What started with an old Apple II computer his mother gave him when he was six years old and the vocational and technical training (CTE) he later received at Richland One culminated in Ken Dixon supervising a network of thousands of computers today.
Dixon, network security manager for Richland One, enrolled at the Heyward Career and Technology Center in 2004 and took two courses identical to those he later took at Midlands Technical College (MTC). This course and training led Dixon to become a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
A 2004 graduate of Lower Richland High School and a CTE finisher, Dixon said it’s thanks to the preparation he received in high school in the career group of information technology (IT) – specifically IT systems. networking – that he honed the skills of the workforce he currently uses on the job at Richland One.
“The protocols, the basics are still the same, and I use those skills every day,” he said. “CTE showed me that there were so many ways to move forward and better prepare for the work I was getting into.”
As network security manager for 12 of his 14 years with the district, Dixon’s responsibilities include designing, installing and maintaining networks from a central location. This gives it the visibility it needs to observe network behavior, generate reports, and automate feature configurations.
Although he always knew he wanted to work in IT, it was his HCTC and MTC teacher, Ray Sweat, who helped steer his path.
“I have to thank Mr. Sweat for encouraging me to continue networking,” Dixon said. “He would probably be the closest mentor I’ve ever had.”
Dixon said he received hands-on training with computer simulation on how to design, build, maintain and troubleshoot wired and wireless networks. In the course, students continue to learn the formatting and implementation of network security and breach countermeasures. They also learn how to build custom computers, install, maintain, and troubleshoot software and hardware malfunctions.
“The structure and design of the classroom prepared me for the next stage of my education. It prepared me for college and for handling technical issues,” he said. “CTE and Heyward are gems at Richland One, helping those who may not know how to make the transition from school to a professional setting.”
Additionally, students are exposed to modern training relevant to the profession, Dixon said.
“The main strength of the program was that Heyward used Cisco. Anyone who’s ever worked in IT knows the name Cisco,” Dixon said. “It’s a huge company and the first name in networking equipment. This made certification universal, not just for Richland One or Heyward, but for the whole country and beyond.
Those who enter the field can earn between $35,000 and $75,000, depending on the discipline. The Network Systems pathway includes occupations related to network analysis, planning, and implementation, including the design, installation, maintenance, and management of network systems.
Of her journey, Dixon said, “I wouldn’t change anything about my journey. I followed this path from an early age and I learned a lot.