IT expert honored by Computer Museum

Tech and IT support providers are often behind the scenes, even when volunteering. So don’t expect to see Joe Sikes strolling through the Computer Museum of America in Roswell. His spare time is dedicated to working on systems beyond the displays of digital artifacts.

Those displays captured Sikes’ interest four years ago.

“I got an email about volunteering, and when I went to the kickoff meeting, I just fell in love with the place and the nostalgia of the historical computing equipment,” said the Cumming resident. “There were a lot of things I remembered from my youth that were so interesting. The punch card machines, the Enigma exhibit — I’m fascinated by the whole collection.”

Sikes was 8 when he got the chance to work on his family’s home computer. “I started learning programs on my own, and then in high school, my uncle had a medical clinic with a new computer system, and he let me do administrative work on it.”

When the clinic encountered an IT problem and couldn’t find someone to solve it, Sikes figured out how to get it working.

“I had been interested in going into medicine, but after that, my uncle thought IT might be my calling,” Sikes said. “So I studied computer science at Georgia State and got my first job with IBM where I had lots of hands-on training and really fell in love with the tech world.”

That background, combined with Sikes’ current job as a cybersecurity architect, pulled him toward helping the museum with its technology infrastructure. He began by working with outside companies to set up the WiFi networks, security systems and surveillance cameras.

As the museum has grown, Sikes has led ongoing upgrades. He often spends several remote hours a week doing research and talking to other team members and staff, and every so often, he visits the physical space.

“Most of the work we do is behind the scenes and outside of museum hours, but if I’m in the building while it’s open, I do like to talk to the visitors,” he said. “But I’m usually in the back where we don’t have guests.”

Sikes’ dedication to the museum’s systems recently earned him one of the first Ed Fair Volunteer of the Year awards, named in honor of the museum’s initial volunteer who died last year.

“It was such a tremendous honor, especially as it was connected with Ed Fair,” said Sikes. “I’m just very proud and happy that we have this museum here in Georgia.”

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