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Veteran Negotiates IT Experience

MAC alum Jimmy Hand is the executive vice-president of Ozark Steel Fabricators, Inc.  He believes MAC’s forward-thinking strategies impact the region’s economic development.
Fifty years ago, Bill Laut introduced a two-employee steel fabrication business in Farmington to serve the small structural steel and custom fabrication needs of the local area.  Over the decades, his sons advanced Ozark Steel Fabricators, Inc. operations to the next level by broadening the customer base and service area.  Today, MAC alum Jimmy Hand is the company’s executive vice-president.

Jimmy’s work experience as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army formulated the groundwork for his interest in computers.  “It just seemed like the logical jumping off point in my future career,” says the 2002 Associate of Applied Science in Computer Networking graduate.  “Regardless of any ‘magical’ military training I had, it was essential to obtain a college degree to make my experiences more legitimate.  Back in the late ’90s, a computer networking degree was not easy to find.  I credit MAC for being forward-thinking to offer the degree.”  While a full-time student, Jimmy worked two part-time jobs.  He credits instructors Jim Morey and Jim Ragland for the encouragement and guidance they offered which helped steer him through difficult points in his college education.

Jimmy knew he needed some substantial work experience.  He negotiated his initial “deal” in his resume when he offered to work for free in exchange for valuable experience.  “I thought it was a good idea to volunteer as an IT assistant in a professional setting,” he explains.  “I found my place at Ozark Steel Fabricators in Farmington.  Within six months, I became the IT manager and have advanced to become the executive vice-president.”  To job-seekers, including veterans, he advises, “Being motivated and learning to volunteer makes a bold statement to some employers.  No doubt a paycheck is important.  And, volunteering is one way to get your foot in the door to show potential employers your skill set and provides insight into what opportunities exist.” 

“Our company does work in about a 750-mile radius including St. Louis and downtown Chicago.  Our work is large structures for retail stores like Wal-Mart, medical facilities such as BJC in St. Louis, and universities like Loyola in Chicago.  The Sears Headquarters project in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, is regarded as our pièce de résistance.  When Sears decided to move its headquarters from the then-Sears Tower in Chicago, Ozark Steel Fabricators was instrumental in supplying the steel for the 2.2 million square-foot building space.”

Ozark Steel employs about 60-65 people including MAC grads, several from the CADD area.  “We always support our employees’ efforts to better themselves.  We really work to make schedules flexible to accommodate their schedules.  We all benefit from more education,” explains Jimmy who earned his BS in Computer Science.  “I speak from personal experience.  When I was growing up, my parents attended MAC, earned their degrees, and secured better employment.  Our lifestyles changed in a substantial way because of it.  So, not only was I blessed with the results of my parents education, I was raised to understand the additional opportunities you are presented because of your education and training.”

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