by Heidi Riley
Combat Computers focuses on everything technology-related when it comes to sales, service, and support of computers and computer systems from tip to tip across PEI and into New Brunswick.
In the last 23 years, the company has grown to a staff of 17 spread between retail locations in Charlottetown and Summerside and a mobile service.
For home users, they sell and repair cell phones and computers and set up printers, sound systems, home security systems, and much more.
For businesses, they install and maintain servers, manage anti-virus platforms, remote access, and networking, set up WiFi for campgrounds and apartment buildings, and many more services. The technology is managed remotely or in person.
Owner Steve vanDuinkerken started small and has moved twice to larger locations. Now the company is in the process of moving again. They have outgrown their current location on Capital Drive in Charlottetown, and purchased the former Robin’s Donuts building next door. They moved the retail department to the new location at the end of October, and plan to add on to the building and move the rest of the operation in the spring.
“IT is not just one job,” says Jeff vanDuinkerken, Steve’s son and Senior Network Administrator. “There are thousands of different jobs in Information Technology.
“The digital industry is booming because it is part of every industry, including healthcare, aquaculture, and agriculture. For example, some potato farms now use fully automated driverless tractors on PEI. Robots in the facilities change pallets, empty trucks, and wash and package the potatoes.”
Staff titles – onsite department
- Senior Network Administrators take care of servers and complex networks
- Network Technicians take care of home-based networks and businesses
- Dispatcher takes calls and sends out technicians
- Junior Technicians solve less complex issues for all users
Staff titles – retail department
- Computer Technicians, Phone Technicians, Accounting, Retail General Manager
“We are always looking for people,” says Steve. “Our work is so diverse that we can offer jobs to people who are specialized in such areas as networking or servers.
“We hire Computer Technicians most frequently. Right now, we are looking for a Network Technician and a Managed Services Technician.”
- Network Technicians visit worksites and fix problems on site.
- Managed Services Technicians work from an office, taking calls and fixing computer problems remotely.
“Prior to the pandemic, we received many international applications,” says Steve. “We recently hired two people who came from Quebec and Manitoba.”
Why is there such a great demand for jobs in IT?
“These days, much more technology is Internet based, such as Voice over IP and security cameras, and the demand is growing for these services,” says Steve.
“Also, cyber security is becoming more important, and there are many more steps involved in setting up remote access to ensure a safe connection. Ransomware and identity theft are becoming more sophisticated, and people want to be more secure, so that puts more demands on the IT sector.”
Jeff says that at this time of COVID-19 with many people working from home, more people need help to become connected to the office.
“The computer industry is driven by the demand for technology in watches, phones, and tablets, and everything is becoming more reliant on IT. The normal consumer can no longer fix machinery when there is a problem, and specialists are needed.”
“It is tough to find people who are qualified and who meet all our criteria,” says Steve.
They look for people who have CompTIA certifications in A+, Network+, and Security+. “You can start your career by taking college programs that lead to those certifications, or you can study all the materials and write the exams on your own online,” says Jeff. “Passing those exams is a great starting point, but we also look for relevant work experience.
“We need to be very stringent about who we bring in to work with us,” says Steve. “We need people who can communicate well and we need to be able to trust them to take care of customers properly.
“Once hired, we verify their skillset and train them. Each new hire spends a few months with the Road Techs before they go on calls independently. So we need someone with the ability to work unsupervised.”
Most work is Monday to Friday, and the retail location is also open Saturday mornings. “We offer competitive wages and a good medical and dental plan. We will soon be offering a pension plan. We are also flexible when someone has a dental or doctor’s appointment.”
“From a young age, I knew that I would get into computers,” says Steve, who took a two-year computer course at Holland College and then worked in Bermuda for two years before returning to PEI and starting Combat Computers in 1998.
“I like the independence and flexibility of owning my own business and being able to meet the needs of the customer and get the job done.”
Jeff says he grew up with technology and built his first computer when he was five years old. “I have always been interested in how things work and seeing how technology and computers can make things more efficient.
“I enjoy the work. It is always something different, always challenging, and very rarely do we see the same issue twice. I also really like working with the team at Combat.”
Jeff earned a business degree from UPEI, with a minor in Information Technology. He also has eight CompTIA certifications. Before COVID-19 hit, he went to Halifax for specific training, and both Jeff and Steve have attended international conferences to stay up-to-date with the newest technology.
Advice to those considering a career in IT
Steve and Jeff agree that there is a great demand for IT professionals. “It is almost to the point where we can’t take any new customers because we are so busy,” says Steve. “We want to make sure that we don’t burn out the staff we already have. We could be working 24/7 if we could handle the workload.
“If you are considering going into IT, make sure you enjoy a challenge and solving problems,” says Jeff. “You should want to go beyond putting a band-aid on an issue, but instead try to find the source of the problem.”
“If someone wants to be a technician today, the drive should be towards finding why the computer issue happened, as opposed to running an application tool and walking away,” says Steve. “It is nice if a technician can say why the problem occurred and provide a solution to prevent it from happening again.”
Learning never stops, because technology is always changing. “We really have to stay on top of it,” says Jeff. “Every three months, something new comes out. If you don’t keep up, you will fall behind.”
For a video about Combat Computers, click here
For videos about Combat Computers and other IT companies and education paths, visit www.youtube.com/channel/UCf5aDfnHkCXRR_mdQWsYSww