Since starting full-time work after high school, Brad Foster has always been drawn to the information technology (IT) element at his job.
At a former Blockbuster video store, where he was manager, Foster loved to discuss gaming systems with customers — and the more nitty gritty the tech details, the better.
“I have built every computer I ever owned and was always helping others with their IT issues,” he said. “I have always felt I should be in that industry, but never had the resources to make the leap.”
When Blockbuster went out of business, Foster cycled through a string of retail and call-center supervisor positions before landing a job as a hotel manager. He soon learned that was not his calling.
“After working in hotels for three years, I knew that line of work was not where I was destined to stay. I dreaded going into work every day,” he said. “I never really enjoyed what I was doing, but I needed a paycheck, like everyone else.”
Outside of work, Foster tried hard to turn his technology acumen into a new career path.
“I had started studying for the CompTIA A+ exam on my own, but with all the hours I worked, it was hard to stay motivated,” he said.
Job search yields a surprise
Foster was searching for different employment opportunities when he came across an advertisement for an IT-Ready class last year, which trained students for the CompTIA A+ exam.
IT-Ready assesses, trains, certifies and places unemployed and under-employed adults in their first jobs in the IT field, which has a shortage of qualified workers.
IT-Ready is a program of Creating IT Futures, the IT workforce charity founded by CompTIA.
In IT-Ready, students practice hands-on labs taking apart and building desktop computers and other hardware. They learn about motherboards, printers, peripheral devices, memory and physical storage, connections and mobile devices. They set up computer networks and troubleshoot networks, displays, printers, and operating systems. And they configure operating systems and hardware; and secure networks, systems and data.
IT-Ready students also receive targeted professional development in key business “soft” skills such as communication and presentation, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving.
Foster said he knew from reading the Indeed ad that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity IT-Ready presented.
“For a long time, I wanted to make such a career change, but I never had the resources or even the guarantee of a paying job on the other end,” he said. “I realized if I did not trust myself and change to pursue a job I could love, I never would. I made the leap. CompTIA is probably the most recognizable name in the IT industry, so I knew I would receive top-class training. I am happier in my work than I have been since those days of managing Blockbuster, talking about movies and video games all day.”
Turning passion into a career
After graduating from IT-Ready and earning his CompTIA A+ certification, Foster secured full-time employment with Compumedics USA, where he is a technical analyst. He troubleshoots and solves issues with complicated and proprietary medical hardware and software used for sleep studies, EEG brain scans and other neuroscience studies.
“I have the distinct pleasure of working with many different type of network architectures daily,” Foster said. “I can dip my toes into Citrix and SQL troubleshooting during one call, then assign and fix static IPs on another, and then set up paths and permissions for the next customer. It is always changing and always challenging, but, most importantly, it is always fun. I am learning more than I could have hoped for every single day.”
Foster said that, perhaps, is the aspect of his new career that excites him the most — that he never, ever stops learning.
“We should never stop learning or having the desire to know more — that’s what IT-Ready instilled within me,” he said.
Foster said that he went from a job where time dragged painfully slowly to one that is exciting and fast paced.
“I just enjoy what I do now — there’s a reason to get up in the morning,” he said. “Weeks fly by when you’re not focusing solely on how to make it through to the weekend. I will be working in IT until my mental faculties will not allow me to do so anymore.”
A bright future
Already, Foster has taken advantage of an IT-Ready alumni perk, which is free access to materials and tests for other CompTIA certifications. He recently earned his CompTIA Network+ certification, and has started working on his CompTIA Security+.
“I enjoy so many different things — from databases, to cloud architecture, to hardware installation — that I have no hope of deciding exactly where I want to focus at this time,” he said. “All I know is that IT-Ready gave me this this amazingly hard decision to make and I could not be more excited for where future decisions will take me.”
Besides feeling excited about his new career path, Foster said he is grateful for IT-Ready for offering him an on-ramp to it.
“Your IT-Ready class really has been a godsend for not only my professional career, but my feeling of self-worth,” he said. “I cannot thank you enough.”