Taking computers from a hobby, to a
job, to a career has been an interesting journey for the
relatively short period I have been doing it and not a day
goes by where I don’t learn something new. Given the speed
of change within the industry, I doubt that will ever change
either and I’m glad.
I bought myself my first computer in
May of 1995 at the suggestion of two friends. Mike was a
full time computer professional and Dave was an avid gamer
who I worked with at the power plant, but both suggested I
would love it.
I was wishy-washy about laying out
nearly $3000.00 for a brand new computer system and didn’t
purchase one “intentionally.” Had I really been smart about
it, I would have waited for Mike to go with me to get one,
since he was the computer pro. I had recently filed for
divorced and was down and out and walking through a large
retail outlet around the time of my 26th birthday
when I decided to go for it on impulse.
I bought a brand name model system
486/66, with Windows for Workgroups installed on it, which
as it would turn out, was one of the late 90’s worst brand
name computer system hardware manufacturers. (Let’s just say
they made Pretty Bad computer systems and leave it at that.)
And thus the story really begins.
Having to have Mike consistently help
me over the phone from his apartment troubleshoot the system
led to me getting more and more confident in what it was he
was having me do. I decided to lookup some books on computer
hardware around Christmastime 1997 when I purchased a new
Pentium 200 system. During my investigation I found out
about the A+ certification run by COMPTIA. I asked Mike
about it and he really didn’t have much information on it,
but he did point me to the COMPTIA web site.
By this time, I was helping friends and
members of my family with their computer systems for things
like memory upgrades and peripherals and I felt that if I
was going to buy books to learn more about computer systems
and hardware, I should buy books that centered on the
certification. The secondary idea that I had at the time was
the company I was working for, the major power producer for
southern New England, was posting jobs for technical support
people. I thought that if I could hone my skills and
abilities and gain this certification, I might be able to
move out of the power plant and into the corporate center
where jobs in the computer field were centered for the
For the better part of 1998 I studied
the materials in the A+ books I had purchased and continued
to do more and more side work for family and friends and now
customers of a small part-time business I started doing for
things such as computer repair and upgrades. In the fall of
that year I took and passed both parts of the A+ exam and
obtained the certification.
Since I wanted to keep going, I looked
toward the Microsoft field of exams as I began to polish up
my resume for my employer. Since I was unsure about the
Microsoft Certified Professional program and I wasn’t really
“in the field” as of yet, I took a look at the exam that
corresponded to Windows 95, as I was most familiar with it.
My friend Mike again helped me as best he could by asking
around where he worked, but most of the people who worked
with him at the university had college degrees and not
certifications, so again, the best he could offer at the
time was direction to the web site.
In the meantime my employer had thrown
me a curveball. Human Resources had rejected all three of my
applications due to the fact that I did not meet the minimum
education requirements of the postings. Since I didn’t want
to be discouraged at the time, I told myself it was because
the job was higher level than the hardware certification I
had recently gained. I told myself I would fair better after
landing the Microsoft Certified Professional certification.
I purchased a study guide for the
70-064 Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Windows 95
certification exam and read it from cover to cover while
building, tweaking, and trashing and rebuilding my home
system. Three months later, in the second week of January of
1999 I obtained my Microsoft Certified Professional
certification (MCP) on Windows 95 and applied for two newly
posted level one jobs at my company.
Human Resources cut me down again. Not
the hiring manager for the department, but human resources.
Worse yet, they returned my receipt copy of my application
with a rejection notice. (Efficient, yet cold.) I was a
little more determined this time. I felt that I have proved
(if to no one else, myself) that I had taken the company’s
(and my own) initiative to “improve yourself, in all ways,
both in your current job and beyond it” by taking on these
tasks of the past year on my own. I was adamant now. I
wanted the hiring manager to tell me I wasn’t qualified, not
someone sitting at the human resources front desk.
Because I worked a rotating shift job I
was able to go to corporate headquarters during their “9 to
5” workday and ask to speak with someone. The conversation
that I had spoke volumes to their attitudes and direction in
both the Human Resources department and the company as a
I got the standard, “you do not have
the minimum qualifications for the job” defense when I told
the woman about all the strives I had made in both my past
nine years with the company and in the past two years
working on the side and most recently with obtaining the two
certifications. I even showed her the personal track I had
outlined for myself, intending to gain the entire Microsoft
Certified Systems Engineer certification by years end. I
also stated that I wasn’t going to “corner cut” by using the
70-064 exam I had passed. I intended to do it by starting
off after the 70-073 Implementing and Supporting Microsoft
Windows NT4 workstation exam.
The woman looked at me as if I had
lobsters coming out of my ears. She had absolutely no idea
what I was talking about, and yet, she was the one rejecting
my application before the manager was ever getting the
opportunity to see it.
Irritated, I asked, “what do I need to
do, who do I need to speak with, to be able to arrange a
time to speak with the hiring manager”
I was told, unequivocally, that if
anyone did not have the minimum qualifications for the job
posting, it was her job to rubber stamp the applications and
send them back.
She then tried to soften the blow to me
by suggesting that if these postings were something that I
truly wished to pursue within the company, that I might want
to consider taking a night class to gain the required
That was the last straw for me. It was
one thing, perhaps, for this person to not fully understand
the certifications I had gained, but I was incensed that she
was clueless to my current situation.
I asked her, “Do you know what my
current job is here at this company?”
She only answered after glancing at my
resume. “Power Plant Equipment Operator”
I then asked her, “Could you quickly
give me a five second, ten-thousand foot overview of my job
description and what it entails?”
She actually could not, at least not
off the top of her head. So I helped her out by explaining
that I was working to keep power flowing to the power
grid, so that a portion of our 1.7 million customers could
have electrical power. I also explained that it was a
7x24x365 operation and that I worked a rotating shift along
with every other operations employee at the power station,
including the shift supervisors, and that it was just like
that at all ten of the power stations in our system.
“So tell me,” I asked “How should I go
about these night classes that you suggest? Would you care
to inform the Plant Supervisor that I wish to embark on some
night courses as part of the “Improve Yourself” effort that
the company was sponsoring and that I would need to be on
day shift only for the next couple of years?”
She was quiet, but I wasn’t through.
“If you don’t even know enough about
the jobs that are posting and the status of the applicants
that are putting in for them, who are you to make the
decisions of who gets the interviews and who doesn’t”
“That’s my job. This is what I am
supposed to do. I am one of the managers of Human Resources”
I told her that she wasn’t qualified
for her job if she couldn't describe my current position and
realize that I couldn't take the course of action that she
had suggested as far as "improving" myself and I walked out of the Human Resource office.
I went home, posted my resume on an
internet job board, and ordered an Implementing and
Supporting Microsoft Windows NT4 workstation exam guide from
an online retailer.
Two weeks later I had received four
phone calls, three interviews, and one job offer, which I
After nine years as an employee for
this one company, the last seven of which were joyless, I
found myself looking forward to going to work for a change.
I was going in with a two week notice.
Since that day much has changed, both
personally and in the technology field.
I did gain that MCSE by the end of the
year. I also changed jobs three more times. My current
resting place? I am a Technical Account Manager for
I have never yet set a technical book
down for very long. I have continued to learn new things,
both in the technology field and outside of it, every single
I now earn more money than I would have
had I stayed at the power plant, even if you figure all of
the overtime in. I sleep at night, for the most part, server
I have obtained some other
certifications, mostly other COMPTIA ones, a Novell CNA on 4.1
and a small handful of third party ones.
In every single job change, I have had
more than one job offer and almost every hiring manager, in both
jobs I accepted, ones that never were offered formally to me and even the ones I declined, commented on
my personal determination in continuing to educate myself.
What a wonderful departure from what I had been used to in
While the economy may have slowed, and
job changes are less frequent for all, myself included, the
technology changes do not. If I want to be part of the
change, part of the future and not the past, I need to
change with it.
I’ve upgraded my Microsoft Certified
Systems Engineer certification to the Windows 2000 track and
I did it under the early achiever timeline.
I grabbed the new Microsoft Certified
Systems Administrator (MCSA) certification as one of the
5000 charter members, as it was only one additional test for
And I did it all because I wanted to,
not because I had to.
I do it for a career that I am happy to
have gotten involved in, for a job that pays fairly well for
the amount of work I put into it, all for a hobby that I