Smart City Spotlight: Kenneth Nguyen – Technician

At Smart City Networks, one of our core business principles has always been “It’s the People,” and we strive to highlight our wonderful team whenever possible. The Smart City Spotlight is dedicated to boosting our team members for their extraordinary work and dedication to serving our customers. Kenneth Nguyen is a Technician who started with Smart City in 2022 at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas, and he truly went above and beyond with his answers to our questions. We HIGHLY encourage everyone to check out his full interview below to learn more about his insightful journey that led to Smart City. Kenneth, this is your spotlight!

Hi Kenneth! To begin can you tell us about your background and how you ended up at Smart City Networks?

K: Background… My first job was going around and mowing lawns or cleaning bathrooms in my neighborhood when I was young. Thinking back, I am surprised how everyone in the neighborhood was okay with some random kid coming in and cleaning their restrooms. After that, my aunt asked me to follow my uncle around repairing/installing HVAC units.

Besides the early/younger years. I dipped my toes in many positions in different fields trying to figure out what I wanted to do. The list of jobs or positions in no order includes:

  • Barista
  • UPS Warehouse Worker
  • Sales Representative
  • Line Cook
  • Waiter/Server
  • Financial Consultant
  • Bartender
  • Tutor
  • Animator/Video Editor

Nothing stuck and I was told it was because I was afraid of challenges. But here’s the thing, I never found anything challenging. Everything felt natural. I am the type of person who hates being bad at something. Give me a task and I’ll try my best to do it well. But because nothing interested me by the time I was 21, the advice of my friends was “If you LOVE following orders. Why not join the Military?”

I had friends in every branch of the service, and they said it was a joke. They told me the military would drain your happiness and make you question life. Being told I would be bad at something and would end up hating it made me want to join even more. Out of spite almost. I decided to join the Air Force. But not out of spite, but rather I had no direction even though I had a natural knack for customer service and business. Nothing looked attractive to me or made sense in terms of career.

I originally was enlisted for the job of Geospatial Intelligence/Targeteer. “We put warheads on foreheads.” Very proud to have been selected to be a part of the experience. Not a very large career field. Only a selected few are allowed to go through the immense and intensive training that comes along with that shred. But that is a long story and something I rather not talk about. But I did gain a lot of knowledge and experience in terms of OSINT, public speaking, planning, leading, instructing, and intel analysis.

My second military job was that of Aerial Transporter/Parachute Rigger – Aerial Transporter is another way of saying a glorified Airport worker. Logistics for people and cargo. Anything and everything that needed to be placed into an Aircraft and sent. That was our job. There is a shred for rigging parachutes attached to Air Drops and that is what I did. Rigged, repaired, and built platforms for cargo. A very lackluster career and hardly ever thought-provoking. Though I was very proud to be part of the rigging team, history, and culture.

Parachute Rigging

The only time I felt intellectually challenged was during the time I served as an instructor and planned lessons for incoming Airmen fresh out of training school. It was different. I taught them about finances, retirement funds, how to cross-train into other career fields, etc. Teaching and passing on knowledge and helping them become better versions of themselves is where I thrived. It’s sometimes mind-boggling that I would even be an advisor to those who outrank me and would walk them through steps on career planning, college, finances, the correct way to buy a car, how credit scores work, and even what a resume/CV should look like. But I don’t blame them. You don’t know what you don’t know. The military sometimes takes hold of your morale and well-being and forces you into a state of constant autopilot. It’s almost daunting.

I was looking around at colleges while I was in the military and was wondering what to do with my life. My current career did not translate to the outside world in the way I wanted it to. I originally wanted to be a Chiropractor because there was a school near my hometown, and everything made sense. It is customer orientated and I would be able to open my very own practice. Customer Service, owning a business, and a little bit of marketing? It all sounded promising and exciting. However, because of injuries I accumulated while in the Air Force, I had to completely change career fields. I could not adjust clients all day, stand for too long, or even sit for too long. My ankles, knees, lower back, shoulders, and mental all took a toll on me.

A buddy of mine suggested something in IT. I looked around for colleges, found a General IT Associates program, and dove into many different fields of IT. Web Development, Cybersecurity, Network, Management, and many more. I was exposed to every aspect of IT. I can never thank Purdue University enough for having such a wonderful degree program for someone like me who cannot make up their mind easily. The introduction to many different fields and the implied push to do well in every course helped me finalize my top two choices. Cybersecurity or Networking. Though I naturally excel in Customer Service, solving puzzles, constant questions and never being complacent attracted me. You’re telling me there is a career that is thought-provoking, challenges me, endless opportunities, lateral movement in terms of learning and experience, AND I get to sit down? Perfect! Now…After the degree… Where do I even begin?

Wow! What an extensive background. So I have to ask, what first drew you to Smart City?

K: So after the military, I called up a friend who was my previous manager at an Authorized Retailer for a certain phone company and internet provider and asked for my old job back. I made sure he knew that I would not be sticking around for long and would be actively looking for a new job. He understood and I could not ask for a better manager and friend. He never wanted a sales rep position to be someone’s final career plan and always wanted us to challenge ourselves and move forward.

While working at their store, months went by, and even though I was hitting goals and receiving a big commission check, the job became boring to me. I was applying to entry-level networking jobs, technician, or admin positions. Hoping someone would take a chance at someone with no knowledge.

One day, while at the store and actively looking for ways to improve my resume, I heard someone barge in and ask why their online order was canceled. We canceled online orders because for some reason, online orders do not count towards our goals, and we did everything we could to get more points towards our commission. Hey, do what you have to do right?

After my coworker ran through the standard apologies and script he said,

“Sorry about that. I can see if I can make your monthly bill payments lower if you like.”

My coworker mentioned that the customer already had a Military Discount on their account. I heard the word “military” and looked up. I asked the customer what branch he served, and we exchanged the usual greeting between two service members who were from different branches. Brotherly banter. After talking about our time in the service we got into a discussion about where he worked, and he said he worked at the Convention Center and does the Network for the entire building. This was Walter Quintanilla. Jokingly I asked for a job. Wouldn’t you know it, they were looking to hire a new Technician as at that moment, he was the only Tech installing shows and handling the leg work. After 3-4 months of nonstop work, they needed another Tech. I said I would do it if they were willing to hire someone with absolutely no networking knowledge. They took a chance on me, I met the team, and here I am now. Net+ and CCNA certs. Tech II, who helped revise the Tech II promotion test and continue to learn what I can.

Here’s where I’ll admit that I was the one who canceled the customer’s online order. I remember exactly what I said when I did it. “Sorry bucko, your online order means nothing to me. Gotta come into the store.”

The story is always fun to tell. If Walter never placed the order for a phone he desperately needed, and never came in because I was the one who canceled the online order, then we would have never met. I would have never been hired by Smart City. We met WHILE I was updating my resume! Can you believe that?

So now that you’re at Smart City and Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, what does your job entail?

K: On paper, Technicians are here to lay cables and address concerns for trouble tickets in a quick and professional manner that assures the customer/client is happy with the service they purchased and should be working properly the first time around.

But I have been put in another fortunate opportunity. Because Rey was promoted to General Manager, we do not have an Operations Manager. Because Rey is an absolute rock star, he gave me the ability to configure, learn, and grow instead of being a standard technician.

Anything an Operations Manager would handle, we would handle as a team of just Technicians. Rey gave his trust to Walter and me, and we made sure to not betray that trust and use it to continue learning outside our normal job description. I cannot thank Rey enough for being a person of understanding and commitment to anything he does. Whether that be wanting us to better ourselves or learning something new when we can.

Do you have a favorite part of your job?

K: My favorite part of the job is interacting with different people from different parts of the world about their experiences. Being able to take what I can from their experiences and apply it to my career path/life has been a blessing in disguise. I find myself spending time with customers, engaging in conversations and ensuring they are good to go for their event. This job made me realize that I do enjoy just talking to people in general and learning. Learning is my true passion.

How would you describe your team culture in Dallas?

K: The Techs? A bunch of knuckleheads who are professional at pretending to be professional. I’m kidding! All jokes aside. Walter, Kyle, and I are veterans, so we have a different sense of humor than most. Helps a lot when you miss the military. Though let me be clear. Readers who also served in the military might agree with me here. You do not miss the circus. You miss the clowns.

You hear all the time that your team is your family, and while that’s true for others, the Dallas team doesn’t consider itself to be a family. We are definitely a team that works well together, and one person’s strength can cover someone else’s weaknesses. Could not ask for a better team.  

What do you like most about Smart City?

K: One thing I do appreciate about Smart City is their commitment to its people. I took the first Tech II promotional exam, and had feedback on it. I voiced my concern to Rey as a joke and was immediately contacted on how Smart City could improve the testing process and fine-tune it to where it fits the broad task a Tech does day to day. I gave my two cents about what I would like to see on the exam and our leadership went above and beyond with the new exams. It felt challenging and I would hope it gave managers are better understanding if their Techs were ready for the next step.

Side note: Have you ever thought about the expression “Giving Your 2 cents”? Because there is another expression that goes “A Penny for Your Thoughts.” Someone somewhere is making money.

Shoutout to Tim Wortman who is an absolute Legend for taking the time out of his busy schedule to listen to me complain!

Another Icon would be Cara Kroenke, I emailed HR on a whim because a NOC Admin position was open. Again, as a “Hahah, wonder how long this will take before they see it”. SAME DAY Cara messaged me, asked me to hop on a call, and answered all my questions and concerns about moving, relocating, and so forth. Never been with a company that had a quick response to a general question and a genuine interest in hiring internally.

Shoutout to Jacoby Bancroft for trying his hardest to keep engagement up with people within the company and show that at the end of the day, we are regular people. Not an easy task!

Have you had a favorite event so far? Or a memorable moment in your time with Smart City that you would like to share?

K: Memorable would have to be Dreamhack hands down. It honestly might be because I am a nerd through and through. But less because of the actual event and more because of the team the event brought in. Meeting the Network team and being able to talk to people who are in the Networking and Cybersecurity field has broadened my horizon on what to expect and do for myself in the future.

Honestly, they motivated me to obtain my CCNA and not stay stagnant. I believe I started studying almost right after they left. This year I met them again and told them I got my CCNA. I cannot explain my feelings at that moment. But it was as if you saw an old friend and they were proud of you and your accomplishment. It opened up a very engaging conversation because it was almost as if they wanted to test me, and because I proved myself, I was allowed access to more knowledge and stories. Great show. Fantastic individuals.

Have there been any instances you can think of where you have used one of our 10 Business Principles in the Workplace?

K: I knew there was going to be a question like this in here. I honestly think I have covered every single one of our 10 Business Principles in my long responses to this questionnaire. But for a TLDR:

1. Integrity without Compromise – I have spoken out on my opinions and have received incredible feedback from everyone who was willing to listen to my complaints. Tim, again, thank you for taking the time to listen to me and to what needed to be said.

2. Do Right By Our Customers – I spend more time than I need to with customers because it is more than just fixing an issue. It is finding out why the issue happened to better prepare us in the future, so it does not happen again. It is fine to walk away from a job that is completed. But answering the “why?” and obtaining the satisfaction of discovery for improvement is what motivates me.

3. It’s The People – Again, thank you to Rey, Tim, and Cara for listening to my concerns, interests, and voice overall. Thank you to Ross, Albert, and everyone in the NOC who has listened to me about laptops and other issues and trying their absolute best to fix and address issues. Thank you to everyone at Smart City as a whole. You’ve given me a voice again and I cannot thank you all enough.

4. Seek The Best – Rey took a chance on me because Walter vouched for me. I was a complete stranger with absolutely no knowledge or experience in the Networking field. Because of that chance, I have many doors in front of me that were kept shut for many years. Thank you for seeking me out. Even if it was forced because my store was trying to gain more commission. I honestly cannot tell if Walter forgives me for that day.

5. Continually Improve Processes – Every. Day. SON! We don’t rest here in Dallas. Anything to make our lives easier and our customers’ experience more enjoyable is something we all strive for. Event planners, attendees, and eventgoers all need that peace of mind. It is the least we can do.

6. Speak, Listen, and Respond – Again, cannot express this enough. Your voice is heard, and someone will listen.

7. Teams Work – We are not a family. We are a team. A team works together. A team is diverse and diversity brings in new ideas.

8. Customers Define Quality – We are a customer service company that happens to be experts in Networking. I strive every day to meet the needs of our customers. Even in the little things.

9. Think Fast, Move Fast – Ties in with having the ability to voice your concerns. If you voice it and it is heard, then the necessary actions can be taken to help improve the lives and processes of those around you. Do not be left behind because of fear. Keep moving forward.

10. We Care and Give Back – We volunteer yearly. We recently picked up trash around the center and the city building near us. That was a fun experience. Stepping away from day-to-day tasks and offering your assistance to keep your workspace clean. It’s good to turn your brain off work mode from time to time.

So what advice would you give to new hires who are starting with Smart City?

K: Learn what you can, stay motivated, and get those certs! There is a huge difference between knowing a customer cannot connect to the internet and understanding why. After studying and obtaining my certs, the work is much easier and enjoyable. Something about knowing the nitty gritty along with the satisfaction of solving a problem because you understood every step of the process is more rewarding than you can imagine. Who knows? There might be a chance you find out you enjoy learning and continue on a different path than you originally began. I will leave you with a quote I enjoy,

“How you do anything, is how you do everything” – Someone somewhere at some point.

I don’t remember who said it, but I heard it once and it motivated me to do more with myself.

Thank you so much for your time Kenneth! It’s been quite insightful! So, to wrap things up, I always like to end these with asking, what is something fun that people don’t know about you?

K: I was in a band and played the drums. Our first show was in a bar in the middle of nowhere and we had a beer bottle thrown at us. Security suggested that we leave for our safety. We were very aware that we were awful, but it was fun having an excuse to hang out and be together.

One of our friends who hung out with us during our “jam sesh” suggested that we perform live somewhere so that other people could experience the beauty of what, and I quote, “You all sound like a group of drunk cats that got lost and ended up in a music shop and desperately trying to get out.” We all laughed and said screw it, “ONE HIT WONDERS?!” Never had a hit. But we did wonder what would have happened if we had ever stuck with it….

Thank you to Kenneth Nguyen for the interview! For more Smart City Spotlights, check out our blog!

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