It was 2015 and Susie Douang was contemplating a cross-country move and a fresh start.
Working as an administrative assistant in Minneapolis, Douang felt like she had hit a professional ceiling. She enjoyed her work — she quickly mastered the entire suite of Microsoft Office programs — and she was eager to learn more about office technology, but it appeared to her that there was no room to grow.
She confided these thoughts to a friend living in San Francisco, and he recounted how another friend left the service industry to attend a technology “boot camp.” That guy was experiencing tremendous success in a newfound IT career. Douang should move to San Francisco, her friend advised her, so she could complete a similar boot camp and enter the career field of Information Technology.
One night, while mulling over that idea, Douang found she couldn’t sleep. She went online to see whether similar technology boot camps were available locally — and she discovered IT-Ready.
IT-Ready is an intensive, eight-week IT education and training program offered by the Creating IT Futures Foundation. Offered free of charge by experienced IT instructors in a classroom setting, IT-Ready teaches skills that equip adult learners for beginning careers in the IT industry — such as building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems, and setting up and managing networks. Students also learn softer professional skills such as communication, customer service and job interviewing techniques.
IT-Ready’s target audiences include people underrepresented in the IT industry — such as women, veterans and their spouses or caregivers, and ethnic minorities, as well as displaced and under-employed workers.
At the end of the program, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam, after which they can apply for a six-month paid internship with a local company in the role of help-desk or technical support. Quite frequently, these internships lead to permanent, full-time employment.
IT-Ready is offered in Minneapolis / St. Paul by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA.
Douang found an informational video about IT-Ready on Youtube and watched it.
“I thought it was fake because the program was free,” she said.
Still, she applied anyway.
“I felt I could relate to the folks telling their stories in the videos,” she said. “Plus, it was free. What did I have to lose?”
Douang said that she immediately felt in her element, learning more about technical “hard” skills of hardware and software operation, installation and applications.
“Once I began IT-Ready, I felt I was slightly ahead of the materials being taught, which actually helped me greatly, because it reinforced my belief I could pursue IT as a career,” she said.
It was IT-Ready’s emphasis on softer professional skills that really positioned her for success, she said.
“IT-Ready taught me how to be resourceful and how to network successfully,” she said. “Social networking with instructors, peers, colleagues and recruiters is invaluable and key to professional success. I also learned that patience is key; you don’t learn everything on your first day or in your first role.”
Following her graduation from IT-Ready and earning CompTIA A+ certification, Douang accepted a full-time position as an IT/marketing manager for Bill’s Gunshop & Range in Robbinsdale, MN, where she oversees IT-related functions for the company’s multiple geographic locations.
What’s most important for her, Douang said, is that the IT industry doesn’t have ceilings to hit — and her career will be what she makes it. Douang is taking advantage of a special IT-Ready alumni benefit offering graduates free access to CompTIA certification training materials and exams for up to six months after completing the program.
“I can see myself getting more involved with cyber security,” she said. “Currently, I am studying for my CompTIA Network+ certification and I’m interested in coding. It may take some time, but I’m going to get there.”