Cole Cary Behind the Screens: Expert of IT Plant Engineering Artistry

Cole and his two dachshunds, Huck and Finn

As IT Plant Engineering Specialist, Cole Cary’s impact reaches the farthest ends of the University. One day, he’s supporting wireless connectivity to a cattle barn on the south farms. Another day, he’s out in Rantoul working to get fiber optic service. And sometimes, he’s drafting up construction plans in his office. With diverse experiences in the fine arts, in the United States Navy Reserves, as a lifetime learner, and as a new father, Cole Cary shares about his current role, technology wisdom, and his life beyond the university’s walls. 

What is your role at Tech Services?

I am on the IT Plant Engineering team where we facilitate the design, engineering and management of the campus data and voice telecommunications infrastructure. I’ve been on this team since February 2021. 

As the connectivity needs of campus change and grow, we assist in building the physical infrastructure to ensure the campus network can support it. 

What's the best thing about your current role?

I enjoy being able to work on projects across the entire campus and sometimes beyond. Because of this, I get exposure to all the incredible work and research that the University is involved with. One day I could be working on getting wireless connectivity to a cattle barn on the south farms, and the next I could be up in Rantoul working to get fiber optic service to a leased building at the Old Chanute Airforce Base. It is very motivating to see the large impact the University has in countless fields of study. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days are typically centered around the projects that I am working on at the time. Some days are filled with coordination meetings and site visits to assist with and assess the progress of installations. Other days are spent in the office drafting up construction plans and entering as-built documentation into our records. I am very glad to have the flexibility that allows me to schedule time out in field and not be tied to a desk all day. 

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments in this role?

I believe the biggest accomplishment I have achieved in this role so far is the huge leap I have made in my own professional development. Starting in my position at age 24 was a little intimidating. However, I have built more knowledge and confidence with every project I completed, and I have participated in multiple rounds of the Tech Services mentorship program which has been hugely helpful. 

What’s one piece of insight about technology you’ve learned?

I am slowly becoming less and less of a techie. I have an 8-month-old son and I have been doing my best to stay disconnected and focused on spending time with him and my wife. We spend a lot of time out on walks or at the park. My little piece of insight about technology would be to encourage people to get offline and away from it every once in a while. 

What was your school and career journey into your role?

I originally went to college for Fine Art. After getting my associates and being faced with tackling the expense of a bachelor’s degree, I joined in the United States Navy Reserves. I enlisted as a Cryptologic Technician for networks which helped unveil a career path in IT for me. I eventually went on to get my bachelor’s in Networking and Telecommunications Management from Illinois State University and I continued to serve in the reserves for six years. 

What’s one hobby you have outside of work and why do you like it?

I am an outdoorsy guy. I enjoy fishing and hunting. I am out in the woods or on the water every chance I get. I am often accompanied by my two dachshunds, Huck and Finn. They don’t make very good hunting dogs, but they are still good companions. 

I have also been on kick of reading professional growth books. Most recently I read It’s Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I would highly recommend both books to anyone looking for some motivation. 

Fun fact about yourself?

I have a twin brother. Yes, we look alike. No, we have never switched places with each other. 

“Behind the Screens” is a series of stories highlighting a different member of Technology Services each month so that you can get to know who we are and what we do for our university.

Cole as a new father
Cole's 8-month-old son