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The Interview: Cyndi Backstrom

After spending her workday at her computer, this manager of IT support services for the UNLV School of Medicine is only too happy to “unplug” once she gets home.

People  |  Dec 3, 2018  |  By UNLV School of Medicine
Cyndi Backstrom, a manager of IT Support Services Poses in front of UNLV sign.

Cyndi Backstrom, manager of IT support services for the UNLV School of Medicine, says she enjoys working through problems to find the root cause.  (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services)

Cyndi Backstrom, ‘04 BSBA Management Information Systems and BSBA Accounting, happily spends her weekdays unraveling IT issues, managing Help Desk requests, and checking for instant messages, but after hours is a different story. She doesn’t have a social media presence on the internet and tries to stay offline as much as possible.

Inspiration to get into your field

I have been interested in computers since my family purchased a Commodore 64 when I was around 8 years old. (Introduced in 1982, the Commodore 64 has been listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-selling single computer model of all time, with estimates of the number sold reaching as high as 17 million.) I started playing typing games, then more advanced games. I was always looking for an excuse to use the computer.

Once I started college, I found programming classes to be interesting and engaging. Having the ability to take an idea and create something was intriguing. Programming allowed me to be creative as there are many ways to solve a question and you can always improve a solution. Programming is kind of like cooking — two people can have all the same ingredients but the outcome is totally different. I was fortunate; I got to be a student employee in IT for two years.

Biggest misconception about your field

There are generally no quick answers. With every IT service there are multiple layers of technology. To troubleshoot an issue, it takes some time to walk through each layer to identify the root cause. Jumping to conclusions can, and often does, cost more time than to approach an issue systematically.

An invaluable lesson you have learned in your career

Collaboration is a powerful tool. Many things do not happen in a bubble, so the ability to work with other people is most important. Technology can help solve the issue but it’s the people behind the implementation that make a system work.

Are aliens real?

Of course. The universe is too big for other life not to exist — microorganisms to complex life. More than likely, however, they’re not what any of our movies and books present. With so many planets and solar systems, there are enough chances for life to find a way to exist on another planet.

Something that annoys you

The Aflac duck. It has the most annoying voice, shouting “Aflac!” at me through my television. The commercials are always louder than the show.

A time you have been daring

I have traveled to several countries by myself, including after graduating high school in 1998 when I traveled to Australia by myself. About everything that could go wrong did — luggage was two days late arriving, I took the wrong buses. Still, walking through Sydney harbor was amazing and the people were great. I was able to handle each problem and have an amazing time snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, climbing Ayers Rock, and flying in a helicopter for the first time.

The trait you most like about yourself

I am persistent when I look at an issue. I pull it apart until I can get to a root cause. Whether I am investigating why a device is alerting or an application unexpectedly closes, I enjoy working through a problem to identify the root cause.

Your favorite quote

From Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny...’”