As a child, IT-Ready grad Keith Bryant walked around his neighborhood retrieving from trashcans the occasional radio or television someone discarded. He took them home, where he took them apart and fixed them if he could.
“Now, this was back when radios and TVs still had tubes,” he said, laughing. “But yeah, I was that kid who loved electronics.”
Bryant’s passion for hands-on electronics work has burned his entire life. After graduating from high school, Bryant joined the U.S. Marine Corps and completed training in ground communications and electronics.
“My first computer in the Marines used punch cards and I created the code for those cards,” he said. “I first learned computing language on a Commodore 64.”
After completing his service with the Marines, Bryant earned CompTIA A+ certification and worked for a third-party help desk provider. He then worked for Comcast as a field technician, where he installed cable, Internet and phone services for 15 years.
Injury forces Bryant to change course
At Comcast Bryant would have stayed, were it not for a back injury in December 2016.
“I just couldn’t keep doing that kind of work, physically,” he said. “I was old enough to retire, but not old enough to stop working. I had gotten my A+ certification in 1998, but when I took the course, they didn’t even talk about hard-drive configurations. That’s how much technology has changed. My first thought was to update my certification so I started looking around for IT courses.”
Which is how Bryant made his way to IT-Ready.
IT-Ready, a program of Creating IT Futures, provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based IT education and training free of charge to admitted students. IT-Ready targets people typically under-represented in the tech industry, including displaced or underemployed workers, ethnic minorities and women. Creating IT Futures is a nonprofit IT workforce charity founded by CompTIA.
“I learned about IT-Ready doing an Internet search on getting A+ certification,” Bryant said. “When I was at Comcast, I had young children and needed work that was consistent. But then the children went to college, and I thought, this should be about what I want to do, work that I enjoy. I’ve always enjoyed being around with electronics, so I thought, let’s make the last part of my working life doing something I really like.”
During their training, IT-Ready students learn a wide range of hardware and software skills, including how to build a computer from parts, install new applications, troubleshoot problems, and set up and manage networks.
IT-Ready participants also cover critical professional comportment skills, such as workplace etiquette, communication, customer service and job interviewing. At the end of their classroom training, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam.
Despite being older than most other IT-Ready participants, Bryant said he really enjoyed being back in a classroom environment.
“The curriculum was exactly what I needed. There had been changes and I needed that information, and I needed to get back into the habit of studying,” he said. “And I liked being in a class full of young people taking on a new challenge. I got to connect with them and help them. I thrived on their energy. It was fun for me, because it connected me with millennials.”
“And I got to tell them stories about radios and televisions with tubes,” he added, laughing.
Indeed, that IT-Ready class was so tightly knit, Bryant said, that graduates frequently get together socially just to catch up on each other’s lives.
Following his graduation from IT-Ready’s Edina, MN, class in the fall of 2017, Bryant took his newly minted CompTIA A+ certification and secured employment at Honeywell in Golden Valley, MN.
Experiencing hands-on electronics work once again
Honeywell is a leader in integrating home-based technologies such as lighting, thermostats and security systems into wifi networks and smart phones. As a technician in Honeywell’s home services division, Bryant provides technical support to users.
“Everything is connected today,” Bryant said. “It’s amazing to see how much things have changed from 1999 when a technology device was $5,000 and something available only to early adopters, to now when I’m helping grandmothers connect thermostats to their wifi.”
Bryant isn’t sure what the future holds for him. There are growth opportunities at Honeywell —according to Bryant, “there are positions here because this company does everything from aerospace to home electronics”— and Bryant would love to eventually lead a group of younger technicians.
“I like the idea of instructing,” Bryant said. “For now, I’d like to continue earning additional CompTIA certifications and see where I can go.”