Operations may be the backbone of Airways, but without technology, the spine would have no nervous system. Wes Penny has been an integral part of the Airways IT department for many years. Here’s our interview with him:
AF: You started with Airways as a full time IT programming engineer on August 30th of 2012, but your history with Airways began many years prior. Can you spend a little time explaining how you came to Airways initially, and how your position has evolved over time?
WP: I began my relationship with Airways in May of 2003 when I decided to start my own computer consulting and services business. I purchased the business from Johnice Cross who had been consulting with Airways for several years. When I began, I expected to be working with Airways for several hours a week. However, over the next 9 years, my time and interest in Airways grew. Then I decided to approach Denny about coming on full time and I’m glad I did!
AF: We’re glad you did too! Now what about prior to your computer business? What interested you in systems technology initially, where did you receive your education, and what course of study qualified you for the field?
My interest in technology began with my dad. He worked for IBM as a hardware technician beginning in the mid 1960’s. He started in Little Rock and then was transferred to Pine Bluff, which is where I grew up. Eventually he opened his own business where I worked part time for him. After graduating high school, I decided that since my dad was “hardware”, I would be “software”.
I studied programming at Arkansas College of Technology, in Little Rock, where I received an Associates Degree in Applied Sciences. I was then hired by Business Service Corp of Pine Bluff and worked there until 1999. After that, I moved to northwest Arkansas to work for George’s Inc. (chicken not lounge). After several years with George’s, I got the bug to be on my own. And that’s when the opportunity to start my own business came about.
AF: Your contribution to maintaining and upgrading the custom programs that keeps the Airways operations system running can’t be understated. Tell us a little more about your daily work at Airways.
WP: My job includes creating or modifying apps as needed, helping users and customers with various questions or problems. The biggest asset I believe, besides knowing the code, is listening to the users and customers.
AF: A good point. In every aspect a key strength of Airways has always been the willingness to listen and adapt quickly. And of course the computer systems play an essential role in this. So when you’re not coding or listening, what is a pass-time or hobby that you enjoy in your leisure time?
WP: Most of my off time is spent with my family, be it playing basketball, ping pong, pool, watching NASCAR, or working on projects around the house. Also, I collect stamps, jigsaw puzzles, NASCAR diecast, and model trains.
AF: Interesting collectibles. What about the family? Your wife Vicki is a talented writer and frequents the NPR radio cast “Tales from the South” with her humorous stories. And you have two boys living at home, right? What are their ages? Do they have big plans after high school?
My wife, Vicki, and I will have been married 30 years next January. She is quite a story teller! She has appeared on the NPR radio show “Tales from the South” 8 times with quite a variety of “tales”. Most of her appearances are on Youtube. She also appears occasionally on another locally produced radio show called “The Everything You Need To Know Radio Show” that is on KUAF 91.3 (local NPR station). Before having children, she was a band director at a couple of schools in southern Arkansas. I was once asked by one of the band parents “Why did you marry Mrs. Penny?”. I replied, “For the challenge!”.
I have 2 sons. We chose to home school them. William, 18, has finished his high schooling and is beginning at NWACC in a few weeks. His interests are varied but he is focusing on theater and video. He works part time with the Walton Arts Center and Wal-Mart AMP. He has worked various load-ins, load-outs, or as a stage hand. He has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Weston, 13, is at the 8th grade level of schooling and is working on his 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He enjoys science, reading, and video games. His plan for the future is to sell exotic cars!