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The Founders Society Spotlight: James "Brock" Mangus, 2007
Class 1 - FY2011-2012
Class 2 - FY2014-2015
Currently the youngest member of The Founders Society for the Crooms AoIT Alumni Association, James "Brock" Mangus also claims a unique connection. Brock – as a Class of 2007 graduate – also happens to be the first recipient of the Alumni Association's Community Scholarship. Brock moved to Central Florida during his elementary school years when his father started a job in the metro area. From his roots at Wilson Elementary School, Brock enrolled in Sanford Middle School’s pre-IB program. He then decided to enroll in Seminole High School to take part in marching band and pursue an academic career in the International Baccalaureate program. But, wait, how did a Seminole High School attendee end up a recipient of the Alumni Association Scholarship and a member of The Founders Society?
"I enjoyed the IB program, and band, but I felt something was missing at Seminole," Brock says. Speaking with one of his friends – fellow Crooms AoIT Class of 2007 grad Josh Calcanis – turned him on to the idea of attending Crooms. "The technology and smaller class sizes really appealed to me and I thought it would provide an environment where I could thrive," he says. After one semester at Seminole, he transferred to Crooms AoIT.
Brock immediately liked Crooms, but initially didn't know many people. Making friends proved to be an easy endeavor. He jokes about Crooms' small size, "It wasn't hard to meet people because you saw the same folks all the time." Brock was really into technology – even just seeing the speed at which Internet technologies were heating up at the time was amazing. In middle school he was exposed to Photoshop, but Crooms’ design classes provided additional opportunities to hone his skills. He may have been missing some of the rigor in core academics that Seminole's IB program provides, but Crooms' Advancement Placement curriculum proved to be an ample substitute.
Brock recalls that he did initially miss one thing about Seminole, "I was a little bummed about missing out on a traditional music education." But, Crooms' curriculum made up for that shortcoming in other ways. Brock ended up enrolling in three different levels of electronic music with student-favorite instructor Clayton Donnan. Another artistic curriculum offering also appealed to Brock: Mr. Donnan’s digital video class. "His classes really prepared me for the project-based work at the collegiate level," he states, "[Mr. Donnan] even had a cool system where we would rotate responsibilities on each project so you didn't always play the same role." Outside of the classroom, he took part in Business Professionals of America and even competed in national competition in his senior year. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and BETA Club. Outside of school, Brock got together with other Croomies in the class of 2007 to compete in paintball tournaments around Central Florida
Brock attended the University of Tampa after Crooms. "I wanted to stay in Florida and at the time I wanted an environment that was comparable to Crooms in terms of size," Brock states. He picked the Bachelor of Art in Electronic Media, Art, and Technology program due to the influence of Mr. Donnan's classes at Crooms – the major, by its very name, included digital video and music after all. But, what really sold Brock on the major was when he visited Tampa and spoke one-on-one with the Department Director (who later served as his professor in three classes). "I excelled because I already had a leg up thanks to Crooms," Brock said. There were multiple digital music classes where he had access to professional studio equipment. He even got to record and produce artists. Outside the classroom, Brock had a FM radio show on the University of Tampa's student radio station where he produced and served as deejay for an hour on Friday nights. He also had an internship with Clear Channel in their video production department.
Perhaps the most interesting story of Brock's collegiate career happened outside of the classroom when he got the official University of Tampa sports club paintball team started. "It was a struggle to get it off the ground," Brock says, "but, there was interest and budget money available via the club sports group." It was definitely good experience in politics and sales: it took him and a small group of paintball enthusiasts six to eight months of work to get the sport approved, insurance questions answered, and the budget allocated. Afterwards, Brock served as captain of the team, president of club, and competed in two national collegiate paintball championships.
Brock spent a year after graduation in North Carolina working for his uncle who owns a podiatry practice. His uncle’s firm needed assistance on the IT infrastructure side of the house, but also needed a helping hand to assist with the regulations coming with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Brock had no experience with healthcare, but he knew his way around web design, graphic design, and server support via his Crooms experience. "What started as a three week project to build a website turned in a year-long project to pick an electronic records system, do business process improvements, and assist with line-of-business applications usage and automation," Brock explained. Most of his later work at the firm was owed to the Affordable Care Act's requirement of "meaningful use" of an electronic records system by hospitals and medical providers. "We had to implement this system or get docked on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements,” Brock says, “But, if we did show meaningful use, we got a reimbursement check for our capital investment in electronic medical records."
After his year in the Carolinas, Brock decided to move back to Tampa and took a position with an IT staffing firm called SkyBridge Resources. The firm provides professional and technical recruiting for all-size companies and has offices in three states. “I get to use my knowledge around IT and transfer it to somewhat of a sales role – which is where I truly want to go,” Brock says. SkyBridge has allowed him to hone his business acumen, build professional skills, and interface with the IT community in a way that wouldn't have been possible in a traditional entry-level IT position. Over the next several months, Brock will be moving from working directly with the candidates into more of a business development and account management role.
Most of the positions we staff for are senior-level – folks with a very fine skill set. That said, there are a few things any IT manager is going to be looking for. One of the most important is a professionally presentable candidate, or professionalism in the interview (the person in the interview with a suit generally does better than the guy in jean, but you also have to know the environment you are applying for). There is no replacement for communication skills. A lot of IT folks start out at the help desk; the criteria there are communication skills and professionalism. You've got to be able to communicate and discuss issues with non-technical folks. Some of the best people I've seen in senior roles are able to talk to the business folks, but can turn around and talk to the technical people.
On the flip side, if you're looking at developers: have personal projects that allow you to keep on the cutting edge, get involved in user groups, and dive into technologies that interest you. Colleges tend to teach the fundamentals using old languages. Knowing C++ is nice if you’re doing robotics or embedded work, but most Enterprise companies are using Java or .NET. If not, they're using tools like Ruby on Rails or Python. By having side projects, candidates can show they are willing to continually develop their skills.
It's going to be awesome to see how wearable technology comes into play. You have watches that can now sync with your phone, Google Glass, etc. In the long-term, wearable technology may turn into implantable technology. Who knows, a generation or two from now it may be normal to even have implantable technology, such as a chip that presents a layer over your cornea.
On the business side, there seems to be a growing need for employees since the recession seems largely over. It will be interesting to see what happens with hiring: are companies going to conduct hiring themselves or are the [applicant] pools in certain IT skill sets so small that they need to turn to staffing companies like ours to assist. My opinion is it’s going to be harder for companies to find candidates, so the value proposition of staffing firms – like providing pre-screening – is proven.
I still support my uncle’s electronic medical records system and infrastructure on the side. I was doing quite a bit of freelancing web design and video production, but that has slowed down with the job. I’m also involved in the Alumni Association. And, I still play paintball with a local team here in Tampa.
I received the first alumni scholarship in 2007 and I started donating a year or two after as a way to give back and keep in touch with people I hadn't seen in a while. It turned into the opportunity to go in for the Presidency role. I decided to run for President for two reasons: 1) it’s partially a self-serving way to help develop my own skills, and 2) to be part of the process to give back and get to know more people. As we get more removed from high school, I think the opportunities will grow as people reminisce: it will be an opportunity to connect with old faces, but also a way to get to meet new ones that are several classes removed.
As we look for the future, one of the big things coming up is the ten year reunions in a little over a year. We can have an impact by assisting the class leadership teams. I also hope we are able to have a bigger focus on networking as we now have nine graduated classes; you have enough critical mass where the older classes can act as mentors and good resources for the younger alumni. In the future, I would like to be able to give out multiple scholarships. I also want us to actively engage current students; the Alumni Association isn’t just about those who have left, it’s about supporting the current students. Part of this support occurs through the grant program; for instance, the athletics grant we provide directly benefits the sports groups at Crooms. Finally, I would also like to see us partner with groups like BAC in order to build a healthy ecosystem of organizations supporting Crooms AoIT.
I like the industry [IT staff recruitment] I’m in now and I see myself here for several more years. I would like to get more into business development. The progression for growth at SkyBridge Resources is awesome and we’re even looking to expand our markets in the couple of years. Down the line, perhaps I would like to move into more of a corporate leadership role in an organization. There are so many opportunities for individuals that know how to interface with IT to play a strong role on the business side of the house and not do the day-to-day technical work.
It’s important for those alumni that have the means to give back to do so. It’s also pretty cool to be in a position to be a strong contributor to an organization. The Founders Society – at its core – is 10 folks that directly give back to the students at Crooms AoIT. We believe in the support we’re providing [to current students] and it’s an opportunity for us to demonstrate that belief. Indirectly, it’s also an opportunity to help perpetuate the financial support the Alumni Association provides and help it become self-sustaining. Ultimately, The Founders Society is a sign that we have a strong core of like-minded people that want to see Crooms AoIT succeed.
Updated: April 20, 2014
The Founders Society was established in 2011 to recognize the Crooms AoIT Alumni Association's most generous benefactors. These individuals, couples, or companies have made significant one-time contributions during our capital fundraising periods for the advancement of Crooms AoIT. Society members are sending a message that philanthropic support of Crooms AoIT and the current student body is vital to our alma mater's future success. Their financial support is changing lives and helps promote a culture of community support and involvement. To learn more about The Founders Society visit www.croomsalumni.com/about/founders.