“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!
Chris Denney (AKA Smilin_Chris) was born and raised in a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi and currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina. Chris has done it all since he started working, as a teenager. At the age of fifteen, he had a summer job working for the city doing everything from laying asphalt, to maintaining ballfields and cemeteries. That job taught Chris the lesson that he did not want to do that kind of work long term. During college, Chris managed a clothing store in between soccer seasons. Like many others we have talked to, Chris gained an interest for technology from video games. A good friend from high school helped him build a computer from spare parts so they could play Counterstrike together. A few years later, the company that his friend was working for was looking for an IT tech and Chris was recommended for the position. Other than building a couple of computers, he had not had professional experience in IT so he was starting off in the deep end of the pool. Chris was immediately supporting lawyers, doctors, dentists, and a small processing plant. It was wild, scary, and awesome all at the same time. He learned a lot and is very grateful that this company took a chance on him. While Chris kind of fell into IT, he chose to pursue networking as a discipline. Most everything else he had encountered in IT just made sense, while networking took some more work. That drove him to want to dig deeper, so when a work opportunity presented itself that was geared toward networking, Chris jumped on it. When it comes to the future, the only given direction for Chris is growth; stagnation is terrifying and he wants to keep moving forward!
Alright Chris, We’ve Got Some Questions
What advice do you have for aspiring IT professionals? If you’re looking for a job, be patient. This is an ever-expanding field and opportunities will continue to make themselves available. Keep studying. Keep applying. Also, don’t be afraid to take a job that isn’t a perfect fit for you. Get in, get some experience, and move on.
If you’re just starting out at a company and trying to make a name for yourself, find a hole in your team’s armor and fill it. Then, be the go-to person for it. Prove your value.
What is something you enjoy doing outside of work? I’ve played soccer for over 30 years. I hope I’ve got another 30+ years in me. A few other things I truly enjoy are chasing waterfalls and overlooks with my wife, hanging out with friends, watching concerts/music live, and traveling to any place that is wholly unlike anything I grew up around.
How do you manage your work/life balance? Poorly, lol. I’ve allowed myself to become the “go to” guy for too many things and I’m always the first call on them all. That includes after hours, unfortunately. I’ve been working to make sure that everyone on my team knows where to find my documentation for troubleshooting/creating tickets.
What is your strongest “on the job” skill? That’s a good question. I’d love to tell you that I’m the “knower of all things technical.” Since I’ll probably never be the smartest person in the room when it comes to tech…I’d have to say it’s either my dependability or my soft skills. I take great pride in my ability to see things through to completion. Also, having a very diverse work history helps me communicate with pretty much anyone in my corporate environment.
What motivates you on a daily basis? My family and my team. I never want to let either of them down. They both deserve the best version of myself I can offer, and I continue to work to ensure that they get that.
I’m not just saying this because he plays soccer, but Chris is a team player, for sure. What I really enjoy about Chris is that he is incredibly personable. He will always ask you how you are doing and what you are up to before ever bringing anything up about himself. Chris brings a strong balance of technical and soft skills to the table and has to be a bright spot on any team. It’s always great to have Chris on the IAATJ Happy Hours, where I believe he is definitely a fan favorite.