This feature first appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Have you ever had the enjoyable opportunity of meeting an individual who seems to have the world on a string? You know the type I'm talking about: This sort of person has loads of talent, brains, an impressive and lengthy list of accomplishments. They're trustworthy, humble and, for good measure, even easy to like.
Chandler Bise is one of these rare and remarkable individuals — extremely capable, confident, accomplished, self-effacing and really likable. Although only 18, his list of IT activities and accomplishments would be impressive for someone three times his age.
Born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., Chandler is the oldest of three children, He has two younger sisters and comes from a tight-knit family that enjoys camping, hiking, and fishing. The family also has four dogs: Ginger, Coco, and Drake are Boykin Spaniels, and Gus is a brown lab.
Chandler's father, Dax Bise, describes Chandler as a very special young man who mostly kept to himself growing up. "He was quiet, always reading and always thinking," said the elder Bise. "I didn't push him, just kind of let him do his own thing. When he was little he was always taking things apart to see how they work. One of his first words was 'refrigerator.' "
An aptitude for IT
Chandler's inquisitiveness and desire to learn eventually led him to Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School in Montgomery, where he excelled in IT and robotics. John "Katphishe" Cannady, the school's technology instructor, describes Chandler as being amazingly unique:
"In 32 years of teaching, I've never seen another student like him. He's the kind of kid that you wish every student was like in terms of performing. He had a vision and a plan to get through high school with as much learning as possible."
Cannady originally tried to direct Chandler into aerospace, but it was a no-go. His primary interest was information technology (IT) and he is very good at it. In fact, administration trusted him enough to assist Cannady in maintaining and troubleshooting 1,500 school computers.
"Whenever there was a computer problem and I wasn't there, the first words out of the principal's mouth were, "Where's Chandler?" said Cannady. "He could basically do everything with a computer I could do. He thinks at an adult level."
Chandler's initial exposure to certification came in a freshman IT class where IC3 and TestOut's PC Pro were part of the curriculum. "I quickly saw that I could get certified while learning," Chandler said. "From there, I was always eager to get another certification."
Certification leads to employment
With his knack for learning and enjoyment of exploring new topics, Chandler easily earned his first two certifications. After he realized the relative cost-effectiveness of certification, as well as its value in the eyes of employers, he was raring to earn more.
"I thought, Wow! I need to earn as many as I can. I realized how valuable they are in the real world," Chandler said.
He presently holds eight IT certifications: TestOut's PC Pro, Network Pro, and Security Pro; CompTIA A+; C-Tech's Copper Media and Fiber Optics Media; Microsoft Technology Associate; and an Internet and Computing Core (IC3) certification from Certiport. He is currently working towards a CCNA.
After graduating last summer, Chandler was able to apply his knowl edge and certifications while working for the Montgomery Public School District. "My reputation from high school scored me the job," he said.
During the summer Chandler worked alongside the district's fulltime network administrators learning to fix issues and manage district-wide networking projects. He is particularly proud of helping to replace and upgrade Wi-Fi services throughout 70 buildings from existing Cisco APs to a brand new Aerohive AP.
He also assisted in upgrading each school to a 1 GBPS uplink versus the old 100 MBPS, and installing equipment in a new building. "I really got to put all my knowledge from certifications to use," he said. "There was not a day of work where I didn't learn something new and have fun doing it."
Brewbaker's robotics instructor, Steve Ballard, also has high praise for Chandler. "He is an awesome guy — always busy, and always trying to do a lot, and whatever he does he does quite well." During his four years in high school Chandler was a member of the technology Student Association (TSA), serving first as state treasurer, and then as president.
Over his senior year, he even found the time to run for the office of national treasurer of TSA and had the opportunity to speak in front of 10,000 people, an experience he describes as "scary at the time, but very interesting."
Chandler was also a member of the school's four-person robotics team. For three consecutive years, the team won first place in the state and competed in the world championships. Among his other accomplishments are being a National Honor Society student since the 7th grade, serving as vice-president for the student government association, and helping to build an electric car that participated in the renowned Electrathon America race.
For good measure, Chandler was a SkillsUSA Winner at the state level, taking first place in the Computer Maintenance/Information Technology Competition.
In his self-effacing way, Chandler told how he felt unprepared going into the Alabama SkillsUSA competition. He didn't think he had any chance to win. His outlook changed, he said, after "I found out the main portion of the competition was the TestOut PC Pro exam that I had studied. I was excited and finished with the top score."
Which came as a surprise. While Chandler knew he had done well on the interview and networking portions of the competition, he didn't think he would win. "I honestly did not expect to win," he said. "When I heard the third- and second-places winners called, I was okay with not winning because I had had fun. But then surprisingly my name was called for first place. I was really excited."
As a state-wide winner, Chandler went on to compete at the national level, receiving a scholarship and a couple of free TestOut courses.
Higher education and Boy Scout skills
Chandler is currently attending the University of Alabama and majoring in Electrical Engineering and Management Information Systems. "A lot of people told me that I didn't need college. That I could use my certifications and get a great job," he said.
There's more to college, however, than just learning opportunities. "I like being at UA because I'm exposed to people from all over the world giving me the endless opportunities for learning. UA has great classes and also happens the have the best football team in the country. Roll Tide!"
One doesn't accomplish as much as Chandler has without knowing how to set and achieve goals. Chandler attributes his success at aiming high and following through to his time in the Boy Scouts of America and earning merit badges.
"As I moved through each of the ranks, I had to meet specific requirements, and I could only do them one at a time. I would figure out what needed to be done, then tackle each step in order."
As in everything else he does, Chandler excelled in Scouting. He received his Eagle rank last summer and considers it his greatest accomplishment. "I spent more than eight years working my way up through the ranks, and finally completed all the tasks to become an Eagle. It was a huge relief."
Along the way, he also earned 68 merit badges. His favorite is Geocaching, because "you're out in the real world, running around and navigating to hidden containers."
Stay calm and ignore the sharks
While Scouting taught him to set goals, Chandler seems to have always had a relaxed and easygoing outlook on life. One incident in his childhood stands out as an example of his unique ability to remain calm under pressure. He calls it the craziest and scariest thing that ever happened to him.
As a 10-year-old, Chandler and his father were fishing with friends in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat took on water and capsized eight miles from shore. "It was pretty scary," he said. "We were rushing to get our life jackets on while the captain tried to radio for help. Before he could call out mayday twice, the boat flipped over."
Chandler's father managed to push him out of the water and up onto the keel of the overturned boat. Unfortunately, the group lost their cell phones in the unexpected dunking and found that their rescue flares were soaked and wouldn't light.
Floating alongside a downed vessel wasn't even the worst of their problems: The group had been catching a number of three-to-four-foot-long bull sharks. Bull sharks are highly aggressive, as well as being the species to whom most attacks on humans are attributed. Now the group's bait was floating in the water around them.
According to his father, Chandler was the most level-headed of the group: "He was real calm. Did what I told him, and acted like it was no big deal." Fortunately, another boat had heard their call and, after an hour or so in the water, the waterlogged fishermen were rescued.
School before pleasure
Chandler is an exceptional student, and readily admits that "school is pretty much life for me." While he does enjoy spending free time with friends and family, he is always careful to finish his schoolwork completely before taking any breaks.
"That allows me to not worry about unfinished work. I believe that being as stress-free as possible is the best way to live life," he said.
Chandler enjoys watching stuff on Netflix (he is a huge fan of the Marvel Comics movies) and driving his 2013 Jeep Wrangler with the doors off. "It's a good way to relax," he said, "four-wheeling through shallow creeks and dirt-roads."
He also likes spending time on Reddit, the social news aggregation and discussion website, "trying to find anything cool, new and interesting in the science and technology world."
Although he is not yet certain what career path he will follow, Chandler has many options. He enjoys spy movies featuring computer hackers, and said his ultimate goal is probably to be a certified ethical hacker working for a government agency. "I don't mind what job I have or where I have to relocate, as long as I am having fun while working," he said.
Future high-tech wizard?
Like many young IT students, Chandler's favorite fictional character is Tony Stark, the alter ego of Marvel's Iron Man, because of Tony's freewheeling high-tech lifestyle. "I would have access to all the cool technology and toys," he said, "and I could fly around saving the world."
His real-world role model is tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who's sort of a Tony Stark actually walking among us. "He is the CEO of two of the most amazing companies on Earth right now. His innovation with Tesla Motors and electric cars is making the world a cleaner place, which is good," Chandler said. "Plus his work with SpaceX and getting humans to Mars is an inspiring goal."
"I would love the opportunity to go to space after a career or two."
As with anyone who has earned a number of certifications, Chandler has some advice for other students. "Don't let your education be just what a specific course teaches you," he said. "Take what you learned and apply it to real situations. Play around with computers and get hands-on experience."
"That's how I learned so much about IT. I didn't just sit through courses, I took what I was learning and began experimenting. Don't treat certification like a class, treat it like you're having fun."
Chandler also thinks that certification, good as it already is, has room to grow. "If I could change one thing, it would be how people are certified," he said. "I've come across people who test well, but can't tell the difference between a hard drive and a motherboard."
"If certification exams included more hands-on items, or lab simulations like what TestOut uses, I believe the competence level of certified individuals would rise."
IT professionals do tend to be "people of beginnings," always looking to the future with an optimistic spirit and seeing possibilities. Chandler Bise is such a person — his future is filled with promise and IT mastery is within his grasp. There is no doubt that he will go on to positively impact the lives of all who know him. It seems entirely possible that, like his fictional and real role models, Chandler Bise may someday become a force for good even in the lives of people who have never met him.