Salem Spotlight: Ronnie Lewis


Interview with Ronnie Lewis, Coordinator of Technology Services.

Where are you from? And how did you end up in Winston-Salem?

I am from Winston Salem and have lived here all my life. I had the opportunity to move away from Winston-Salem twice for jobs, but stayed local.  In 1999, PepsiCo moved my helpdesk job to Plano,TX and again in 12/2014 my wife accepted a job in Kansas City, Miss.  I had a job waiting for me in 2014-15, but decided to stay at Salem.  It was tough only seeing my wife two to three times a year.  In August of 2017, my wife moved back here to North Carolina.

How long have you been working at Salem College and what did you do beforehand?

I have been in Salem IT for 16 years. Kay McKnight (IT Director at the time) hired me on July 2 2001. My first day of work was July 5, 2001. I still have the notes I took during the interview.  When I accepted the position I had took a 10K pay cut from my previous job.  What attracted me to Salem was the benefit package and the environment was like family to me.  It was a close knit community back then and that impressed me.  I have worked under three IT Directors to date.  I have filled in where needed across many areas of IT. Managed in and out of jobs where needed. 

I began my IT career working for PepsiCo IT in 1998, and I also used to work for First Baptist Church as Maintenance Director. I also have experience in HVAC, Electrical, etc.

Have you always had an interest in the technical support field?

Yes and No.  I always thought of it as a hobby.  when I was young in 20’s and 30’s.  I wasn’t able to go to college in my early life like most.  My dad died when I was 21.  I had to work 3 jobs to pay bills and take care of my mom.  She was not able to work.  I had someone give me a test and told me I was in the wrong field (HVAC, Electrical and Maint Dir)  He encouraged me to go back to college and get into IT.  I did and did well in classes. 

What was campus like when you first started and what has been the biggest change you’ve seen?

When I was hired on campus Salem had two Windows servers. One was used for the Academy and one was used for the College. The College server, named “strong,” was used for Salem College file shares. We had I think two Linux servers.  One was used for a local mail server.  (This was before Google or Gmail) We also had only four multimedia rooms….Today we have around 44 rooms not counting auditoriums.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I enjoy working with people.  One of my favorites events of the year is CAE.  During that day we used to average around 75 presentations while using Hanes, Shirley and the Drama Workshop at the same time all day to accomplish this. Most of the time it’s happened with no issues. I think I still have all the presentations that students have done since they started.  

One year a student from Colombia, South America wanted her family who could not attend to see her presentation. I set up a laptop on the front row to let her family attend her presentation remotely. Her name was Jennifer Bendek. I still keep in touch with her via Facebook.  

How have the rapid changes in technology affected your work at Salem?

It’s always a challenge to keep up with new technology and needs on campus.  It takes money and training. To say you know it all would be a lie. It’s always something new that you learn on problems you run across on campus. You have to have troubleshooting skills.

How would you like to see your department grow or change in the future?

The needs for technology support have increased, but the number of IT staff has stayed the same until we recently added two part-time positions. We lost a lot of tech experience at the end of last year. It has been challenging, but over time should improve.  

What’s the strangest thing that you have seen happen while working as Salem?  

One year during the CAE presentations we had a bad storm. A tornado had touched down outside of Winston-Salem near Sandy Ridge Road.  The power went out on campus and everyone was directed to the basement of the FAC.  After the power came back on and it was all clear regarding the tornado, Chris Shepard and I had the presentations back up in 15 mins.  Then all went well.  

Is there anything that you would like the Salem community to know about you or your department?

We have a lot of good people in many departments at the college that keep the place going behind the scenes. They have a lot of heart and work hard. Take time to thank them and show appreciation for the their service to Salem. I have had the pleasure over my 16 years to get to know a lot of different people and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you could be any animal, which would you choose and why? (And do you have any pets of your own?)

I have never thought about being animal, but a dog is always happy to see you. They show unconditional love. I do have a pet dog. Her name is Maya. She is 90% Amstaff and 10% Boxer.  A FB friend (former Nepal Student) named her.  It means “Love” in Nepal.  I had asked for name suggestions for my rescue dog on FB.  She made the suggestion online and I liked it.

On a personal note, I participated in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Classes (FPU) in 2007. As a result of the class my family paid off $26,000 of debt in 18 months. Since 2008, I have volunteered and facilitated classes. These activities resulted in helping people pay off $147,130.42 of debt paid off and $38,175.32 of savings over four years.

Service is an important part of my life. I am not good at promoting myself, but I let my service speak for itself. I have served on school board for our church school (Tri-City Christian Academy), on the strategic planning committee for the school board (Later built new school), as deacon, elder and later head elder for 10 years, and I have served the church for 9 months in the absence of a pastor.

I had a Traumatic Brain Injury when I was 9 from racing my bike. After the wreck I rode back home on my bike, but when I entered the house I passed out. Long story short, I was paralyzed on the left side. The doctors drilled three holes in my head and then sawed my skull open to save me. The amazing thing was that I was out of the hospital in one week and back to school in three weeks–which was unheard of back then. I would go to the Baptist Hospital once a month for follow-up, and they would bring doctors in to tell about my recovery. I still can feel the indentions in my head from these. I am also a cancer survivor. I had melanoma on my left cheek that a couple doctors missed. When they realized what it was I had emergency surgery removing about 1/4 of my left cheek.  This was done while I was awake.  The first doctor did not get the border of the cancer, so it came back, and, again, 1/4 of my left face was removed.  This time I had to stay open till they closed me a few days later. It would take multiple surgeries over a year to get me back to normal. I did this while still attending college and missed very few days if any. From these two times in my life I have learned not to take life for granted. I don’t know why God spared my life, but I do know he has led in my life and taken care of me when needed.

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