Florida Keys Business
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Making things click
Firma IT provides computer solutions and community support

Rodney Gullatte is eliminates the sense of dread and sigh of resignation that has long accompanied the phrase "tech support."

After years of top secret clearance in the IT labyrinths of the U.S. military, the Department of Defense, General Dynamics and a major metropolitan power plant in Tucson, Ariz., Gullatte has seen it all when it comes to information technology.

"I managed the wireless network on Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson," he said. "It was a four-man job, and it was on my own, so I had to come up with ways to multiply my presence and be everywhere all at once."

He devised a virtualization system for the military that is now the standard throughout the U.S. Air Force, in which his wife serves on active duty. Gullatte himself spent nearly four years in the Air Force, which is where he met Iris.

Her latest orders brought the couple, with their two young daughters, Tatiana, 2, and Mary Carmen, 6, from Arizona to Key West, Fla.

"My entrepreneurship was borne of the frustration I experienced looking for an IT job in Key West, while the other part was finding a way to be a military spouse and be home with my girls when Iris is deployed," said Gullatte, who added that throughout his years as a civilian worker for the military, he always "moonlighted" doing freelance computer repairs and system solutions.

"Once we got to Key West, I figured I'd go all the way with my own business and make it happen," he said.

And he did.

The Georgia native with a bachelor's degree in computer science, more than 13 industry standard certifications and experience as a manager of Best Buy's famed Geek Squad embodies the combination of customer service and computer comprehension that is required to bridge the gap between those who use computers and those who understand them.

Gullatte's mobile and remote computer repair business, Firma IT Solutions and Services, offers specialized, expert PC repair, installation, maintenance and networking implementation along with monthly maintenance plans that handle software updates, spyware and virus protection.

"I'll go on site to people's homes or businesses, or I can access their machines remotely for maintenance and updates," said Gullatte, a native of Marietta, Ga., who decided 20 years ago, at age 13, that he would have a career in computers and technology.

"I've learned that most of my customers don't care whether I have a bachelor's degree in this stuff, what certifications I have or my level of military security clearance," he said. "It all comes down to whether they can trust me - and they do. The geek part comes naturally to computer people like me, but it's the customer service aspect that also has to be there if you're going to succeed with your clients."

His clients range from individuals and home businesses to local construction companies and civic groups to national corporations that he can service remotely.

"I get a lot of calls about viruses, data recovery, information transfers from an old computer to a new one, or people who get a new computer and want Microsoft Office on it," he said. "They don't know the key and they don't have the disc to install the software on the new computer, and I can handle that for them."

Another improvement Gullatte recommends for many customers is an upgrade to a solid state hard drive.

"You see an immediate difference in the speed and efficiency of your machine," he said. "Because nowadays the hard drive is the only limiting factor of computers. It slows it down and eventually wears out."

And speaking of solid - in Latin, "firma" means solid and in Spanish it means "signature," Gullatte said,

"I wanted a business name that meant something, so Firma IT is solid, dependable and service is my signature specialty," he said, clearly having embraced the Key West community.

"God, I love Key West," he said. "And I love giving back to this community."

This is the second year that Gullatte is heading up the Goombay Committee, which is a partnership between the Petronia Street Neighborhood Association and the Historic Union Mason Lodge in Bahama Village.

He is active in the Key West Chamber of Commerce and the Key West Rotary Club, both of which have utilized and endorsed his IT skills.

Gullatte also has donated his time and expertise to the Bahama Village Music Program, where he installed new computers that were donated by the Chamber.

Firma IT Solutions and Services - and the Gullatte family - have immersed themselves in the Key West community and have found the perfect combination of computer solutions and community service.

mmiles@keysnews.com

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