Aside from the cyber security information and tips, I also want to share my career journey through a series of post I will call CyberGent 101: Career Chronicles. These posts will highlight my failures, progression, understanding and moments of clarity . Hopefully these posts provide insight and inspiration to someone who needs to keep pushing, fight through any obstacle while keeping the end goal in mind. I did.
Mentee becomes Mentor
Last Thursday I received a call from a guy named Frank. Frank was referred to me by one of my mentors. Frank was looking for some IT advice. He recently graduated from the same college I did receiving the same degree in Computer Networking and Telecom.We had a good conversation. He told me about his recent failures in terms of job searching and interviewing. Frank stated that he had been on 6-7 job interviews but was unsuccessful in his efforts. Some of the jobs that he applied to were some of the same jobs I applied to when I was looking for my big break into IT back in 2006. My transparency set in after he explained his efforts and frustration. I told Frank finding that first IT job is hard (I was told the same thing back in 2004-2005) I explained to him that I too went on numerous job interviews and spent many hours searching for a job.
I told him that the thing that kept me going was my faith and just knowing that my work ethic, drive and determination would pay off. I advised him to read up on what concentration he wants to focus on in IT. I also advised him to get a certification or two under his belt. I say it was a good conversation because by talking to him, I immediately understood why I failed in my searching and job attempts. As I was giving advice, I realized that my experiences were not just for me. These experiences and failures are to be shared with the Franks of the world who are simply trying to get closer to their purpose while moving up in life.
Career Chronicles: 2003-2007
Computers have always been a part of my life. Whether it was playing The Oregon Trail in elementary school on an old school Mac, being introduced to PC games like Doom and NBA live in 1994 at a friends house or when my family got our first PC in 1999, my future was staring me in the face. I never really took computers seriously until around 2004. Before then I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and what I wanted to become in life. During my senior year of high school I thought I had figured it out. I wanted to become an architect.
In August of 2000, I ended up going to college as an engineering student. I wanted to specialize in civil engineering/ architecture. That dream quickly came to an end. The growing demands of the classwork, the difficulty and complexity of the advanced math classes became stressful and unbearable so I dropped out of college in December 2002. Before I dropped out I strongly considered switching my major to history. As far as my life goes I’m glad the potential switch to history did not play out the way I intended at that particular time.
About 6 months after dropping out of college, I joined the Air National Guard. Even after joining the military, I found myself around computers, not actually working on them or using them to solve issues, I used them in support of my work. Often times when my computer had an issue, I would have to call the help desk to resolve the issue. This is funny to me now but we all have to start at some point right? When the CSA or Client Support Administrator came to work on my computer I would watch what they were doing to fix the issue and ask questions. After awhile, I took the initiative to shadow the CSA’s when they had to fix computers. My curiosity for learning computers was evolving.
After taking a growing interest in computers, I was pushed by my girlfriend (now wife) to go back to school. This time I knew what I wanted to go to school for and what field of work I wanted to excel in. After realizing that, I had to move myself and my fears aside. I ended up registering at a local community college majoring in Information Technology.
Barely even understanding what caching was or how to even translate computer specs, after a few months of working in general sales at Circuit City, I was promoted to computer and technology sales. I did not understand the promotion at the time. All I knew was that I went from making $8.50 to $9.50 an hour. But looking back now I see how things fell into place setting me up to where I am today. It’s so funny because in 2005 I still remember when my hard drive crashed, I actually called a friend because I did not know how to reformat my new hard drive with Windows XP nor retrieve the data off of the old hard drive. I just threw it away. From that point forward I had to learn my craft in order to confidently relay the latest technology to customers.
After getting a few technical AA degrees, great hands on training and being thrown into the fire by a cousin who has a local computer repair shop, my confidence in my technical abilities grew. I still remember one of the first times I attempted to troubleshoot a computer. My cousin placed a computer on the workbench, had me pull up the screen and simply asked me “So.. whats wrong with it”? Looking confused and not knowing where to start , I began clicking around the OS to understand what was going on.Slowly but surely I was able determine what was going on.
Looking for “Experience”
While still drilling with the Air National Guard, a Client Service Admin role opened up over in the IT Section. I read the job description and was very confident that I could do the role so I applied. I mean between the great hands on training I received in school, the tough and straight to the point tech methods of my cousin and the little bit of research I was doing, I thought I would be an excellent choice. Being that the role was a drill weekend job, I was able to schedule a meeting with the chiefs to discuss my interest.
After applying for the role and touching basis with the managers, I was granted an interview. I walked in the office and was interviewed by two Chiefs (E-8s). One who was interested in what I was saying and asking me questions. And another Chief who could have cared less. This had to be one of the most awkward interviews I had been on. The Chief who was too busy never really payed me any attention as if he already had someone in mind for the role. This particular interview was a let down but that did not put out my fire for learning more about IT.
After a few months of working along side my cousin, I applied to a local non-profit organization for an IT Specialist Job. After three (yes 3) interviews with the non-profit organization, I was awarded the job. This was my first full-time I.T.gig and I was excited. I was finally able to rack up that experience that most jobs require now a days. Later on my manager told me that I was selected over 71 other applicants. I was also told that the role I was selected for was a newly created position. Mentally I was well on my way to putting in years of work and valuable experience at this company.
My world came crashing down in October of 2007. I was working in my office one day when two HR employees walked into my office unexpectedly. At the same time they were entering the room, my manager exited the room without saying a word. The two ladies that walked into the office closed the door behind them. The body language of one of the HR employees displayed that something bad was about to happen. My intuition was right, I was informed that due to budget cuts and a company reorganization my position had to be cut since the funding for my role was needed elsewhere. I was employed at this company for exactly a year. After they told me the bad news everything else they said sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. In that moment I was trying to process the news and figure out my next move.
This news was devastating to me. Again not understanding what was going on at the time (aka the bigger picture) I became emotional by asking how could this happen to me, I even stressed that my wife was pregnant and I needed this job to support my family. As I stated my disbelief, tears flowed from the HR manager who initially displayed the sad body language. She was very empathetic as she listened to my story. Minutes later I packed up my stuff and was escorted off the property as if I had done something wrong. Being laid off quickly reminded me that nothing should be taken for granted and that I had more work to do.
What happens after the lay off? What does 2008 bring? You will find out soon enough…