Leif Geillen went from cleaning the halls at NIC

NIC enriches lives on the North Island

From janitor to senior computer support technician

By Leif Geillen

Special to The Record

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I used to work for a local building maintenance contractor doing janitorial work. I cleaned the North Island College Campbell River campus at their previous location. I still remember my first night on the job doing training for the new position.

After hours, the campus seemed so empty and yet seeing the remnants of the day’s activity left for us to clean, had me wondering what it was like to be here during the day. The idea of a learning environment seemed appealing. What were people studying? Why were they studying and what doors were being opened for them? I remembered what it was like to learn in high school and the idea of going back to school appealed to me.

The boss took me into a college faculty office. She told me that I had to be particularly careful with my cleaning in this office. She said the instructor that now worked here used to be a janitor, so they were very particular about the cleanliness of their office space. The idea that a janitor would become an instructor at the college really stuck with me… inspired me. But something held me back.

Years later, I saw the new Comox Valley campus shortly after it had opened. I remember thinking, “Someday, I want to work at a nice place like this.”

In time, working nights took its toll on my health. With my doctor’s help, I qualified for assistance in retraining for a different line of work. I knew that I was primarily a thinking person, and I remembered the janitor who had become an NIC instructor. I also knew that I was very interested in computers and seemed to have some natural technical ability. My plans were made.

In 2001, after taking a few math classes as a refresher, I was accepted into NIC’s computer science program. I studied computer science and set my sights on the information systems administration diploma with co-operative education designation. The work experience I gained through co-operative education was extremely valuable. After working in two interesting and exciting short-term positions with local companies, I applied for a summer co-op student position at North Island College itself.

That experience led to several temporary part-time opportunities at the college that lasted a couple of years. In 2005, I graduated from the computer science program. In 2006, I applied for and received a permanent full-time position in the NIC IT department as a computer support technician at the Port Alberni campus. It’s now my privilege to work at the Comox Valley campus as the senior computer support technician.

I can’t properly express what a joy it is to do something I love and to work in such a fertile learning environment with so many great people. I truly feel that North Island College stretches beyond the gestalt of individual contributions. North Island College provides an unquantifiable enrichment, planted in the minds and hearts of those in the community. It holds out the hope of individual betterment and personal fulfilment. Believe in yourself. Take the opportunity.

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For more human interest stories from the campuses of North Island College, visit the website at nic.bc.ca

 

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