Kevin Blackburn was just out of high school and really didn’t have any career plans. He had a job with a retail chain, working with computers on the lowest imaginable level.
“I was the guy who pulled the reports from the computer and delivered them to the offices,” he said. “But I kept looking through the window at the computer guys – it was big mainframes at that time – and I watched what they were doing and I said, ‘Well, that looks pretty easy.”
Now he’s the Senior Network Design Engineer for Tampa International Airport.
“I maintain the network infrastructure,” he said. “I make the roadway that connects the network to the PCs. Security, wireless, phone – anything that plugs into the network. And I basically future-proof the network.”
Most people with that kind of upper-level IT position have college degree. Blackburn has never needed that. He kept learning and progressing, mostly through on-the-job training.
After he learned some computer skills with that retail chain in Richmond, Va., Blackburn took an IT job with Time-Life Books. In 1991, he came to the Tampa Bay area with his wife, Tammy, and his daughter, Jessica, who was only a year old, to work for Time Customer Service.
He kept up his training, and eventually earned the highest level of certification in his field from Cisco Systems.
“Then I figured, I have this certification from Cisco, I might as well work for Cisco,” he said.
After massive national layoffs at Cisco, Blackburn took a series of IT jobs.
“By that time my daughter was already enrolled in Pinellas County Schools, so we didn’t want to move,” he said.
Besides, he and his wife had grown to love the Florida lifestyle.
He and his wife take their Hobie kayak out into the Gulf regularly. They have a favorite campground on Bluewater Key, located in the Florida Keys, that they visit often.
“It’s an RV resort,” he said. “A lot of places call themselves resorts but they really aren’t. This one is. There’s a lot of vegetation so you don’t even see the other people.”
His daughter, Jessica, has graduated from Florida Atlantic University, and is preparing to get her master’s degree in marine biology.
His career eventually brought him to a company called Coleman Technologies that was hired to upgrade the computer network at TPA.
“That’s how I got to know the airport,” he said. “I was working as a consultant, and that means you’re constantly traveling. And I was sick of it.”
He kept working at Coleman, and kept traveling, but he never forgot how much he liked TPA.
“I kept in contact, saying ‘Do you have any positions open?’ ” he said. “They finally hired me in 2011.”
He came to the airport under the old Civil Service system, and his title was Senior Software Specialist.
“That’s what it was called, even though I didn’t do anything with software,” he said.
His current title is a better reflection of what he does.
It takes Blackburn a while to explain all the things he does in his job, and that’s one reason he loves working at TPA so much.
“It never gets stale,” he said. “Usually in IT you’ll do security or wireless or phones and that’s all you’ll do all day,” he said. “I get to do all of that, and I get to design too.