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From Music to Manager: How Kalamazoo Became Home

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Chris Nicholson

Today Kalamazoo resident Chris Nicholson is the Data Center Manager for Secant Technologies. When he came to town in 1995, he was a music education major entering Western Michigan University (WMU).

The path from singing to the data center was unexpected for the Midland native, yet rewarding.

While attending WMU, Nicholson took an on-campus job cabling physical network connections and attaching staff members’ computers to the network. When the position was eliminated the following year, he turned to the Yellow Pages to find a similar job.

“I saw Secant Technologies and thought, ‘I want to work there,’” Nicholson said.

Nicholson’s career cold call turned into a position in the division of his choice based on his qualifications and experience.

After spending about nine months in Secant’s cabling division, Nicholson decided he wanted to focus more on computer services tasks and became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.

“You learn so much more quickly when you try something you’ve never done before,” he said.

Thinking outside the box and an interest in continued learning are celebrated qualities at Secant.

“Secant relies on certifications more than college degrees,” Nicholson said. “We look for college experience as classical training, but also want to make sure candidates have strong critical thinking and problem solving skills under pressure.”

Nicholson’s drive and ability to solve the tough technology issues has lead him to a 17-year career with Secant. He even met his wife of more than eight years, Martha, on a service call in the early 2000s.

“The thing I love about my job is that I get to do something new every day.

“Being at Secant you have experts in everything. When a question comes up, there are always people I can just go ask and they know.”

Staying in Kalamazoo has served Nicholson well.

“I love my career,” he said. “I also really like Kalamazoo. I, frankly, really like living in a college town, too,” he said.

The distance to Detroit, Chicago, and Lake Michigan are a bonus, he said, as well as the convenience and options offered near his Arcadia neighborhood.

“It’s the goldilocks syndrome,” Nicholson said. “Kalamazoo is not too big or too small. Our neighborhood is centrally located and we have a great house. It’s not too far or too close to attractions.”

Proximity and relationships make Nicholson feel most connected to the community.

“I enjoy making the people I work with and for feel like a part of the community,” he said.

Nicholson is looking forward to making additional connections at Secant and throughout Kalamazoo.

“I very much enjoy hiring and molding new engineers and local or imported talent. I find myself being very rewarded by bringing new folks into the world of high-uptime service delivery and watching them discover all of the important aspects to keeping a data center or service online truly 100-percent of the time,” Nicholson said.

When he’s not busy in the tech world, Nicholson can be found visiting one of Kalamazoo’s numerous dining establishments or downtown events. From the Civic Theatre or the State Theatre to all the new brewpubs and everything Western, Nicholson said he is never at a lack for what to do or where to go in Kalamazoo.

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