Inspiring Success

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April 20, 2015

IT-Ready grad turns beloved hobby into exciting new career path

AddisonCooperAddison Cooper can’t remember a time when computers weren’t a big part of his life.

“I have a passion for computers,” he said. “I have built them, worked on them, and played on them my entire life. But I never could get my foot in the door, to get a career working with computers.”

That changed when Cooper stumbled across an ad on Indeed.com for /developing-programs">IT-Ready, an intensive, eight-week-long IT education and training program offered by the Creating IT Futures Foundation.

Offered completely free of charge by experienced IT instructors in a classroom setting, IT-Ready teaches students skills that equip them for entry-level positions in the IT industry — such as building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems and setting up and managing networks. Students also learn softer professional skills such as communication, customer service and job interviewing.

IT-Ready targets individuals under-represented in the IT industry, including women, veterans, their spouses and their caregivers, and ethnic minorities. It also seeks to re-train under-employed and displaced workers for new careers. 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 company in the role of help-desk or technical support. These internships usually lead to permanent, full-time employment.

Prior to enrolling in IT-Ready, Cooper sold and repaired mobile phones — work he didn’t find very satisfying.

“There was never a job well done,” he said. “If I sold 20 phones and fixed 10 one month, then the next month I had to sell 22 and fix 12 or I was underperforming. Unrealistic growth was expected and when I met those goals, I just set myself up for harder goals the next month. And while cell phones are technology, it wasn’t what I really loved, computers. I wanted a career, not a job.”

When Cooper’s wife, Heather, a resource manager for the Air Force, was relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, for her work, Cooper began looking for work, too, which is how he found IT-Ready’s ad.

“To be honest, I was skeptical. It seemed too good to be true,” he said. “What made me decide to apply was I did some research, looked up the history of the foundation and saw that IT-Ready was actually an amazing opportunity. Right in front of me, I had the chance to get certification and do something that I love. So I did it.”

Cooper said he loved the IT-Ready learning environment — not only was he surrounded by peers of all ages, colors and professional backgrounds, but the students were collaborative and dedicated to helping everyone succeed.

“It was just a great experience, helping others develop skills I was already strong in, and allowing others to help me develop skills where I felt weak,” he said. “Our group was very strong and that promoted everyone’s growth.”

Although Cooper was familiar with much of the hardware and software material covered during the course, he said he was amazed by what he learned about troubleshooting.

“I had worked on computers and cell phones for years, but it turns out the way I went about solving problems was all wrong,” he said. “My instructor, Adam Turner, not only taught me a ton of tips and tricks to solve problems more easily and efficiently, he taught me how to follow a pattern to make solving problems more strategic. My repairs are way more focused and efficient now.”

After graduating from IT-Ready with his CompTIA A+ certification in hand, Cooper now works as an IT technician for Team Software in Omaha.

“I have been lucky enough to get a role being an office repair man,” he said. “I do everything from running cabling to mounting hardware including screens and projectors to backing up batteries. I fix any issues pertaining to PC hardware, software, printers, TVs — installing software, updating licenses, creating work stations for new employees, handling computers that are going out of warranty.”

As long as his wife remains active duty, Cooper anticipates needing to relocate periodically for her career. And that’s OK, he said. Thanks to IT-Ready, he has the skills and credentials needed to find new professional growth opportunities in the IT industry.

“IT-Ready not only got my foot in the door, it has given me the opportunity for growth with additional certifications,” he said. “I always wanted to do this type of work. IT-Ready gave me the chance to do what I love.”

IT-Ready is offered in Minneapolis / St. Paul by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA. It’s also offered in permanent sites in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Dallas; and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, in partnership with the non-profit organization, Per Scholas, and in temporary, “pop up” locations in Omaha, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.