Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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January 22, 2013

All Fired Up: IT Apprentice Finds His Home in Security

For several years after high school, Theo Hysell, now 26, worked for a shipping company stacking boxes.

It was good honest work. “But you can only do that for so long before your brain starts to melt.” The Minneapolis native needed a larger challenge.

That’s when he tried out for and was accepted into the IT-Ready Apprentice Program, an initiative launched by Creating IT Futures in 2012. The program — for no cost to those selected — included eight weeks of training in information technology (IT) and professional skills. Minneapolis / St. Paul was one of the program’s first pilot locations.

Theo didn’t know what to expect. All he knew to do was show up every day for eight weeks and try to soak in the material. Training covered a wide range of computer hardware and software know-how. Building your own computer was one of many hands-on requirements.

One of the program’s biggest challenges was in-class preparation for job interviews. The instructor set up for each student a mock group interview at the front of the classroom. 

“That thing lights a fire under your butt!” said Theo. “It was really good prep work.”

Upon graduating from the program, Theo sat for the two exams that make up the CompTIA A+ certification — and passed with flying colors.

Then came an actual job interview, with SecureConnect Inc., a provider of server security for companies around the world.

Theo was nervous, but he handled the questions well — already prepared by being in the hot seat in class. He was hired on in September, 2012, to work on the company’s incident response team, configuring solutions for clients even before problems develop.

When he’s not online or on the phone with a client, he’s working with his colleagues to learn the company’s latest security protocols. Meanwhile, he’s been adding additional IT certifications (such as CompTIA Security+) to his technical repertoire.

And his work at SecureConnect has started a bit of an IT-Ready legacy: This past December, two more IT-Ready graduates joined the company’s workforce.
“IT-Ready has given us an advantage for the one percent of the one percent (of job applicants) that we’re looking for,” said Russ Staiger, supervisor of SecureConnect’s incident response team. “Theo was very prepared.”

“The combination of SecureConnect's desire to continually challenge and educate their employees along with Theo’s energetic attitude and willingness to take on multiple responsibilities and continuous learning made this an excellent fit for both organizations,” added Kathleen Brennan, IT-Ready's employer recruiter for the Twin Cities area.

Recently Theo had the chance to speak with the latest IT-Ready class in the Twin Cities.  He fielded a number of questions about his transition to IT work with a message that is nothing but encouraging:

“Without a doubt, this is the best job I have ever had,” said Theo. “It’s the most challenging, the most frustrating, but at the end of the day, it is the most rewarding. I definitely see myself having an extremely successful career doing network security.”

Brant Ingalsbe, who manages IT-Ready in Minnesota, said Theo’s visit to the classroom inspired everyone.

“His confidence and immense job satisfaction reassured those who still worried about what will happen when they try transitioning into a new IT career,” Ingalsbe said.

Added Theo: “(IT-Ready) will get you a foot in the door, and you have a bunch of people behind you, supporting you.”