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Network services manager: 'I fix it'

Stephen Dunne  


Stephen Dunne


Manager of network services with Preferred Voice Inc. in Dallas, Texas. The main focus of my job is to make sure that everything related to the day-to-day computer use in the company works perfectly. This includes every computer, all the printers, copiers, Internet connectivity, phone lines and so on.

Basically, if it beeps, blinks or is plugged in to something, I fix it. I'm also involved with a lot design work for improving and expanding the capability and reliability of our product.

Years in position

Eight months with this company, three years in the business.

"I ended up going to a job fair on impulse, and after talking with one of the project managers, I decided that this sounded like a great company with a great product and went after the position."


I'm 29.


I was a fine arts major in college, until I dropped out and joined the United States Army. After I was discharged, I started working part-time in computer stores, learning how to work with hardware. Pretty much all my computer knowledge comes from on-the-job experience and reading a lot of technical manuals.

How did you get your current job?

I'd been working in the IT (information technology) field for several years, and made sure to continuously improve my technical skill sets, which allowed me to grow very quickly professionally. I ended up going to a job fair on impulse, and after talking with one of the project managers, I decided that this sounded like a great company with a great product and went after the position.

How many hours do you work per week?

Forty hours is normal, but this position can be far from normal sometimes. If there are any major changes that need to be made to the network, I have to wait until everyone else leaves for the day to start working, so putting in several late nights per week is not unheard of.

graphic Stephen Dunne talks about how he learned his skills on-the-job rather than in formal training. We hear this a lot in the IT world. How about you?

Me, too. Most of what I'm doing in my career I got from hands-on experience.
About 50-50. My background is about half training and half work experience.
I'm on the other side of the fence: Virtually all my preparation for my career came from formal training.
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What's the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

Check my voice mail to see if there are any problems I have to deal with immediately, then check my e-mail. After that, I just have to be ready to catch the first issue that comes my way.

What time do you have lunch? What do you usually eat?

Lunch is whenever I can take it. If everything is going well, 12 noon. If things have gone crazy, it might not be until 2:30 or 3 p.m.

What time do things get tense around the office? What makes it that way?

Crunch time is when we are deploying a client system. Installs are an "all hands" drill, so to speak, so everybody is really jumping, trying to make sure things go perfectly. I have to try to be as proactive as possible, to ensure there are no major lapses in network services while this is going on.

But anytime anything isn't working the way it should, things get tense. A lot of what I do is customer service; it just happens that my customers are internal to the company rather than external. It doesn't help that I never know what I'm going to have to deal with from one call to the next. And that the majority of our office space is on the fifth floor, and my office is on the first, which results in a lot of elevator time for me.

Sometimes the problem is limited to one user with a single issue, which results in one call and that's that. But then there are the problems that have an impact on everyone, so it's one problem with 20 calls, all while you're trying to fix the problem. This is when your people skills get pushed to the limit.

If you're having a good day at work, what is it that makes it good?

What makes the day good is often how I deal with what makes it tense to begin with. Being able to overcome a problem quickly and have a sense of satisfaction that the end users are happy and able to work is what makes for a good day. Of course, coming in and not having any support calls all day makes for a good day -- it hasn't really happened yet, but everyone needs a dream.

"Since part of our product is voice-dialing systems, it makes cell phones easier and safer to use, since you don't have to try and dial and drive at the same time. And that may just save a life somewhere."

How much work, if any, do you take home?

Really I don't take any work home. The great thing about problem-solving is that once it's solved, you can go home. Of course, it can take a long time to solve that problem.

What does your work contribute to society?

I think my work helps my company get its product into the marketplace. And since part of our product is voice-dialing systems, it makes cell phones easier and safer to use, since you don't have to try and dial and drive at the same time. And that may just save a life somewhere.

Do you expect to finish your working life in this career?

I really don't know yet. I love working with computers, and it has been very rewarding both professionally and financially. But I'm still searching for a job that will give me creative satisfaction, as well.

If you could have two more careers, what would they be?

I'd have to say one would be as a blacksmith. I'm an apprentice blacksmith -- and even though it's a lot of hard work, it's also a very artistic and creative outlet. The other would be as a brewer. I spend plenty of time on weekends making beer in my garage, and I think it would be great to turn that into a full-time occupation

What's an unforgivable trait in a colleague?

Dishonesty is the worst possible trait for someone to have. In an environment in which you rely on others, if you can't trust your co-worker to come through for you, it'll result in work not getting done right, which only makes for more work later.

Stephen Dunne tell us that Preferred Voice Inc. (PVI) designs voice-activated dialing directories and information portals for use with phone systems. The company was incorporated in 1992, started operations in 1994 and finished developing its VIP System in 1998. And like Stephen Dunne working with one of the company's voice-recognition systems, if you'd like your day profiled here at ... speak up. Click here for our handy submission form and let us hear from you..

What do you do to relieve stress?

Full-contact martial arts. If I've had a rough day at work, I can get rid of every last bit of tension within 20 minutes. After the stress is gone, I get a great workout.

What have you been reading lately?

"Gates of Fire" by Steven Pressfield (Bantam Books, 1999), a piece of historical fiction about the Spartans and the battle of Thermopylae; and "A Book of Five Rings" by Miyamoto Musashi (Outlet Books, 1992), a book by one of Japan's greatest sword masters. I first began reading it because of my martial-arts training, but found that it lends itself to everyday life and business, as well.

When you have one of those days on which you don't think you can face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door in the morning and off to work?

Pride in my work. I've spent a great deal of time and effort designing and putting the network together, and no matter how bad the day before was, I just couldn't walk away from it.


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Preferred Voice Inc.

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