“I have always loved computers,” says Haywood Community College Networking Technology student Heather Tomlin. She even remembers her very first experience working with a computer. “I was in the 5th grade, and the small Illinois grade school I attended had one Apple Computer—in the principal’s office. Each child was allotted a specific amount of computer time for educational activities. If we finished before our time was up, we then got to play games. It was the first time in my life that I looked forward to being called to the principal’s office. I have liked working with computers ever since,” she explained.
While growing up, Heather also liked to fix things. When the VCR tore up, she was the one who would take it apart, try to fix it and then put it back together. “Sometimes, I ended up with more parts than I needed,” she laughed. Her growing curiosity about computers and the need to figure out how machines work led to her present course of study and career choice.
Heather is a part-time computer technician with HCC Information Technology Services and also a full-time student. She will graduate in May 2012 with an associate degree in Networking Technology and an associate degree in Computer Information Technology–yes, a double major.
Not finishing her degree has never been an option for Heather but sometimes life issues got in the way and postponed her completion date. With perseverance and determination she has diligently worked toward this spring graduation. When Heather was 14, she was diagnosed with Grand mal epilepsy. Over the years, her disability has challenged her career plans. “I seem to have a seizure about every 5-8 years. When I have one, I cannot drive for six months to a year,” she explained. “And it is harder to retain new knowledge.” A seizure can be brought on by stress and a lack of sleep.
In 2006, Heather started at HCC as a part-time student in the Computer Information Technology program.In the fall of 2007, she had a Grand mal seizure, which she thinks was brought on by a lack of sleep. Inevitably, she had to put college on hold at the time.
In the next year and a half, Heather regained her momentum and also got very busy with her children’s education. She worked part-time at the Haywood County Library and was president of Haywood Christian Home Educators. Eventually, Heather enrolled full-time at HCC. She chose Networking Technology because it is such a broad career field. “I like troubleshooting. I like to analyze problems. It is a great career field,” she said.
Heather says she loves working and being a student at HCC. The instructors are very knowledgeable. “They go out of their way to help and involve students in real life scenarios. The emphasis that HCC instructors put on hands-on applications gives students valuable experience,” she said. “It is a phenomenal opportunity. Working on a community project, such as the web design project my class did, students get hands-on experience but also learn project management techniques and client relationship skills.” She added, “The small class sizes also make it easy to get to know your instructors and fellow classmates. Everyone feels like family.”
Heather’s goal is to one day be a Linux network administrator. She says that having the opportunity to become certified in Linux Plus will give her a “leg up” when she embarks on that career search. To become certified, a student must pass two exams. “I am so thankful to the HCC Foundation. They paid all the exam fee except for $100.00,” she said. Students can also get Network Plus Certification and A+ Certification.
Heather feels very prepared to work in her chosen field. “I have applied everything I learned in the classroom to my present job,” she said. Upon graduation, Heather hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree from Charter Oak College. “I always knew this was the career path for me,” she said with a smile.More Student Stories