Freddie Brown, Goodwill Computer Works manager 

'I didn't know which way I wanted to go once I got out of the Air Force'

click to enlarge After a 26-year career in the Air Force, Freddie Brown found work managing a team that repairs and re-sells computers

Jonathan Boncek

After a 26-year career in the Air Force, Freddie Brown found work managing a team that repairs and re-sells computers

In each installment of the Working Life series, a local worker describes what his or her job is like. The stories are taken directly from interviews and told in first person with minimal or no editing of the subjects' natural speech patterns.

My name is Freddie Brown, and my job title is the environmental services and Computer Works manager. I've been working for Goodwill Computer Works for six years now. We modify waste by recycling old technology and provide affordable technology to bridge the digital divide in the community by offering low-cost computers, monitors, printers, and computer parts.

My duties change every day, but basically, first thing when I come in, first thing I do is read my emails because that changes my plan every day once I read the emails. After that, I go out and inspect the building, make sure things are straight inside and outside the building, and then after that I start to get the registers ready for the cashiers so that when they come in everything's set for them. And then after I do that, I go to my work station, I leave my office and actually work out there with the other employees, and I start working.

I'm testing machines, building machines, loading operating systems, working on repairs from computers in the community — because we actually do repairs from the community in the surrounding areas, and people drive from out in the country to bring their computers to us also. They come from Awendaw, Columbia, Myrtle Beach.

Before this, I was actually in the Air Force. I was doing logistics. I did that for 26 years, and then I retired, and after that I worked at the Citadel in human resources as a human resources training manager. Then after I left the Citadel, I worked for the City of Charleston as a human resources training manager there, and then I came here to Goodwill.

When I was in the Air Force, the last year when I was getting ready to get out, I was actually finishing two master's degrees, and one was IT and the other one was management. So I didn't know which way I wanted to go once I got out of the Air Force, so I was just picking jobs, and then one day I needed a computer part and I didn't even know that Goodwill had a computer store until somebody told me. So I went in one day and I was asking about parts, and the cashier was talking to me and she said, "You seem like you know a pretty good amount about computers." And I was like, "Yes." So she said, "I want you to talk to somebody in charge because we need a manager." And that's how I landed in here.

Our thing at Goodwill is that we want to hire people with disabilities and barriers, so that's something we look for when we're trying to hire candidates. Actually it doesn't change the job for me because I don't look at these employees as disabled. I look at them as able, so I give them the same type of training that I would give a regular person. And it may be a little more hands-on, I spend a little more time with them. Also, my other employees help me with them.

When I came here, it honed my skills. It made my skills better. And the beauty of it was that I had time to actually sit down and get some knowledge from the things that I didn't know, and the beauty of it was that people who actually worked for me, every week I would have this thing called a tech talk, so my thing was, every week we'd have to bring in something about technology and discuss it for five minutes, so everybody was learning from each other.

We have hard drive machines that actually erase the information that's on the hard drives so people's data cannot be compromised, so that's our No. 1 goal here, to make sure that people's information doesn't leave out of that front door. So these machines wipe people's information, Department of Defense-style, to make sure that nobody can get their information.

Everything we get in, we look at everything that's donated to us, we check everything. If there's something that we can't fix, what we do is we're partners with Dell and a couple of other companies that do recycling. We send the things that don't work to those companies, and they help us keep people at work, because once we send it to them, they actually pay us for the merchandise that we send to them. Those checks go to our bottom line to help people find jobs and help people with training, to give people a hand up, not a handout, to help people in fires, and to help homeless individuals and also veterans.

The most challenging part of my job is probably trying to make every customer happy. Other than that, everything else is like Memorex. It's like every day they're the same things. If I run into something different, we just handle it as it comes.

The most important part of what I do here is helping people — helping people out in the community, helping customers, helping some of the disabled folks when they come through, just to see the smiles on their faces when they get it. Just to see that smile on their face, it makes me feel good to see that we're helping them achieve something that nobody else could help them achieve.

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