Alumni Spotlight: Chris Stratton '12
In this series, we highlight successful EKU Computer Information Systems alumni who have shared their career path and personal insights.
The Fall 2015 feature is Chris Stratton, originally from Mason, Oh., (Mason High School Class of '08). Chris is married to a fellow Colonel Class of ’12 Leah. Chris works as a Data Solutions Engineer for 84.51° in Cincinnati. They have one dog and are expecting their first child in December. Read more from Chris...
Career path - What has happened since you graduated from EKU?
After graduating in 2012, I moved back to Cincinnati and started at 53rd Bank in their IT Leadership Program. This was a two-year leadership training program that put me through four rotations in different areas within IT, contributing to projects in different capacities. After the program, I placed out as a DB2 Database Administrator working on the Mainframe as well as the Linux/Windows/Unix environments supporting core applications and the data warehouse. I spent a year in the position before the opportunity to join 84.51° came up. Outside of my normal job, I am also very invested and involved with the startup scene in Cincinnati.
What got you interested in computers?
I am not afraid to admit that video games sparked my interest in computers. When I was a freshman in high school there was a computer game that forced me to get a better computer. This part is not as easy to admit… the game was World of Warcraft. This is one of my “nerdiest” stories, but I gave up going on a spring break trip with my family so I could stay with a friend and build a new computer that would run this game. This was the first time I put together a computer from scratch and that is what really sparked my interest with computers and technology.
Why did you pick EKU?
Beautiful campus, small class size, and the perfect distance from home (two hours let me go home if I needed to for something but it was far enough away that I was able to stay on campus when possible).
Did you co-op while you were a student? Where? What did you learn during your co-op?
Yes, I did a co-op with the Madison County School District. This co-op was a good learning experience all around. I had other work experiences related to IT before, but this co-op helped me learn how to navigate more than just computers. I wouldn’t say the co-op taught me a lot about technology that I didn’t already know or would need to know, but it provided more than that. This was a really good learning opportunity on what the “real world” might be like. I needed to learn how to work with people and how to manage difficult situations where the stress was high. Understanding the technology is very important to what most of us will do, but more important than that is the soft skills: How to communicate effectively, how to manage difficult/stressful situations, patience with people, etc. I would highly recommend that every student do at least one co-op/internship before graduating.
What are your fondest memories of your time at EKU?
Going to sporting events, this was always a blast. I managed to navigate my way into the student government at EKU as the director of athletics. This role was to help with student involvement for all sporting events. I developed a passion for promoting this and trying to encourage other students to get involved. This was another opportunity I am glad I had and one that helped develop me as a leader.
What professional advice would you give to current students?
Don’t focus too much on what you think you’re supposed to do. Be open to different things, different opportunities, and always be looking for ways to make people’s lives easier/better with the use of technology. My other piece of advice is to find a balance between patience and persistence. If you are like me, you wanted to do big things coming out of college. Don’t let someone hold you back because you are “too young” but also take time to realize the benefit in being patient and learning from others. Though your views/opinions might be different, you will be surprised how much you will learn by being patient and waiting for the right opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, challenge the current process, and put your hand up when you have an idea.
One last thing I would say; be aware that perception is everything. Be honest, work hard, do the right thing! It sounds cliché, but people will notice when you are genuine.
What is your advice regarding technical certifications?
You can’t deny the importance that can and probably is placed on having certifications. I have found some of them are not nearly as informative as I would like, but if you have a focus/passion and are focused on being a “technologist” there is a benefit from getting certified.
Are there any books that you recommend for current students?
- Start with Why – Simon Sinek: This is a fantastic methodology (you can get a quick look via Simon’s TED Talk).
- The Lean Startup – Eric Ries: Gives insight on best practices for starting something new.
- The Phoenix Project – Kevin Behr, George Spafford, Gene Kim: A great, and kind of comical, look at the typical IT shop and the “problems” it faces today.
- The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: This is a good book for anyone curious about what it would be like to start their only company.
- The Accidental Creative – Todd Henry: Todd is a local Cincinnati guy who has started his own creative consulting business, this book is his thoughts on how to be the best “creative” possible. A creative to him is anyone in a position to produce original ideas and solutions… which is a lot of people coming out of the CIS program.
- Bold – Peter Diamandis, Steven Kotler: Great book that goes over exponential technology and the next disruptive technologies we will see.
- Good to Great – Jim Collins: Helps us understand what it takes to go from Good to Great, Jim studies multiple companies/leadership teams that fit a Good to Great criteria.
What are you plans for the future?
I love where I am at 84.51° and I have no immediate plans of going anywhere else. We are doing some amazing things and have great leadership that is motivated to pursue what’s next. It is an exciting place to be!
Dr. Robert Mahaney
Published on August 18, 2015