Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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January 5, 2017

New tech career paves way for IT-Ready grad’s personal, professional growth

Mai VueMai Yia Vue admits she has a special place in her heart when it comes to senior citizens.

As a personal care assistant working for a home health-care agency, Vue works with the elderly in their homes, performing light housekeeping duties that allow them to live independently longer, such making beds, washing dishes and preparing meals.

Vue enjoys the work and loves the conversations that accompany it even more. But personal care assistants earn a median salary of $10.09 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Vue has pressing financial obligations that have spurred her to look for new career options.

“It wasn’t that my work wasn’t satisfying because it was,” she said. “But I really struggled with school loans and could not afford to stack more loans. That’s what lead me to IT-Ready.”

Offered by Creating IT Futures, IT-Ready provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based education and training completely free of charge. The program targets students from typically disadvantaged audiences that include unemployed, under-employed and displaced workers; women and ethnic minorities who are under-represented in the IT industry; and veterans and their spouses or caregivers.

During the course of IT-Ready, students learn skills that equip them for an entry-level position within the tech industry — skills that include building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems and setting up and managing networks.

IT-Ready also instills knowledge about softer professional skills such as effective communication, customer service and job interviewing. At the end of the eight-week program, IT-Ready students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam. Afterward, they may qualify for a six-month paid apprenticeship with a local participating company, usually in the role of help-desk or technical support. These apprenticeships often lead to permanent, full-time employment.

IT-Ready alumni are encouraged to study for and take certification tests to earn additional CompTIA credentials, free of charge, up to a year after graduating.

Earlier this year, Vue learned about IT-Ready from an old high school friend.

“I was in search of a good career path that I could pursue without having to take on additional student loans,” she said. “My friend is successful in the IT industry, and while he was not an IT-Ready graduate himself, he worked with people who are and he recommended the program.”

It’s not uncommon for people to initially assume IT-Ready is an Internet scam — free education, really?! — but Vue said she immediately recognized the program for what it is: A rare chance to be seized.

“The minute my friend told me about it, I looked into it and I saw it was an opportunity I could not miss,” she said. “It was the chance to enter a field I am quite skilled at, without putting myself into debt.”

Vue said she especially appreciated the time IT-Ready devoted to softer professional skills during her eight-week training. For example, she said, instructors emphasized that students would be working with people both familiar and unfamiliar with IT industry terms. So it would be important to listen carefully and not talk over people’s heads using acronyms and buzzwords they didn’t understand.

“Listening skills are so important in this field,” she said. “Also, you have to work together with your customers and co-workers to tackle an issue and address it correctly. So don’t take things personally and always know that everyone is on the same team. IT-Ready prepared me to serve customers as an IT specialist in the best way possible by enhancing my communication skills.”

After graduating from IT-Ready, Vue accepted a position as help desk specialist for U.S. Bank in Minneapolis. The internal IT help desk at U.S. Bank is a well-organized, sophisticated operation, and it has to be — with 70,000 employees working in locations worldwide, U.S. Bank needs its staff to serve millions of customers.

Vue said she loves the work she’s doing.

“IT is a field where learning is never ending and it keeps things exciting,” she said. “Where I am now, really, it’s just the starting point of possible places I could go in the field of IT.”

In her off hours, Vue continues to work as a personal care assistant for a home health-care agency — this time, on her own terms, so that caring for senior citizens has become her avocation.