July 17, 2012

Head in the Cloud

Christopher Willis, Computer Networking ‘13

Christopher Willis, Computer Networking '13

Co-Op Employer: MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Co-Op Position: Systems Administrator

Hometown: Nashua, NH

On His Own
After his freshman year, Willis needed to find a way to pay for next year’s tuition. He could have gone home over the summer and flipped burgers with pals, but he didn't. “I need to do something different and I need to progress my knowledge and my career," Willis said. So he applied at computer networking giant Cisco for a position normally filled by a co-op—Willis shined during a networking event with Cisco managers on campus— and spent the summer in Richardson, Texas, as a network engineer.  “From that experience, I figured out … what I wanted to do,” Willis said. Now he looks for job opportunities where he can flex his skillset in virtualization, storage area networks, and general networking—the three key skills to buffering future computer networks against failure. “All of them work hand-in-hand and will be the future of computing, especially as the cloud comes out.”

Let’s Get Virtual
The following summer, Willis worked as a systems administrator at local big-data pioneer EMC. Then, in May, he completed a co-op as a systems administrator at MIT Lincoln Laboratory—a research lab affiliated with the Department of Defense. One of his major projects included upgrading a department’s system so that each engineer had access to a virtual environment powered by groups of high-performance computers. Freed from the old client-server model where each individual uploads work to a shared server via a desktop computer, the engineers now had access to a more secure and powerful machine that pooled computing resources. “It’s just like having a physical machine except it’s far more powerful, far more scalable, and saves tons of money,” Willis said.

The Fast-Growing Computer
Willis says the computer field is perhaps the fastest-growing industry today with endless career opportunities. “I tell people this is the field to be in,” Willis said. “You’re working with a manmade thing that is growing exponentially in what it can do.” While the job market may be booming, Willis says, don’t expect the same job titles around today to be here tomorrow. “[Titles] lost their meaning at computers,” Willis said. “At the end of the day, you have to sit down in an interview and say this is what I’m good at, give me whatever title you want.” And that’s just what he did during an interview for a co-op position as an Information Systems Cloud Architect with AIR Worldwide, where he will begin working in August on the next virtual product. 

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