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Waxwing Technology offers Driftless Region much-needed IT support
READY TO START working in an office space in the Gays Mills Mercantile Center, Jake Stephens seems excited and confident to bring his IT expertise back home.

GAYS MILLS - Waxwing Technology Consulting and Device Repair moved in the Gays Mills Mercantile Center last week. Jake Stephens, who was in the last graduating class of Gays Mills High School (1991), has brought his work and family home to where his roots are.

The business, focused on “anything computer, phone or tablet,” fills a gap in local information technology or ‘IT’ support. Stephens has worked in a variety of settings and sizes of businesses. Over the course of his IT career, he has displayed a remarkable adaptability to doing his work everywhere, from the farms to setting up networks in urban and suburban offices

“I’ve set up networks down in a silica mine, behind a grain bin, and in offices large and small,” Stephens reports. “Ultimately, I decided to form a private practice, so that I wouldn’t be locked in to working for just one employer. This way I could make my services available to all the different sorts of people and businesses that need the kind of assistance I can provide. I like helping people.”

Savvy and experienced

Upon entering Stephens’ workspace, it is immediately apparent that he has a grasp of technology far beyond the ordinary. The fascinating and sometimes puzzling array of state-of-the-art digital equipment quickly lets you know that you’re dealing with someone who uses technology in ways that many, or perhaps most of us, can’t even understand.

It’s safe to say, Stephens has the experience and aptitude to solve most of the computer and network problems that are daunting to many of us.

“If it’s broken, I can fix it,” Stephens said of the services offered by Waxwing Technology. Stephens says that the hardware type problems are what he considers to be the “easy part of the job.”

He is also adept at doing what he views as the harder part of the job, which is solving software issues, transferring information upon acquisition of a new device, and troubleshooting virus and malware problems.

“A lot of the demand for my services these days also relates to getting all the different devices people use, such as computers, phones and tablets to work together, and setting up home networks and wireless,” Stephens explains.

Of course, we all have trouble with these kinds of things at times, whether at home or work—that’s where Waxwing Technology comes into play. Stephens’ company is especially suited to working with smaller businesses or organizations which don’t employ their own IT staff. It can also help people with their IT issues in the home.

Time to think

Stephens previously worked for a company called Orion Computer Services in Prairie du Chien, and then after that, for VARC in Viroqua as their IT director. Upon leaving VARC about a year ago, Stephens decided to take some time off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs along the west coast from Canada to Mexico—it’s similar to the east coast’s Appalachian Trail.

“I made it about halfway, that’s 1,300 miles, before the snow started to fly,” Stephens recalls. “Doing something like that really teaches you a lot about yourself and survival, away from all the modern amenities, and it gives you time to think about what’s important in life.”

Stephens started at the north end of the trail, and made it down to about the end of the Cascades, when the snow started to fall three weeks earlier than usual. He decided to end his hike rather than launching into the next daunting phase of the journey, through the Sierras in winter.

“While I was out there hiking, I had time to think about what life would be like if I slowed down and did only my own projects for a year,” Stephens says.

Stephens came back and spent a year focusing on his varied eclectic interests. In addition to having a natural knack for technology, Stephens has a strong artistic drive, which has lead him to exploring different digital platforms for creating visual art.

Technology and art

Stephens office is adorned with a jazzy, red leather couch, as well as works of art, which he has used his advanced technology and artistic talent to create.

“I’m currently preparing my work for inclusion in a solo show art exhibit at the Pumphouse in La Crosse,” Stephens explains. “I was really excited when my work was juried in, and I’m grateful that my chosen career path allows me the time to also focus on my art.”

Eventually, the plan is for Stephen’s “partner in life and love,” photographer Mandy Kellogg, to join him in the space at the Mercantile Center. Kellogg will operate her photography business, Soul Exposure Photography there.

Business name

The name ‘Waxwing Technology,’ is taken from the Greek myth of Icarus, son of the artisan Daedalus. The most familiar literary telling of the story was by an author named Ovid: in his ‘Metamorphoses.’

In Ovid’s story, Daedalus, who had invented the famous Labyrinth of the Minotaur on the island of Crete, was shut up in a tower to prevent the knowledge of his Labyrinth from spreading to the public. He could not leave Crete by sea, as the king Minos kept a strict watch on all vessels, permitting none to sail without being carefully searched.

Since Minos controlled the land and sea routes, Daedalus set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He tied feathers together, from smallest to largest to form an increasing surface. He secured the feathers at their midpoints with string, and at their bases with wax.

When the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly.

When both were prepared for flight, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high because the heat of the sun would melt the wax, nor too low, because the sea foam would soak the feathers.

The two had escaped on wing, and as the story is told, the boy, forgetting himself, began to soar upward toward the sun, which softened the wax that held the feathers together. They came off, and Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

It seems, Stephen’s plans are to soar on the wings of his creative freedom, flying neither too high nor too low.