A very special Braindump happened last week as a number of first generation CATs from 1992 (and some pre-CATs from before that) returned to PSU for a panel discussion.

Three pre-CAT participants–Wendy Wilhelm (Intel), Ross Hagglund (IBM), and Glenn Case (IBM) had been part of the early student system admin’s we had trained in the PCAT building. (The PCAT building is no longer standing – the new Rec Center takes up that block.) When we needed to build a more consistent and self-sustaining learning program to grow sysadmins, Wendy had become the co-designer of the curriculum that would eventually become the CAT Braindump.

Also present were a number of first generation CATs – Mike Butry (CDK Global), Patrick Humphreys (Project Management Consultant), Amiko Yamazaki (Providence), and Mike Gray (IT Consultant). They were part of the first team of student volunteers that banded together under the banner of the Computer Action Team.

Although there was a little reminiscing about the old days as each of these former system admins delved into their history in getting into systems administration at PSU, the main focus of the session turned into an analysis of the ways in which this diverse group of people were able to turn their experiences as student system admins into enduring careers.

The content of the brain dump was driven by the questions being asked by the attendees – the current batch of students going through the Braindump. The panelists embodied various different personalities and it was interesting to see how they had each been able to mold their skills into long term (20-25 year) careers in the tech business.

As our current CATs face a superheated job market that tries to tug them all sorts of directions based on the technical demands du jour, it was enlightening to see what a long time career path could represent for them.

While we often have former CATs showing up to talk about technical topics, this was the first time we had held a coordinated session to talk about career paths and the state of the industry. It was very well received and we hope to make it a regular event in future years.