Volunteer Highlight: Don Thurlow

By January 21, 2015 IT-oLogy Columbia

IT-oLogy is lucky to work with passionate and talented volunteers who dedicate their time to growing and strengthening the their IT community. One of our most dedicated volunteers, Don Thurlow, is on the blog today to discuss his involvement in computer science and his take on the state of IT. Thanks, Don!

1.     How/when did you first get into IT and technology?

My Dad, who attended Worcester Polytechnic for his accounting studies, insisted that I should get a college degree, but with my mediocre grades in high school, that was going to be a challenge.

As we were deliberating on what subjects to take up as a major, all the traditional majors were highlighted in the application form, my Dad sitting across the dining room table from me, reading the yellow application form upside down, pointed to the box marked “Data Processing” and said “Why don’t you check the box next to Data Processing?” As a good son, I replied “I don’t know anything about Computers!!” He replied, “HOW DO YOU KNOW UNLESS YOU TRY!” The rest is history, I began as a computer programmer in 1964 and also as a teacher’s assistant in computer classes.

2.     What about IT appeals to you?

IT, or as I like to state “The Technology of Information,” presents an ever increasing velocity of opportunities for those that choose this career. I found that as the years went by, ever increasing dependence on technology continued to emerge. As an example, in 1983, I had a conversation with several of the folks that I led and due to our, then, observations, we predicted that by the year “2000”, everyone would be on a 4-day work week and computers would be doing so much more work that we could relax! The issue that we failed to recognize is that over time, the velocity of information being generated was at an exponential rate. Nowadays, everything that we do on an hourly basis is generating informational data. One of the most exciting aspects of careers in Information Technology is that once a student investigates and chooses an IT career, they can find a position with most any company on the planet. “What enterprise company in this age does NOT utilize Information Technology in some form?”

3.     What type of professional or personal background do you have in IT or technology?

I have invested 20 years with increasing leadership and experience as Programmer for Enterprise Business Applications, Manager of IBM Operating Systems Technical Support, and Leadership in Data Center Operations and Software Quality Assurance.

I also have 30 years of experience in developing hardware and software Enterprise Solutions for large-scale customers across the USA. I had increasing responsibilities as Senior Systems Engineer, Consulting Systems Engineer, Storage Product Manager and multi-million dollar technical solutions lead Project Manager.

4.     How did you find out about IT-oLogy?

In 2010, the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management (CESM); a partnership between University of South Carolina, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina and International Business Machines (IBM) was established. This became my account due to my employment with IBM. I coordinated the placement of an IBM Enterprise Server along with Enterprise Storage. I assisted others in installing and implementing the back- end storage for use on the 7th Floor of the IT-oLogy suite (as it ultimately became known). As IT-oLogy continued to grow and prosper, I found that I was drawn to the opportunity to speak to K-12, “Promote IT” students across the great state of South Carolina.

5.     In what capacity do you volunteer with IT-oLogy?

I have gone to career fairs at elementary, middle, and high schools. I have volunteered at Cyber Saturdays, have taught Mindstorms Robotics to middle school [students] at Cyber Saturday, and will soon be promoting the Coursepower minor degree at USC, Columbia College, Benedict, and Midlands Tech. I will be presenting at SC Midlands Summit on IT in a few weeks, representing IT-oLogy and will also be a volunteer at the Columbia Mini Maker Faire at EdVenture in mid-June.

6.  What other organizations do you volunteer with?

The only other organization that I am a committed volunteer is Knight of Columbus, a Catholic Fraternal Organization. I’m a 4th Degree Sir Knight and participate in many charitable causes. As example, we collect donations for Operation Hope (Helping Other People Everyday), our South Carolinian’s that are mentally and physically challenged. I also volunteer with church functions such as pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, etc.

7.  Who has been a big influence on you professionally and personally? How so? 

In 1982, I had a conversation with one of the most fascinating individuals I have ever met; Rear Admiral Grace M. Hopper, USN Ph.D. She is credited in inventing the COBOL programming language right after 1959 and the first to discover a “bug” in a software program; she examined an insect within the printed pages of a program that she was generating!

Ms. Hopper had coined an expression that has kept me on focus when I “led” people: “You manage things, you lead people.”

Since 1964 I’ve worked for 5 different organizations. During that time I’ve had a variety of bosses, managers, and leaders; take your pick of monikers. Also out of those individuals, I’ve had a total of 3 that I worked beside. The first individual Mr. Ed, was a consummate leader and knew how to lead people, not manage them. He subscribed to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper’s expression about leading people to achieve great results. The next leader that I had was Mr. Bob. He was/is always very opinionated about the lack of results and people that did not tell the truth or attempted to take advantage of other people’s achievements. I found that by including Mr. Bob in all summaries, he was one-of-kind and would work above himself to ensure that when I had a critical situation, I would obtain all the support that I needed to complete the task. He always had my back!

The last and most recent leader that had a big influence on me was Mr. John. He knew that for any business section to be successful, not only did you have to have competent people working in your group, but you had to trust their talents, stand back, and let them take ownership of the tasks that were assigned to them. I had several situations during the time that I was working with Mr. John whereas I felt that the situation warranted Executive Action to resolve and make the client satisfaction be made whole. Mr. John went to the Executives and successfully lobbied for the support that I was requesting. The client became one of our most dedicated customers with good reference capabilities.

Thanks to Don for answering our questions! If you’d like to learn more about Don’s experience in the IT world click here.

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