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April 14, 2016

Blinn student finds niche in Computer Information Technology Program

Program equips students for success in an array of IT careers


When Aaron Heald earned a seat as an electrical engineering major at Texas A&M University four years ago, he thought his career path was laid out before him.

But there was something about the major that didn't fit Heald's interests. He switched to engineering technology, but that wasn't quite what he was looking for either.

"I loved Texas A&M, but there was something about the material, about what I was learning, that I didn't enjoy," Heald said. "I knew I needed to keep looking until I found the area of study that was right for me."

While taking classes at Texas A&M, Heald landed a part-time job with the university's Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center within the Academy for Advanced Telecommunications and Learning Technologies, where he tests and validates public safety communication methods and technologies. His work there led him to Blinn College's Information Technology (IT) Program. He enrolled in Spring 2014.

"Ever since I switched to IT, I've loved every minute of it," Heald said.

Blinn's IT courses cover the fundamentals of personal computers, networking and security using CompTIA standards; the installation, configuration and administration of Linux and Windows servers, Cisco switches and routers; and Apache and PHP web, and MySQL database programming and servers. Those lessons are complemented with hands-on experience.

Maj. Bob Nelson, professor and IT program coordinator, said many students in the IT program, including Heald, are looking to change careers or gain technical knowledge for their current job.

Heald's job experience with Texas A&M makes him an asset in the classroom. He and a team of researchers have been developing strategies to make the switch from the current 911 system to Next Generation 911 (NG911), an Internet Protocol-based system that allows digital information such as voice, photos and text messages to flow seamlessly through the 911 network to emergency responders. With current 911 systems, emergency responders can pinpoint a caller's general location, while responders can identify exact location with NG911.

"Almost every day I walk in, my classmates say, 'Hey, Aaron is here - we've got questions,'" Heald said. "Honestly, I enjoy it. I'm able to carry the advanced skills I learn into my work, and the basic skills from work into the class, especially with Linux and Cisco networking."

Heald is on track to graduate in May with an associate degree. He plans to transfer to the University of Houston - Clear Lake to earn a bachelor's degree in the field and continue his work in public safety networking.

"Blinn's IT program has absolutely prepared me for my future," Heald said.

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