Michael Bonsignore, 1998 Computer Service Technician / Network Installer Graduate
Operations and Maintenance Manager for Kapsch TrafficCom
People coming out of MTTI’s program will not all do the same thing. I built a foundation in MTTI’s Computer & Networking program from which I could, for the past 20 years, enter into new and different careers. Success in technology demands that you keep learning the next platform and new skills. Never become complacent; never stop learning.
During the 1990's I restored homes that had been damaged by water and fire.
I had taken courses towards an Associate’s Degree in Architecture and Mechanical Engineering at Roger Williams College (now University). I wrote abatement plans to submit to the State for clean-up of hazardous materials, including lead and asbestos and also prepared architectural plans, including drafting the layout of pipes.
The asbestos industry was dying; the abatement services market was dwindling.
The RI Department of Labor and Training sent me to MTTI for re-training after being laid off. My wife worked in computers as an IBM specialist, so I saw this as a great career opportunity. DLT agreed to have me train as a Computer Specialist.
I considered the launch of Windows 98 in 1998 as the “dawn of the computer age”.
It was the beginning of the “power of the right click” and “you’ve got mail”, as people started getting on-line. Voice over Internet Protocol—communication sent over the internet—was not yet widely used. Telephony—the electronic transmission of voice, fax, or data, between distant parties—was big
My first job, after graduating from MTTI, was a temporary position as a Computer Tech.
I had graduated at the top of my class; now it was time to earn my wings.
I started out as a “road warrior”.
HP Compaq was selling computer systems to homeowners. My job was to meet the box and set it up, get the owner online, change their desktop and set up the speakers. If needed, I would return to provide more assistance.
Next I worked as a Tech for Northrup Grumman.
I provided Hardware Break Fix, fee-for-service IT solutions to customers. As it took off, I worked out of my home office and my car, backfilling other Techs in Connecticut. I traveled throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York.
I repaired everything from the most basic printer to high end military systems.
These systems were on luxurious yachts, General Dynamic Electric Boat submarines—even a Nuclear Power Plant
I was still a Rookie during 1999, when everyone feared the Y2K Bug would disrupt computer systems.
Organizations were afraid their monetary systems would go down on December 31st at the stroke of midnight. I was responsible for systems that handled money from London, Tokyo and New York—with transactions in the billions of dollars per day. I upgraded their systems to prepare for the worst—and remained on call at midnight, hoping for the best.
We were on the “bleeding edge of technology”.
When technology is so new, it has a high risk of being unreliable. Migrating from older established systems to new platforms doesn’t always go well. When things go wrong on an install, you don’t leave the site—you might stay on-the-job for a day or two, until it is fixed.
I was living on caffeine and nicotine.
The exponentially increasing workload was killing my vehicle. Then the company dropped down the reimbursement rate, which took thousands of dollars out of my pocket.
Finally one day I fell asleep at the wheel and woke up in a ditch.
I called my company and said, ‘I’m pulling over to sleep—and I am not coming in tomorrow’.
I resigned from Northrup Grumman on April Fools’ Day.
Throughout my career, I always worked three jobs, including my own landscaping and property management companies. I owned / operated a trailer that dried any space damaged by water and provided restoration services.
I kept current with computer technology working on network installation.
Everyone was replacing Category 3 wiring (CAT3) with the faster CAT 5 and CAT 5e (enhanced) for telephone communications and computer networking. I installed and wired everything from routers and switches to desktop computer systems
In 2008, I responded to an ad for a “Computer Tech / Networker” in Jamestown.
They were looking for someone self-motivated, who didn’t need much oversight or management.
Telvent, on behalf of Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA), hired me as a Toll Technician.
I became the “one and only technician” for the newly installed E-ZPass Electronic Tolling system on the Newport-Pell Bridge. It was a 7/24, 365-day-a-year responsibility; if it was broken, I went to fix it.
I had to learn a whole new industry.
Toll road technology involved video, radio, intercoms, networking, switches and routers, servers and other proprietary systems.
I became the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of RITBA
I was responsible for cyber security and maintaining 4 network domains. I supported the RITBA business network, maintained PCI compliance and monitored all network assets.
My biggest accomplishment was that, while CTO, the Authority achieved and maintained PCI Compliance.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.
I had the unique honor of speaking at the IBTTA (International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association) Conference.
Once shy, I made presentations in Dublin, Ireland and in Louisiana about Cybersecurity and PCI Compliance.
I gained humility, by recognizing that I couldn’t do it all—or all alone.
By hiring consultants, and learning what they do, I built on what I had learned at MTTI. I knew enough to work with someone who had Certifications that I don’t possess—for example, CISCO.
I became the ‘hand of the king’.
‘What the King dreams the hand builds’—I built the systems that RITBA wanted. Buddy Croft, the Executive Director of the RIBTA, was my director; I was his top advisor. I accomplished my mission at RITBA—to deliver to Buddy Croft a state-of-the-art toll collection system.
As per mutual agreement, I left RITBA in good standing. I transitioned back to the private sector.
Truck tolling for RIDOT was coming on board. Having operated, maintained and updated the RITBA system, I was uniquely qualified to manage the truck tolling project.
It was negotiated that I get the position at Kapsch as Maintenance / Operations Manager.
A new, smaller office, I also function as the Office Manager, Warehouse Manager and Installation Supervisor (executing the project with the Installation Manager).
While still with RITBA, I interned an MTTI student, Taylor.
She was instrumental in researching and selecting our new printer system, and then installing it along with performing a “Windows 10 upgrade throughout the facility”. There’s a lot that goes into choosing printers—the manufacturer, model, speed capabilities and cost.
Taylor became our Network Tech—and more.
She proved she could learn quickly. I could ask Taylor to, ‘...build me that Windows install’ or ‘upgrade that coding machine’. It would be done in hours—not days.
Taylor came from MTTI, with experience in Windows Server 2008.
As Microsoft moved forward, she helped RITBA move up to Server 2012 and Windows 10
Hired part-time (32 hours) after internship, she is now a full-time worker.
Taylor’s skill set that she developed in MTTI’s program—and her ‘can do’ attitude—recommended her for hire.
I believe in bringing in and mentoring new people.
It’s my responsibility to give them a chance to enter into a new career path. At Kapsch, my goal is to take on an MTTI graduate.
There are $800 million of toll systems in North America to deliver next year.
If someone comes out of MTTI, having learned the basics, they can come learn toll roads—they can travel all over the world.
Periodically, I return to MTTI as a Program Advisory Committee (PAC) Member.
I review the Computer & Networking program to help the school keep the curriculum current.
I was a student in Ken Souza’s first class at MTTI.
Ken knew his systems back then, and in my opinion, after attending this year’s Advisory Committee meeting—he still does. I believe the program keeps pace with the evolving technology.
The skill set I began building in 1998 at MTTI still serves me well.
MTTI’s Computer & Networking program gave me a foundation from which I have been able to enter into new careers, even as technology continues to evolve.
I tell the MTTI students I mentor—don’t forget where you came from.
Make MTTI look good. It’s because of MTTI that you are where you are today.