At Remote Learner, our greatest strength is our staff. We have a diverse group of employees around the United States and Canada, individuals with unique backgrounds and skills needed to meet the challenges faced by our clients. In this blog, we regularly profile the staff members that make the Remote Learner team strong. This week we talked to Nick Vollten, a member of Remote Learner’s Account Management team.
Name: Jesse Stilwell
Position: Client Support Engineer
Home: Just North of Charlotte, North Carolina
Brief: Jesse Stilwell is a 38-year-old all-caps NERD. He plays video games when he has time, obsesses over television and music, listens to way too many podcasts, and plays Dungeons & Dragons every Saturday. He is addicted to learning and has three – count them three – subscriptions to popular courseware platforms that he actively uses. His wife of 12 years, Miriam, also shares many of these interests. They nerd out together in marital harmony.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself, Jesse.
A: I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. in the 80’s with two brothers that were nine and ten years older than me, respectively. It was mostly a nightmare due to the age difference and a house with 3 boys in it, but there was a silver lining in that they were old enough to buy themselves various technologies that were emerging in the mid to late 80’s.
The most important purchase was a Commodore Colt computer, which was released with an Intel 8088 processor. That’s laughably slow now but at the time, seven-year-old me was living the life of luxury when I could sneak into their room and get my hands on it. I was always the kid in class that the teacher would call on to fix the school PC’s when someone else broke them. I essentially interned as the de facto desktop support geek in every school I attended from there on out.
When I discovered modems in the early 90’s to call into local bulletin board systems (BBS), I became seriously enamored with electronic communication and the power of that medium. I graduated to the Internet in 1993, using another hand-me-down from one of my brothers in the form of a dial-up test account from his job as a network engineer at UUNet, an architect of Internet backbones at the time. The test account was a BSDi shell, which was based on UNIX – a precursor to the Linux operating system that Remote Learner utilizes.
It became a problem. A big one. My parents, at one point, resorted to hiding the power cable for my computer because I would skip school to explore the Internet. They didn’t know I had spares. Luckily, I was able to parlay that addictive personality into a career where all of those crazy tendencies translate pretty well to being a productive professional.
Q: How did your career path bring you to Remote Learner?
A: I was building websites before the Internet had pictures, using HTML that I’d taught myself to use. I later learned CSS in the same way. I learned about computer networking from my brother, the aforementioned Internet architect, and just had an innate interest in computer networking because of multiplayer video games that were emerging in the 90’s.
I helped to set up local network infrastructures in the various schools that I attended because it was still kind of a foreign concept for most folks. I eventually started doing it for money, both designing websites for people and administering their networks. I was a freelance front-end web designer for a long time and that led to me also running a small personal hosting business where I maintained and secured the sites I would design for folks.
Prior to joining the Remote Learner team, I also spent a few years as an IT manager in a medical clinic in Kannapolis, North Carolina. I designed and built their HIPAA compliant local area network, VoIP phone system, setup their PCI-DSS compliant checkout system, and designed an internal web portal for employees to use to stay current on things that mattered to them, which included documentation and tutorials.
In my younger years, I worked in a few call centers in customer support, including one where I met my now Remote Learner manager, Heather Williams. In spring of 2017, she gave me a ring and recommended that I apply to Remote Learner, knowing that I would fit in. She was right! This has been my favorite experience with any company I’ve worked for to date.
Q: What’s a day at Remote Learner look like for you?
A: I wake up at 7:55 AM EST and I’m at work by 8:00 AM EST. The remote working life is the best life. I crank out a couple cups of coffee or some other form of energy drink. I’m a night owl by nature, so this is a very important step for me.
I check my cases to see if any have been updated overnight. I check my emails, which I’m proud to say stay pretty much at zero unread. This was not the case at my last company, where I had over 10,000 unread spam emails. I vowed to never let that happen again!
Throughout the day, I keep an eye on all of our clients’ servers to make sure everything is running optimally and I try to respond quickly when they aren’t. There is a good chance that if a client puts in an Emergency priority case, either myself or Heather will be answering it within a couple of minutes. I hunt bugs and hard-to-solve problems as well. Support works very well together as a team, so if there’s a weird issue that nobody else can figure out, we’re probably all involved in the detective work on some level. I also take client meetings to help with the more technical aspects of Moodle and Totara, especially the setup of Single Sign-On authentication.
When I’m not doing that or have free time, I usually utilize it to learn new things that will either help to improve my service to our clients, or help my co-workers do their jobs more efficiently.
Q: What strengths do you feel you offer our clients?
A: I’m an incredibly patient person and famously even-keeled. This translates very well to the support world because there is always going to be a process to go through when it comes to solving what can be stressful issues.
I’m also a natural-born problem solver. I’ve always been a troubleshooter. I’ve followed that into a love of programming. When working with variable environments like the ones we host, it helps to know how to think like a computer.
The world of technology is so vast and varied that there will always be things to learn. I think I’ve worked with several hundred products and companies I’d never even heard of before while working here. It speaks to Remote Learner’s general flexibility, which is one of the cooler aspects of the company to me.
Q: Based on your experience in support, do you have any tips for clients?
A: Always think about your user’s experience. Try not to do any heavy lifting during the day – running large reports, course backups & restores, add-on installs, etc. – because it can have an adverse effect on the site, which your learners will notice.
When installing any third-party add-on, always look it up on Moodle.org first to make sure that it’s doing what you think it will do. Reading the comments on the add-on’s page can help too, because sometimes there are issues that might affect you that you don’t know about.
Finally, open a case and let us know if you want to setup SSO for your site. It’s probably not as much of a hassle as you think it will be and it can really improve your user’s experience and also your own.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I love to write. I watch a lot of television and movies, I read graphic novels, I listen to podcasts and music, and I also dabble in producing music. I watch and listen to a lot of standup comedy as well. I LOVE sports. My favorite is NBA basketball but I also closely follow the NFL and Major League Baseball. I’ve been known to watch disc golf tournaments on the Ocho as well. I’ve been playing in a Dungeons & Dragons game every Saturday for the past couple of years, which is a great way to spend some time with friends.
That’s about it. I’m a standard nerdy homebody.