At home, Fuel’s Network Specialist Dwight Elliott is like a lot of network professionals. His home is heavily wired, running on his advanced IT network infrastructure with a firewall that helps him protect his kids from the wilds of the internet. It’s only when you learn about Dwight’s childhood that you understand the contrast—before he arrived in Canada at the age of 13, he grew up in a house in Lucea, Jamaica with no electricity.
Dwight very clearly recalls arriving in Montreal in January, just after an ice storm.
“You remember the scene from Cool Runnings when the door opens? That was pretty much what happened,” he laughs. “Growing up in Jamaica, we’d see images of kids playing in the snow—they always look so happy. Coming in on the plane, we saw snow, and we were all so excited. There was an older Jamaican lady beside us and she went, ‘Mm-hmm? You’re not going to like it once you feel it.’ When the door opened at the airport, we just pulled back in. We wore like two sweaters, two pairs of pants—we were well padded up!”
The difficult part of Dwight’s life in Canada began not long after. He travelled here with his stepmother, but within a year he was placed in the foster care system. The man who is today a loving father of four grew up in a new country and culture without parents to turn to for support and encouragement.
A lot of people in Dwight’s position have been broken by the things they’ve experienced. As he was finishing high school, he was simultaneously working 40 hours a week. A guidance counsellor from the foster care system told him, “Everybody that has ever been in your position, they fail and they drop out of school. They’ve never finish. You’re going to fail also, you’re going to drop out.”
Remembering that today, Dwight has pride in his voice. “I’m not one to let anybody determine my future. At the end of the year, I brought him my Relevé des Notes [report card] and said, ‘What’s up.’”
Dwight was an athlete who received offers from colleges, but he had nobody to turn to for advice, and didn’t know what to choose. After he turned 18, he left the foster system and began thinking about how to make the most of his career path. That’s how he found himself studying Computing and Network Support.
“Something that I’ve always loved doing is just fixing electronics, working with electronics—learning new stuff about anything electronic,” he says.
Soon after school, Dwight graduated from an entry-level job and moved on to a corporation in a more scientific-environment.
He joined the company as a Systems Specialist, and by the time he left to join Fuel in 2016 he had worked his way up to Regional I.T. Manager, overseeing multiple labs and 500 users. But he wanted to keep growing as a professional. He found a mentor in his manager Mehdi Gafsi, who encourages Dwight to think in business terms and prioritizes communication.
“Where I’m coming from,” Dwight says, “there wasn’t really communication. The work was just in my lap. Here, we sit down and talk about it. Mehdi’s been helping me to learn more about business—to think about other things than just the technical side of things. He’s getting me involved in deeper projects and just growing.”
They talk often about plans to upgrade infrastructure, and Dwight says he appreciates that Mehdi lets him open up and show what he knows.
“Just giving my insight and my input—that’s something where before, it wasn’t like that,” he says.
While he’s growing himself, Dwight is raising three daughters and a son, who range in ages from two to ten years old. He’s very involved in his kids’ lives, and protective of them as they reach the age of being able to use the internet.
“The schools right now, they do a lot of projects and a lot of research online,” he says. “So I want to allow my daughter to do her research without fear of her seeing content that she shouldn’t see. I also want to control the videos that they see on YouTube, and just the overall content that’s delivered to their computers.”
Dwight has become a resource for his children’s teachers, explaining to them how to keep their kids secure using the technology and software at hand.
“I talk to the teachers to make sure they’re teaching them security first,” he says. “I teach my kids about search engines, but I just want to make sure the teachers are following up.”
This is all a long way from the days when Dwight would wake up in a house without plumbing or lights, and get water from a bucket to bathe before school, but it comes naturally to him.
“For me, IT is not just a job,” Dwight says. “This is something I enjoy, not just something that I do for a living.”