“Faces of the Journey” is a series that highlights individuals in the network engineering community. The journey is the path we take through our careers, and it can be very different for each of us. While the destination is important, it’s all about the journey!
David Alicea was born and raised in Chicago, home to the best pizza in the nation (his words, I’m not here to start fights!). He and his wife moved out to the suburbs a few years back and now have two kids who love to wake them up early. In his professional life, David is the lead network engineer on a team of three in the manufacturing industry. David’s team is responsible for route/switch, telephony, firewalls, and other security solutions for sites all over the world! Before his current role, David spent about a decade working in education for a nation-wide university. Enrolling in the Cisco Network Academy for two years in high school is when David got his first opportunity to configure switches and routers. Even though he got an early introduction into network infrastructure, he was not 100% sold on network engineering as a career path. After graduating high school, he decided to pursue database administration and programming in college. While there, David was able to obtain a student worker position at the helpdesk as a technician. This position built the foundation for his career. He is a firm believer that if you give 100% to everything you do, doors will open, and this is exactly what happened. First, David was offered a full-time desktop support position with the university. Then, he was eventually given a management position over the helpdesk and student workers! While in the management role, David branched out, assisting the network team with small projects at the campus. He continued to be noticed by administration and was offered a position as a network engineer. By that time, David had graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems. Networking continued to interest David and he began studying for certifications. David’s advice is that while sometimes we might feel like we are stuck or going nowhere, we have to be patient. Doors will open when you least expect it. The important part is to continue learning and being an asset.
Alright David, We’ve Got Some Questions
What advice do you have for aspiring IT professionals? If there is one thing you take away from my short bio is that you should always try to give that 100% effort in what you do. You might not like what you are doing right now and that is perfectly fine. However, working hard, showing up on time and just being humble does get noticed.
What is something you enjoy to do outside of work? I love gaming. I might not have as much time to do it now, but I still try to dedicate a couple of hours a week to it. I find it is a good way to relax and clear the mind. I play RPGs on the Nintendo Switch and sports games on the Xbox.
What is the next big thing that you are working toward? Automation. This seems to be the next big thing that everyone is going towards. I started travelling the Python path as well as digging into Ansible. There are use-cases at work I can try to weave automation into that will be beneficial. With a small team, it will be great to automate the little things where possible.
How do you manage your work/life balance? Forcefully. If you do not take steps to separate work and the rest of life, it is possible for work to take over completely. Some places do a great job in making sure you do have that work/life balance and some do not. For those in IT, we know that IT is not just 9am-5pm. There are projects that require overnight or weekend work. There are on call rotations. The important part is to always make time for the family. Go on trips when possible, even if it just a weekend getaway across town. I occasionally take random days off to do something with the family. Whenever we take a vacation we usually try to go on cruises or camping. Why? No cell signal 😊.
What is your favorite part about working in IT? I like making an impact. The things I do in IT make a global impact across the company. People rely on my skillset to design, implement and support solutions that benefit the company and allow growth. It is a lot of pressure. Sometimes I think, “Do I deserve to be here or do this?”, but I shake that away and continue marching on making an impact.
I really enjoyed writing this because I found that David and I are a lot alike both in how we got our start and our mindset towards our careers. We both got started in college as student workers in helpdesk/desktop support roles and we agree that it’s important to give 100% and find ways to provide value in everything you do. David has a really good head on his shoulders and has proven that he is a versatile asset. He has held both technical and leadership positions, which is incredibly valuable in my opinion. Not only can he provide technical value, but he can communicate effectively and articulate expectations to others. Having a technical resource on a team with strong leadership qualities is very beneficial and that is exactly what David is and has been in his roles. My prediction is that David will continue his upward trajectory throughout his career. I do have a craving for some good pizza now, too.