Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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November 9, 2011

A Steep Climb

Will Rivera-Fantauzzi was shorter than many of the other boys in school. But he decided to make up for it in toughness and by working hard. He carried that same individual fortitude to U.S. Navy boot camp, where one of the instructors spied leadership potential in him and made Will the leader of a cafeteria serving line over several other recruits.

After perching on a table to clean some lights, Will hopped to the floor and landed awkwardly. The pain was intense, but his drill instructor wasn’t sympathetic. "He asked me, "Do you want to be sent home? No? Then you better push through the pain.' "

Three months later, Will couldn’t walk. Finally, x-rays were taken, revealing a broken foot. The first surgery to repair the damage went fine. But the second surgery went badly — very badly. Will received a medical discharge. His dreams of a military career were over. Now what was he going to do?

Will In Uniform
That medical mistake — caused when a nurse failed to clear an I.V. tube of air —may have permanently impaired Will’s heart — but it didn’t destroy his drive. Attempting to parley his love of computers into something that could sustain him and his family, he completed a bachelor’s degree in information technology (IT).

Unfortunately, companies just weren’t impressed with his degree.

“Employers want to see certifications,” Will said. At that point, lacking the funds for any further training or education, Will reached out the Creating IT Futures Foundation, an organization he learned about on the CompTIA website.

With the help of the Foundation, Will was able to obtain several important CompTIA certifications, helping him to land a part-time IT support job in March 2011 with the U.S. Department of the Interior in Tulelake, CA.

Will’s certifications distinguished him from other candidates, said Greg Austin, Will’s supervisor in Tulelake. “I had a stack of applications, and he was at the top.”

That three-month appointment eventually led to other offers. In August 2011, Will began a position as a full-time certified IT specialist at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Battle Creek, Michigan, earning an annual full-time salary of over $50,000.

In his new role, Will is responsible for helping over 100 VA employees remain networked and trouble-free at their desktops. He’s doing something right: Less than three months into the job, Will received his first Certificate of Recognition from the medical center’s chief information officer for “outstanding customer service in support of Patient Notification Reports.”

Will feels his journey in the IT field is just beginning. (He’s currently working on his master’s degree.) But he already feels he’s accomplished much.

Said Will: “Life is a journey, full of right and wrong turns. It’s good to know you can. It’s rewarding to reach the top.” (Now see a short video of Will’s story.)

WillOnJob Will on the job at the VA: "It's good to know you can."