CertStudent: No college required for jump to full-time 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.
Sitting in his office, surrounded by computer parts, tech support specialist Will Arnold is a quiet and focused young man. “I’m very comfortable behind my computer,” he says with a small smile.
Like any good IT professional, Will loves what he does, and he’s very good at it. As one of his less IT-knowledgeable coworkers explained, “Watching him fix an IT problem is like watching a master-billiards player. You have no idea what he’s doing, but you can recognize expertise.”
Will, 20, was born and raised in Cedar Hills, Utah, in the very shadow of what Beehive State tech industry enthusiasts have been hopefully calling their homeland’s “Silicon Slopes” for several years now. Will says he knew a fair amount about computers, but didn’t give much thought to working with them. “My father was a programmer, but I never wanted to be one.”
After graduating from high school, Will found himself working in retail and feeling unsatisfied. “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and was considering college,” he says. Unsure of his next career step Will began looking at local businesses for work. His search led him to TestOut Corporation in nearby Pleasant Grove. “It was close by, I knew what it did, and I heard it was a good place to work,” he says.
Will had some familiarity with TestOut’s LabSim Software Technology from high-school. “I took a course at Mountainland Applied Technology College in Orem. It was just me and a few other kids my age, plus a couple of adults,” he said. “I enjoyed it and earned my PC Pro and CompTIA A+ certifications. LabSim was pretty easy to follow; it had video lessons, demonstrations, reviews, and hands-on simulations.”
In speaking with a family friend employed at TestOut, Will learned they would be holding a trial course for their basic certifications using live instructors. “I figured it would be a good review, so, why not?”
He signed up to take the course in early 2014 and quickly realized it was going to be very intensive and have lots of interaction with the instructors, especially since there was only one other student. “Each of us would spend a couple days a week going through the course materials on our own,” Will said. “Then, several times a week, an instructor would come in for a couple of hours to help us review.”
Will and his classmate found the hands-on LabSim process effective. “As part of our coursework, we designed and built a high-end server that is still being used at TestOut.”
Will is also an achiever. Besides using the class as a review for his skills, he completed certifications in TestOut’s Network Pro and Security Pro, and CompTIA Network +. “I really liked the class,” he says. “I enjoyed learning the new stuff, the instructors were very competent and exposure to the material very good.”
Proving his IT skills in class paid off. Upon completing the class, he accepted an internship with TestOut and quickly parlayed it into a full-time gig in tech support.
These days, Will stays pretty busy wrestling with in-house IT problems. “Sometimes too busy,” he said. “I keep learning new things and my responsibilities keep expanding. I used to be big into airsoft, but now I don’t have much time to kick-back. When I do it’s usually just sitting on the couch playing video games.”
Will said he enjoys his tech support job at TestOut, “It’s my first IT job and I really like the people here. For me, solving IT problems is fun.”
When asked about his plans for the future, he smiles and says, “Not sure about outside of work, but I am looking into more certs — particularly with Cisco and Microsoft, especially in the areas of security and networking. The industry keeps growing, technology keeps evolving, and I gotta grow with it.”