It was 2013, and Ngina Baggett just had earned her associate’s degree in computer technology when she heard about IT-Ready, an eight-week tech skills training and career placement program sponsored by Creating IT Futures, the IT workforce charity of CompTIA.
She knew she had the knowledge needed to secure an entry-level IT job. But she also knew that without practical, hands-on work experience — not to mention the CompTIA A+ certification she could earn through IT-Ready — most tech employers wouldn’t give her resume a second glance.
So Baggett quit her job, gave up the apartment where she lived with her infant daughter, and moved in with her sister — just so she could attend IT-Ready.
“I definitely made some sacrifices,” she said. “Eight weeks is a long time with no income.”
When the hard work and sacrifices bear fruit
Five years later, Baggett says the sacrifices she made in 2012 have more than paid off. Now an IT coordinator for Cincinnati Public Schools, Baggett works in a high school where she supports staff, teachers and students with all of their hardware and software needs, ranging from desktop to tablet to smart phone.
“I love information technology,” she said. “I’m actually finishing up coursework for my bachelor’s degree in IT now.”
Offered completely free of charge thanks to donors and grants, IT-Ready actively recruits people who are unemployed or underemployed, as well as people underrepresented in the IT workforce, such as women and people of color.
During eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based IT-Ready training, students learn hard technical skills needed for an entry-level IT position — such as laptop and desktop assembly, how to configure different operating systems, and how to troubleshoot computers and devices.
IT-Ready also covers soft skills needed for a professional career today. Along with her peers, Baggett covered career-enhancing skills such as how to interview effectively, communicate clearly and work well with others, as well as how to craft a professional-looking resume. At the end of IT-Ready, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam.
Equipped with skills to continually advance in IT
Baggett said the soft skills training was crucial for her entire class, and that she finds herself sharing soft-skills wisdom with the high-school students she works with today.
“You have to be on time; you have to dress professionally,” she said. “I think a lot of people take these things for granted. Or they assume that just because you know someone, you don’t have to bring your A game. But this is real life, and this is what’s expected of you.”
IT-Ready also taught Baggett troubleshooting skills — which were tested by one potential employer during an interview when she was given two desktop computers experiencing 10 problems and told she had 30 minutes to solve them.
“They wanted to make sure we understood the technology and I did,” she said. “Even in my current job, if I’m not sure how to do something, I know how to go about figuring it out.“
Following graduation from IT-Ready, Baggett worked on a help desk for several years at Pomeroy, which provides IT infrastructure managed services, as well as staffing and a full range of procurement and logistics services.
Showing the world that tech is an equal opportunity employer
Because IT-Ready works diligently to attract more women and more people of color, Baggett was featured on a billboard advertising the program in Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN. You can read the article Creating IT Futures shared at the time by clicking here.
Despite the progress the IT industry is making in diversifying its workforce, Baggett often finds herself serving as a de facto ambassador for women in technology.
“The attitude I will get when I show up to fix someone’s computer — there’s this skepticism, like, ‘You’re here to fix my computer?!’” she said. “Then I fix their computer and their attitude afterward is totally different. ‘Thank you so much, you did a great job.’ It’s been a funny experience. I impress more than I disappoint.”
With a bachelor’s degree within her reach, Baggett is considering her next professional challenge, and she sees security as a possibility.
“Every company wants to protect its data and that’s not going to change,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly what way I’ll go, but I’ve got lots of options.”
Regardless of where her career takes her, Baggett said, she always will be grateful for her IT-Ready experience.
“That was one of the best opportunities I have ever had,” she said.