Rob Baxley, Network Engineer for Carolina Advanced Digital has been part of our team for two years. With an arsenal of obscure bands and networking knowledge, Rob has an untouchable cool. He’s easy going, friendly, and always on the lookout for ways to improve the lives of others—most importantly team members and customers.
Rob first decided that he wanted to be part of the IT world a few years ago. With some exposure to the industry, Rob purchased lab equipment, took a few certification classes and started working for a solutions provider who specialized in contract work for an Internet service provider. After hearing about a new opportunity from a former colleague, Rob interviewed with Jennifer Minella, Vice President of Carolina Advanced Digital and joined the engineering team in the beginning 2013.
Originally from Marshville, North Carolina–a town nestled in the Piedmont, southwest of Charlotte–Rob graduated from Forrest Hills High School and enrolled in the math program at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill the following fall. Rob is huge Carolina fan and never misses a chance to cheer on his Tar Heels—particularly the men’s basketball team.
Later at UNC, Rob’s studies to an unexpected twist and he decided to minor in Japanese with the Department of Asian Studies. He was first attracted to the program because he eventually wanted to move to Japan after spending several summers visiting family who lived there. “It’s just so different,” Rob said. “I loved the culture, food, and people.”
After researching ways to gain employment in Japan, teaching the English language was the most viable option. At the time there were several private companies that would hire English speaking people who would move to Japan and teach classes to Japanese citizens. The students ranged anywhere from two to eighty years and their aptitude of the English language decided the difficulty of class material. According to Rob, most students had a basic foundation of English except for younger students and most of his class curriculum was rooted in grammar, vocabulary, and how to converse in English.
The first place Rob lived and worked was surrounded by rice fields on the outskirts of a small village. (“Small” in this sense meant 45,000 residents.) Only accessible by train, Rob enjoyed the slow pace of the small town but would often journey to bigger cities to meet up with friends and other colleagues. His apartment was only about 200 square feet, which could give someone with Rob’s height interesting challenges. “I had to duck for a lot of doorways,” Rob jokes while he remembers the apartment.
After two and a half years, Rob requested a transfer and made the move to downtown to an even smaller apartment in Osaka, the capital of Japan. “It was like moving from Marshville, NC to New York City. It was perfect.”
A normal day in the city for Rob was working from 12pm-9pm, teaching anywhere between two to five classes and exploring the city with friends. Sometimes they would grill on top of his apartment building, visit a park, do their best Tom Petty impressions at karaoke bars, and eat all of the sushi and deep fried octopus Rob’s heart desired. Once on vacation, Rob set sailed to visit China’s Great Wall, towns like Beijing and Shanghai, and other famous landmarks.
After spending a total of five years soaking up the sights, sounds, and culture of Japan, Rob moved back to North Carolina. When asked what the biggest adjustments to make were, he mentioned that driving was very different and catching up on pop culture and current events took time to digest. And needless to say, Rob was happy to return back to friends, family, and the cuisine of the South.
When asked what he likes about working at Carolina Advanced Digital Rob answered, “I really enjoy working with the customers, getting hands-on experience with the different technologies and equipment, and being a part of a large variety of projects that come across my desk.” This statement and his experience abroad speak to Rob’s receptiveness and adaptability. All of these qualities make him a strong pillar of Carolina Advanced Digital’s engineering team.