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Mark Kovach

College of Engineering
Infrastructure Assurance Field Service Center, T-Mobile USA, Bellevue, WA.
Senior Manager

Home Town: Reynoldsburg, Ohio

  • Biography

    T-Mobile Web site: 

    Professional Profile:

     Mark was born in a suburb of Chicago, IL but grew up outside of Columbus, OH in the town of Reynoldsburg.  He received his BS degree in Computer Science from the University of Idaho in 1985. He currently resides in Tacoma, WA.

    Mark demonstrated early interests in learning about computes.  "My high school had a remote teletype terminal to an IBM mainframe at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus. My physics teacher hosted an after-school club and taught us Fortran programming. I always thought that was pretty cool."

    "I'm really grateful for all the help I received from the faculty and the genuine interest in seeing that I succeeded"

    How Mark eventually became a Computer Science student at the University of Idaho is rather unusual.  "After high school I knew I wasn't ready to attend college. During a visit to an Army recruiting office I learned about the Army band program. I'd played flute and sax since fourth grade and expressed an interest. I auditioned, passed, and, enlisted. As a result I spent nearly seven years in the US Army band program." 

    At the time Mark decided to leave the Army he wanted to attend a university with a great engineering school, one whose costs would be affordable with his GI Bill benefits, and was located in a small town. "My wife grew up in Idaho Falls and had been to the University of Idaho campus numerous times. She was always impressed by her visits so her response was very quick, 'U of I!'"

    Mark started at the University of Idaho in January 1981, thinking he wanted to study mechanical engineering.  "But, the reason I really chose Computer Science is because of one of the Computer Science faculty members, Bob Rinker. When I arrived on campus to register there weren't many classes with available seats. I went up to the table labeled 'Engineering Advisor' and explained my plight.  Bob told me that nearly all engineers needed to take Fortran programming. I took the class and really enjoyed it. I went back to see Bob before summer semester started and asked for help in figuring out whether I should study Computer Science. The rest is history."

    "With the significant amount of time I had between finishing high school and starting college,  I doubt that any other school would have helped me get up to speed as quickly as the University of Idaho did. And I doubt that there are many schools that would have shown the genuine caring interest in making sure I was successful. I can't tell you how many times I think back with gratefulness for all the help I received from the faculty."

    During his time in school Mark also played some intramural sports – baseball, volleyball and basketball — to keep out of trouble.

    "I especially appreciated the willingness of the UI Computer Science cadre to help a non-traditional older student successfully graduate!"

    Since graduating from the University of Idaho, Mark has worked in the aerospace, wood products, Internet advertising, and now mobile wireless communications industries. "The computer science education I received has been invaluable in allowing me to work in various information technology roles throughout my career. I started as a software developer, added database development and administration to my skill set, later morphed into an IP network engineer, and eventually made my way, with the gentle push of a great boss, into the computer and network security field. I have been able to draw upon the knowledge I learned while at the University of Idaho all along the way. I've come to really appreciate the wide spectrum of coursework in the Computer Science program as I’ve used nearly everything I learned at one time or another. I especially appreciated the willingness of the faculty and staff to help a non-traditional older student successfully graduate!"

    Mark's current area of specialization is information security.  He holds the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential. At T-Mobile he's leading teams of engineers responsible for managing security risk for the RF networks, IP networks, and computing systems that provide services to T-Mobile wireless and HotSpot customers. Another part of his team is responsible for monitoring and troubleshooting problems in the networks to ensure the highest level of reliability and availability possible.  "We have to ensure that our customers can always reach the people that matter most to them. I’ve coined a name for the team that I think accurately reflects our mission – Infrastructure Assurance."

    "I try to catch people doing the right thing and let them know that I noticed."

    In his managerial capacity each day is different, but might begin early, reading and replying to e-mail. Then there may be a short encounter with his boss. They talk about some current engineering issues. Now it's time to check in with one of his peers that's responsible for system integration work for which Mark's team in the primary customer. They mutually commit to helping each other get the project completed on schedule. His management position requires that Mark be fully informed about the progress his team is making and any problems they are encountering, so he's interacting with his staff to get the latest information. "I also use this as an opportunity to perform a 'One-minute Manager' activity -- trying to catch people doing the right things and letting them know I noticed." Attending meetings happens frequently. By now it's time for a quick lunch. The afternoon might find Mark responding to more e-mail, updating the bi-weekly network / system capacity, availability, reliability and network diversity presentation slides to get ready for presentation to the Engineering VP and Operations VP. There's likely to be some more time spent interacting with his engineering team and depending on how the day is going there may be a little time to work on some administrative thing before closing the day with a presentation to the VPs.

    "The one thing that I think has enabled me to be most successful is to respect and trust in the best intentions of others."

    When asked to identify the job or life skills that were most significant to his professional success, Mark had this to say, "The one thing that I think has enabled me to be most successful is to respect and trust in the best intentions of others. Early in my career I had to trust in others to teach me how to do the right thing for my company and myself, such as design and write code, design a database, and present my ideas. Today, I know that I can't possibly do all the work myself. So, I have to delegate and trust that others will always do the right thing for T-Mobile. Finally, I've learned that information technologists must, by definition, be learning animals and continuously become knowledgeable about new technologies. I had a boss once tell me, 'One trick ponies become extinct.' I don't ever want to be a one trick pony."

    May 2008

    The views expressed on this page are those of the individual being profiled and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Idaho or the employer. References to specific companies or organizations does not constitute endorsement of their products or services by the University of Idaho.

    Copyright © 2008 University of Idaho Board of Regents

I especially appreciated the willingness of the UI Computer Science cadre to help a non-traditional older student successfully graduate!