Nathaniel Melby has been around computers from a very early age, so, in a sense, what he does is hard-wired within him.
“The computer fascinated me,” Melby, chief information officer at Dairyland Power Cooperative, said. “It was a conceptual puzzle. I was always trying to unlock its secrets. I felt that energy, and there was a way to be involved with it.”
He learned basic programming at 6 years old, was part of a home that had one of the first computers in his neighborhood, and was the first student in his college dorm to have one, too. His uncles and father, in the early years, worked at ComputerLand, the iconic store.
“My family was out there evangelizing the technology,” Melby said.
From bulletin boards to early online games, the computer and its technology were more than a lure for the young mind.
“It opened access to a bigger, broader world,” he said.
In a sense, it serves as a broader metaphor for what Melby does at Dairyland, where he’s responsible for the vast technological strategies and modernization of information systems at the power cooperative.
“It’s a big job,” he said.
And one he came well prepared for, as Ben Porath, who nominated Melby for Rising Stars Under 40, noted when he shared his impressive list of accomplishments.
After graduating from Logan High School, Melby went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, a Master of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Technology and Training, from UW-Whitewater, and a Ph.D. in Information Systems from Nova Southeastern University, specializing in information security and telecommunications. He’s also completed the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth’s Business Engagement for the Security Professional executive program.
Melby can also be found in classrooms throughout the region, specifically as an adjunct faculty member in the UW-L Information Systems Department, the Winona State University Management Information Systems and Operations program, and Viterbo University’s School of Adult Learning/Dahl School of Business.
He sees education as a tool to affect change in the world, and he hopes to help his students find their passion in life.
“That’s what living’s all about,” he said.
It’s also about a commitment to where you’re living, which is why Melby is a dedicated firefighter.
He has been in the fire service since 1997, and fire chief in the town of Campbell since 2009. Before that, he served eight years as assistant chief of training and safety.
He has served as president of the La Crosse County Fire Officers Association since 2009 and is vice president of the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association, having served as trustee and second vice president.
Melby’s also been the chair of the WSFCA Safety Section since 2012, advocating for the safety of firefighters in Wisconsin, and formed the WSFCA Volunteer and Combination Officers Section in 2015. He’s an active instructor in the fire service, and serves as a Wisconsin Technical College System state representative for fire service training.
And, he’s helped two scouts earn their Eagle Scout rank, and was honored to be recognized as the mentor for one of them.
But, he’s humble when talking about his accomplishments.
“I’m more interested in living it than reflecting on it,” Melby said.