Ryan Heitz, QIP’s Director of Information Technology, hasn’t seen his career follow the path he had planned back when he was attending the University of Iowa, majoring in Chinese and minoring in linguistics.
“I thought I was going to go on to maybe be an interpreter or translator, or maybe do business in Asia,” he said. “I didn’t know. I was just interested in language.
“… After I graduated, a bunch of my friends were involved in IT <information technology>, and that had always interested me, too. So, I took a bunch of training classes in computer-related things and got a job doing that, and that just took off from there.”
After more than a decade of experience in the IT field, Ryan joined QIP in October 2012.
Ryan works full time on managing Cloud Hosting and Support Services (CHSS) on QIP’s contract with the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a federal research and statistical agency. He leads a team of four that manages IES’s cloud-based data center and the underlying infrastructure of about 20 IES websites.
“We do anything from managing the servers to updating the websites,” Ryan said. “As a request comes through for web content changes, we’ll deploy those to production. There’s a development environment, and then there’s a production environment.”
The team also supports other IES contractors that work in web development—“kind of like the help desk for them,” Ryan said—and manages the underlying infrastructure of the IES websites.
In 2014, Ryan worked on a project to move the IES websites from dozens of servers housed in IES’s Washington, D.C., office to the cloud at Amazon Web Services.
"It took an extraordinary amount of effort to design, test, and build out the infrastructure in AWS,” he said. “In addition, we wrote all of the documentation for security and compliance of the new cloud data center so it could be certified and accredited for use by the government."
Ryan said it was the biggest project he has worked on.
“It was good because it was a really, really steep learning curve, and we got to learn a lot of new skills in a very short period,” he said. “And then we really got to collaborate with our customer at IES as we worked right alongside them. Everybody got to know each other really well on that one.”
The culture at QIP is what Ryan likes best about working for the company.
“I like that it’s a small enough business that you have access to the leadership, the owners of the company,” he said. “You can just call them up and talk to them. The way that they treat people is important to me. … I feel like they really care about hiring good people and retaining them and getting to know them as people.”
In his free time, Ryan enjoys cycling and also is a massive music fan, naming progressive rock as a particularly favorite genre (“all the way from the late ‘60s up to the present”). But he doesn’t limit his music interests.
“Every day I listen to something different—jazz sometimes, blues, even classical stuff,” he said. “I’m on Spotify all day. Whenever I have a break, I’m checking something out.”
Ryan also enjoys learning and reading about new technology whenever possible.
“Recently, I've been most interested in tools and pipelines for software development,” he said. “These days, the coding teams and the system operations teams are working together more than in the past, so there are lots of opportunities for us to learn from each other. Most of the tech bloggers I follow are working in that gray, crossover area where you need to be able to code, but you also need to understand things like networking, infrastructure, and security.
“We're looking for ways to provide the web developers we support with more data and more automated tools for building and testing applications, so we ops folks can mostly stay out of the way until their apps need to be deployed to the production website. Our aim is to provide a more self-service environment for them, while freeing up ourselves to focus on security and compliance."