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  West Windsor - Plainsboro Regional School District  
  I owe a lot of what I know in the computer field to the West Windsor - Plainsboro Regional School District. As I have said before, I gained most of my computer knowledge through experience, and WWPRSD served as the perfect training ground.

I started working for WWPRSD as a freshman in High School. The high school usually hires two students every summer to work as assistants to the computer support director. Looking for an interesting and challenging summer job, I applied and was accepted.

Initially my tasks were simple. My first project was to install Windows '95 and Microsoft Office on to 40 donated 486 computers. But before that could be done, the machines needed to be completed rebuilt. Next, we had to move computers around the building and manually change the network settings on each machine. Although tedious, the repetition of working on 40 machines at a time really helped me learn ALL the nuances of the Windows operating systems.

What started as an unpaid volunteer position for the summer flourished over the next three years. The work I did over the summer was appreciated so much that I was compensated for the summer and asked to continue my work during the school year. So instead of 40 hours a week, like in the summer, I started working a few hours a week after school. I also worked during my study hall and given credits to compensate the added load over my sophomore, junior, and senior years.

As I learned more from Dave Milnes, Fran Fountain, Rick Cave, Sean Devine, and Matt Zito, the computer support personnel, I was able to move on to more advanced tasks. I went from moving and setting up classroom computers to working with the administration and teachers in the school. Taking advantage of my facilitation and technical abilities, I worked a great deal on converting all the faculty and staff systems from Macintosh to a "Wintel" platform. More important that just transferring documents, I spent a lot of time training the staff on the new equipment. Service calls were also required. I was always on duty, and often pulled out of class to solve a problem that a secretary or principal was having using their system.

In addition to the training front, I also worked in the "back room" a lot. Again learning from best computer support technicians, I was trained on how to administer Sun Solaris, Slackware Linux, Windows NT, and Macintosh servers. I gained experience adding users, deleting users, creating virtual home directories, JetDirect printer solutions, and maintaining web, ftp, and mail servers.

I also worked on designing the school's initial computer network. For the first two years, all the network design was done by the six people involved with computer support, myself included. We wired the entire building ourselves with CAT-5 wiring and hubs that we purchased based on our own design. I learned a lot about networking at WWPRSD, including how to put RJ 45 connectors on CAT-5 wiring using the AT&T standard, how to punch down cabling, patch panels, hubs, packet routing, and much more. A state of the art network was added to the high school as part of a district wide technology upgrade. Around 50 brand new 3Com switched hubs were installed and brand new CAT 5 cabling ran. The new system took a large load off of the original network we designed by just stringing some wired around. Although we did not design the network internally, the computer support personnel did all of the maintenance.

All in all, when I left WWPRSD, I had the job of helping to maintain about 350 student PC's, about 50 staff and faculty PC's, 50 Macintosh computers, 6 Windows NT servers, 1 Sun UltraSparc Solaris server, and a Slackware Linux server, not too mention a network of about 50 switched 3Com hubs and a Cisco router. In addition to my duties at the high school, I also worked as needed in other buildings in the district. At times I provided support to the district office, specifically in web presence maintenance.

What made this job so special was the influence I had at the school. Although still a student, I was able to serve as a co-worker to all the staff in the school that should have been sitting across the table from me. I am proud to say that I had an impact at the school. The staff, faculty, and students all relied on me. I was given special privileges, such as the ability to cut classes (on official business only, of course) and a set of master keys to the building. I was trusted and respected. And the light atmosphere at the school served as the perfect training ground to hone my skills in the computer arena. Working on as many different computers and different platforms of computers as I did allowed me to observe and learn a lot. It also gave me the ability to dabble, experiment, and learn from first hand experience. I appreciate the commitment that the staff at West Windsor - Plainsboro High School and Regional School District had with me - not just in the class room, but in my professional career development, as well. Sure, I provided the school with a valuable service, but the service WWPRSD gave me I consider to be invaluable.

 

 

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