CertStudent: Construction, snowboarding, tech support
CertStudent is a recurring feature that profiles students of all ages who are pursuing certification at schools, in training programs, and on their own time (and own dime). Know an interesting CertStudent ? Share the details with us at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.
Fourteen months ago, Seth Palmer of Alpine, Utah was working construction to make ends meet and support his snowboarding habit. “I always enjoyed being outside, working, playing all kinds of sports, riding my bike and especially, in the winter, snowboarding.” In fact, it was the snow that brought Seth to Utah (from California) originally. “I love snowboarding and the snow in Utah is great.”
Seth, 30, says he never considered working in the IT field. “My little brother is a computer whiz, and sometimes I’d look over his shoulder, but I never thought I’d work with computers.” That all changed when his father mentioned that TestOut Corporation in Pleasant Grove, Utah, was planning to hold a class for their basic certifications utilizing live instructors. With Dad’s encouragement Seth joined the class. It was small — just three students — and Seth soon realized that he had some talent for IT.
Seth utilized TestOut’s LabSim training software that includes video lessons, demonstrations, review lessons and simulations to prepare for the PC Pro and Network Pro certifications. “I would spend several days a week going through the course materials on my own,” Seth said. “Then an instructor would come in for a couple of hours several times a week and review with us.” The training was very hands-on: As a part of their coursework, Seth and fellow student Will Arnold designed and built a high-end server that is currently in use by TestOut employees.
“The classes were great. The instructors were very helpful,” he said. It was the lab simulations, however, that stood out for Seth. “I’m a visual person. I didn’t like math in high-school, but I did great in geometry because I could see the shapes and what they were trying to do. This transferred over to working with computers.”
It transferred over so well that on completion of the PC Pro course, Seth was offered an internship with TestOut. “I was a tech support intern for three months and then was asked to come on full-time.”
Seth enjoys tech support. “I’m a member of a five-person support team — and it’s a great team at that,” he said. “I deal with about 30 people on an average day and I do get students from around the world, including service members stationed abroad. A lot of their issues are when LabSim is not working properly because of something on their computer. Common issues are browser problems, corrupt plugins, operating system settings, firewalls, security software, etc. I also help students and instructors with administrative tasks and instruction on using our software as well as tips on completing our lab simulations.”
There are the usual challenges associated with working in tech support: No one calls when things are going good, and customers can be stressed. Seth is pretty laid-back and advises patience, “You gotta have a bit of a thick skin with some customers. Some of them can be rough and might want to blame you for their problem,” he said. “Then there are those customers who are really grateful for your help. These ones more than offset the angry ones for me.”
Seth credits his TestOut training for helping him resolve difficult IT challenges. “I remember one particular instance where an entire school was having trouble accessing our website,” he said. “After exhaustive investigating, we decided to use a network diagnostic tool and worked with their IT department on site to allow our content through their network security system; and finally, success!”
In addition to PC Pro and Network Pro certifications, Seth has earned his CompTIA A+. He speaks highly of his TestOut courseware and certification exams: “I felt like I was ready to take the exams.” TestOut training requires students to complete specific tasks and then checks to make sure they correctly completed each one specified in the scenario. “There was no just guessing the right answer like in a multiple-choice format, you had to perform,” he said. “You either knew what you were doing or you didn’t.”
Seth has also completed the coursework for TestOut’s Security Pro certification and plans on taking the exam in the near future — probably as soon as snowboarding season is over.