Shortly before he enrolled in IT-Ready last summer, Jonathan Parsons had moved his family into the home of his mother-in-law and was working in a retail store for a mobile phone carrier.
“It was a real dead end job,” he said.
And a far cry from the kind of work Parsons knew he was capable of doing.
For 10 years, Parsons served in the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade as a signals intelligence analyst, intercepting and examining foreign communications, and relaying pertinent information to superiors for use in military strategy and operations.
Parsons enjoyed his military service immensely. His work demanded book and street smarts, and he found “catching the global bad guys” rewarding, personally and professionally.
But the work was demanding in other ways, too — such as frequent, long-term deployments to some of the world’s most dangerous places. So when Parsons and his wife decided to start their family, they agreed he needed to find a more conventional — read, safer — line of work.
So Parsons exited the Army and when other job prospects he lined up didn’t pan out, he found himself working for a mobile phone retailer, just trying to pay some bills.
“It was not what I wanted to be doing,” he said.
Parsons was looking for another job when he came across an advertisement for IT-Ready in Charlotte.
A program — and a plan
A program of Creating IT Futures, IT-Ready provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based IT education and training. IT-Ready targets people typically under-represented in the tech industry, including displaced or underemployed workers, veterans, ethnic minorities and women.
Creating IT Futures is a nonprofit IT workforce charity founded by CompTIA. TEKsystems funded the 2017 pilot class in Charlotte with local support from Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont and Charlotte Works, so that students could attend IT-Ready at no cost. This year, support from TEKsystems and Goodwill will enable Creating IT Futures to hold four IT-Ready classes in Charlotte and create a permanent home for the program in North Carolina.
During their training, IT-Ready students learn a wide range of hardware and software skills, including how to build a computer from parts, install new applications, troubleshoot problems, and set up and manage networks.
IT-Ready participants also cover critical professional comportment skills, such as workplace etiquette, communication, customer service and job interviewing. At the end of their classroom training, students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam.
Given Parsons’ extensive professional experience using computers and telecommunication devices, he found IT-Ready to be comfortable and familiar.
“They didn’t present anything that was out of the realm of understanding for me,” he said. “I did learn a lot about peripheral devices that I didn’t know, such as printers.”
Parsons earned his CompTIA A+ certification at the end of his IT-Ready experience.
Part of Parson’s IT-Ready classroom experience focused on how to look for a new job. Per his IT-Ready training, Parsons had activated his detailed and updated LinkedIn account, which mentioned that he had worked with the Army’s Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) capabilities, a hardware and software program that allows the U.S. government to glean actionable intelligence from enemy forces.
A recruiter from Quick Services LLC saw Parson’s LinkedIn account and contacted him about a senior targeting analyst position. A defense contractor, Quick Services specializes in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services, cyber security, training support, counter-terrorism training and exercises and other efforts that support the U.S. government’s defense objectives.
The new role would require Parsons to spend time in Afghanistan — but in safer parts of the country compared to where he served while in the Army, and his deployments would be less frequent and long.
He also needed DOMEX experience, a security clearance and CompTIA A+ certification — the first two he had due to his military experience, the latter of which he gained with IT-Ready.
The recruiter thought Parsons was well suited for the role.
Parsons applied and was offered a job at a salary he never — ever — would have made selling mobile phones.
Within short order, Parsons, his wife and their two-year-old son moved to Charlottesville, Va., where his new job was located.
“This is a very fulfilling work,” he said. “Most importantly, I have my family with me and I am providing for them in the way I want to.”
Parsons said he promotes IT-Ready whenever he encounters another veteran struggling with finding just the right job in the civilian workforce. And he’s grateful IT-Ready gave him the tools he needed to land just the right civilian job for himself.
“I’m in a really good place right now,” he said.