A two-year degree holds a lot of value

Ken Ponte and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. (Photo submitted)

Ken Ponte graduated from Johnstown High School in 2006 and enrolled at FM that fall semester. Not yet ready for college, he withdrew and traveled the Northeast with a four-piece electronic rock band. Eight years later, a more mature Ken decided he was now ready for FM with a desire to work with computers. He re-enrolled as a CIS major.

“I chose CIS because I knew it would involve computer hardware and give me a high-level PC technician skillset. It also would be a safe bet in the professional world with lots of expediential growth in the coming years,” said Ken. “What I didn’t know was that it also included computer programming, something I had never done before. Learning to program came with a steep learning curve, but I liked it the more I did it which led to an amazing career.”

Ken is a data engineering specialist for GE Renewable Energy Onshore Wind Division.

Ken explains, “I work with wind turbines all over the globe that are part of GE’s install base and I love every minute of it. I started as a data analyst and was promoted after 11 months which was a pretty big deal for having only my associate’s degree.”

Excited about where his FM degree took him, Ken comes back to FM each year to tell his story to other CIS majors with hopes to inspire and break the stigma that comes with community colleges.

“The degree gets you through the door and from there, if you are willing to grow and learn, you can do anything you set your mind to,” he said.

While at FM, Ken credits Prof. Frank Yunker with making the biggest impact on his life.

“He is the one who pushed me to become a programmer, something I never would have done on my own. I came prepared every day and he took notice,” Ken said. “He saw that I could (and would) be very successful in the professional world. Prof. Yunker believed in me. He opened his network to help me find jobs as I prepared to graduate — this meant a lot to me. I learned Prof. Yunker is very careful about putting his name out there for others; because he was recommending me meant that he was comfortable with my skill level and professionalism. Not only that, he extends invites me to me each year to come lecture to his students.”

Ken is two years into his career at GE Renewable Energy, a company that will pay for him to further his education.

“I’m currently exploring colleges and majors,” he said. “I have to weigh my options, but I get to go anywhere my heart desires!”

A father of two, Ken and his family live in Cobleskill where they just bought their first home. His next goal?

“To earn my next degree and be my own boss someday with my wife; we make an amazing team and I know that whatever we decide to do, we will rock at it,” he said.

Looking back at his teenage self, Ken explains his choices.

“At 18 I just wasn’t ready for college. In my opinion, waiting till you are ready and better grounded is a good thing. The older you are the more you experience; you have the time and ability to really figure out what it is you want,” Ken said. “Don’t think you need a big fancy four-year degree to be successful right out of the gate. FM has a great staff, the institution is growing, and the price you pay for the education you receive is financially responsible to set you up for a great future. Thank you, FM, for giving me the toolset to be more and do more; I will always give back.”

Amy Radik is the coordinator of public relations and marketing at FMCC.