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June 7, 2018

Bartender trades in taps and glasses for tech career

A bartender for 10 years, Matthew Kerr worked in two different bars just to cobble together full-time hours.


“I was making OK money,” he said. “But I had no benefits and no real career goals.”


Kerr was searching on Craigslist for other bartending gigs when he found an advertisement for IT-Ready. He disregarded it. For starters, he thought it was a scam. Secondly, even if it wasn’t a scam, Kerr didn’t have a wealth of tech experience.

Matthew Kerr


“My main IT experience was setting up video games with friends online — it wasn’t anything professional,” he said. “Every once in a while, I would fix a computer for a friend. But that was the extent of it.”


But the women in Kerr’s life — his then fiancé and now wife, and his mother — felt differently. And they made their opinions abundantly clear.


“My wife and my mother pushed me to sign up for the program,” he said. “It took a lot of convincing. My mom was always trying to tell me to go into IT. She said I had good people skills and that it would be a good field. It took them nagging me for a while before I applied.”


But apply Kerr finally did, and he was admitted to the IT-Ready program taking place in the Twin Cities in the winter of 2015.


Learning the IT fundamentals

A program of Creating IT Futures, IT-Ready is eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based IT education and training, provided at no cost to participants.


During 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 taught me the fundamentals of working in technology,” Kerr said. “Whether it was troubleshooting problems, training large groups of people, or dealing with computer issues I’ve never seen before, IT-Ready prepared me for all of it.”


IT-Ready participants also cover critical professional comportment skills, such as workplace etiquette, communication, customer service and job interviewing.


“I have to say the one thing that really stood out with me was public speaking,” Kerr said. “I know, it doesn’t seem IT related, but that is one thing IT-Ready helped me with more than anything else. You do not realize that you may stand in front of a large group training them in new technology. Before the program, I would have stood in front of a group shaking and sweating. But IT-Ready prepared me for the situation and it is a breeze now.”


At the end of his classroom training, Kerr took the CompTIA A+ certification exam, successfully securing the certification needed to launch his IT career.


Benefits — and career goals

Kerr has worked in the tech industry full-time for three years now. During that time, he has taken advantage of professional development opportunities offered through IT-Ready — namely, learning more about IT specialties and securing additional certifications such as CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Server+. Currently, Kerr works as a PC support tech for the City of Chanhassen, located outside Minneapolis.

Matthew Kerr Certificate


Asked how his life is different today than it was three years ago, Kerr said, “I can’t credit IT-Ready with buying my house or having my baby. But I can’t imagine being able to accomplish either without IT-Ready. It’s given me the ability to support my family and the freedom to do what I want in my life.”


And Kerr encourages other people to consider IT-Ready, even if they don’t have a great deal of experience in technology.


“Don’t think that you know too little to be able to get involved with IT,” he said. “If you’re willing to learn and you’re willing to put in the time, then you can succeed. IT-Ready really changes lives. And it’s not a scam. It seems too good to be true, but I guess sometimes in life, things are what they seem.”

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