Funds For Learning is recognizing our E-rate Guides on their anniversary, giving them the opportunity to reflect on the past year and knowledge of the industry.

Brian Guire's anniversary with Funds For Learning is June 4.
You’ve completed your 16th year at Funds For Learning – that’s quite an accomplishment. What are some of your favorite memories from those years?
Working on projects where I know I’m helping make a difference when it comes to getting things done faster or making the program more understandable is always satisfying. For example, last year I had a big project where we wanted to devise a way to gather data on filed 471s faster. But aside from the actual work, there’s also the more light-hearted moments, such as when we set up a dunk tank where our CEO manned the perch. That was great.

There’s been many changes to the E-rate program in the last 16 years. How have you seen FFL guide stakeholders through these changes?
The last major revision to the E-rate program happened around 2015. Part of the intent then was to make E-rate simpler, but I think it actually made E-rate more complicated in several ways. Being able to provide a service that helps our customers deal with these changes is rewarding.

You have been instrumental in the development of the award-winning E-rate Manager. What is it about ERM that makes E-rate so much easier?  
There are several ways E-rate Manager helps its users avoid the pitfalls of the E-rate program. You put all that work into getting your application in by the deadline, but then you miss the 486 deadline or the invoicing deadline and that’s it: you’ve lost your funding. E-rate Manager helps you keep track of those dates and helps you put the forms together that you need to file so that you get the payoff in the end.

We often joke that our IT support staff knows more about E-rate than most people that work in E-rate. How much does an understanding of E-rate factor into development?
It’s absolutely crucial. When we are considering a change to our system, we need to consider whether we might be doing more harm than good. As an example, we could easily provide a way to create a form 500 that would cancel all the FRNs associated with a particular form 471. But knowing what we do about E-rate, we ask the question “do we really want to make it that easy to cut an applicant off from all that funding they have been granted?” So knowing E-rate helps us mix a little wisdom in with the changes we make.

The last time we did your anniversary blog, we asked you what you enjoyed most about your role at FFL and you said “making things less burdensome on others”. What aspects do you enjoy now?
For me it is still about and probably always will be about helping people navigate their way through the program with as much confidence and ease as possible. Some of these forms that need to be filed get pretty complicated. So having great utilities at their fingertips like what you find in E-rate Manager can help applicants get all of this information organized in a way that makes sense and maximizes their funding. And if we can do that well, we can be confident that we’ve done what we could to help students get connected and enhance the education experience.

Sticking with your past blog, you also said that you could eat pizza the rest of your life. Let’s pretend that you have eaten all the world’s pizza and you have to choose something else. If you had to eat only one thing for the rest of your life what would it be and why (calories don’t count in this scenario)?
Well my doctor recently confirmed that I cannot in fact keep eating pizza for the rest of my life, so you are right: I’m going to need to find something else. How about a decent chicken ceasar wrap. I think the different food groups are pretty well represented.