Isiah Rafos was training to be a firefighter for the U.S. Air Force when his plans went up in flames.
After he fell and severely broke his leg during a belaying exercise, Rafos was laid up for weeks recovering. The Air Force’s firefighter training program was offered just twice a year, and his superiors weren’t interested in paying Rafos to wait around for the next session. So, they offered him a choice: Pick another career path or take a medical discharge.
“And the alternatives were not good,” he said. “I took the discharge.”
Traveling back to his home of Charlotte, N.C., Rafos saw the city skyline, framed with tall office buildings.
“I said to myself that one day I’d like to work in one of those big office buildings,” he said. “But honestly, I thought I would end up as a cook in a restaurant.”
IT-Ready offers an alternative path
While searching help wanted ads online, Rafos found one for IT-Ready.
“And I went out on a limb and applied,” he said.
IT-Ready is a program of Creating IT Futures. It provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based IT education and training free of charge to admitted students. IT-Ready targets people typically under-represented in the tech industry, including displaced or underemployed workers, ethnic minorities and women.
Creating IT Futures is a workforce charity founded by CompTIA.
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.
They 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.
Technology was something Rafos had grown up with and was comfortable working with.
“I grew up with computers,” he said. “My father was a big computer guy; he showed me how to break them apart and put them back together.”
Still, he didn’t consider it as a potential career because he assumed he needed a college degree in computer science. IT-Ready demonstrated otherwise.
“It was the first day of class when I realized, ‘This is the real deal,’” Rafos said. “I thought, ‘This is an actual, serious class’ and I went on to learn everything there is to know about computers.”
Taking the lessons of IT-Ready and applying them to real life…
DiscoveryReady was founded in 2005 by a group of experienced attorneys to improve e-discovery for litigation and regulatory matters, and in the process, raise quality and lower costs. By driving efficiencies and streamlining processes, DiscoveryReady is creating new solutions for information management in legal discovery for dozens of Fortune 500 companies.
Rafos said IT-Ready’s intense focus on professional deportment served him well for his new role.
“It’s a professional atmosphere here, just like it was in class,” he said. “From being properly dressed to the manner in which you carry yourself and speak for yourself — all of that helped prepare me for the work I’m doing now.”
With long-term career interests in cybersecurity analysis or video game development, Rafos said that for now, he is focusing on learning everything he can.
“These are the first steps I need on the path to my dream,” he said.
Plus, there’s one more thing — Rafos now works in one of those high-rise Charlotte cityscape buildings he passed on his drive home from the Air Force.