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March 30, 2015

Bringing your A game to Plan B

KevinRose_blog
Kevin Rose, IT-Ready grad
When Kevin Rose lost his sales job of six years, he decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer systems and networking. Financially, it would be tough going for him and his family, but with student loans and the near-guarantee of an attractive IT industry salary at the end of his studies, he took the leap of faith and enrolled.

Then one week before Rose’s classes were scheduled to begin, his university advisor contacted him to say the course was being dropped due to low enrollment. It would be offered again in seven months.

There went the student loans. There went the hope of an attractive salary in the foreseeable future. There went Rose’s game plan.

“I had lost my job three months earlier and I was working part-time as a chauffeur for a limo company — that was not enough to sustain me and my family for another seven months,” Rose said. “That night, my wife got on the computer and started looking for jobs. She came across a posting for the IT-Ready program.”

Like most IT-Ready applicants, Rose was skeptical of the program’s promise of no-tuition, no-strings-attached technical education and skills training.

“It sounded too good to be true,” Rose said. “It wasn’t until I spoke on the phone with [IT-Ready Program Manager] Kathleen Mzarek and heard what the program was about and the success they have had that I began to believe it. She really encouraged me to stick with the application process.”

IT-Ready provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based education and training completely free of charge to admitted students from target 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.

IT-Ready students learn skills such as building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems and setting up and managing networks. They also learn softer professional skills such as communication, customer service and job interviewing.

At the end of the program, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam, after which they can qualify for a six-month paid apprenticeship with a local participating company, usually in the role of help-desk or technical support. These internships usually lead to permanent, full-time employment.

Rose brought to IT-Ready a strong background in customer relations, having worked for six years selling commercial cleaning solutions to restaurant, hotels, long-term care facilities and hospitals, and repairing equipment such as dishwashers and chemical dispensers.

“I loved the customers and the relationships I built with them, but I did not like being a salesman and being graded on the number of sales or the dollar amount I sold each month,” Rose said. “I never wanted to sell something I felt wasn’t needed. I built a lot of trust with my customers, and I didn’t want to break that trust by selling them something I felt they didn’t need.”

After losing his job, Rose worked part-time chauffeuring while earning an associate’s degree from his local community college. Getting his bachelor’s degree in computer science and network administration would take another 16 months, which he was prepared to do — until the college canceled the course he needed.

In hindsight, Rose said, that closed door steered him to IT-Ready, which changed his life.

After successfully completing IT-Ready and earning his CompTIA A+ certification, Rose went to work at TEKsystems, a leading provider of IT staffing, IT talent management and IT services. Every year, TEKsystems deploys more than 80,000 IT professionals at 6,000 client sites throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The company’s insights into the IT labor market help clients achieve business goals while optimizing their own IT workforce strategies.

TEKsystems placed Rose with Kiewit, one of the largest and most respected construction, mining and engineering organizations in North America. Working full-time as a ticket coordinator, Rose receives unassigned technical help requests that come into Kiewit’s support center and triages them to the appropriate security, server, network, database, mobile, software or hardware function for resolution.

Brady Blankenship, account manager of end-user support systems at TEKsystems, interviewed Rose shortly after he graduated from IT-Ready.

“His CompTIA A+ certification and IT skills gained from completing the IT-Ready course are what attracted us to him as a candidate. His polished personality and customer services skills are what landed him a contract-to-hire position at Kiewit,” Blankenship said. “He’s done a phenomenal job there and will be a full-time employee at Kiewit within the month.”

Rose says IT-Ready equipped him for his new career through both its CompTIA A+ certification process and the emphasis instructors placed on developing softer professional skills.

“Going over the interview process, the 30-second pitch and the preparation for what to expect during an interview for a tech-related job greatly increased my skills and confidence,” Rose said.

Most importantly, Rose said, he truly loves the work he’s doing now.

“In five years, I see myself at Kiewit doing something with networking,” he said. “Kiewit is rated one of the best companies to work for, and with as much fun as I am having and as many opportunities that are available, I hope to be here for a long time.”

Rose said he encourages other people seeking a positive career move to consider IT-Ready.

“There is no way I could have made this career change without the IT-Ready program,” he said. “When I lost my job and my plan was to go back to school, my plan had me graduating in nearly four years with a degree, ready to enter the field. With IT-Ready, I got my first IT job just nine months after losing my job. The program prepared me for a great career in IT.”

Editor’s postscript: Since this blog was written, Kiewit offered Rose a full-time position as ticket coordinator. He gladly accepted, adding, “I am blown away by how great this company is.”