20/20 Technologies has vision for the future
Brett Warren’s aptitude for technology goes back to his high school days in southwest Nebraska.
The 2000 McCook High School graduate worked at a cyber café as a teenager and was often called out of his high school classes to assist the information technology (IT) specialist with computer issues.
Alyssa Warren’s first memory of her now husband was seeing him under a desk fixing a computer in one of her classes.
After following his passion for technology around the world doing broadcasting and IT support work for the U.S. Olympics’ broadcast rights holder, NBC Universal, Brett is happy to be back home in McCook, Nebraska, where he can still sometimes be found under a teacher’s desk fixing a computer.
Teaming up to bring tech to schools
His business, 20/20 Technologies, has grown rapidly during its first six years as Brett and his team work to bring technology to rural Nebraska schools and students.
“My passion is to get technology into the hands of the kids,” Brett said. “I like coming into a school that hasn’t had a real IT person in 5 or 10 years and coming in and fixing everything, making everything look nice and work better.”
20/20 Technologies started by chance after Brett accepted a part-time IT job at the rural Hayes Center School after returning to southwest Nebraska following the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He was looking for a part-time job to keep him busy between Olympics. He had sold his McCook computer service and repair business in 2006, so he didn’t have any other work waiting for him after the Olympics.
Word spread quickly among other rural schools about how Brett was able to improve Hayes Center’s technology and save the school money. Other rural schools started asking for his advice and expertise.
Rapid growth as tech needs multiply
Today, 20/20 Technologies employs seven full-time employees (in addition to Brett and Alyssa), and they serve almost all the rural schools in the area, including Hayes Center; Maywood; and Chase, Dundy and Hitchcock counties.
He’s offering a valuable service to small rural schools that can’t afford to hire a full-time IT person. He also contracts with other entities, such as the cities of McCook and Indianola, two nursing homes, several businesses and Frenchman Valley Produce in Imperial, to take care of their technology and internet issues.
“Basically, it’s like peace of mind,” Brett said of his services. “We can find a problem before they even know there’s a problem.”
He and his staff install wireless technology, VoIP phone systems, servers and camera systems as well as configure networks and help with any other computer or internet issues.
While he sends employees to schools based on their contracted needs, he estimated that about 90 percent of their work can be done remotely.
“We have access to 1,200 computers at all times that we can access remotely,” Brett said.
If a teacher is having print problems, a 20/20 Technologies staffer can usually fix the problem without ever leaving the office.
Outgrowing its office space
20/20 Technologies is located on the fourth floor of the Keystone Business Center at 402 Norris Ave. in downtown McCook. The company recently moved to the fourth-floor location after continuous employee and client expansions during the past few years.
Many rural Nebraska schools have qualified for grants or subsidies through the federal e-rate program, which provides discounts to schools and libraries to update telecommunications, internet access and internal communications.
Brett explained that the funds come from the fees charged to everyone on their phone bills.
“They used this money to help pay for internet for schools,” Brett said. “Now, they are using this money to pay for infrastructure, cabling and wireless.”
Last year, Brett worked with 28 schools across the state to provide technology updates. He will work with more schools this year, but he has backed off a little because of his work with the Olympics.
Summer detour: the Olympics
This summer, Brett will be working in Brazil from July 1 to September 1 as a team member for the Olympics broadcast rights holder, NBC Universal. He’s one of six technology experts who work behind the scenes to set up broadcasting networks and communications systems to ensure that everyone back in the United States can enjoy uninterrupted viewing of the Olympics.
Brett has worked at the Olympics since the 2004 summer games in Greece. This gave him an opportunity to travel the world as a young adult, even spending several months exploring China. He was also able to gain valuable technology certifications, such as Cisco, Microsoft and A+ that make him in high demand for tech jobs around the country and back in Nebraska.
Brett said with his training and certifications, he’s had job offers across the country. But he likes McCook and living close to his family and friends in southwest Nebraska.
“The thing about McCook is it’s inexpensive to live,” Brett said. “I like living here. I get to experience the big city stuff when I travel. I like to go to Denver or Omaha for the weekend, but I don’t want to live with that traffic. Why deal with that when you can live here inexpensively, and it’s not like we are that far from either one?”
How to get tech employees to rural Nebraska?
Now, if he could just convince others of the great living in rural Nebraska, he could continue to expand his business. Brett said a major challenge he faces is finding high quality tech employees who want to live in McCook.
He gets creative in identifying potential employees. When he first started working with the school in Hayes Center, he noticed one student who was consistently breaking through the firewalls that he had established. Instead of getting angry, he asked the student to work for him. That student, Cody Wright, continued working with 20/20 after he graduated and still works for the company today.
Cody now travels back to his alma mater once every week under that IT contract that started it all for 20/20 Technologies.
Brett and Alyssa both enjoy helping rural schools update their technology and save money. Their monthly contracts range from $350 to $3,900, depending on each school’s or business’s needs.