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Networking pays off for talented technician

Networking pays off for talented technician

Written On: 31 May, 2017
Category: Academic Community Student Spotlight

On May 31 to June 3rd four Assiniboine Community College students will be part of the annual Skills Canada National Competition taking place in Winnipeg at the RBC Convention Centre. The event brings together more than 500 students and apprentices to take part in more than 40 hands-on skilled trade and technology competitions.

Jon Fingas always enjoys a challenge.

And when presented with one, he rises to the occasion.

Consequently, the 24-year-old won the gold medal in the Skills Manitoba IT Network Systems Administration challenge. Now he’ll represent Assiniboine Community College and the province at the Skills Canada competition.

Fingas spent his early years in Kenton, got most of his education in Winnipeg, then moved to Brandon and enrolled in Assiniboine’s two-year Network Administration Technology program, from which he’ll graduate this year.

He credits a youthful interest in gaming for sparking his desire to discover how such systems work.

“I broke our computer at home a couple of times – not on purpose – but then I had to figure out how to fix it,” Fingas said. “I always had a knack for fixing things. 

“Anything I can do on a computer, I like to do. I took a couple of high school programming courses and the teacher thought I should go to university, but I didn’t want to do that.” 

So Assiniboine was the answer. Fingas said the NAT program gave him a terrific base from which to grow.

“I came in maybe with more knowledge than 50 or 60 per cent of the people, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t challenged,” Fingas said. “For the first-semester courses, I maybe got by on prior knowledge, but as soon as I got into the next term, and especially in second year, there was no way I would have been able to work through that on my own. It really opened my whole field of view. I liked it.

“I just think the instruction and the program itself is great. There’s a lot of hardware to go around and the teachers are very supportive of arranging hardware or pretty much anything you need. So we don’t have to pretend a lot of things. We can actually sit down with our computers and do the work.”

Currently, Fingas is doing his required practicum at the Brandon School Division. And he loves not only his placement, but also the opportunity to put his skills to use in a real-life setting.

“I’m definitely liking it,” he said. “The guys are awesome to work with. The amount of knowledge you gain from working through the NAT program is great. I never knew what it truly entailed. We go pretty in-depth into some of the stuff. And the more I learned, the more it appealed to me.”  

Winning top honours in Skills Manitoba was certainly a feather in Fingas’s cap. But while he was a bit skittish about Skills Manitoba, he has a few extra butterflies approaching the national competition.

“I look calm and collected, but yeah, I worry,” Fingas said. “I don’t have the anxiety some people do, but I’m definitely nervous. There’s a lot more to it this time because it’s people from across Canada.” 

At Nationals, Fingas will compete in four two-hour exams over two days. But the tests will be practical. While one has to understand the theory in order to properly do the hands-on work, Fingas said it’s all about completing functional exercises. 

“They’ll give you a set-up and tell you to accomplish a list of tasks,” Fingas said. “The fourth one, it’s a trouble-shooting exam where they give you a broken network and tell you to fix it.” 

He’s hopeful a good showing at Skills Canada might translate into job opportunities in the future. 

“I’m looking to see if it opens doors,” Fingas said. “These competitions are brought in by companies that are looking for people in skills and trades. So they sponsor it and of course they have an eye on who’s competing.”

Although he hopes to eventually move up the ladder in his chosen profession, Fingas never wants to stop doing what he enjoys most – setting up and building networks. 

“Problem-solving, finding a solution, and implementing a way to fix it permanently,” he said, “is always a great thing to do.”