Before he’d even completed his associate degree at Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo, Antonio Viera had moved into the full-time role of manager of Information Technology at Guardian Angel Hospice.
With offices in Kokomo, Lafayette, Logansport and Carmel that serve about 30 central Indiana counties, gigabytes of sensitive personal and medical data about its patients, and a range of vendors, the hospice care provider’s IT needs pose a daily challenge. Thanks to his Ivy Tech education and experiences, Viera, who graduated from the College’s Cyber Security Assurance program in December 2020, has been starring in Guardian Angel’s “one-man IT show” for more than two years.
College came later for Viera. After graduating from Kokomo High School in 2008, he went off to a four-year university but, burdened by the cost, soon came home. He followed his mother into the world of healthcare, working as a caregiver and cook at two different Kokomo nursing homes, including seven and a half years as head night shift cook at Golden Living. Long interested in technology, he found out Ivy Tech had one of the few Indiana cyber security programs accredited by the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA. Matching that quality with the affordability offered by Ivy Tech, Viera enrolled in the College in 2018.
“Ivy Tech’s IT offerings are great programs in their own right,” Viera said. “but if you’re looking for a great education at an affordable price, you can’t beat Ivy Tech.”
Viera excelled at Ivy Tech – dean’s list status, induction into the National Society of Leadership and Success, and, eventually, magna cum laude designation at graduation. He was the Dean’s Award winner as the outstanding student in Cyber Security Information Assurance for the 2020-2021 school year and participated in Ivy Tech’s Statewide IT Challenge, a daunting competition that tested his skills against other IT students around the state.
Finding a local candidate with Antonio’s skillset and work ethic was very beneficial to Guardian Angel Hospice staff and patients
– Brian Rude, chief operating officer, Guardian Angel Hospice Inc.
“Antonio was such a good student,” said Robyn Schmidt, department chair for the School of Information Technology for Ivy Tech Kokomo. “He always came to class ready to learn. He came early and stayed late and helped fellow students who were struggling. He made the important connection with his teachers and we were able to help him on his path.”
Viera’s classroom success opened doors to a four-month IT internship with Guardian Angel Hospice. As Brian Rude, chief operating officer and co-owner of Guardian Angel Hospice Inc., tells it, Ivy Tech was his first thought when he needed to replace a long-term IT manager. At his request, Professor Julie Byrd, chair of the Software Development program at Ivy Tech Kokomo, provided a shortlist of potential candidates. Adjunct professor Christina Williams got the job, but another candidate showed so much potential that he was offered an internship.
Through the internship, Rude said, Viera had the opportunity to work with Williams on a number of IT projects, and “when Christina decided to move out of state, it was clear from our experiences with Antonio that he had the ability to step into the role of IT manager.”
Viera was chosen as the one to step in, even if he still had four courses to finish to earn his associate degree. It was a dream position for him, tying together his love of serving people in the healthcare realm with his love of connecting people through technology. He sees it as an ever-changing field where no two days are the same, challenging enough for a life-long career.
Rude says Viera has done very well at Guardian Angel Hospice and, as a member of the leadership team, has responsibilities beyond IT, working to enhance the company’s emergency preparedness program, training and safety.
“Finding a local candidate with Antonio’s skillset and work ethic was very beneficial to Guardian Angel Hospice staff and patients,” Rude said. “As a locally owned and operated Health Care Agency, we rely on high quality talent and are very grateful we have Ivy Tech Community College here as a resource to fit that need.”
Viera became another example of students meeting one of Schmidt’s ambitious goals for her intern Program: to “be so good that they don’t want you to go.”
He credits the College with his success and encourages others to follow in his footsteps.
“I tell students to come to Ivy Tech because you get a dedicated staff that cares about your learning, fellow students who are just as engaged and want to learn as much as you do, and smaller class sizes so professors can focus more on you and your needs,” Viera said.
“You get personal attention from professors who are very knowledgeable and care about the success of their students, professors who won’t move on until everyone understands, professors who are always taking classes themselves to be sure they’re on top of the latest developments,” he continued. He says he is particularly grateful to Schmidt, Byrd, and math instructor Archie Thomas for their contributions to his education. “Their exuberance, their hands-on approach, their focus on critical thinking and problem solving, their real-life class projects all help out tremendously when you are in the real world,” he said. “I’ve used every single skill I learned at Ivy Tech in my two years on this job.”
Byrd said Ivy Tech is happy to now be working with Viera on a professional level. “As chairman of the advisory board for Ivy Tech’s School of Information Technology, Antonio now shares his technical and leadership skills in the workplace to help us continue to improve our offerings,” Byrd said. “He is a talented young man who will continue to excel in his career.”
About Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.