CTK Class of 2012 Alum Carving Out a Successful IT Career

We caught up with Anthony “Tony” Barnes from CTK’s first graduating class in 2012 on his second day of his new job at Loyola Press. Tony is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he originally intended to study nursing. During his first year, he realized nursing wasn’t for him, and switched his major to Information Systems Technology. Since graduating from SIU in 2016, Tony has carved out a successful IT career in which he values the variety of daily tasks, opportunity for continued learning, job security, and helping his co-workers.


Tony grew up in the Austin neighborhood attending St. Malachi grade school. He decided to join a few of his friends in enrolling at the new private, Catholic school in the community due to its strong academics and work study opportunities. While the new CTK school building was being built, he and his classmates endured the cramped temporary quarters in a nearby church basement. When they moved into the newly opened building during the 2nd semester of his sophomore year, he recalls being impressed.  “It was a total upgrade. I was happy to be in a spacious new school with lockers, a chapel, and gym. Looking back, being at a school in a safe environment where you didn’t have to worry about the outside world, was a good feeling.”


Tony grew during his time at CTK, becoming a better student, including a stronger writer. He also took advantage of a unique opportunity to attend a 2-week summer Architecture Camp at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). His tuition was sponsored by John Ronan, the lead architect at the firm responsible for designing CTK’s award-winning building. He also looks back on his CTK Corporate Work Study Program experiences as having a meaningful impact on him. He took something positive from all three of his CTK work assignments at Community Bank of Oak Park (freshman), Katten Muchin Rosenman law firm (sophomore), and McKinsey Consulting (junior & senior). At Community Bank, the HR Manager, Kathy Mangos (now retired) sat Tony down after a rough start to his employment and explained how he should act in a professional setting. He appreciated her guidance as a teenager, and has stayed in contact with her to this day, “Instead of firing me, she explained the right way to handle certain situations at work, and how it differed from being at school. I turned things around and even worked at the bank that summer. I remember my first paycheck was $700. That was a lot of money for a kid!”


Working at McKinsey offered him an introduction to working in Information Technology (IT).  After initially floating between different departments, he was assigned to the IT group. His exposure to what his co-workers were doing in McKinsey’s IT Hub sparked his interest in that area. It spurred him to ask them questions about their experiences at work and how they got to that position. Later when nursing didn’t work out, his IT experience at McKinsey helped him to know what major and career path he wanted to try next.


Tony chose Southern Illinois for the opportunity to experience a different area from Chicago, while becoming more independent and meeting new people. He got involved in the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, the Black Men’s Initiative, and was a Resident Assistant for a first-year dorm in his sophomore year. He still tries to stay connected with the many new friends from around the world that he met while there. SIU was also where he established his base level IT knowledge. In addition to classes in his Information Systems Technology major, he got a job on campus working in the IT department with SIU’s system engineers on the wireless team,


With his SIU degree and relevant IT experience, Tony was “blessed” to be offered his first full-time job working at Cerner Corporation in Kansas City. While he enjoyed living in a new city, he admits to getting home sick and returned to the Chicago area to work at Metropolitan Industries in Romeoville, where he stayed for four years. His IT career has continued at Concordia University, followed by Trans Chicago for two years each. He is excited to be starting at Loyola Press as an IT System Administrator. He described his responsibilities as “monitoring and managing the network, in terms of cyber security and daily functionality with different user accounts and server maintenance.” As a Jesuit organization like Christ the King, Loyola Press appealed to him as being easier to relate to. His early impression is that that everybody is nice, and he hopes to continue working at Loyola Press for a long time.


Tony had a recent full circle moment, when he met Jaden a current CTK student worker assigned to Loyola Press. He mentioned looking out for Jaden in the future, potentially mentoring and offering advice. His initial professional advice to Jaden, and other CTK student workers would be to: “Be a sponge. If there’s someone who works there who’s willing to help you in any way, to give you career advice, ask them questions. Don’t sit at a computer by yourself in a corner, waiting for the time to pass. Go talk to people. Be open to gaining knowledge. I did it, when I was in the IT Hub at McKinsey, I would ask them questions. How did you do this? How did you get this job? What school did you go to? What did you study there? What do I need to do to be a consultant like you? Most people will take the time to answer a few questions.”


Tony keeps in touch with several of his CTK Class of 2012 classmates. Over the last year or so, he has returned to CTK for his 10-year class reunion and the Alumni Winter Social. He also attended the King of Hearts Gala in January and was motivated to make a contribution to fund a current senior’s attendance at the annual Kairos retreat. Tony has invested back into the West Side through his interest in real estate development, including owning a building in Austin near CTK as a rental property. 

We wish Tony continued success, and hope to see him back at CTK sometime soon.