Corporate Social Responsibility

Impact Story: Networking Academy Missouri

An entrepreneur turns networking skills into a lifelong career

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At 8 years old, Kevin Schulmeister was showing his teacher how to use Microsoft Word. By 16, he was running his own computer consulting business. Now, at 20, Kevin is more than just a thriving business owner and high school graduate – he’s a role model and mentor to students taking Cisco Networking Academy courses and competing in a national cybersecurity competition.

An inherent talent for technology

Kevin’s passion for technology blossomed at an early age, in his third grade classroom. There, he showed his teacher how to create documents and save files in the correct format. “Whenever I helped teachers, I knew my way around computers and the technology in the room,” he said.

By the time he started Lisa Oyler’s cybersecurity course at Summit Technology Academy in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, in 2011, he had grown up helping people understand technology and wanted to build on his own knowledge.

Summit uses the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum to emphasize networking skills. Just as he had in third grade, Kevin soaked up as much as he could from Lisa’s networking course. He started his sophomore year building networks from donated routers and switches and soon put those skills to the test in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. In his first year competing in this event, which is designed to inspire high school students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), Kevin and his team reached the semifinals. A year later, he captained his team to the National Finals in Washington, D.C., finishing fifth out of 1,500 registered teams.

Friendships become business partnerships

Kevin wanted to put his knowledge to practical use. In his free time, he started fixing computers around his neighborhood and came up with the idea to start his own business, which he called K-Tech.

“I was working with home clients, cleaning viruses and upgrading their operating systems,” he said. With the help of his parents, he was able to grow K-Tech into a useful small business for neighbors and friends in the area. “I was only 16 when I started the company,” Kevin said. “But my parents helped me find 30-40 clients, from sisters to cousins to family friends.”

When Kevin met Elias Duckworth and Saige Mehl while competing in CyberPatriot, he saw the opportunity to expand beyond his family and neighbors. After building a strong camaraderie together, Kevin realized how valuable his friends were to the business. “I’ve seen how teams come together, he said. “Whenever they see each other, they click, talking about everything from games to classes.” Shortly after graduating, K-Tech became Sektek, a clever play on the students’ first names.

“We were all 18 and decided partner up immediately after CyberPatriot,” he said. “Elias is really good with cybersecurity and Saige is great at understanding code and designing websites.” Elias and Saige are away at college and working remotely, while Kevin works directly with clients to build the business.

“My dad’s best friend is the general manager for a local business,” Kevin said. “Three other businesses on the street needed IT support, and I was lucky enough to start there with Sektek.” Without the hands-on experience from Lisa Oyler’s class, Kevin may not have been able to sustain the business on his own.

Giving back through technology

When Kevin isn’t busy securing a business’s network, he’s taking college courses online and pursuing a double major in computer information systems and business administration. But, he’s also spending 15 hours a week giving back to local high schools, mentoring current CyberPatriot competitors.

“Lisa’s class taught me so much, especially Cisco terminology,” Kevin said. That knowledge, paired with his desire to help others, motivated Kevin to take his skills and inspire other students to follow his path after he graduated.

In 2014, Kevin mentored Lisa’s teams and a team from Lee’s Summit North High School. Both of Lisa’s teams made the national finals, but Summit North fell just short.

When Kevin mentors, he shares detailed lists of things he saw as a competitor and shows the students good techniques for staying calm under pressure. “When I’m there mentoring, I can demo event software, answer questions, make sure they understand the material, and create practice images that look exactly like the competition.”

The soft skills and technical skills that Kevin gained from Cisco Networking Academy and CyberPatriot have been crucial to his business and his mentoring. If a network goes down for a client, he can handle the adverse situation and solve the problem while communicating exactly what’s happening. When he’s in the classroom, it’s easy for Kevin to share what he’s experienced and what they should expect in a STEM workplace.

“I’ve always been the kind of person to help, to show, and to teach,” Kevin said. “I like that the students I help can expand and use technology better than ever before. Technology is growing and everyone is going to have to be able to use it. I have this knowledge and I want to share it with the students.”

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“I’ve always been the kind of person to help, to show, and to teach... I have this knowledge and I want to share it with the students.”
— Kevin Schulmeister