Reported by Kiawana Rich of the Staten Island Advance.
Chris Ferrera loves computers.
When he was a teenager, Ferrera said he figured out how to get on a PC and punch in commands into the key operating system at the time, MS-DOS, so he could play popular video games such as Prince of Persia and Ultima.
Ferrera said once he figured it out, "It wasn't the difficult once you knew what to do."
Whether he realized it or not, Ferrera wasn't just playing games. He was learning the skills to help him begin to help build his future in the corporate computer world. For his genius, his keen computer sense and his ability to pursue his passion and build on it, Ferrera is the latest recipient in the Emerging Business category of the Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award.
Ferrera is a partner and manager of client projects for ComServ Consulting. The company, a partner with Avaya Business, works on installing Telephony Applications for small and medium sized businesses. Ferrera works to manage client projects from the initial design phase all the way to deployment of telecommunications services including telephone voice and data systems and third-party applications.
The business sells, installs and maintains phone systems and computer networks.
Ferrera is also currently a senior analyst and partner at Facatel Communications. The consulting company works with clients on key-level strategies designed to lower the overall costs of their telecommunications services and also improve functionality. They help clients consider multiple options available to them such as: Internet, Wan Connectivity, phone systems and telephone services, voice and video conferencing, network management, monitoring and more.
Both firms at based at 1000 South Ave. in Bloomfield.
Prior to this, Ferrera worked as the manager of Avaya Implementations, InterGlobe. He was also a network engineer for Media On Demand and network administrator for iVillage.com.
Ferrara admits he was predisposed to being a computer wizard. "I always liked computers and technology in general," he said.
His computer skills allowed him to naturally excel in school. "My ability to grasp how computers and networks work just came naturally" he said. Those natural skills put him at the top of the class when he graduated from the Chubb Institute.
Ferrera said his client list ranges from a variety of companies including large businesses, government entities, Fortune 500 companies and even mom-and-pop outfits. Customers are based mainly out of Metropolitan New York with a few nationwide clientele as well.
"I'm truly grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with some great companies and build some cool, cutting edge voice and data networks and applications," he said. "I take it very seriously that what we build and support for them is the lifeblood of their business."
Ferrera admits that his services might be a little more expensive but that speaks to the fact he believes his company's services are better than what some others out there are offering. "Like anything else, you get what you pay for. If someone tells me they can buy equipment and make it work themselves, I would never argue with them. I just ask them to not call me for help to fix it when it breaks!" he said.
Complicating the situation, Ferrera said, is that products and services his company used to provide solely are now easily available to small businesses on Google, E-Bay or Amazon.
"Fifteen years ago you couldn't do that," he said.
So Ferrera's business offers a more personal touch providing customers with support services to make sure phone and/or computer systems run smoothly and effectively.
One of the difficulties of his industry, he noted, is that the business environment proves quite challenging.
"It is ridiculously competitive," he said. "One of the drawbacks now is that if you are a really small company and if you don't need a customized phone system, you can go on the Internet and buy a couple phones and have them shipped to you. You plug them into your internet access and you are done. The problem is is that the sales reps that work for the company direct don't give the customers the honest pros and cons like we will."
Ferrera said it's important to be accessible to clients. That might even mean phone calls from customers on Thanksgiving or that come in the middle of the night -- regardless -- never get turned away: "I always take that call, or email. I have to."
While he does get involved in the sales end of the business, his true passion is the jobs he takes on and making technology work together.
"I love the skepticism we get sometimes when people think something wouldn't work or we couldn't meet an installation deadline. It just pushes me harder," he said.
Ferrera said he is looks forward to the challenges of the future where technological advancements will help the company do more and more things for clients via computer. "Even though the internet provides competition, it is also the backbone of how our business and most businesses operate. This dependence will only increase and we hope to be on the receiving end of that as more and more businesses upgrade old systems."
A native Islander from Tottenville, Ferrera now lives with his wife and children in Huguenot.