Throughout his career, Curtis Lewis has sought out one thing in every job he’s ever held: to help people. “That’s what led me into health care in the first place,” Curtis said. After 11 years in the as an Air Force medic, Curtis earned a Bachelor of Science in information technology from DeVry University in 2000.
Curtis started out at Philadelphia-based health insurer Independence Blue Cross and moved into application developer and data analyst roles in other industries for a few years, but returned to health care in 2007. Job opportunities were plentiful, but Curtis wanted to advance his career. “It was difficult to break into management,” says Curtis. “I had the years of experience, but not the graduate-level education.”
Enhancing His Resume
As a busy family man, Curtis knew an online program would best suit his needs. Though his employer offered limited tuition assistance and taking advantage of his Veterans Association benefits, Curtis also wanted to be able to pay the rest out of pocket.
“American Sentinel University had the programs I was seeking to expand my career—and for a very reasonable cost,” he says. To give himself a competitive edge, Curtis enrolled in both the M.S. Business Intelligence and the M.S. Health Systems Management programs. “The health care industry is seeing a big push to implement electronic records, which has created a lot of opportunity for those with a combined health care and technology background. I wanted to create a great resume.”
For flexibility, Curtis left his full-time job and did contract work while in school. There was nothing easy about juggling work, school and family life, but it was manageable with family support. “My family was very understanding and supportive,” he says. “Family time was family time, but when they went to bed, I’d open up my laptop at the kitchen table.” One unexpected side effect, Curtis says, was the positive influence on his son in middle school and college-bound daughter. “I think it made a big impression. We did our homework together. It showed them that education never stops. You’re never too old to stop learning.”
A Year of Change
2012 was a big year for Curtis, who graduated in April and landed a new job at Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation in October. It is his first time stepping out of the health care realm in six years, but the opportunity was right up his alley.
“The organization helps underprivileged people gain meaningful employment,” he says. “This job appealed to me because I believe in their mission.” As a director of IT management services, Curtis oversees a staff of nine. It was a big leap, he admits, but one he was able to make because of his education. “I brought an extensive IT background, two master’s degrees and a passion for their vision.”
At American Sentinel, Curtis caught the education bug—and yet again, he is plotting the next step of his career in helping others. He began in April at Capella University’s online Ph.D. in information technology. His goal: to start a foundation that teaches computer skills to inner-city children and inspires them to go to college.
“There is a big difference between kids who learn about computers early on and kids who don’t,” he says. Having a Dr. in front of his name, Curtis says, will add credibility when he starts seeking grant funding one day. “I gained great enthusiasm while at American Sentinel. So I’m just going to keep going.”