IT workers to support service and maintenance contracts — slowly adding service support and installers each year, as needed, to build the business.
In early 2012, Poull handed off the data team's management to a new hire so he could focus his role on being the team's technical lead. "I had to tell someone how to manage me," he laughs. "It was a really weird predicament, but it worked out really well."
Education: Associate degree in business, Harper Community College, Palatine, Ill.
Certifications: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA CTP+; Fortinet Certified Network Security Administrator (FCNSA), Fortinet Certified Network Security Professional (FCNSP), Fortinet Certified Email Security Professional (FCESP). Preparing for Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification.
Awards: 2009 CCC Technologies Associate of the Year
Tell us about your current job.
Day to day, I'm mostly going from project to project, working on clients' sites. I do some internal work as well. I might be deploying 30 new computers or a new firewall, or cutting over to a new spam service, or setting up new back-ups.
I on-board customers to our maintenance and managed services, installing projects and providing any needed documentation and transition plans. We work in teams of two for bigger projects.
I really enjoy working with our customer contacts for these projects. Many of them are accountants, lawyers or office managers who have been thrown into technical roles.
I also work with our sales team. All of our companies' pre-sales documents and proposals have to go through me or two other installers. We do the QA make sure the proposals are scoped and specified correctly. Whenever I'm free, I'll also meet with potential customers and do network evaluations.
I'm a real road warrior. Four out of five days, I'm traveling, but most of our work is in the Chicago area.
What's the best part of your job?
It's something new every day. Every customer we work for has a different problem. Every user has a different thing they are trying to accomplish. I get so much more experience working for an IT services provider. I've probably seen 300 networks during the past couple years. If I were working internally for a single company, I'd only see one.
What's the worst part of your job?
I'd like to be able to have complete ownership of a customer's networks, so I can fix it up, make it run smooth and have it working the way I want it. But these networks will always be changing due to things I can't directly control.
In addition, there a stress level when you are providing managed IT services. There's always a potential for a customer's IT network to be down at any given time. So I have to make sure I'm on my toes, knowing what's going on with all my customers.
How do you stay up to date with what's happening in IT?
CCC is all about 'What's the latest stuff out there? What are the new IT services out there that we could provide?' So the company constantly pushes information about the latest technology changes, the latest trends, down to employees.
Also, I read the CompTIA newsletters and InformationWeek.
You learn stuff working with companies like CompTIA and going to conferences like CompTIA Breakaway and the McAfee (FOCUS Security) event in Las Vegas. Our company tries to send as many people out there as it can. We want to make sure that everyone is always living and breathing the next big thing.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in IT?
You've got to be a problem-solver, and you have to have technical skills, but the skills that you have outside of the technical realm will help you the most. Your ability with documentation, writing, good customer presence, and being able to translate from technical talk into normal human being talk — all these skills are necessary to be successful.
Finally, you always need to stay up on the latest things. You have to live and breathe technology every day.