Alumnus Spotlight: Chris West

Chris West
Chris West

2011 grad serves as IT director at Genz-Ryan/Inspiration Design Center

During his academic career at Dakota County Technical College, Chris West, 33, earned two Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees, one in Networking Administration and Information Systems Management. Chris has been interested in information technology for as long as he can remember. He built his first website, a scrap-booking site for his mom, in 1995 back when the Internet was just getting underway—the World Wide Web was invented just five years earlier. He built his first customized personal computer when he was a teenager.

Chris West at DCTC

Chris West at DCTC

Today, Chris works as the director of information technology at Genz-Ryan/Inspiration Design Center. Genz-Ryan is an industry leader in plumbing, heating, cooling, remodeling and indoor air quality; Inspiration Design Center is a premier kitchen and bath destination in the Midwest.

Chris oversees all aspects of technology at the company, which has 150 techs in the field operating 275 mobile devices, including iPads, cellphones and laptops.

Chris is also founder and CEO of his own business, West Custom PC, which specializes in supporting the IT needs of small businesses.

“I enjoy the outside-the-box thinking that goes with running your own business,” he said. “You need to offer something better to your customers, something different. You need to provide a service or product your customers need.”

Journey to DCTC

A native of New Richmond, Wisconsin, Chris graduated in 2003 from New Richmond High School, where he lettered in football, wrestling and baseball. He joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 2002, serving as a communications specialist for four years.

“I wanted to see what military service was like,” Chris said. “I liked the physical part of the training—and I also got the chance to play with computers.”

He was working at Intek Plastics in Hastings, Minnesota, during the economic downturn in the late 2000s and lost his job due to layoffs.

“That was a blessing in disguise,” Chris said. “I was able to enroll at DCTC thanks to the Dislocated Worker Program. The IT programs at the college were perfect for where I wanted to go with my career.”

After graduating from DCTC in 2011, Chris worked as an information systems administrator at Kraus-Anderson Insurance for four years before taking on his current role at Genz-Ryan/Inspiration Design Center.

“First thing that comes to mind about Chris is his personality and ability to communicate with anyone. He is what I call the go-to guy because he will not let the problem drop—and if he can’t solve it, he will find someone who can.”
Judy Suddendorf
Information Systems Technology Faculty

More about Chris…

Chris is single and just bought a house in Burnsville, Minnesota, about a mile from the Genz-Ryan offices. He has one sister, Ellie, 22, who resides in Wisconsin. When he’s not working, Chris enjoys riding his motorcycle. He also drives his super stock race car competitively on dirt tracks at Cedar Lake Speedway near his hometown and Deer Creek Speedway in Mower County, Minnesota.

“I love dirt track racing,” Chris said. “I go as much as I possibly can.”

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Oversee information technology (IT) duties for an organization.

WAGE

Well above the statewide median of $20.07/hour

Minnesota

Median: $65.14/hour
High: $80.01/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $68.16/hour
High: $82.17/hour

OUTLOOK

This career is seeing high growth compared to other careers.

This career is currently in very high demand. Growth rate is 8.3 percent, or above the statewide average.There will be a need for about 8,651 new Computer and Information Systems Managers to meet market demand between 2016–2026. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

— Minnesota State CAREERwise Education

Chris West | Q & A

Chris West

Chris West

Why did you choose information technology as your career path?
I’ve always liked computers—and I knew they weren’t going anywhere. I’ve also always liked the idea of teaching other people how to use the technology.

How did your technical education at DCTC help you launch your career?
I learned a lot from the IT faculty, who not only advanced my understanding of the technology, but also taught me the soft skills I needed to develop as a professional.

What advice would you give students considering IT as a career path?
You need to have the patience to wait for the information you’re receiving to come full circle. It takes a while to absorb and apply what you’re learning.

Three words that describe you as an IT professional:
ACCOUNTABLE. HONEST. CONFIDENTIAL.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job at Genz-Ryan/Inspiration Design Center?
Putting out current fires while advancing the company’s technology systems.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job Genz-Ryan/Inspiration Design Center?
The biggest thing for me is helping people and making their lives easier.

Why should DCTC alumni stay engaged with the college?
Staying involved with the college is one way to show students what life is like working in your field. You can also give back by providing students with internship opportunities, something we’ve done for DCTC IT students at Genz-Ryan/Inspiration Design Center.

What person has influenced you the most in life?
That would people I directly reported to over the course of my career. My bosses have made a huge impact on my life. They’ve been my mentors going back to when I was 16 working at Pizza Man.

“​As a graduate, I appreciate Chris’s willingness to take on students as interns to give them valuable experience in the field. His ‘give-back’ attitude and actions are much appreciated.”
Betty Krueger
Information Systems Technology Faculty

More about the DCTC Alumni Association

Top four ways to be an engaged DCTC alumna or alumnus:

Get involved

Give students in your former program an insider’s view of their future career:

  • Serve as a mentor
  • Volunteer at a variety of campus events
  • Take part on an advisory board
  • Spread the message about opportunities at DCTC
Keep informed

Keep in touch with former classmates and instructors, and learn about exciting happenings around campus. Continue to build your professional network with job leads, advice and professional development opportunities. Learn about new programming and recent initiatives at DCTC.

Stay connected

Continue participating in a variety of campus events and functions. Cheer on the Blue Knights at an upcoming game or attend the annual True Blue Gala in April.

Invest in DCTC

DCTC students depend on your investment in their college education. Help current and future students achieve their goals with a scholarship donation, or support a department with an equipment donation or an in-kind gift. Donations can be made quickly and easily online.

MAKE A GIFT

To learn more about the DCTC Alumni Association, contact:

Amy Eppen
Foundation Assistant Director
651-423-8265

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Install and maintain computer network systems for businesses.

WAGE

Well above the statewide median of $20.07/hour

Minnesota

Median: $40.43/hour
High: $48.54/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $42.11/hour
High: $49.58/hour

OUTLOOK

This career is currently in very high demand. There will be a need for about 6,200 new Network and Computer Systems Administrators to meet market demand between 2016–2026. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

— Minnesota State CAREERwise Education

Chris West | 21 Answers

  1. Favorite season: Spring
  2. Favorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Rocky Mountains
  3. Most exciting thing you have ever done: Driving my super stock race car
  4. Your national bird if you could have one: Parrot, a colorful, speaking one
  5. Place you would most like to visit: Costa Rica
  6. Favorite holiday: New Year’s Eve
  7. Your national mammal if you could have one: White-tailed deer
  8. Favorite actor or actress: Bruce Willis
  9. Favorite band or performing artist: Godsmack
  10. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Get stuff done so you can have some fun.”
  11. Coolest thing in the world: My computers
  12. Scariest thing in the world: Driving my super stock race car
  13. Favorite all-time TV show: Breaking Bad
  14. Favorite all-time movie: Saw franchise (eight films starting with Saw in 2004 and leading to Jigsaw in 2017)
  15. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Help as many people as possible
  16. Most valuable material possession: My super stock race car
  17. First thing you would buy if you won the $1.5 billion Powerball: Buy a Tesla Model X SUV and then an island in the Caribbean
  18. Dream occupation: Professional race car driver
  19. Person you would most like to meet: Albert Einstein
  20. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Airplane pilot
  21. Humankind’s greatest challenge: Figuring out an automated transportation system that’s safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly
Learn more about Networking Administration and Information Systems Management at DCTC by contacting:

Betty Krueger
Information Systems Technology Faculty
651-423-8560

Judy Suddendorf
Information Systems Technology Faculty
651-423-8385

Darryl Erickson
Information Systems Technology Faculty
651-423-8338

Nathan Blommel
Information Systems Technology Faculty
651-423-8616

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