Nick Vissari, Data Architect and Security Manager
Posted: January 3rd, 2018
HCPSS Data Architect and Security Manager Nick Vissari designs, builds and manages software applications for the entire Howard County Public School System. He also keeps a watchful eye on cybersecurity threats to protect vital school system information. Known as someone who creates solutions, Vissari’s work directly impacts students, parents and staff every day.
Vissari’s interest in computers started when he was about 12. His knack for solving computer challenges became obvious after one time he was constantly interrupting his father, who was building a computer, with questions. Told to read the thick instruction manual on computer assembly his father was using, Vissari read the entire thing. Pretty soon he was troubleshooting the computer.
In eighth grade, Vissari was already helping his school with their computer needs. While a student at North County High School in Anne Arundel County, Vissari heard about a vocational technology class in computer network technology, a course similar to the Cybersecurity Networking Academy at the Applications and Research Lab. He signed up immediately.
“It was awesome. It was a three-hour class where we got to really delve into stuff,” Vissari recalls.
In 2005, Vissari joined the Howard County Public School System as a paraeducator. He worked as a math tutor and served as an unofficial mentor to some male students. “It felt good to help kids and it was always fun to talk about math.” After only a few months, he moved to a technician position in the school system’s Information Technology department.
Vissari continues his involvement with students by serving as judge for Code Slam, an annual competitive coding event to be held at Oakland Mills High School in 2018. “I always try to make Code Slam. It’s loads of fun seeing how the kids come up with solutions.”
For the past three years Vissari has helped organize and present to students about IT security through a Gifted and Talented Summer Institute of Talent Development field trip. Students in the World of Computer Programming class visit the Central Office location to tour the data center and ask IT staff questions.
Vissari is now part of a team that has completely transformed the school system’s network, beginning with creating an IT security policy in 2010. No other county in Maryland had a similar policy at the time.
Internet security is a constantly evolving challenge and one of Vissari’s biggest concerns. “There is no state of ‘we are secure.’ We’re constantly working to be more secure so criminals will move on. I’m always thinking about how to improve our practices and our security posture as an organization.”
A few years ago, Vissari took on responsibility for transferring the school system’s outdated email system to a new system after an outside company wanted to charge over $30,000 for the conversion and use a process that would take approximately two hours to migrate a single mailbox. With almost 9,000 mailboxes, this would have taken years to accomplish.
Vissari got this huge undertaking done in about six months. “I found a way, using open source tools, where I could migrate a mailbox in about 20 minutes,” Vissari explains.
He designed and built the HCPSS single sign-on portal currently in use by staff, students and parents, which simplifies access to numerous applications. An outside company said the task was too complicated. Vissari coupled his experience with open source software to create a solution. A motivated self-starter, Vissari explains, “When I see something that other people are shying away from or avoiding, I dive right into it. So when the next obscure challenge arises, I know how to come up with solutions.”
He also designed the infrastructure for Staff Hub, the online resource for school system employees. “When I delve into a problem, I’ll stick to that problem 24/7/365 until I come up with a solution that I’m happy with.”
“With his depth of knowledge and outside-the-box thinking, Nick is able to design and develop cost efficient solutions that support the use of HCPSS applications and network security. His integration and development work ensures that students, staff and parents can access HCPSS online systems anytime and anywhere using a single sign in,” said HCPSS Executive Director of Information Technology Justin Benedict.
Vissari continues to enhance security to keep student records and information safe, and constantly seeks new solutions to protect against potential security threats.
“The level of service that Nick extends to our full community goes far beyond any expectations,” said Benedict.