After 15 years of steadily working his way up the restaurant industry food chain – from busboy to cashier to manager – Daniel Duran suddenly found himself one day working under new owners – and headed in an entirely different direction.
“I talked with the new owners, but they already had people in mind, people they were bringing with them,” he said. “So instead of progressing, I was going backward. They did offer me the same level of pay but then they cut my hours. I stayed there for another two years – which was two years too long.”
Watch the video: "Time Flies: On the Job with Daniel Duran."As he interviewed for other restaurant management positions, Duran, 33, took stock of his career. He knew he possessed a strong customer-service orientation – honed from years of experience in restaurants – and he thought he had an aptitude for information technology. After all, whenever his restaurant’s computer system would crash, he would be the first responder.
“I always had it in the back of my head, ‘I think I could do something like that,’ ” he said. “But I assumed that to be able to break into IT, I would have to go to college, or spend thousands of dollars for training. And I didn’t have that kind of money.”
About that time, Duran’s girlfriend – a computer programmer – came across an advertisement for the IT-Ready Apprentice Program in Minneapolis / St. Paul and passed it along to him. He applied and was accepted.
“When I first got to class, I was pretty nervous,” he said. “I assumed the class would be full of computer-savvy people with technical backgrounds – and here I was with a restaurant background and no idea about anything about computers. I mean, I knew how to surf the web, but I had never opened up a computer in my life. But I was surprised. The class was full of all kinds of people – and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”
During his eight weeks of intensive classroom education and training, Duran learned the “hard” technical skills he was expecting to learn. But he also learned softer skills, such as how to create a professional-looking resume.
“They taught skills such as how to talk to people and how to interview professionally,” he said. “It really gave me confidence that I could go out there and present myself in a professional manner.”
After graduating from the IT-Ready Apprentice Program, earning his A+ certification, and completing an internship at Pearson VUE, Duran began working at McCormick Computer Resale in Apple Valley, Minn. The company specializes in new and refurbished point-of-sale systems – such as cash registers and scanners – and hard-to-find replacement parts for point-of-service products. The company also offers computer hardware and server maintenance, and technical support. (www.mccormick-cr.com)
On the job for two months now, Duran said he feels challenged and excited every day.
“I love the hands-on nature of my work – taking apart a system, repairing broken hardware,” Duran said. “This is my style of working.”
And Duran’s enthusiasm for his work is apparent to the folks around him, said his manager, Jason Bergeron. "Daniel is doing great. He loves the work and it shows."
Now instead of wondering where his career is going – as he did when he worked in the restaurant industry – Duran is confident that his career is headed up.
“This company is expanding and employing more people, and I feel like I am the kind of person they will need moving forward,” said Duran, who is working after hours to earn his Network+ certification. “Many of the managers here started out as technicians, so I feel this is just the beginning for me. They offer a lot of opportunities to move up to people who work hard.”
More than anything, Duran said, he is grateful for the doors of opportunity the IT-Ready Apprentice Program helped him open.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “This is just a dream come true.”