Savvy N.J. student enters tech school with no certifications, leaves with six

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This feature first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

Meet New Jersey's own Colin Hagerty. Once he had zero certifications. Now he has six.The dictionary defines a “renaissance man” as one with a broad range of talents and intellectual interests. These highly capable individuals face the dual challenge of deciding how to best use their abilities and where to expend their energies. They are good at so many things that they have great flexibility in careers.

It would be great to be one of those fortunate few who have a sense that their destiny lies in a certain field or direction. Most will come along at their own speed, however, attempting and succeeding in a variety of roles before settling on their place in the sun. Colin Hagarty, 34, is one such individual — multi-talented, intelligent, very capable, extremely interested in learning new things and, oh yeah, a friendly and easygoing fellow.

Family first

Born and raised in New Jersey, Hagarty, carries himself with the confidence of a man who knows how to pursue the things he wants. Raised by supportive parents who encouraged him to learn and try new things, and surrounded by lots of extended family who were more than willing to dispense sage advice, he couldn’t help absorbing valuable life-lessons early on.

“I come from a large Irish family where everyone was always talking and teaching,” he said. Hagarty’s parents and extended family constantly shared such axioms of success as “Always leave a place better than you found it,” “You are getting paid to do a job, so do it the best you can,” and perhaps most importantly, “Learn something new every day.”

His family is close and enjoys gathering; holiday events typically draw together 30 or more individuals for food and fun. Each Thanksgiving, the Hagarty clan sets up a milk-carton boat, the S.S. Thankful. Each family member writes something they are thankful for on a slip of paper and places it in the boat. They then enjoy reading off what different individuals wrote.

The 2017 reveal was especially thrilling as a cousin took the opportunity to announce the pending arrival of a baby.

Hagarty does follow the family admonition to daily learn new things. He has already worked more jobs than most people will during their entire lives — and proven capable at all of them. Just to name a few, he has been a groundskeeper, a general contractor, retail sales associate, mason/ boulder layer, actor/tour guide, biologist technician, machinist and, probably his favorite, prosthetic make-up artist who specializes in zombies.

Yes, zombies

Meet New Jersey's own Colin Hagerty. Once he had zero certifications. Now he has six.Hagarty is a fan of horror movies, not for the fear factor, but instead for the special effects. His favorite is George Romero’s 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead. “I love to do special effects make-up on myself and friends,” he said.”

His zombie-prepping skills are self-taught by reading books and watching how-to videos online. And he is really good at it: In 2010, he and 4,092 other like-minded devotees of the undead congregated in nearby Monroeville, for what the Guinness World Records deemed the largest gathering of zombies ever. Hagarty was named Best Male Zombie.

Winning such a title takes a great deal of patience, hard work, and attention to detail, the same attributes Hagarty brings to all of his educational endeavors. In February 2017, his interests turned to IT and he enrolled at Lincoln Technical Institute in Moorestown, with the goal of becoming a computer network and support technician.

“I’d always had an affinity for computers and lots of exposure growing up,” he said. “On all my previous jobs, I often did minor troubleshooting and basic stuff like attaching printers.”

Devouring IT courses

Like a hungry zombie tucking into a feast of brains, Hagarty jumped wholeheartedly into IT. In addition to maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA, in less than eight months he earned six TestOut certifications: PC Pro, Network Pro, Client Pro, Server Pro, Switching Pro, and Routing Pro. “I really liked the subjects I was learning and never missed a minute of class time,” he said.

Hagarty credits the feedback and hands-on practice of LabSim, TestOut’s online learning platform, with helping him earn so many certs in such a short time. “Initially, I was a bit shell-shocked, but once I got used to the subject, the constant feedback from LabSim and the practice exams gave me the confidence to go ahead and pass my first exam.”

In addition to being an excellent student, Hagarty was also voted Student Ambassador of the Computer and Network Support Technology program by fellow students and the institute’s staff. As student ambassador, he served as liaison for the class, helped guide peers, and documented student feedback to help the program maintain a high level of quality and service.

“Colin [Hagarty] is a true success story for me personally and for Lincoln Technical Institute,” said IT instructor Nicholas Mazzagatti. “Not only did he have the drive and determination to gain certifications in advance of his classmates, but he is also a great motivator of students.”

Putting IT skills to work

One of the projects Hagarty found most useful at Lincoln involved developing a mock IT service company. “Several students and I put together a pseudo company, complete with a billing and ticketing system,” he said. “The things I learned and the knowledge gained will one day help me start my own business in IT.”

Since October, when he completed his studies, and with his six certifications in hand, Hagarty has been improving his IT skills working at PCS (Pro Computer Services) in Moorestown, New Jersey. PCS is an up-and-coming organization built on the premise that “Finding IT help should be easy.”

Working with an IT company striving to be the most helpful in the world is a good fit for Hagarty, who enjoys helping others. “I like working at PCS because they value their customers and employees,” he said.

An easy-going manner and solid skills have helped Hagarty contribute to PCS. “Colin has proven to be everything we expect with someone with his certs and more,” said PCS Field Coordinator Harold Loeffler. “We like his initiative and are really happy to have him here.”

A varied background

Prior to landing in the IT realm, Hagarty studied art at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. After three years, however, he realized his passions and interests lay elsewhere and left school for a lucrative job renovating commercial properties. “I dropped out and just didn’t have any ambition to go back,” he said.

His varied job experiences taught him more useful lessons including the importance of focusing on the task at hand and planning for potential problems. “I learned to not only look out for what may go wrong, but also for what may go right,” he said. “To take advantage of opportunities as they come.”

One such opportunity came along after high school, when Hagerty landed a job as a guest experience agent at Adventure Aquarium, hoping to improve his public speaking skills. “I wasn’t confident speaking in front of people and decided that job would be a good way to overcome that personal hurdle,” he said.

The aquarium contains the world’s longest “shark bridge,” where visitors cross a rope walkway, a mere 21 inches above the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast, and daring souls touch and feel some of the most exotic shark species in the world. Notwithstanding all that, Hagarty’s most unusual encounter at work was not with a toothy shark, but with a deceptively quick giant octopus.

“Octopi are a lot stronger than you think,” he said. “She just reached out, grabbed my arms with her tentacles and tried to pull me into the water. I had to struggle to get her tentacles off me.”

Looking ahead

Meet New Jersey's own Colin Hagerty. Once he had zero certifications. Now he has six.Hagarty’s time at the aquarium and other experiences have made him grateful and unafraid to approach others. As an example, upon completion of his six TestOut certifications, he contacted the owner of the company on LinkedIn. “I just wanted to thank him for what he had created and didn’t expect a response,” he said. A response did come back, along with an invite to join TestOut’s LinkedIn network.

Normally, upon hearing of a student achieving six certs within an eight-month period we envision someone who follows a strict daily plan. Not so with Hagarty; rather than adhere to a set plan, he approaches each day with an admirable nonchalance and confidence. “I believe that I have the ability to control what my day will become and that I’ll be able to handle all obstacles and potential derailments,” he said.

For now, his immediate plans include earning all of TestOut’s certifi cations, in order to gain a broader understanding of other aspects of the IT field and “eventually figure out which domain I want to focus in.” He is also pondering various Linux credentials to enhance future opportunities.

Whatever path he chooses, whether working for others as a high-priced IT professional or building his own IT company, Hagarty will continue having varied interests and living by his motto: “Always remember to maintain the initial passion that sparked your interest in the first place.”

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Calvin Harper

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Calvin Harper is a former associate editor of Certification Magazine and a veteran of the publishing industry.

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