First Steps

After the birth of my son, it became important to me to find a career that would allow me to pay for a quality education, both in the classroom and outside of it.  I went to good public schools growing up, and when combined with my love of reading and addiction to the internet I ended up with a pretty well-rounded world view for an upper-middle class white kid from rural Texas.  I want my son to have the one aspect I lacked in my education: Experience.  That means I have to find a job that pays.  That means, at 34, I need a career change.

A quick scan of the local businesses and organizations showed a severe lack of opportunities in the tech field, so I had to expand my net considerably.  Thanks to Indeed, I found a job in a town an hour away.  It was only part-time, and the pay was lousy, but by stretching my teacher pay over the summer I was already prepared to be hurting for a little bit.  The draw to the job was the opportunity for experience and the chance to learn from someone one-on-one.

The results have been obvious.  I have gotten the chance to handle situations that those in a help desk environment never get to touch: End-user support, server configuration, and infrastructure planning and implementation on a level that I’ve no doubt will come in handy when I look for another job in the future.  This is the sort of experience that’s invaluable to someone starting out in a field, and I do not take this opportunity likely.

Paper Sharks

My lessons started early with a new term right in the interview: “Paper Shark.”  It refers to people in the industry that have little actual skill at anything aside from passing a test, and  I had flooded my resume in all the certs I had earned and was going to earn.  The guy I was interviewing with (soon-to-be my boss) pointed out that I didn’t need more than half of them.  It’s dangerous to have a reputation like that in an industry whose upward mobility is based heavily on your ability to prove your knowledge with certifications.

The take-away is two-fold:

  1. Don’t saturate your resume with certificates that don’t relate to the job you’re applying for.  Throwing a dozen certs on your resume is going to look a mile wide and an inch deep.
  2. Be mindful of which certs you’re pursuing and why- have a goal!  Anyone can get CompTIA’s Linux+ cert in 6 months… getting your MCSE, though, is a bit more of a time investment.

There’s quality in diversity, but there’s also quality in quality.

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