Featured Faculty Profile
John Michael Kyser
Professor - DeVry University Chicago
Programming, Game & Simulation Development, Network Operating Systems, Telecommunications
"DeVry provides a flexible, forward-looking, focused education. The graduates we produce do well and are well thought of in companies like Hewlett Packard. Companies respect DeVry."
Where I come from
Before coming to DeVry University, I worked at AT&T/Lucent Bell Labs just outside Chicago for 21 years. For the last six years, I hired - and admired - interns from DeVry University to assist my team in providing engineering and operations support to over 70 broadband, wireless, and digital switching test and development lab environments. Then I took early retirement from Bell Labs and DeVry University hired me. So our association goes back longer than the six years I have been teaching at DeVry University Chicago.
I now teach subjects and skills that used to be my work tools. My career began at Argonne National Lab. For six years I was part of the technical staff developing and programming a large 3D computer simulation of nuclear reactor failure scenarios. At Bell Labs, I started on the telecommunications field support staff and worked up to various technical management positions. That's where I acquired my programming and network operating systems expertise - and my belief that trouble-shooting is what you get paid for in industry.
Bring ten others along
Even at Bell Labs, teaching was part of my responsibility as a manager. Technical experience is only the start of it. The rest is developing people. I always did well in the early years of my career; I was always the single person that led the charge on a project, so to speak. But I did not end up getting promoted. My boss took me aside and said, "More than that, we want to see that you can get ten other people to be equally as capable as you."
That opened my eyes. It's not enough to be a guru. If you've ever had to deal with someone who is really good but not approachable versus someone who is both, you know what I mean. My interest in teaching started then.
Get comfortable being on stage
In the work environment, everybody has some agenda that they need to wear on their sleeve. They are always on a particular stage and they need to be aware that people are always forming impressions of them and their performance. So when a student in my class behaves or speaks in ways that would create negative impressions in a professional environment, I take them aside for a one-on-one conference.
For example, I say, "You are showing your lack of confidence in front of the class. We all feel lack of confidence sometimes. But in an environment where you are having peer evaluation and where you have people in authority doing evaluation of you, while you shouldn't be a braggart, you have to be very careful how you frame what you say. You can admit to being uncertain if you also frame your remarks as a request for help. Instead of projecting 'I'm not good enough,' that says, 'I am interested in learning this.'"
I look for growth in achievement in a particular discipline. That's not just knowing what the book says. I tell my students that they can substitute their own ideas about the topic under discussion for the assigned homework and I will give them credit. It's more important to explore the tools and use them than just to get the right answer. That's in keeping with the technology. It is moving so fast that a right answer this year can be irrelevant next year. A focus on methodology - how to go about solving a problem - is more important. All tests are open-book because I want students to use reference materials.
Who are you?
I do a resume exercise with students: if you ask five people to give one word about you, what would that word be? That word (or words) should be self-evident from your resume. I encourage you to talk to someone who may be your rival, someone you measure yourself against. Often you will be surprised. That person will give you a word that lifts you up, because they may have the same level of respect for you.
Words about me
When I did this exercise myself, someone said "technical tinkerer," and I thought it was a good description. So that is in a section of my resume headed Talents and Interests, along with "medical missions" because I want people to know that I pull teeth in Honduras as part of my faith commitment. I also mix music, so that's in there too. It's all part of being approachable.
My word for DeVry University students
DeVry University students are driven. What makes them different is that they have come to a determination that they don't want to work at a lower level salary under lower level managers for the rest of their life. They want and need to go to college. In addition, they face real-life challenges every day, in contrast to traditional students who are pampered in dorms. I have taught in multiple environments, from industry to colleges, and I love this one best. DeVry University students may not start their education at a high level, but they keep moving higher.
I give students my home phone number, and say, "My paycheck comes from you, so call if you need something. You are my customers. Ask for customer service."
A hiring preference
DeVry University students have practical experience with trouble-shooting, critical thinking, and problem-solving. DeVry University does a lot better at preparing students for this than most other colleges. I hired 20-30 DeVry University students a term to manage my night and weekend labs at Bell Labs. I did not hire from other colleges in the area.
My own schools valued the same skills. I got my master's in nuclear engineering from Stanford, which is very much a lab-oriented, hands-on environment. The University of Chicago, where I got my MBA, was more focused on tools and less case-oriented than most other business schools.
DeVry University provides a flexible, forward-looking, focused education. The graduates we produce do well and are well thought of in companies like Hewlett Packard. Companies respect DeVry University. Many other colleges don't have the same high accreditation. You can be proud to put "DeVry University graduate" on your resume.