Meet Socket's You-Make-the-Difference Award Winners! |
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Socket's You-Make-the-Difference Award is given monthly to the employee who best exemplifies Socket's Core Values and Beliefs. Recipients of the award are nominated and voted on by their peers.

June 2017: John Martin, Technical Support Agent

Congratulations to John Martin, Technical Support Agent, on being named Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for June!

John has been with Socket for just over two years and was described by a co-worker as "the rock of the residential tech team." He spends much of his day juggling requests and questions from customers, technicians, and his fellow tech support agents - and does it all while staying calm and collected.

"He's everything you could ask for in a tech," said a co-worker who nominated him. "There isn't much he doesn't know, and no problem that he wouldn't tackle head-on. He's got honest, straightforward answers plus great customer service."

In his free time, John enjoys spending time with his friends and family, as well as fixing up his recently purchased home, which he shares with his foster chihuahua Kali. He's also recently taken up woodworking and gardening (which may not be a coincidence!).

"I love all the friends I've made at Socket," said John. "These are people I've come to rely on, not just in the workplace, but also outside of it. Our entire team exceeds expectations."

Congratulations, John!

May 2017: Frank Stefanizzi, Outside Plant Construction Splicer

Congratulations to Frank Stefanizzi, Outside Plant Construction Splicer, on being Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award winner for May!

Originally from Guttenberg, New Jersey, Frank moved to Missouri back in 2001. When his friend and former co-worker, Dave Giles, told him about his new job at Socket, Frank decided to apply too – and he’s been a valuable member of the team since. In fact, this is his second time winning the award!

“He’s always ready to tackle any job we give him,” said a co-worker who’d nominated him. “A real team player!”

“He makes fiber sparkle,” said another.

While Frank enjoys fishing and hunting, he probably doesn’t have as much time for it as he did last time he won this award – he and his wife now have a son, who “loves dogs, so I guess we’re getting a dog soon!”

“Socket’s a great place to work,” said Frank. “You’ve got great coworkers, and everyone’s willing to help when you’re in a pickle. I’m grateful and honored to have won.”

Congratulations, Frank!

April 2017: Steven Sullivan, Technical Support Agent

Congratulations to Steven Sullivan, Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award Winner for April!
Steven had been familiar with Socket as a company since the early 2000s, back when headquarters were on downtown Cherry Street in Columbia. After a brief stint in Wisconsin, Steven returned to Missouri and began looking for a job with a local tech company – and “the idea of working for a locally owned one appealed more” to him.

He’s now a member of our residential technical support team, helping customers, as he puts it, “over the occasional hurdle in modern technology.” He’s also a reliable team member, and valuable source of knowledge, to his fellow techs.

“He’s an amazing person to work with,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award. “He’s friendly to every customer, and makes sure that everything’s done correctly. He’s always willing to help others, and goes out of his way to do so.”

When he’s not at work, Steven enjoys biking and being outdoors, as well as cooking at home (often with a beer or two)! He’s also a bit of a traveler – Steven’s spent timing living on all major coasts of the US, as well as in between.

“The coworkers are absolutely the best thing about working at Socket,” said Steven. “And there’s also how extraordinarily happy some customers are when you get them up and running.”

Congratulations, Steven!

March 2017: Joshua Clark, Service Delivery Coordinator

Congratulations to Joshua Clark, Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference winner for March!

Joshua had been interested in tech from a young age, so when he heard about a local tech company headquartered in Columbia, he thought it’d be a good place to get his foot in the door. The rest, as they say, is history; Joshua now helps program custom phone systems for our business customers, and provides post-installation support.

“Joshua’s always helpful when there’s something I don’t understand,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award. “He answers questions in a way that’s easy to grasp, often with a quirky anecdote and a smile!”

At home, Joshua enjoys working on cars and computers, and picking up odd hobbies to try out – like leatherworking! But for now, he and his wife are busy preparing for their son, who is due to arrive in late spring. They also share their home with a “too-fluffy little dog who thinks she’s a cat."

“My favorite part of working at Socket is the flexibility it provides,” said Joshua. “Instead of submitting ideas to a VP of Process Revision over in Ontario, it’s easy to just go talk to whoever’s in charge of something and bounce ideas. [We] can listen to feedback and make changes that more monolithic companies aren’t flexible enough to make.”

February 2017: Theresa Lichty, Marketing Specialist

Congratulations to Theresa Lichty, Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for February!

Theresa first joined Socket's marketing team in June 2012. Since then, she's taken on a variety of projects, including the planning and execution of Socket events, writing Socket's monthly email newsletter and other messages to customers, creating advertisements, and much more.
"Theresa does a great job and always does it with a smile on her face," said a co-worker who nominated her for the award. "She really works hard to promote Socket, and the services we provide to prospective customers throughout Missouri."

Last October, Theresa married Nathan Lichty, who also works for Socket. They actually met here almost 5 years ago! Theresa enjoys playing video games, cooking, and preparing teeny-tiny salads for Wakka, her bearded dragon.

"You meet the most wonderful people working at Socket," says Theresa. "Everyone knows and cares for each other, and we all want each other to succeed."

January 2017: Cody Ballew, Technical Support Agent

Congratulations to Cody Ballew, Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference winner for January!

Originally just looking to earn a little networking experience, Cody ended up finding that Socket was “way cooler” than the other places he was training for. After branching out with other companies in the industry, Cody returned to Socket in 2015 as a technical support lead, helping to train and advise our newer technical support agents, as well as helping customers with any issues.

“As a Tier 3 Residential Tech, Cody’s proven to be an excellent source of information, and is always gracious in how he conveys that info to his colleagues,” said a coworker who nominated him. “He helps those around him to listen, research and learn.”

Cody enjoys spending time and making art with his wife, Tabby, and their three children, who are his “favorite people on earth – I love seeing their gears kick in exploring the world.” He also builds custom gaming computers for clients in his spare time, a lucrative hobby which allows him to design and build even crazier set-ups with his brother!

“Out of the three ISPs I’ve worked for, Socket is easily the best,” said Cody. “You have the ability to do anything you want to do and learn from so many people – there are more people with more years of random IT experience here than anywhere else I’ve worked.”


December 2016: Rachael Riley, Receptionist

Congratulations to Rachael Riley, Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference award winner for December!

Rachael is Socket’s friendly receptionist, and the first face most customers see when coming to visit us. In addition to greeting people, Rachael also does most things that our other customer service representatives do, like sending out letters and answering phone calls.

“Rachael takes such good care of our walk-in customers and visitors. She greets them with a smiling face and a cheerful attitude, even when they're not the friendliest in return,” said a coworker who nominated her for the award. “She's always happy to pitch in on anything she's asked to help with, and she's a great asset to Socket.”

Outside of work, Rachael is quite crafty – she spends a good deal of her time drawing, crocheting, woodburning, sculpting, and more! She’s even made custom pieces for several of her coworkers. A few of her current art projects: building a coffee table out of papier-mâché, and crafting a googly-eyed dinosaur out of cardboard.

She’s also a fan of video games and singly along (“badly!”) to her favorite musical playlists. She, her fiancé, and her teenage daughter all live in Columbia with their “rude quaker parrot” and a “stupid-lookin’ dog who’s actually very intelligent.”

“My favorite part of working at Socket is my coworkers!” said Rachael. “It’s nice to work somewhere with such awesome people. I love you guys!”

November 2016: Danielle, Service Delivery Coordinator

Congratulations to Danielle G., Service Delivery Coordinator, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for November!

Originally from New Jersey, Danielle moved to Missouri from the farm she lived on (yes, a farm in New Jersey...with horses, chickens, and peacocks!). She was looking for a change of scenery, so she packed up her belongings (and her chihuahua, Kalika) and came to Missouri on a whim. A friend who worked for Socket encouraged her to apply here.

"When she mentioned her job, it was never to complain about it," said Danielle. "She talked about how nice the people were and how well they worked together, even through difficult times."

After serving as a customer service/sales representative, and then a lead within that department, Danielle is now a dispatcher for our field services crew, scheduling appointments and maintaining order for our agents on the road.

"Every day, at least once, it seems we have an emergency dispatch of one sort or another and Danielle always seems to find a way to accommodate both [our field agents] and the customer," said a coworker who nominated her for the award. "She has saved our bacon plenty of times with last minute requests."

In her free time, Danielle is a sucker for some karaoke (have you heard her belt out Bobby McGee?). She also likes playing video games, perusing yard sales, having bonfires, doing some sassy cross-stitching, and playing pool (among other things).

"I'm thankful every day that I Ianded this awesome job with a great company and cool people," said Danielle. "I've made some great friends here, and I really can't ask for much more than that."

October 2016: Demian Cook, Service Delivery Specialist

Congratulations to Demian Cook, Service Delivery Specialist, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for October!

This is Demian's second YMTD win - in fact, her first win led to her being named a runner-up for Socketeer of the Year back in 2014! Since her last nomination, Demian has worked her way up to our Provisioning department, where she helps to implement connections to Socket's internal network, as well as configure equipment for customer use.

"She always takes on way more than her share of the workload, and makes sure that any issue I'm having is solved, even if it isn't in her department," said a coworker who nominated her for the award. "She's also hilarious, and brightens everyone's day with her wit!"

Originally from Montgomery County, Demian is a military veteran with a long history of working in IT. After starting at Socket in 2012, Demian worked as a Business Center Analyst before transitioning to her new role as a Service Delivery Specialist.

"I enjoy the atmosphere here," said Demian. "We're an upbeat and interesting group of individuals working towards a common goal - providing the best service to our customers. And every day is an opportunity to learn something new!"

Congratulations, Demian!

September 2016: Carl Blank, Field Services Supervisor

Congratulations to Carl Blank, Field Services Supervisor, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for September!

Carl had spent over 45 years in the telecom industry before deciding to finally retire. However, after an entire summer at home, Carl got a little stir-crazy – so when Socket reached out, Carl jumped at the chance to get back into things. He now supervises our Field Services team, manages our vehicle fleet, and generally provides an incredible amount of experience to share.

“Carl’s a great resource for installations, technical issues, and a whole host of other things,” said a coworker who nominated him. “We’re really lucky to have him here at Socket!”

One of Carl’s favorite things to do is "buy vehicles with Socket's money." When he’s not doing that, he also likes discussing racing (Nascar included), visiting swap meets, and generally traveling. In fact, he’s been to every single state in the nation – Hawaii and Alaska included! His family includes his wife, Charlene, his two daughters, and a very large cat named Shannon.

“I came back to see if I could make a difference,” said Carl. “Sounds like you all think I do!”

August 2016: Zaza Tugushi, Service Delivery Manager

Congratulations to Zaza Tugushi, Service Delivery Manager, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for August!

Zaza joined the Socket team back in 2008, starting in customer service. From there, he moved to our business center as a service delivery coordinator, netting his first YMTD win back in October 2013. Today, he manages the entire service delivery team – and he’s still making the difference to his coworkers.

“Zaza more than exemplifies Socket’s core values and beliefs through his obvious dedication, professionalism, and clear-cut commitment to providing both the best possible service to Socket’s customers, and outstanding support of the staff he supervises,” said a coworker who nominated him. “It goes without saying that Zaza deserves this award.”

In his free time, Zaza enjoys working on various home improvement projects, as well as fixing cars and computers. However, he admits that most of his hobbies have been put on hold for the moment – he and his wife, Molly, stay busy taking care of their young son Lucca, as well as preparing for their second child, due this October!

“My favorite thing about working at Socket is definitely the people,” said Zaza. “Socketeers work together to make things happen for our customers. I like that even though we’ve become more structured and mature as we’ve grown, we’ve maintained the flexibility to go out of our way to help customers in need.”

July 2016: Adam Buchmeier, Field Services Technician

Congratulations to Adam Buchmeier, Field Services Technician, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for July!

Adam has a long history of working in telecom – in fact, he remembers working with Socket as a business customer back when we only offered dial-up!

After hearing about Socket’s fiber expansion in Callaway County, Adam decided that Socket would be a good place to jump back into the industry, and he’s been with us ever since.

“Adam is awesome!” said a coworker who nominated him for the award. “He's always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone who needs it, coworker or customer.”

"He's a very respectful and knowledgeable man, and he trained me with confidence," said another.

When he’s not installing service for Socket’s new customers, Adam enjoys tinkering with lawnmowers, refurbishing old furniture, and spending time with his family, including his 13-year-old granddaughter. He also spoils his 16-year-old Labrador, Jude, the “smartest dog ever.”

“My favorite part of working at Socket is the customers, hands down,” said Adam. “I really enjoy going out there and making them happy.”

June 2016: Shay Wisham, Service Delivery Coordinator

Congratulations to Shay Wisham, Service Delivery Coordinator, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for June!
Shay has been with Socket for just a little over six months, but she’s already made a huge impression with her fellow Service Delivery Coordinators, as well as all those who depend on them to keep our projects moving and our new business customers happy.

“She’s been amazing to work with ever since I started,” said a coworker who nominated her. “She is on top of everything, even things that aren’t her responsibility. And she never shies away from helping new people, or veterans who need an extra hand.”

Shay is also able to bring an interesting perspective to her job. While her current role involves working with Socket’s business clients (often coordinating with their IT team), one of her past jobs was working for a business client of Socket’s – as part of their IT team.

In her free time, she enjoys relaxing, “which never happens.” With three boys, it’s no wonder. Her eldest is a football player at Central Methodist University, and Shay can count on one hand the number of games she’s missed over the last 14 years. Her weekends are spent with her wife trying new recipes, hitting the trails, spoiling their granddaughter, and volunteering at church, as well as helping her other two teenage boys with their projects and essays.

“My favorite part of working at Socket is the environment and people,” said Shay. “Starting a new job is scary - not so much because of the work, but because you want to be in a positive environment. When the workload does get hectic, my co-workers make it all worth doing.”

May 2016: Dawn Cole, Technical Support Agent

Congratulations to Dawn Cole, Technical Support Specialist, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for May!

Dawn joined Socket less than a year ago, but has already become a core member of the Tech Support team, known for her patient and friendly manner in dealing with any problems that come her way. In addition to helping out any of Socket’s customers that call in, she also helps with training new employees, and is about to bring her talents to our Business Center.

“Dawn's customer service ethic is amazing, and her ability to empathize with customers' issues is unmatched,” said a coworker who nominated her. “Whether the call is truly tech support related, or the caller just needs someone to talk to, she handles it in a dynamic and friendly manner.”

Dawn graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science last year, and spends much of her free time with her two children, who she says “keep me on my toes for sure!” She also enjoys watching sports, fishing, and cooking on the grill for her friends and family. In the small amounts of time she has between all of that, she also indulges in her passions for gardening and photography.

“My favorite part of working at Socket is the people I work with,” said Dawn. “Everyone’s so nice, and there’s so much knowledge to be shared that I literally learn things every day. It’s a great company to work for and with.”

April 2016: Jimmie Petsel, Field Services Technician

Congratulations to Jimmie Petsel, Field Services Technician, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for April!

Jimmie acts as the “eyes and hands” of our business center – he’s constantly on the road and off visiting customers' offices in order to find and test any physical issues, as well as handling installations for our new business customers.

“Jimmie goes above and beyond to help the customers and his coworkers,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award.

"Exemplar! Enough said," said another.

Born and raised in Columbia, MO, Jimmie is a proud graduate of Hickman High School and enjoys cooking in his free time – he’s also our resident chef (literally - with an associate’s degree in culinary arts!) After hearing about Socket from his friend and fellow field tech, Allen St. John, Jimmie decided to apply, and is now about to celebrate his second anniversary here.

“The people I work with make this job fun and entertaining,” said Jimmie. “The fact that anyone I might be speaking to on the phone, that I can go back to the office and talk to them in person… you don’t get that at some places I’ve worked. It adds a lot!”

March 2016: Cherie Verslues, Accounts Payable Specialist

Congratulations to Cherie Verslues, Accounts Payable Specialist, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for March!

As a member of the Accounting team, Cherie’s job is easy to describe – “I basically pay Socket’s bills.” But actually getting that done is another matter! Whether it’s tracking down payments, or making sure everyone has their paperwork filled out on time, Cherie frequently ends up having to hound people – and she manages to do it with charm and kindness.

“Cherie works with great integrity and is always respectful to everyone she communicates with,” said a coworker who nominated her for the award. “It is a pleasure to work with Cherie!”

“She’s so awesome! She does a wonderful job making sure all of our bills get paid and the money gets where it needs to go,” said another coworker.

Originally from Michigan, Cherie has spent much of her adult life in Missouri, and graduated from Columbia College with a degree in Business Administration. In her free time (which she says is limited these days!), she enjoys refinishing and upcycling furniture. But much of her spring and summer days are spent at the ball field, watching her youngest son play baseball for Battle High School.

“I’m happy that I get the opportunity to work with such good people,” said Cherie. “And I’m proud of the work that I do here at Socket.”

February 2016: Robert Edwards, Business Center Analyst

Congratulations to Robert Edwards, Business Center Analyst, for being named the February recipient of Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference award!

It’s difficult to say what Robert’s “official” title is – he’s been referred to as Socket’s Swiss Army Knife, assisting with a variety of technical issues for both our employees and customers.

“On a typical day, I could be dispatched to a business customer’s location, or working on broken equipment, or fixing inner office issues,” said Robert. “Every day is different.”

“Robert is always willing to step up for any request given to him by any department, with no questions asked,” said a coworker who nominated him. “He's always willing to stop and help if you need it and he is just an overall great employee.”

Originally from Tallahassee, Florida, Robert spent 12 years in the military before moving to Columbia. It’s hard to miss him when he’s wearing his Florida orange and blue! Although he’s currently attending classes at Columbia College, he still makes time to play basketball with his sons and shoot some pool.

“I like being able to use all of my talents here,” said Robert. “I get to do a little of everything, be a jack-of-all-trades. It’s never boring!”

January 2016: Janet Moss, Manager of Employee Satisfaction

Congratulations to Janet Moss, Manager of Employee Satisfaction, on winning Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference Award for January!

Originally hired through a temp agency, Janet started as an assistant to the owners in 2002. Within a few months, she was the full-time liaison to HR (as it was managed by an outside company at the time). By the time Socket made the move to our current location, Janet took over completely as Manager of Employee Satisfaction. She prefers the more colloquial “HR Manager” though – it’s a little easier to say!

“Janet is always positive,” said a co-worker who nominated her for the award. “If she doesn’t have an answer for your questions right then, she’ll always get back to you in a timely manner.”

Though born in Chicago, Janet has spent most of her life in other parts of Illinois and Missouri. She (and her twin!) are the youngest of four girls, and she’s had a lifelong love of music, starting with learning to play the clarinet in childhood. She doesn’t play as much today, but she still loves singing and all kinds of music – from gospel to jazz and classical. She and her husband of 17 years, Waldon, live in Columbia with their boxer, Phinneas (also known as Phinn).

“We have a ton of great people here,” said Janet. “I love being able to help employees and meet all of the wonderful personalities that have come through over the years. Socket gives people the ability to grow and find their niche here!”


December 2015: Dave Sill, Network Operations Manager

Congratulations to Dave Sill, Network Operations Manager, for being named the December recipient of Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference award!
A Columbia College graduate and a Missouri native, Dave has been with Socket for over 15 years. In addition to his role as the go-to guy for tech and networking issues, Dave has also headed our video projects, with his efforts helping to launch our very first television offering early this year.
“Dave is 80% Socket, 20% Cyborg,” said a coworker who nominated him. “He helps everyone out, and keeps us going when everyone else is out of ideas.”

“Sill has the skills, period,” said another coworker.

When he’s not writing code, plugging things into our server room, or generally doing cool techie things, Dave can be found hanging out with his family. He’s recently added a 70-pound “puppy” to the household named Kilo, whom Dave is teaching “to not think of my forearms as playthings to be chewed on.”

“I really appreciate the nominations and votes for employee of the month,” said Dave, after learning he’d won. “We have a lot of standout players and I feel like a lot of people deserve it.”

November 2015: Marcus French, Network Design Specialist

Congratulations to Marcus French, Network Design Specialist, for being named the September recipient of Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference award!

Marcus first applied to Socket in 2005, where he started as a tech support agent. He’s since worked his way up through the ranks (and picked up a few awards along the way, like his 2008 Socketeer of the Year trophy!).

Currently, Marcus is a Network Design Specialist, helping to coordinate fiber orders between our customers, techs, contractors and vendors. He also helps design networks and services to meet our customer’s needs.

“Marcus is full of useful information, and is willing to help others around him,” said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. “His knowledge on a multitude of positions and how they interact is stellar.”

In his spare time, Marcus indulges his more creative side with music production and animation work. He’s also a techie at heart – aside from tinkering with computers, Marcus is also a drone captain! His latest project involves working on a solar powered charging station for it between flights.

“I’m honored and amazed,” said Marcus. “I love being a Socketeer! I’d like to thank the Socket Family for everything WE do to ensure our customers receive the best service experience possible.”

October 2015: Theresa Oberle, Marketing Specialist

Congratulations to Theresa Oberle, Marketing Specialist, for being named the October recipient of Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference award!

Theresa first joined Socket as a marketing intern in June 2012. In July 2013, she returned to the company for a full-time position with Socket's marketing team. Since then, she's worn many hats - from coordinating Socket's appearances at local events, to managing our online reputation, as well as writing for our newsletter and blog.

As one co-worker who nominated her for the award said, "Theresa has a genuine concern for Socket." Another said, "She never hesitates to lend a helping hand when she sees a need around Socket."

In her free time, Theresa enjoys playing video games (one of her current favs is Undertale). She also makes sure her two bearded dragons are well-fed with plenty of bugs.

"Socket is really awesome," says Theresa. "We get the freedom to try new things here and see what works. You don't get those opportunities at a lot of other places."

September 2015: John McCrady, Business Center Analyst

Congratulations to John McCrady, Business Center Analyst, for being named the September recipient of Socket’s You-Make-The-Difference award!

This is John’s second time winning the award, and in less than a year, no less – his last win was in November 2014. His fellow (and new) techs still have plenty of reasons to nominate him.

“John is so understanding – I know that as a new employee, he was very helpful in training me on how to troubleshoot, as well as [being knowledgeable about] networking in general,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award. “He always has a great attitude towards customers and employees.”

In his free time, John enjoys science fiction novels, sculpture, painting, and John Carpenter films (which are often, but not always, Kurt Russell films as well). He is also the owner of Tom Selleck (his cat).

“You can’t beat the people you meet working at Socket,” said John. “Even when they leave and you see them outside of work – you still end up talking about the things you did here. The connections you fixed, the characters you talk to on the phone. It’s an experience.”

August 2015: Susan Stephenson, Service Delivery Coordinator

Congratulations to August's You-Make-The-Difference winner, Susan Stephenson!

Susan joined the Socket team in early 2014, and has been a valuable member of the business center ever since. Her typical day can include anything from building hosted phone systems, coordinating schedules, assisting with dispatches, pulling equipment, or, really, “whatever needs attention from a Service Delivery Coordinator.” And that can be a pretty exhaustive list.

“Susan gets things done, and has a positive attitude along the way,” said a co-worker who nominated her. “We should all try to mirror [her] professionalism. She takes the Core Values and Beliefs to a higher level.”

In her spare time, Susan enjoys swimming with her family. Her husband, Migueal, and 6-year-old daughter, Merindy, also love swimming; “My daughter thinks belly flops are the best thing since sliced bread!” Susan also loves playing cards, and “jammin’ to some awesome music with friends and family.”

Luckily for her, she's never short of family to jam with - with two brothers, a sister, three nieces, two nephews and a niece on the way, family functions certainly aren't boring!

“Thank you to all who voted for me!” said Susan.

July 2015: Jason Vander Veen, Network Design Specialist

Congratulations to July's You-Make-The-Differnece-Award winner, Jason Vander Veen!

This is Jason's fourth time winning this award, and he's done it with a different job title every single time.

After becoming Socket’s Technical Support Supervisor just a few months after joining the team in 2011, Jason became the new Residential Supervisor after taking charge of Customer Service as well. (Yes – that’s BOTH departments. Simultaneously.) Then, after spending some time as a Service Delivery Coordinator in the Business Center, Jason moved into his current role as our Network Design Specialist, which means that he helps research and plan out different areas to build fiber to, among other things.

What we’re saying is, Jason’s gone through a lot of business cards.

Although he graduated from Jefferson City High School, Jason has always been a true son of Michigan. Originally from Grand Rapids, Jason never lost his love for his home state. In his free time, he enjoys camping, fishing, and board games. Although free time is probably a little scarce at the moment – in addition to their kids Gavin and Adilyn, Jason and his wife Kim just added baby Lily to the family a few weeks ago.

"Jason has always gone above and beyond for any customer," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "From handling difficult customers, to designing fiber plant; Jason is the man."

June 2015: Shaun Crawford, Field Services Technician

Congratulations to June's You-Make-The-Difference-Award winner, Shaun Crawford!

Shaun is one of our Field Technicians, and most of his work involves repairing and splicing fiber. That can mean anything from highly delicate work with hair-thin wires, to labor-intensive hauling and digging in the hot sun – and regardless of what gets thrown at him, Shaun does it without complaint.

After starting at Socket in May 2014, Shaun ended up moving over to the Field Services department just a few months later. Judging by their nominations and votes, his fellow field techs are glad to have him.

"He goes the extra mile to get things completed for Socket," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award.

Shaun is originally from Osage Beach, and is working on a CIS degree from Columbia College. When he's not being awesome at Socket, he enjoys drumming, skating and reading.

"I'm happy someone from Field Services was honored," said Shaun. "I really like the people I work with here, and everyone is really cool."

May 2015: Sam Johnson, Service Delivery Specialist

Sam Johnson was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for May.

Sam is one of our Service Delivery Specialists, but finds himself with a variety of titles, depending on what needs to get done. His primary responsibility is to get new customers’ services working, which can involve everything from building out the service, configuring all the equipment for it, and walking our field installers through how to set it all up as smoothly as possible. That’s in addition, of course, to whatever else might pop up, like battling email spam or driving out to fix failed equipment.

“I don’t know that there’s any such thing as a ‘typical day’ for me,” said Sam.

In his free time, Sam enjoys playing video games, being outdoors, and “anything automotive.” Spur-of-the-moment trips around Missouri and the surrounding states have become a more common occurrence these days, too.

An Electrical Engineering graduate from the University of Missouri, Sam ended up applying on the recommendation of his friend and roommate at the time. As it turned out, Sam already knew quite a few Socketeers from his days at Rock Bridge High School. “It’s been an interesting place for a reunion… from the people I’ve reconnected with, plus the ones I’ve met here, I’ve learned from some of the best people imaginable [at Socket].

“It’s an honor to win this award for a second time,” said Sam. “It’s nice to know that my work’s appreciated!”

April 2015: Chris McLay, Service Delivery Specialist

Chris McLay was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for April.

Chris joined Socket a little over three years ago, and is currently one of our Service Delivery Specialists. Recently, he’s also moved to an overnight maintenance shift – meaning his work day starts at 10 PM.

“Chris is everyone's go-to when there is a technical issue that just can't be solved,” said a coworker who nominated him. “He's an expert at analyzing a problem and finding the root cause. He's also that guy who gets tasked with the famous ‘make this work’ implementations… and he always makes it work.”

Originally from Iowa, Chris has lived in Columbia for over 22 years, aside from the few years spent in Linn, MO while attending Linn Tech. He considers Columbia “the only town I call home.” And despite his odd hours, Chris still has time to hit the movies and hang out with friends before clocking in for his shift. He also enjoys playing video games in his spare time (or when everyone else is at work).

“It’s truly an honor,” said Chris, after learning he’d won. “I work with so many talented people, and have many mentors here at Socket."

March 2015: Adam Kunkel, Programmer

Adam Kunkel was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for March.

Adam joined our Programming team back in 2008. He and his department are responsible for a lot of what makes Socket work – and what that means can change almost daily. For example, when we decided to add TV service to our Fiber coverage areas in Callaway County, Adam built a lot of the internal infrastructure that made the whole process come together.

“Getting ready to launch TV service required a lot of behind-the-scenes work that not many people saw,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award. “Adam was instrumental in setting up new processes… and he did all of this on a really tight deadline, without complaining.”

Born and raised in Fayette, MO, Adam attended Kansas State University before ultimately transferring and graduating from the University of Missouri. An avid guitar and bass player, Adam also enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. In fact, he estimates that he makes a home-cooked meal nearly every weeknight.

Perhaps that’s the secret to Adam’s patience, even in the face of hard deadlines and frantic requests. “My favorite thing about working at Socket is the relaxed atmosphere,” said Adam. “And the people.”

February 2015: Zach Crutcher, Technical Support Agent

Zach Crutcher was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for February.

Originally from Moberly, Zach moved to Columbia two years ago after being accepted at Columbia College. Since it was only a few minutes away from his new school, Socket seemed like a good place to apply – and we’re glad he did!

"He's always willing to help, always has a plan, and is always taking the extra step to help customers," said a coworker who nominated him.

Zach has recently graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Management and Information Systems. In his free time, he enjoys PC gaming and hanging out with his friends.

“I’m excited and appreciative; it’s an honor to win this award,” said Zach.

January 2015: Jacob Campbell, Technical Support Agent

Jacob Campbell was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for January.

Jacob has been a part of our residential tech support team for over a year. As a Tier II agent, he not only helps with troubleshooting customer issues, but also helps with training and supporting new agents that are just learning the ropes.

“Many of my coworkers agree; they wouldn't be growing or where they are today, if he hadn't been there helping with problems and solving issues,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award.

Jacob’s love of helping others doesn't stop at work; he and his girlfriend are currently providing a home for three rescue cats. They also continually foster other animals that are looking for homes.

"It's a great feeling to be nominated, let alone win, and to bring a little recognition to Residential Tech Support,” said Jacob.


December 2014: Scott Stratman, Network Facilities Manager

Scott Stratman was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for December.

Other than owner George Pfenenger, Scott is the longest service employee at Socket, having started here back in 1996. At the time, the company had fewer than a dozen employees, and only sold dial-up Internet service (we've grown a lot)!

Since then, Scott has become our Network Facilities Manager, working to make sure Socket’s network remains healthy as we continually add new services to it. His years of knowledge and experience with Socket are always a valuable resource for teammates to draw on, as well.

“He is never shy about helping out, or just being a friendly face if needed,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award. “His many years of service also leave him with invaluable knowledge and skills… I am blessed to work with him.”

Originally from Jefferson City, Scott now lives in Ashland with his wife, Dena, and three daughters. In his free time, Scott can be found tinkering in his garage with “anything that has an engine,” a pastime he’s glad to see his daughters taking an interest in as well.

“I’ve seen [Socket] grow from an ISP with a total of 100 dial-up modems to what it is today…” said Scott. “And I’ve enjoyed the challenges that come with Socket’s evolution and new service offerings. Working with so many talented and intelligent people, I’m proud to have received this award.”

November 2014: John McCrady, Business Center Analyst

John McCrady was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for November.

After being encouraged to apply by several of his friends who already worked here, John started in residential tech support about three years ago. Since then, he's worked his way up to the business center, helping customers with their service issues and acting as a resource for his fellow agents.

"John is constantly going out of his way to make every customer feel special, and will work on any problem to completion," said a coworker who nominated him. "John is a great co-worker, a great employee, and a great person in general."

A native Columbia resident and a graduate of Rock Bridge, John is deeply knowledgeable when it comes to cult 1980s action movies starring Kurt Russell. He is also, of course, a master at quickly solving customer issues, as his coworkers will attest.

"It's all in the reflexes," said John.

October 2014: Jim Quisenberry, Field Services Technician

Jim Quisenberry was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for October.

Jim started at Socket in 2012 as a field services technician, and was soon promoted to department supervisor. Additionally, he is now responsible for the development of a construction team for Socket’s outside plant builds, including fiber drops for both residential and business customers.

“I applied [to Socket] after reading about the rural fiber to the home project, and wanted to be a part of it,” said Jim. “A bonus for me was learning about how [Socket’s] network and telephony in general works.”

Originally from Mexico, Missouri, Jim has always been a musician. In his free time, he is a vocalist and lead guitar player in local band Primitive Soul, which regularly plays shows all across mid-Missouri.

“Receiving this award is special since it’s awarded by my coworkers,” said Jim. “I’m grateful that they think I deserve this.”

September 2014: Demian Cook, Business Center Analyst

Demain Cook was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for September.

Demian started at Socket in 2012 as a Business Center Analyst, and is now a Tier II with the department. In her current role, Cook helps business customers with any service issues, as well as helping serve as a resource for her fellow agents.

"Demian is always willing to help out despite being as swamped with work as she is," said a coworker who nominated her. "She's a wonderful teacher, explaining things clearly, or in different ways, if it didn't make sense the first time."

Raised in Montgomery County and a graduate of Wellsville-Middletown R1, Cook originally worked as a network analyst for the military before deciding to try something new. For the next 9 years, Demian worked with children in a variety of roles, including as a preschool teacher and for the Head Start program, before ultimately deciding to jump back into IT.

“Each day is a new challenge,” said Demian, when asked why she likes working at Socket. “Plus, everyone here is down to earth and focused on one thing – providing a great customer experience.”

August 2014: James Hicks, Business Technical Support Agent

James Hicks was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for August.

James has now won this award three times since starting at Socket in 2011. And each time, he’s been lauded for his exemplary dedication to fixing any problem that comes across his desk – from customers’ technical issues to helping his coworkers stay positive (often with his drawer full of candy).

“James is incredibly diligent and tenacious in his quests to resolve issues with positive outcomes,” said a coworker who nominated him for the award. “It leads to happy customers.”

Originally from Kenoma, MO, James moved to Columbia in 2011 after his brother, fellow employee Nelson, recommended he apply to Socket. He’s been here ever since, along with his cat, Dog (so named for acting decidedly un-cat-like. His nieces disagree with the name and have been calling him Cocoa instead).

"It's a honor to even be nominated," said James. "I'm glad my coworkers find me helpful."

July 2014: Sungwook Kim, Internal Auditor

Sungwook Kim was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for July.

Sungwook is originally from Pusan, a port city on the southeastern part of South Korea. He moved here nine years ago and began working for Socket in October 2010. Sung received several nominations and votes from his co-workers this month. “Sung is a great asset for Socket,” says a fellow employee. “He comes in early and stays late. He is diligent and thorough. Sung definitely deserves this award.”

When asked for his impression of Missouri, Sung replied that he loves this state. Although he grew up as a city dweller, Sung has learned that he really enjoys Missouri’s beautiful outdoors. In fact, camping has become one of his favorite hobbies. When they are not enjoying the outdoors, Sung and his wife also spend a lot of time browsing around antique shops.

“It’s been really wonderful,” says Sung about his time at Socket. “The company culture is very unique and I’ve learned a lot these past four years.” He describes his job as both “challenging and enjoyable.”

When asked about his thoughts on the award, Sung responded, “I never thought I would receive such an honor. Usually accounting is a small part of Socket (compared to the rest of the operations) and I think there are a lot of very passionate people doing an excellent job here. I am very thankful for the nomination.”

June 2014: Frank Stefanizzi, Field Services Technician

Frank Stefanizzi was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for June.

Originally from Guttenberg, New Jersey, Frank spent his younger days partying it up on the Jersey Shore (before the show), renting a house every summer with 12 other guys with names like Vinnie and Tony.

Fortunately, his journeys eventually brought him to Missouri in 2001, and to Socket just a little over three years ago. Now, he's working relentlessly to keep Socket's business customers up and running. His attitude and determination have not gone unnoticed by his fellow Socketeers.

"He is always ready to tackle any job we give him," said a co-worker who nominated Frank for the award. "A team player!"

In his spare time, Frank enjoys being outdoors - hunting, camping, fishing and hiking. He also coaches Socket's employee softball team - yet another example of his team spirit.

"I'm appreciative of the award and proud of the field services team," said Frank when he found out he won this month's award.

May 2014: Kurt Bruemmer, Director of Business Improvement and Control

Kurt Bruemmer was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for May.

Described as “one of Socket's best kept secrets,” Kurt started as Socket’s Director of Network Operations in 2000. He eventually became Director of Operations, and then Director of Business Improvement and Control.

“Kurt is a crucial member of Socket’s team,” said a fellow coworker. “He’s recently taken on new responsibilities, and is always willing to help his fellow Socketeers however he can.”

“Socket is lucky to have him,” said the coworker who nominated him for the award.

Originally from Jefferson City, Kurt is a graduate of Helias High School and the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla). He now resides in Holts Summit with his wife, Sue, and kids Nick and Joe.

“The best parts about Socket are working with great people who like a challenge, work hard, and have fun,” said Kurt. “Plus, I get to learn new things and be involved in so many different aspects of the company.”

April 2014: Dave Sill, Internal Network Operations Manager

Dave Sill was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for April.

Originally from Lexington, MO (like last month's winner!), Dave studied at Columbia College before starting at Socket, where he’s been for over 15 years.

“It would probably be quicker to list the roles I haven’t had with Socket,” said Dave. “Right now I’m the ‘Internal Network Operations Manager.’ Whatever that means.”

"Whatever that means" seems to encompass quite a lot. “Socketeers and Socket customers alike call up Dave, regardless of his workload, to fix everything from network outages and fiber issues to Outlook email failures,” said a coworker who nominated him.

“I just tell [my friends] I fix things,” said Dave.

In his free time, Dave takes on some interesting weekend projects. Along with several other Socketeers, Dave participated in last month's Float Your Boat Cardboard Regatta, raising funds for the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.

March 2014: Matt Kohly, Director of Carrier and Government Relations

Matt Kohly was named Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for March.

Matt joined Socket’s legal team back in July 2004. In the decade since, he’s worked with other telecom companies so we can provide service in more areas, as well as working with Socket’s owners to determine which services and areas would be best for expansion. He’s also been instrumental in the development of Socket’s fiber network.

“For those of you who know Matt, you can clearly see that he goes above and beyond for everything that is sent his way,” said a co-worker who nominated him for the award.

Originally from Lexington, MO, Matt earned a bachelor’s degree in business from MU and then a master’s degree in agricultural economics. In his spare time, he likes to unwind on his bicycle or anywhere that involves a river or lake. He's even traveled by kayak across the entire state on the Missouri River! He also enjoys hanging out with his wife, Sherri, and kids Matthew and Kara.

“Seriously, I am stunned and flattered and very much appreciate the recognition from my peers,” says Matt about winning the award.

February 2014: Jonathan Miller, MIS Administrator

Jonathan Miller was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for February.

Jonathan has recently taken on a new role as MIS Administrator, which means when the office computers don't work, the printers are out of ink or we need some new software, he's the guy to call.

The journey to Socket for Jonathan began last year when his neighbor (and now co-worker) Jason V. encouraged him to apply for a position in the Business Center. He says he likes his new role in MIS as well, because it gives him the opportunity to help his fellow Socketeers.

And we appreciate that helpful spirit. Said one co-worker who nominated him for the award, "Jonathan has a can do attitude and his actions speak louder. He has been pleasant and helpful in his new role. Great choice to have a go to person that will get the job done."

Born in Nebraska, Jonathan spent the first few years of his life in the UK. He's currently attending Western Governors University and is about to graduate with a bachelor's degree in IT, specializing in security. He also has several professional certifications.

Jonathan and his wife, Kate, are expecting their first child (a girl!) in June. He also enjoys watching movies, bargain shopping and traveling (his favorites include Ireland, the Smokey Mountains and Las Vegas).

"I have really enjoyed working at Socket because I feel like I have a real place here," he says. "It's neat to be recognized and to know my work has been well received."

January 2014: Nate Compton, Field Services Technician

Nate Compton was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for January.

Nate started at Socket nearly 3 years ago, and helps install and troubleshoot service for our customers on-site. In the last year, he’s also done work on Socket's fiber network in rural Boone and Callaway counties.

“[People don’t] see what we do,” said a fellow field technician who nominated him. “He was the first one to grab a shovel when the snow storms hit, to make sure that everyone was able to walk on the sidewalk to get into the building. Now if you ask me, that’s making a difference!”

Originally from the Joplin area, Nate has lived in Columbia for about 8 years. In between playing pool, poker, and rooting for the Cardinals, Nate has been reading though the Game of Thrones series. So don’t spoil anything!

"I'm flattered that all these great people I work with feel that I'm making a positive difference," said Nate after winning. "Our whole department does a great job and it's awesome that one of us finally won."


December 2013: James Hicks, Business Tech Support Agent

James Hicks was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for December.

This is James’ second win; he had previously been awarded the title in November 2011, just a few months after starting at Socket as a residential tech support agent. In his current position, James helps business customers with any service issues, as well as helping serve as a resource for his fellow agents, even in other departments.

“Time and time again he has gone above and beyond to help not just his department but other departments with anything requested of him. He is always willing to take time out of his busy task schedule to train others,” said a fellow coworker. “He doesn't just show them {how to perform tasks}, he also explains why it works the way it does.”

James is originally from Kenoma, MO, and moved to Columbia in May of 2011. He is one of Socket’s go-to experts on classic video games, science fiction novels, and turn-based strategy games.

“It’s an honor to win,” said James. “Also it’s great timing with the parking spot, it’s really cold out.”

November 2013: Jonathan Camp, Business Analyst

Jonathan Camp was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for November.

Jon came to Socket in May 2011 because he wanted to be part of a growing company with an emphasis on customer service. He also thought it'd be a great place to apply his knowledge in networking. Jon currently serves as a Tier 1 Business Analyst, where he helps ensure services are working properly for Socket's business clients.

"Jonathan Camp is an excellent tech. Not only that, he is an excellent human being," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "He is the personification of customer service and tech support excellence."

Originally from Columbia, Jon likes to spend his free time reading comics, playing video games, and playing with his band.

Asked about how it felt to win the YMTD award, Jon simply said, "I think it's pretty sweet!"

October 2013: Zaza Tugushi, Service Delivery Coordinator

Zaza Tugushi was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for October.

Zaza is a busy guy. During the day at work, he's giving 100% to scheduling installs, coordinating dispatches and resolving customer issues.

"Zaza is an amazing project manager," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "I'm sure his job can be stressful, but he never seems to get rattled by the constant changes."

Zaza has been a Socketeer since March 2008, beginning first in residential customer service and sales before moving to the business center in 2009. He's now a service delivery coordinator and coordinates installs and dispatches for our business customers.

Originally from Georgia (the country, not the state!) - Zaza studied at Columbia College before going on to receive his MBA at Mizzou. He and his wife, Molly, are expecting their first child in December. In his spare time, Zaza also likes to fiddle with an old car, computers and his house.

September 2013: Travis Baugh, Service Delivery Specialist

Travis Baugh was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for September.

Travis joined the Socket team in 2011 and is responsible for ensuring that service is delivered properly to residential and business customers. He works with Socket's sales team on any issues that come up and also assists with special projects.

"You'd never know just how careful, kind and efficient he is," said a fellow Socketeer who nominated him for the award. "Travis is a person who carries a lot of know-how in an invisible satchel of inspiration. He makes it look way too easy."

Another explained, "Socket runs smoothly because Travis is one of the balanced, performance-trained bearings at the center. We are lucky to have him as someone who makes a difference."

A local Columbian at heart, Travis attended Rock Bridge High School and is currently working on a business degree at Columbia College. In his spare time, Travis likes to work on computers. In fact, he once traded some computer fix-it work for a special Evil Computer tattoo! He also enjoys spending time with his eight-year-old daughter.

August 2013: Jamey Leonard, Sales Engineer

Jamey Leonard was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for August.

"Jamey is always willing to look at a problem and will keep at it until he has exhausted everything he can think of to help you solve a problem," said a fellow co-worker who nominated him for the award.

Jamey joined Socket's business center in March 2012 and is now a sales engineer. He says he enjoys the learning oppotunities Socket provides him.

Jamey recently returned to Columbia after spending 10 years in Denver. He's a passionate cyclist who dreams of one day crossing the country on a bike. He also enjoys hanging out with his infant son, Emery.

July 2013: Allie Schomaker, Marketing Specialist

Allie Schomaker was named as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference winner for July.

"She’s one of the hardest working individuals I know at Socket,” said one of the five co-workers who nominated Allie for the award. “We are very lucky to have her on our team.”

Allie’s been with Socket’s marketing department for the past seven years. She helps plan and implement campaigns, oversees Socket’s customer communications and works on various other marketing projects.

Originally from Marceline, MO, Allie enjoys running and reading, as well as spending time with her husband and two daughters. She also has a not-so-secret obsession with Kenny Chesney.

"I love that I am constantly learning and doing new things here," said Allie. "Socket is an awesome place, and I'm grateful to be a part of it."

June 2013: Jason Vander Veen, Service Delivery Coordinator

Jason Vander Veen was chosen as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for June.

"Jason exhibits 'Socketeering' every day," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "He always takes care of things in a timely and caring manner."

Officially, he’s Tech Support Supervisor and Service Delivery Coordinator. Unofficially, he says his job description was a blank page with a line for a signature.

Jason helps to maintain sanity around the office by doing everything from resolving customer issues to helping with the more difficult technical problems. Currently, he’s helping businesses get set up with our Hosted PBX service. He helps set up the equipment, gets the extensions working, tests the service, and then helps coordinate training events to get companies going with the new phone system.

Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jason moved to Missouri and graduated from Jefferson City High School. When he’s not helping out at Socket, he enjoys fishing, camping and golf. Well…he used to enjoy golf. Having kids really messed with his handicap.

May 2013: Jeff Smith, Accounting Manager

Jeff Smith was chosen as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference Award winner in May.

"Jeff is always available to deal with anything thrown his way," said a nominating co-worker. "He deals with the problem quickly, accurately and always with a smile."

Jeff has been working at Socket for two years. As accounting manager, some of his duties include leading general ledger activities, preparing various financial reports and statements, and performing necessary analysis of company financials, including special projects and internal audits.

When he isn’t crunching numbers or playing on Socket's company softball team, Jeff enjoys video games and relaxing. He's also added "studying for the CPA exam" as a new hobby, as it has become a new daily activity. He has passed the first half of the exam and hopes to finish the rest by August.

April 2013: Deborah McDuffie, Service Delivery Coordinator

Deborah McDuffie was recently selected as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for April.

This is Deborah's third time winning the YMTD award since joining Socket in 2008, and we believe she set a record for the most nominations in a single month with a whopping 11! Deborah originally started with Socket's residential technical support team before moving to the business center in 2009. Since 2012, she's been serving as a service delivery coordinator. She's instrumental in the delivery of our hosted business phone systems, doing everything from assisting with orders to training new customers on using the new phones and features.

"Deb is an exceptional employee," said one of the 11 co-workers who nominated her for the award. "Her amazing attention to detail makes installations go so much better than they would without her oversight. She's always happy to assist customers and her fellow Socketeers."

When she's not hard at work for Socket, Deborah enjoys cooking and spending time with her husband, Robert, and their three pets (2 dogs, 1 cat). She's also involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism and enjoys researching and sewing 10th-14th century outfits to wear at historical events.

"I was very touched by all the nominations," said Deborah. "I'm glad that I can continue to contribute to the awesomeness that is the Socket team!"

March 2013: Mat Harrison, Programmer

Mat Harrison was recently selected as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for March. Mat joined Socket’s tech support team in October 2004 before moving to the programming department in 2005. Mat writes a variety of applications we use here at Socket to keep our customers running smoothly, and he also develops and improves elements of Socket’s website.

"Mat is a real asset to the Socket team," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "There are so many examples of him taking something and making it more awesome, saving us time and helping us serve our customers better."

Mat went to high school in Steele, MO and earned a degree in systems engineering from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock before moving to Columbia in 2004. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his dog, Rex, playing golf, home brewing and playing video games.

"I love my job because of the variety of projects I work on," said Mat. "It's never boring and I'm consistently refining and expanding upon my expertise."

February 2013: Adam Shipp, Service Delivery Specialist

Adam Shipp was chosen as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for February. Adam has been a Socketeer for almost five years, since he joined our technical support team in 2008. He now assists with ordering circuits for Socket's customers, as well as helping to assemble quotes and orders for Socket's business clients.

Adam is originally from the Jefferson City area and has lived in Columbia for the past 10 years. He and his wife recently purchased a home and will be moving at the end of the month. In his spare time, he enjoys playing video games and traveling when he gets the chance.

"Adam is extremely smart and good at what he does," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "He is a key Socketeer, and Socket would not run as well with him not here."

"I love that I can learn something new every day here, and that I work with people who are passionate about their jobs," said Adam.

January 2013: Nathan Lichty, Business Center Technician

It’s not often that anybody receives over two whole pages of praise in their nomination for the YMTD award. But with half a dozen people contributing personal stories and evidence of his dedication, it was easy to see who the favored nomination this month was going to be.

“Nathan is your go-to guy for virtually any problem that you may come across,” said a coworker. “From circuit issues - to LAN issues - he is someone who can always be counted on to analyze a problem to the fullest and come up with the best long term solution for the customer.”

In particular, a common theme from all the nominations cited his desire to learn, and teach, as extraordinary.

“He’s an enthusiastic, patient and meticulous teacher,” said a coworker. “He doesn’t just tell you the numbered steps to fix a problem - he takes the time to explain how something works, and why what you’re doing will fix it.”

Born and raised in Missouri, Nathan graduated from Rock Bridge High School. He can usually be found tinkering with his tech toys, studying for yet another networking exam, or playing classic video games on his cell phone.

“I get to think critically and adapt to new challenges on a daily basis,” said Nathan. “It’s like playing a puzzle game… except I’m lucky enough to also get paid for it.“


December 2012: Brian Taylor, Outside Network Administrator

Our December You-Make-The-Difference winner, Brian Taylor, hadn’t even received his certificate yet before learning that he was also voted our Socketeer of the Year. But since the trophy will take a week or two to be engraved, he’ll at least have something to hang on his wall in the meantime!

The Socketeer of the Year award was started 8 years ago, when Socket’s owners decided to honor one of the year’s monthly You-Make-The-Difference award winners based on their embodiment of our Core Values and Beliefs.

As our Outside Network Administrator, Brian is one of the people in charge of our voice and data network. He does everything from planning out and managing the network, to troubleshooting when things go wrong. And nothing keeps him from doing his job – not even winning this award.

That’s right: Brian had to be pulled from fixing our servers to hear the announcement at the Christmas party that he’d won. And guess what he did right after accepting the award? Here’s a hint – the servers got fixed that night.

It’s just another example of the selfless dedication and technical know-how that his fellow employees mentioned when nominating him.

“Any time an issue arises, it is usually the case that Brian is already working on fixing it before anyone else has even noticed the problem,” said a co-worker.

“We couldn't operate the way we currently do without him...simple as that,” said another.

Born and raised right here in Columbia, Brian lives with his two dogs and spends his free time hot-air ballooning. So if you see a giant white, blue and red balloon in the sky, wave hello – it just might be our Socketeer of the Year, working on his pilot’s license!

After 13 years at Socket, Brian’s enthusiasm and dedication to his work are just as strong as when he started, and we couldn’t be luckier to count him among our core networking team. Congratulations on your award, Brian, and thank you for all you do!

November 2012: Vicki Winton, Business Account Coordinator

This month's You-Make-The-Difference Award winner, Vicki Winton, is officially described as a business account coordinator, but that hardly does justice to the multitude of jobs she gets done.

“Vicki is our ‘go-to gal’ for all those things that don't seem to fit under a category,” said a co-worker. “Van need maintaining? Out of mailing labels? Need a recommendation for a dry cleaner? Talk to Vicki. She's always a joy to talk to, always cares enough to ask how people are, and really cares about the answer.”

“To know her is to love her, and to work with her is bliss!” said the co-worker who nominated her for the award.

Vicki has been at Socket for a little more than a year and is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. She says the best part of working for Socket is the variety.

“I appreciate that I can research easements, obtain construction permits, answer fiber questions, stock post-its, call an electrician, order ID badges, plan meals ... from my desk to Staples, to Sam's Club, to the Callaway County Courthouse ... all in a day's work,” said Vicki. “There is NEVER a dull moment.”

Anyone who’s worked with her knows that Vicki can brighten up a whole day, and for these reasons, we’re proud to name her our You-Make-The-Difference Award winner for November. Congratulations, Vicki!

October 2012: Chelsea Jaggard, Business Account Coordinator!

Chelsea Jaggard, one of our Business Account Coordinators, was chosen as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for October. If you’ve ever been to our office in Columbia, you’ve probably met her – she’s the one right in front of the door.

“Chelsea manages to work the front desk, handle incoming inquiries for both business and residential accounts, and navigate all the front office traffic and keep on the phones,” said a coworker who nominated her. “She’s always willing to help out.”

“She’s pretty much the Batman of the business center,” said another.

However, Chelsea may have more in common with one of Batman’s female foils… along with a penchant for fantastic footwear, she also has an affinity for felines.

“No cat ever needs to worry about being homeless with Chelsea on board. She will do her best to make sure that lil’ kitty has a home… even if it’s with her,” said a co-worker.

“She has one of the softest hearts when it comes to animals,” said another. “If it has a long tail, whiskers, and needs love, she’s the one to go to.”

And it’s not all just talk - when we discovered some stray kittens living under the office porch, Chelsea was one of the Socketeers who volunteered to take one home.

It’s hard to imagine a kinder, more dedicated person than Chelsea; and for that, we’re proud to name her as our You-Make-the-Difference Award winner for October. Congratulations!

September 2012: Jason Vander Veen, Residential Supervisor!

Every month, Socket employees nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs. This month, we picked Jason Vander Veen, Residential Supervisor.

By the way, “Residential Supervisor” is actually short for “Residential Customer Service and Tech Support Supervisor” – quite the mouthful! Jason oversees both sections simultaneously, a talent that puts even the most ambidextrous among us to shame.

“Even though he’s constantly neck deep in work, he’s always willing to answer a question, or lighten up your day with a quick joke,” said a co-worker who nominated him. “And he’s always able to answer the most difficult questions, even if the answer is always 42.” (That’s a Douglas Adams reference, for those unfamiliar. He’s a bit of a fan).

Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jason moved to Missouri and graduated from Jefferson City High School. When not answering his fellow Socketeers’ questions about Life, the Universe and Everything (Douglas Adams again), he can be found playing Settlers of Catan, gushing about his adorable kids, or making some delicious, nutritious spaghetti.

While his talents can be intimidating, don’t worry; he’s Mostly Harmless (sorry, last one)! Thanks for all you do, Jason, and congratulations on your award!

August 2012: Jeff Gray, Programmer/Analyst

Every month, Socket employees ­nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs.

This month, we picked Jeff Gray, from the programming department. Jeff builds and maintains the programs we use here in the office to keep everything organized and scheduled, as well as the programs our customers use to track their personal accounts.

“Jeff is a force for good in this world, and he is a genuinely helpful and useful guy that pulls things together for Socket on a regular basis,” said a co-worker who nominated him. “Basically, Jeff helps us help ourselves make the difference.”

Originally from Lebanon, Missouri, Jeff enjoys video games and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s worked at Socket for nearly three years now, after interviewing here right out of college.

“We always have wide variety of projects we are working on,” said Jeff. “What I work on one week is often very different from past projects, which means I’m constantly learning new things.”

Jeff’s enthusiasm shows in all his work, and for that, we’re proud to name him our You-Make-The-Difference Award winner for August. Congratulations!

July 2012: Travis Baugh, Service Delivery Specialist

Every month, Socket employees ­nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs.

This month, we picked Travis Baugh, from the Customer Care and Fullfillment department. He’s been with us for a little over a year as a Service Delivery Specialist, tracking orders and helping improve all the separate little steps it takes to set up a customer.

“He does a lot behind the scenes that not a lot of people see or know about,” said a coworker. “And he has a good attitude each and every day, even though he may be swamped with a ton of work.”

It’s probably because he’s doing something he loves. Travis has had a hobby of working with computers for a long time; it’s part of the reason he eventually applied to Socket.

“Every single day, I get to learn something more, and get the opportunity to pass on my knowledge to others,” said Travis.

We’re certainly glad to have him, and we’re proud to name Travis as our You-Make-The-Difference Award winner for July. Congratulations!

June 2012: Zac Cutler, Business Center Analyst

Every month, Socket employees nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs.

This month, we picked Zac Cutler, from the Customer Care and Fulfillment department. He’s been working in our Business Center for little over a year now, managing various accounts and ensuring customer satisfaction.

Many of his co-workers described his patience, with both customers and fellow employees, as something close to miraculous.

“I bug him about 200 times a day with questions, and he always has the answers! He is always willing to help us new coordinators with anything,” said a co-worker.

“He is the most patient man on the planet. Just a fact,” said another.

He’s also got a noble streak; award winners are treated to a reserved parking spot right next to the door. Zac, however, selflessly gave the spot to a co-worker on crutches.

“He’s clearly toting a heart of gold,” she said.

It’s been rumored by some that Zac’s powers stem from his beard. While this may or may not be true (but probably is), Zac’s presence certainly makes Socket a better place to be.

For that, we’re proud to name Zac as our You-Make-The-Difference Award winner for June. Congratulations!

May 2012: Dan Whitney, Technical Support Agent

Every month, Socket employees nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs.

This month, we picked Dan Whitney, from the Technical Support department.

Dan helps our new customers get things set up at home, and serves as a go-to for those trickier technical problems.

“He’s an invaluable member of residential tech support. No matter what the problem is, Dan has a calm and relaxed attitude,” said a colleague who nominated him for the award.

In his free time, Dan enjoys camping, video games, and tinkering with computers. He also can’t decide if he’s growing facial hair, placing him in a strange half-beard limbo.

Regardless, Dan is an integral part of the team, and a valued member of our community.

Thanks for all you do, and congratulations on your award!

April 2012: Kevin Sell, Field Services Technician

Every month, Socket employees nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs.

This month, we picked Kevin Sell.

Kevin came to Socket a little over a year ago, bringing a decade's worth of field service experience to the position. Lately, he's been performing pre-installation work in rural Boone and Callaway counties. As we prepare to begin installing fiber-to-the-home services in this area, Kevin talks with customers about how the fiber will be run to their home. Check out a video of him in action.

Originally from Springfield, MO, Kevin has lived in Columbia for the past seven years. In his spare time, he enjoys wakeboarding, knee boarding and keeping up with his four-year-old daughter.

"Kevin does make a difference," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "He's the go-to guy for installs and dispatches, and he comes through in a pinch."

Congratulations, Kevin!

March 2012: Nick Pena, Outside Plant Coordinator

Every month, Socket employees nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs.

This month, we picked Nick Peña.

Nick's been around for awhile. He first became a Sockteer almost 10 years ago, as a young, eager technical support representative. He worked his way through Socket, sporting a variety of hairstyles as he did--including a ponytail, mohawk and shaved head.

He now serves as outside plant coordinator, which is a fancy way of saying that he's currently overseeing the construction of Socket's fiber-to-the-home network in rural Boone and Callaway counties.

"Every time I have a question about the fiber project, Nick has the answer," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "He is an asset to Socket and always goes above and beyond what is asked of him."

He's also an amazing cook and is especially famous for his Cuban chili recipe. It even won him the title of 2008 Socket Chili Champion! And now he can add "March 2012 You-Make-the-Difference Winner" right next to it on his list of honors.

Congratulations, Nick!

February 2012: Ralph Wood, Custodial Services

Every month, Socket employees nominate and vote on a co-worker who best exemplifies our Core Values and Beliefs. This month, we picked Ralph Wood.

Ralph's been cleaning up our messes for nearly two years now. And as a company made up of mostly guys, let's just say we're not the neatest bunch.

He shows up at 5:30 AM every weekday to keep the place looking great. And he gives us all a smile and a "Good morning" every time we see him.

Last summer, we had an office fundraiser to raise money for a school supply drive hosted by Ralph's church. It was one way we tried to show Ralph how much we appreciate his hard work, and so is this award.

"Ralph is the unsung hero that truly makes the difference. Every morning, we come in to a clean floor, spotless bathrooms, empty trash containers and a very clean, nice place to work. We have Ralph to thank."

Congratulations, Ralph!

January 2012: Sam Johnson, Business Center Analyst

Sam Johnson was chosen as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for January. He joined the Socket team in July 2010, beginning in residential technical support and transferring to our Business Center shortly after. He now helps answer technical questions and troubleshoot issues with Socket's business clients.

"Sam is always there to help in the Business Center, and he's a favorite agent for many of our business callers," said a fellow employee who nominated him for the award.

In his free time, Sam likes to be outdoors and enjoys going to concerts and spending time with friends. If you're looking for him, there's a good chance you'll find him at one of Columbia's downtown establishments.

"I'm quite honored to win the award," said Sam. "I always strive to do my best and help as many people as I can along the way."


December 2011: Dave Sill

November 2011: James Hicks

October 2011: Jeff Gray

September 2011: Jason Vanderveen

August 2011: Kevin Gandara

July 2011: John Weant

June 2011: Ryan Luff

May 2011: Allie Schomaker

April 2011: Aaron Myers

March 2011: Corey Wyatt

February 2011: Chris Green

January 2011: Nate Howland


December 2010: Scott Dean

November 2010: Stephen Gumm

October 2010: Chris Green

September 2010: Mikael Wood

August 2010: Brian Taylor

July 2010: Brian Fitch

June 2010: Deborah McDuffie

May 2010: Steve Bremer + Mark Thrasher

April 2010: Andy Rehak

March 2010: Matt Kohly

February 2010: Tony Lana

January 2010: Russ Mulkey


December 2009: Adam Shipp

November 2009: Zaza Tugushi

October 2009: Steven Crandall

September 2009: Tiana Stratman

August 2009: Christopher Lloyd

July 2009: Deborah McDuffie

June 2009: Josh Johnson

May 2009: Lora Kile

April 2009: Truman Shuck

March 2009: Jessie Cravens

February 2009: John Weant

January 2009: Ben Roudenis


December 2008: Scott Dean

November 2008: Matt Benson

October 2008: Chris Hill

September 2008: Nate Howland

August 2008: Marcus French

July 2008: Mike Wingate

June 2008: Janet Moss

May 2008: Brian Taylor

April 2008: Dustin Dunstedter

March 2008: Josh Connon

February 2008: Josh Devers

January 2008: Sheila Lynch


December 2007: Mat Harrison

November 2007: Scott Dean

October 2007: Eric Farless

September 2007: Josh Johnson

August 2007: Corey Wyatt

July 2007: Samnang Phuon

June 2007: Jessica Woodward

May 2007: Joe McIntyre

April 2007: Jesse Cravens

March 2007: Ira Oliver

February 2007: Dave Sill

January 2007: Allie Schomaker


December 2006: Adam Barratt

November 2006: Adam Viquesney

October 2006: Brian Fitch

September 2006: Marcus French

August 2006: Aaron Hayes

July 2006: Tony Lana

June 2006: Mike Wingate

May 2006: Matt Kohly

April 2006: Scott Dean

March 2006: Michael McCance

February 2006: Elijah Robison

January 2006: Nick Pena