Teela Moua knew he had an aptitude for technology. The problem was, he had nothing to prove that fact. Just his word.
“I love to build and spec out PCs,” he said. “I was always a tech-savvy person, and had been building computers for years, but I never pursued a career in it. I always knew I could excel in technology, but when I was younger, I decided it wasn't the career path for me at the time.”
Which was how Moua found himself holding an associate’s degree in criminal justice and working as a technician for an HVAC company. The work was okay, but he didn’t want to troubleshoot issues related to thermostats, heat exchangers, evaporator coils or condensers; he wanted to troubleshoot hardware and software.
He was looking for a new job online when he came across an ad for IT-Ready.
“I decided to just give it a shot,” he said. “I needed an opportunity and my foot in the door.”
Moua applied to the program and was accepted for the spring 2017 class in Minnesota.
A program of Creating IT Futures, IT-Ready is an eight-week course that prepares participants to pass the CompTIA A+ certification exam, and equips them with the knowledge and skills to secure an entry-level position in IT. Creating IT Futures is a workplace charity founded by CompTIA, the leading IT industry trade association.
IT-Ready is offered completely free of charge, and the program actively seeks to recruit participants who are displaced workers or under-employed, or who belong to a population under-represented in the IT workforce, such as women and people of color.
During eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based training, Moua learned both hard technical and soft professional skills.
On the technical side, he learned such things as laptop and desktop assembly, how to install and configure different operating systems, and how to troubleshoot computers and devices such as smart phones and printers.
On the soft skills front, Moua learned career-enhancing attributes such as how to interview effectively, communicate clearly and work well with others, and how to craft a professional-looking resume.
Moua said the fact IT-Ready offered participants the chance to complete the CompTIA A+ certification exam was especially appealing.
“I would receive training for IT jobs and certification,” he said. “The program provided me with the opportunity to go into this career path without any experience in IT. It doesn't matter how tech-savvy you are, how passionate, or how fast you can learn. If you don’t have any job experience or a connection in that field, nobody is going to hire you. So obtaining something that said, ‘I know what I am talking about’ was very important.”
Like so many other IT-Ready graduates, Moua said he found the soft skills training just as critical as the hard technical skills.
“IT-Ready helped me get the connections and extra knowledge I needed to interview correctly with technical prowess,” he said. “I was able to show up to interviews and understand the questions they were asking me. I was able to respond effectively because our instructor went over and beyond and taught us more than what we needed to know.”
Upon graduating from IT-Ready and earning his CompTIA A+ certification, Moua secured full-time employment with CompuCom in downtown Minneapolis. There, he works as a network engineer dealing with VPN certificates, firewall validations, change requests/configurations, network hardware, and other miscellaneous issues that arise.
Moua said the practical experience in network engineering has shaped his career goals.
“In the beginning, I was interested in information security, but after working as a network engineer, switching and routing now pique my interests,” he said. “I already have plans to obtain more certifications to improve on my abilities as a network engineer.”
While Moua isn’t entirely sure what kind of IT work he will be doing in five years, he is certain about this: IT-Ready will play a role in it.
“IT-Ready allowed me to get my foot in the door where I feel like I can create what I want to be doing in five years,” he said. “At this time, I'm being open to all the paths I can take in IT.”