Don’t Look for Snacks in These Vending Machines

Posted December 15, 2017 8:24 p.m. EST

Wudneh Akalu, 43, is a network support engineer at IVM in Indianapolis.

Q: How wide-ranging is your role?

A: I have several responsibilities. IVM reconfigures lockers and vending machines — so money is no longer needed to open them. It sells them to companies for distributing items including office supplies, laptops and protective equipment to employees. With the proper credentials — a badge or a code — employees can open them.

I provide desktop and network support at our company, and I also install the machines and lockers on customer premises. Part of that involves training customers on how to add products, generate reports and so forth.

Q: What is your background?

A: I’m from Ethiopia. In 1989, when I was 14, my parents sent my older brother and me to the United States to live with our older sister because they were afraid we might be drafted to fight in the civil war. I graduated from IUPUI — that’s Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis — with a bachelor’s in computer and information technology, and worked for two other companies before this job.

Q: Do you work alone?

A: I do, but there’s one customer installation where I’m never alone — in a nuclear power plant. I have to be escorted everywhere and the person stays with me at all times, even in the restroom.

Once, I was at an Intel facility during a Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day. It seemed there were children in every hallway, every corner, everywhere I looked. I kept having to stop and answer their questions.

Q: What are your challenges?

A: Getting the machines through customs outside the United States. Occasionally there are extra fees, and sometimes it takes two or three days.

In some countries, the elevators are smaller than ours, and I need to take the feet off the machines or remove an office door or door frame to install machines.

Q: What was one of your favorite installations?

A: One I did for HP in China last year. I love to travel, and when I was done working I got to explore and eat the local food.

Q: Does your work involve things outside your basic job description?

A: I like building things. When our company needed to configure badge readers for our employees and for customers, I volunteered to learn how to do it. I liked the work, so it’s become part of my job.