Bob Crowe likes to keep moving. Whether fighting wildfires, putting out metaphorical fires in his job as an information technology (IT) network specialist or engaging in his weekend hobby of overland hiking, “it all goes back to mobility,” he said.
In August 2013, CIRI began partnering with Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) and AVTEC—Alaska’s Institute of Technology to develop an internship program designed to open career pathways for CIRI shareholders and descendants interested in entering the IT field.
Through this partnership, Bob became the first CIRI shareholder to participate. Working with CIRI’s IT department prepared him for the 10-month IT program at AVTEC in Seward. After interning for one summer, he completed the AVTEC program with scholarship assistance from CITC and The CIRI Foundation.
“I was 43 at the time of the internship, and IT was my second career. I spent 25 years as a wildland firefighter, but in a way, it helped prepare me for a tech career.
“I was always interested in computers,” Bob explained. “I had a Commodore 128 as a kid, one of those 8-Bit computers that took a big floppy disk. I was on a fire, and there were some digital radios that needed patching (cross-connecting). The techs were trying to find out how to do it over the phone and I was looking over their shoulders. I stepped in and showed them how to use a crossover cable, and after that I was known as the expert. Whenever anyone had a tech question, they were told, ‘Just start using Bob for this stuff, he’s the expert!’”
According to Bob, the experience he received over the course of his CIRI internship proved invaluable. “CIRI has an excellent IT team, and they were really open with me. I got to do some of everything. It was instructional, but it was hands-on too. Especially at the help desk, I got to do a lot.”
This experience helped give him a leg up in the competitive IT job market, ultimately landing him a job with the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School District.
Bob’s rise within the Mat-Su school district could be described as meteoric. He began as a support technician in 2014, advanced to a supervisory position a year later and, in 2016, was promoted to a network specialist position where he manages a four-person team and oversees a large-scale network spanning 51 school sites.
“The Mat-Su School District is roughly the size of the state of Virginia, so I cover a lot of ground,” Bob said. “I travel to schools troubleshooting problems and helping ensure system performance and availability. I went into IT thinking it’s about computers and pulling out wires, but every time I work on a computer or connect to a network, there’s someone on the other end.
“It comes down to people,” he explained. “One thing I really try to flesh out in any position I have is, what’s the mission? With the school district, it’s clear – we’re helping the next generation. With CIRI, it’s about self-sufficiency among shareholders and their families. I internalize and embrace that – through education, becoming a contributing member of your community.”
To learn more about the CIRI/CITC/AVTEC internship program, contact Darla Graham at (907) 263-5562 or visit ciri.com/internship.