April 1, 2017

John Nystrom | Pumped about problem solving

John Nystrom may not be a doctor or researcher, but his work is critical to the smooth operation of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta (LCIA).

John Nystrom may not be a doctor or researcher, but his work is critical to the smooth operation of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta (LCIA).

As the systems manager, John solves an array of IT problems for researchers, physicians, students and staff on a daily basis and has been doing so for 20 years.

His calm demeanor and persistence in solving issues, coupled with his kindness, make him indispensable in the role he loves.

“I really like to make sure people are productive and happy,” said John when asked why he has remained in his role for so long.

John wasn’t always an IT professional.

In fact, the native Calgarian has a bachelor of commerce from the University of Calgary and worked in corporate finance until the early 1990s.

A layoff in the field turned out to be serendipitous for John.

He explained he saw an advertisement posted by the Government of Canada offering a training program and decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

He earned a diploma in network technologies from SAIT in just nine months as part of the intensive program.

In December 1997, John was hired as a contractor providing IT services for six labs that were part of what was then called the Cardiovascular Research Group (CVRG), situated at the Cumming School of Medicine.

John’s work ethic and professionalism created demand for his services from an increasing number of labs and clinical research groups. In fact, at one time, John said his salary was split between 15 different labs.

About 10 years ago, the CVRG became the Libin Institute, moved to the Health Research Innovation Centre and the Training, Research and Wellness buildings, and became integrated with the University’s IT structure.

John found himself an employee of the new institute with a changed role that allowed him more time to assist clients, monitor productivity, plan and research.  

Although John describes his work environment as “often chaotic,” he wouldn’t change it for anything.

“Every day I get a good mental and physical workout,” said John, adding he logs more than 10,000 steps most days as he visits offices throughout the Libin Institute.

Besides the joy he gets from problem solving, John enjoys the people at the Libin Institute—many of whom have become life-long friends. 

“Everyone here is so hard-working and dedicated,” he said. “Plus, there is so much international diversity here.”

John enjoys the diversity of his job so much that his favourite part of the day is the start of the workday.

“I like to see what is waiting for me, and I get pumped about what problems I am going to have to solve,” said John.

Tidbits from John

What was your first home computer? A Commodore 64.

What are your favourite foods: Butter chicken from Cravings at the Women’s Health Centre, and selections from the food trucks that visit on Wednesdays.

Do you have any hidden talents: I get premonitions, especially about computer issues. I often walk into someone’s office to check on their computer just as they are picking up the phone to call me.

What does a typical Saturday morning look like for you: I go to McDonalds for breakfast every Saturday morning. They know me, so when I walk in, they have already punched in my order.

Which talent would you most like to have: I would like to draw editorial cartoons or write Hollywood film scripts. I have all the material I would need right here at the Cumming School of Medicine.

Little known fact: My parents are from Finland and wanted to move back, so while I am a native Calgarian, I lived in Finland for several years as a child. I learned to speak the language and go back every year.