Guest blogger D. J. Moore writes:
Chris Pirillo was recently asked an intriguing question in his Geek Out segment on YouTube that is near and dear to this author’s heart. Someone wanted to know how to get started in the IT world. Chris had a perfect reply: “Certifications, certifications, certifications, certifications, certifications, certifications, certifications…” While this is the exact answer to the viewer’s question, it does not provide many details. The IT field is broad, with many different specific job titles. With so many choices, it can be hard to settle on exactly what one might want to do.
My Personal Story
I always dabbled with computers ever since my parents went out to buy our first system. It was such a momentous point in my life that I remember the exact day we got it, and the specifications with which it was configured! It was October 21, 1998 when my parents decided to go to Walmart to buy a brand new (mediocre) HP Pavilion desktop personal computer. At the time I had no idea what the difference in Windows 98 or Windows 95 was, nor that Apple’s Macintosh even existed! I was completely oblivious to the personal computer revolution.
That computer and I almost became one. I spent many, many hours on it at a time. This is exceptional considering that, for the first two years, we did not have Internet access! My new hobby was coming in from school and playing the newest game I could beg my parents to buy me (as long as it was able to run with a modest hardware configuration). It was an HP Pavilion 4433 with a 300 Mhz AMD-K-6 CPU, 6 GB HDD, 64 MB SDRAM, 4 MB SiS integrated GPU, and an 800×600 15″ CRT. Nevertheless, I was in love.
My friends and I began swapping games or buying our own copies. Most of the time I would play demos from discs that came with the latest PC Gamer magazine or PC Gaming World, which is no longer in print. With games came learning curves. I quickly learned what hardware was and how it was measured. I also started to learn how to fix issues that would arise due to certain bad pieces of hardware or software.
From there I moved on to Dell desktops and laptops. My family always shopped Dell for all of our computers due to its superior customer service. Even after its customer service fell off, we continued to shop with Dell over HP because we were comfortable with the brand.
All these years I was gaining knowledge about Windows-based computers. Back then you had to learn to fix things yourself. I considered myself to have an analytical mind, so troubleshooting came naturally to me.
Welcome to the Future
I always knew I wanted to work with technology, but for the longest time I thought I would be doing some kind of game development job (with Blizzard) or doing 3D rendering in Hollywood. Then, I went to college. I couldn’t do it. I dropped out, having wasted time and money.
I moved back home and took up a job at Sherwin Williams, but still dreamed of working with computers. It wasn’t until I got a contracting job in Kuwait over half a year later and was introduced to a communications technician that I was finally able to learn about certifications. He told me all about CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, and many other certifications. I thought to myself, this is perfect! I went home that night and bought the CompTIA A+ book by Mike Meyers from Amazon. Four weeks later I was reading almost a chapter a night trying to soak in all the information I could after a long, 12-hour day at work.
Just a few weeks into reading it, I was transferred to Oman for an upstart contract. Once there, I had more free time, but since it was a huge change for me, I lacked the motivation to study. Something about going from a furnished flat in Kuwait to an eight-man tent in Oman that bothers a man to the point that he lacks drive and determination for a time. When I decided to pick up my studies, I decided to do it through CBT (computer based training). Still, until this point, I had not managed to break into the IT field no matter how hard I pushed.
I found a small company called PrepLogic (now LearnSmart) that offered a buffet of video certification training for two years for $3,000. I took it! I knocked out my A+ certification within six more months of starting to study again. Alas, this did nothing to advance my career, no matter how many jobs I applied for on Dice.
Close to nine months later I took my Network+ test and passed it. At this point, I was handling daily IT tasks for our work area due to the former technician finishing his contract and going back to the States. I wrote this up as experience on my resume that I was sending out. At that time, a manager from another contract spoke with me about the work I was doing. He liked me, but said I lacked experience — even with my certifications.
About half a year later, my resume passed that manager’s desk with more experience, and he picked me up for a starting-level technician job.
Now, here I am today, sitting in a small office with one other technician, who is my supervisor.
What to Do Next?
For an up-and-coming technician, I would recommend starting with the basic CompTIA A+ certification, then moving on to Network+ and Security+. Try to gain experience any way you can, by any means possible. Make sure your resume is spectacular, but don’t lie! You are going to be an IT professional; any manager would expect that you know how to operate Microsoft Word and have a good command of the English language, otherwise you will be overlooked.
Unless you are already working for an IT company or section, chances are that you will have to pay for these tests up front, yourself. Once in the field, many companies offer reimbursement for certifications if taken while working for them. Research other certifications, and talk to other people in the arena who are already certified to find out what you most want to do. The key is, when you can find a job you love to do, it’s no longer work.
I share my life’s story here in hopes that all young, aspiring IT professionals have something from which to learn. The going may not be easy, but if it’s your calling, you’ll get there with the right attitude and the willingness to work hard.