For our first Expert Spotlight of 2015 we’ll chat with Kent Olsen, a member of our community since 2003. We began our conversation with his experience visiting the Experts Exchange office for our very first member conference. He remembers his visit to California’s Central Coast fondly; meeting other members in person, visiting the wonders of Hearst Castle, and discovering the roads less traveled with his wife along the coast. It was fantastic.
Kent’s Back Story
Kent got his start in technology in 1974. He was studying math, physics, electronics, and music at Florida State University when a friend with access to the school’s mainframe computer offered him a chance to play chess against it. A rated chess player at the time, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. He lost the first game, but in the rematch managed to beat the computer in 21 moves. He was intrigued that a machine could manage to best him, so he set out to discover how it worked, and a career was born.
He remembers running 68000 based processors and working on the early Unix systems, identified as a multi-user system by the four RS-232 ports on the back. RS-232 serial ports were widely used on personal computers back in the day, for connecting things like printers, modems, data storage and power supplies. Today these sort of connections are largely replaced by USB or Ethernet ports on personal computers but they are still seen on industrial machines and scientific instruments. The highlight of his career was working on the Cray series, Control Data 6000s, Cyber 205, and ETA 10 supercomputers.
Kent is not shy about his age – he is 61 and proud of his active lifestyle. He and his wife both have full time jobs and maintain six rental properties, and he also finds time to volunteer on Experts Exchange. He still picks up washing machines and sheets of plywood, and takes care of other tasks at home and for his businesses. During the day he contracts through the University of North Florida to the Florida Office of Early Learning. Tasks that require strong math skills like numerology, encryption, and data warehouse architecture are of interest to him thanks to his background in applied math. Standing at 6’7” he’s likely the tallest of the Experts, though he readily admits that it hasn’t given him an advantage on the site.
You’ll find Kent in the DB2 topic areas, he greatly appreciates the design and simplicity of DB2 – IBM’s database engine. He has great insight from years of experience, highlighting that database technology can present several solutions to one problem, and every administrator brings their own style to a project. Through his early career, IBM was the largest vendor he worked with and many others were trying to get a piece of the data management pie. He had avoided IBM in his early years, and as soon as he started using it, he said it was like a “face palm” moment. It was so much easier, intuitive and user friendly. This resonated with him and he established himself as a DB2 expert from that point on, while at the same time he remains active in other technologies, including Oracle and SQL Server.
Kent’s Experts Exchange Story
When he first joined Experts Exchange in 2003, Kent was working primarily in the c programming language topic area. It was here he met sunnycoder, a member from India. They were both answering questions, delving into conversations, and became fast friends. Kent has continued to build relationships with members from around the world through his work in numerous topic areas. These connections are one of the many reasons he enjoys spending time on the site, and watching it grow over the last decade has made them even more rewarding.
The competition for points in the community makes it fun, yet he finds more in getting responses and kudos from other members. His favorite part is when the person asking the question responds with “you helped me”.
Something He Loves
Kent loves to be on the water, and he loves fishing, getting on the water with his local bass club once a month. When I spoke with him it was right before Thanksgiving, and he had big plans to spend the holiday on the lake with his wife. Having been married for 20 years, they went fishing on their first date and got rained on, forcing them to find shelter and get a drink. She didn’t catch a fish that date, but he was hooked and they’ve been together ever since.