Like so many other high-school graduates, Keith VanDerMolen went off to college because everyone said that’s what he should do.
And when college didn’t work out for financial reasons, VanDerMolen became a waiter to earn money and pay bills while he figured out what he should do next.
Several years later, he found himself still taking meal orders and refilling drinks — and he was growing increasingly weary of it.
“All the people around me in my life would say, ‘You have more potential,’ and kept pushing me to do more,” he said. “I’m a pretty stubborn guy, so I never really listened until I finally got fed up with my job.”
VanDerMolen was on the jobs website, Indeed, looking for a union manual labor position when he saw an ad promoting a career program from Creating IT Futures.
The pilot class of 14 weeks — offered free to adults living in DuPage County, Illinois — prepared participants to become a CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist (CSIS) by initially working toward CompTIA A+ certification and then receiving additional training for other certifications.
VanDerMolen completed several rounds of testing and interviews to secure a position in the CSIS class.
“From day one, I knew the program was legitimate,” he said. “We had some of the best and most influential instructors I’ve ever had, and they hammered home that we were very fortunate to be in that class, and that there was so much opportunity for people in IT.”
VanDerMolen said the full-time, classroom-based, instructor-led experience not only helped him learn technical skills, but also taught him basic workplace comportment skills that any IT professional needs to advance in the field. He said the structure kept him motivated to pursue an IT career, and that the class gave him a strong foundation for the future.
VanDerMolen graduated from the CSIS program in January 2019 with CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certifications.
He now works as an IT asset management associate with Echo Global Logistics, a transportation management solutions provider. He joined the company’s help desk immediately upon graduating from the Creating IT Futures program and recently earned a promotion.
“The service desk is where you get your bearings and you learn everything involved in IT. From there, you can find your own path,” he said.
Echo Global Logistics’s asset management team is responsible for millions of dollars worth of hardware and software used daily by the company’s 5,000 employees working in 30 branches throughout the United States.
“I love the fact that in my job, the people I work with are my people, and I’ve made a lot of good friends,” he said. “And I get to use my noggin every day because you’re constantly learning new things. Technology is constantly evolving, so if you ever find that you aren’t learning in your job, then you are doing something wrong.”
When he looks at how much his life has changed just within one year, VanDerMolen says he feels blessed.
“A year ago, I was still working as a waiter, so in just that short time, I have doubled the salary I was making then. I have been saving and investing money so I can buy a house,” he said. “Not to mention I have more of a traditional schedule now.”
VanDerMolen said he will be forever grateful for the opportunity to participate in the program.
“I knew I wanted more in life than working as a waiter; I just didn't know how to get there,” he said. “Obtaining certifications has shown me that I don't have to be a genius to find success, but rather I need to take steps to achieve my goals. I hope to keep the momentum going and work my way into higher-level roles in the future.”
To learn more about other training courses being held in the greater Chicago area by Creating IT Futures, visit their website.