After graduating from Augsburg College with a bachelor’s of arts degree in economics and philosophy, Hamza Yousuf was looking for something...different. A completely new experience — exactly the kind of thing you should do when you’re young and unencumbered with a mortgage.
He found it teaching English as a second language to students attending primary school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Yousuf enjoyed his experience there so much that he stayed four years.
“My teaching experience helped me grow as a person in many ways, but I knew I didn’t want to pursue teaching as a career,” he said. “I learned patience and how to adapt to your environment, especially since I was living in a country where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t have my family support system. I really loved my time there, but when I came back to the United States, I had no real professional experience. I knew I wanted to get into the hot IT market, but I wasn’t sure how.”
Upon his return to the United States, Yousuf started researching IT career opportunities and the work he’d need to do to get his foot in the tech career door. He was admitted into a government-funded, for-profit IT program that would provide 200-plus hours of SQL analysis and reporting training.
“But that program offered no job placement and no recognized certification,” he said. “That particular program really was intended for individuals who had many years of experience, but were recently laid off; they were supposed to receive new, in-demand skills and go right back into the workforce. For me, however, I had no prior professional job experience in the United States and I was an IT newbie with no IT certification.”
That’s when Yousuf stumbled across the IT-Ready program in Minneapolis.
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 workforce charity founded by CompTIA.
“IT-Ready was the perfect answer to my dilemma,” Yousuf said. “They helped you get certified and they would help you get experience through their apprenticeship program—if not an outright job. It was a deal I couldn’t pass up.”
During their eight weeks of training, Yousuf and his IT-Ready peers learned a wide range of hardware and software skills, such as building a computer from parts, installing new applications, troubleshooting problems, and setting up and managing networks. They also learned important professional skills, such as communication, customer service and job interviewing. At the end of their classroom training, students took the CompTIA A+ certification exam.
“More than anything, I think IT-Ready allowed me to feel comfortable with ‘breaking’ technology — that mistakes were a good thing when it comes to learning technology,” he said.
Upon earning his CompTIA A+ certification, Yousuf secured a full-time position as an IT Specialist, Associate, with Hennepin County, Minnesota. Hennepin County, with its county seat being Minneapolis, employs thousands of people and serves a million citizens — every one of them dependent upon those workstations for one reason or another. Yousuf serves on a small, dedicated IT team to manage the daunting task of migrating the county’s 10,000 workstations to the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system.
Yousuf said the experience has been a rewarding one and that the IT industry offers plenty of career opportunities to do something…different.
“I’m an entrepreneur at heart and it will be very hard for anything to keep me away from that,” he said. “If I stay in the IT industry, I will probably go into big data / business intelligence. I believe that niche would allow me to make use of my business acumen.”