Subscribe to our Youtube Channel here
Listen to Podcast
Like podcasts? Find our full archive here or anywhere you listen to podcasts: search Community IT Innovators Nonprofit Technology Topics on Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Pandora, and more. Or ask your smart speaker.
Community IT Voices: Luke Casey, IT Business Manager
Join us for our series featuring interviews with Community IT employees. In this series, we talk about nonprofit technology career paths, career resources, skills, and certifications. We will also touch on mentoring opportunities as you start out on your career and ways to give back if you are further along. If you are wondering what it is like to work at a place like Community IT, you can learn about it here.
In today’s interview, Carolyn talks with Luke Casey, one of our IT Business Managers. ITBMs are kind of a strategic planner, IT consultant, and tech expert rolled into one. Luke has 18 years of experience in IT in both the public and private sectors, from starting in the Help Desk to working his way up through Team Leadership positions, System Administration, and IT Project Management before joining Community IT. As ITBM, Luke makes recommendations on IT investments, training programs, maintenance, and licenses. ITBMs help clients be forward-looking, and act as a vendor-agnostic, trusted advisors with deep knowledge of the nonprofit IT software and platforms available.
Luke explains how he studied Medieval Literature at Indiana University but took a hard look at careers and ended up in tech, which he had always enjoyed. He came to Community IT and found the place where his tech experience can make a difference to nonprofits.
“…the majority of it is serving as a counselor and as an as an advisor.
You take on that role of an outsourced IT manager for organizations where they’re starting to hit the stage where they need IT organizational management. They need someone to think strategically and long-term about their situation, their goals, their architecture, their infrastructure. But they can’t really justify having a whole IT department.
Do they grab an internal guy to do help desk work? Do they try and look for a unicorn who’s going to do everything at the same time and end up paying a unicorn’s price? Or do they go with this middle of the road option where you go to an MSP like Community IT who can provide help desk when you need it. We have engineers when you need it. We have large scale organizational thinking when you need it.”Luke Casey, IT Business Manager
Luke has 18 years of experience in IT in both the public and private sectors, from starting in the Help Desk to working his way up through Team Leadership positions, System Administration, and IT Project Management. He has served as a Union leader during his time with the City of Louisville and is passionate about the advocation of workers’ rights.
Luke studied Medieval Literature at Indiana University. He is a passionate reader, board game enthusiast, dog lover, and rugby player and coach. He currently lives in Bloomington Indiana with his dogs Rose the Toad and Remus.
Carolyn Woodard has served many roles at Community IT Innovators, from client to project manager to marketing. With over twenty years of experience in the nonprofit world and marketing, including as a nonprofit technology project manager and Director of IT, Carolyn knows the frustrations and delights of working with technology professionals, accidental techies, executives, and staff to deliver your organization’s mission and keep your IT infrastructure operating.
Carolyn is excited to help manage Marketing at Community IT Innovators and is always looking for new ways to tell stories and reach people. She has a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Johns Hopkins University and received her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College. She thinks the best thing about being with Community IT Innovators is the people.
Carolyn Woodard: Hello and welcome to Community IT Innovators Voices Interview series. My name is Carolyn Woodard and I’m the Marketing Director at Community IT. And today, I’m really excited to be talking with Luke Casey, who is one of our IT business managers. So Luke, would you like to introduce yourself and how long you’ve been with Community IT?
Luke Casey: Sure. Hi, my name is Luke Casey. I’m an IT Business Manager here at Community IT. I’ve been here, let’s see, a little over a year and a half at this point.
Do you remember when you saw the Community IT opening and what made you think that you’d like to apply?
Luke Casey: Yeah, I was looking, I had just left a corporate job. Well, left my entire department got outsourced. But I was working down in Louisville for a digital signage firm and their whole ethos was don’t make a better product, just buy your competitor. And yeah, not a fantastic fit, but I had worked previously in the governmental space, both at the county and city levels and I had been involved with nonprofits, as a volunteer and various other elements. And I saw the posting and it was first off full-time remote, which great, because I do not live in Washington, D.C., where Community IT is based.
And I was looking through the posting and just the more I saw about it really matched my skill set, matched where I want to go career-wise, because I was doing system administration work at the time. I was much more in-the-weeds engineering, but I had gotten more and more into project management and scoping and like kind of large scale kind of organizational goals.
And the job just really fit where I wanted to go. And then I did a bunch of reading around Glassdoor and other testimonials and everyone just kept saying this place is awesome, the place is awesome. So, all right, I’ll apply. So I applied and I heard back like three days later and a couple weeks later I had an offer and it was great.
Carolyn Woodard: The rest is history. So you are an IT business manager which is something a little unique to the way Community IT works with our clients.
Could you talk a little bit about what an IT business manager does?
Luke Casey: I think the core of it is serving as a combination of a small scale project manager for specific client’s issues. But the majority of it is serving as a counselor and as an as an advisor.
You kind of take on that role of like an outsourced IT manager for organizations where they’re starting to hit the stage where they need IT organizational management. They need someone to think kind of strategically and long-term about their situation, their goals, their architecture, their infrastructure. But they can’t really justify having a whole IT department.
Do they grab an internal guy to do help desk work? Do they try and look for a unicorn who’s going to do everything at the same time and end up paying a unicorn’s price? Or do they, go with kind of this middle of the road option where you, you go to an MSP like Community IT who can provide help desk when you need it. We have engineers when you need it. We have large scale organizational thinking when you need it.
And so a lot of my job is talking people out of spending money, telling them, hey, you don’t need to spend on this. Let’s look at these other options. And then kind of helping them set goals, budgets, and plan out the next couple years of their IT space. And then if any kind of major issues come up, they have a security event or, there’s a sudden change in their market space or there’s a just, “hey, we decided we’re going to go completely remote and we’ve never looked at this before. What do we do?”
You know, we sit down and we plan that out together. And so it’s great. I get to help a lot of wide variety of organizations that do good work and it’s pretty awesome.
Carolyn Woodard: I love it. And my understanding is that, that’s something that is a little bit different that Community IT does for clients, that we can keep an eye on some of those strategic issues like how you’re spending your budget.
One example is if they’re constantly having help desk requests for certain laptops, well, maybe those laptops need to be replaced and how can we budget to do something like that? So I feel like it’s a really great option that we have for clients.
Do you have certain projects or things that you’ve worked on with clients that were really, exciting and interesting for you that you could tell us about?
Luke Casey: One of my first clients I got when I came on board, they do a lot of work in nations where they are not welcome. They’re a climate resource group and they have a lot of pushback from oil industry folk and local government and even national government there. And they have a lot of concerns about the safety of their grantees, the people they work with.
One of the first kind of major projects we did was to build out a way for them to store their data and communicate with their grantees in such a way that data was safe from oversight or intrusion from those (antagonistic) groups.
I wasn’t expecting that when I came into that meeting and they sat down and said, hey, this is our problem. We want to protect these people who are in danger because of this.
I said, all right, great, let’s do it. And it took us a while, but we found the right solution. I was not expecting that when I came to that meeting. I had a spreadsheet lined up on ticket trend tracking and that was NOT what we talked about.
Carolyn Woodard: That’s so great. What a great feeling too, that you can help protect people with that cybersecurity that can really make a big difference in their lives.
Can you talk a little bit about whether you were always interested in technology? Did you start out in high school being a techie, or is was it something where you gained those skills over time?
Luke Casey: When I was a kid, I was really into computer games and my parents looked at and were like, we’re not going to spend money on that. But I did have a computer that I purchased for schoolwork. And so I started rooting around inside it. I would save up money and because I worked landscaping jobs in high school and that kind of thing. And I would go down and I would buy another component and I would upgrade it and I basically built this gaming computer over a couple months. Then that kind of started a trend of just, all right, well, I don’t know how to do it, but I know how to Google it and I know how to find out what I need to do and I’ll find the video, or something like that and we’ll go through.
And that started that process. And then I actually went to school for medieval literature, which is not super useful in the IT field. But I was working part-time just as a help desk guy for the county government where I went to school, which literally the requirement coming in at that point was, do you know how the office suite works? And I’m like, yes, I do. Great, you will help people with their email issues. And everything I did was scripted. I hesitate to call it help desk. It was the most basic level tech support you could possibly do. And they said, hey, we had a guy up above you who just left, we have a full-time slot available, do you want to take this full-time job?
And I looked at the market value of a medieval literature specialist, and I looked at being able to pay my rent and I went, wow, that sounds great. And so I started doing that and I just kind of fell into it and I realized I was pretty good at it. I did a lot of internal training and then did certifications along the way. And I moved cities a couple times, but I started doing help desk work and then tier two, tier three escalation work. And then I was running a help desk for a while and then I ended up doing system administration work, and then I was based with the entire IT department for a couple places, and I just worked my way up.
And it wasn’t a defined career path of like, I want to do this, then I want to do this, then I want to do this. But I met a guy when I was working at the city of Louisville and the city of Louisville had a department for business relationship management, which was very similar to kind of what we do here, but it was for individual departments. The Health and Human services had a BRM and the police and emergency services had a BRM. Basically each had a person who was their point of contact within the internal IT department who knew them inside and out and helped them with their departmental goals.
And I helped him on a bunch of different stuff and he put me on this track of looking at this kind of IT management thing. It’s really satisfying, it’s really interesting and it isn’t this kind of jack of all trades environment that you’re used to, crawling under desks.
At the time I didn’t have the resource to go after that job. I was still pretty new in my career at the time, but it was always kind of in the back of my head, that this is something I’m interested in. And then when I was looking around at jobs, I saw this opening at Community IT and I thought, Hey, that’s exactly what Sean told me about.
And I messaged him on LinkedIn, like, I don’t know, six or seven months after I got this job. I was like, Hey Sean, I’m finally doing it. I’m doing the thing you told me I should do 10 years ago.
Carolyn Woodard: That’s great. You know, as a fellow medieval literature nerd, I’m so glad to hear that.
I think that I’ve talked to other people who work with Community IT, and one of the things about the kind of work that we do is that you do need creativity and flexibility and kind of an entrepreneurial ability to do it. It’s not just rote and you don’t have a script that it’s always going to be this problem, always has this answer.
You have to be empowered to work with the clients and partner with them to get at the heart of what is either the technical problem or you deal with a lot sometimes this strategic problem that we need to solve, and we think technology is one of the ways that we could solve it. So that’s just so interesting to hear that connection.
If you were talking to yourself in high school or someone in high school now, about preparing for a job with technology and combining that with nonprofits and helping people, do you have any advice for somebody who’s starting out now or anything in your career that you would want them to keep in mind?
Like you had that mentor help you out?
Luke Casey: Sure. I think really the biggest skill set that I developed that I never saw in any of my certification programs or the kind of training materials was to learn how to take the things that you find interesting, the details and the technological elements that are fascinating to you and you know inside and out because you’ve been doing this for however long, whether it’s a hobby or whether you’re pursuing school. Learn how to take that information and translate it in an accessible way to people who have no interest or understanding in what you’re talking about.
And that’s not a reflection on them, it’s just if I go to an accounting firm, they are going to have an interest in understanding of finance, I’ll never understand, but they can pare it down. They can make it accessible for the people who need their specialized knowledge and being able to take complex technological questions and give them a coherent answer that doesn’t drown them in details, that doesn’t get lost in the weeds.
We need to say “Here is what you need to know and here’s my backup reasoning if you want to dig into it.” We have all these layers that we can go into, but you need to be able to make tech accessible and you need to be able to make solutions understandable. And with those two, you can go really far with just, I have this knowledge, I don’t need to drown you in it. Let’s talk about what your end goals are. What do you need to have happen? Okay, I will build you a solution that matches that and then I will make you able to understand the general scope of how it works.
You don’t need to explain to your client every detail, every setting, every element involved as long as they understand the core of what’s going on and why you’re doing it.
Carolyn Woodard: I love that. I think that’s something that we do bring to clients and we always say that, you don’t have to understand all the lingo to be able to understand what your IT is doing for you. And in fact, when you’re managing it, you need to know what it’s doing for you. You don’t want to hand it over to someone who doesn’t know your organization and say, just do it. So I love that.
I have one more question for you which is sometimes it’s hard to describe what Community IT does. So if you’re in a party situation or meeting someone new and they ask you what do you do, what do you tell them?
Luke Casey: You know, I’ve yet to find like a great shorthand for it. It works with the five or six people who like already knew what BRM was. I’m like, well, it’s kind of like that, like a little bit different. But I think I would generally go with kind of a shorthand of, it’s a combination of like being an outsourced IT manager and being a client advocate, being a counselor and being a project manager, just, but you’re not fulltime at all of those things. You’re taking shards of it.
One of the things I got told when I first came on board is yes Community IT is paying you, however you work for your clients. So I have 23 clients that I’m the IT Business Manager for right now. Whenever I’m doing stuff for them, I have to think and put myself in the head space of I’m working in their best interest, I work for them.
What is their goal? What do I need to do to get them the solution they need? I just happened to get paid by Community IT, and that was an a good brain space kind of switch to make. But yeah, it’s a hard shorthand for what exactly do you do, but I think if I had to put it on a fortune cookie, I’d go with it’s an outsourced IT manager kind of position.
Carolyn Woodard: That makes sense. You’re not the only one at Community IT that has trouble saying exactly what you do in your job position. But I mean, Community IT is an outsourced IT provider for nonprofits and often you get people who are just like, that’s plenty. But then you get people who ask the next question of like, well, what does that mean? And then, it’s so interesting to talk about.
Well, I really appreciate your time today, Luke. I know you’ve got a lot of clients and a lot of work that you’re handling for them and with them. Thank you so much for being part of this interview today. I really appreciate it.
Luke Casey: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
We hope you enjoyed this Community IT Voices interview with Luke Casey, IT Business Manager. Community IT is the right place for you if you find fulfillment in helping others succeed and want to work for a company that serves nonprofits.
Our employees stay and grow with us, and over half of our staff have been with us for over a decade. Community IT is an employee-owned company with a positive, sustainable workplace that promotes professional development and a healthy work/life balance. We have been 100% employee-owned since 2012. Check out careers with us here.