“Better late than never!”
Updated: Feb 3
This phrase was coined by Geoffrey Chaucer, back in 1386 from the story The Yeoman’s Tale. While this saying was originally
“For better than never is late; never to succeed would be too long a period.” 633 years later, it still applies!
To say I got a late start in I.T. is an understatement. I have spent the majority of my life working dead end jobs. Most of the jobs I have had are just that, JOBS! I spent the majority of my life working a job instead of working towards a career. At 36 years old, and unsatisfied with my current role in the workforce I started to think that getting started on a fulfilling and engaging career was long overdue! So I decided to “work my way up” and get out of the current rut I was in, here’s how that went.
In June of 2019 I applied for a position in my current company, which took 3 weeks to tell me “I wasn’t the right candidate.” I was absolutely crushed. Getting turned down for a job at another company would have been understandable, but being turned down for a promotion in a company where I had proven myself time and again was more than I could bear. So I did something about it. If I couldn’t get an opportunity in my current organization, I’d start working on a career in a different field altogether. One that constantly challenged me, and required me to learn and adapt every day.
All my life I had been interested in computers and technology. Ever since I watched my big brother unbox an original Nintendo NES ( yes I am that old) but I never really thought I was capable of pursuing a career in information technology. I had recently built a new computer and I was very proud of it, started playing PC games again, and realized how much I missed this stuff. So when I was turned down for my promotion, I started researching IT, the online community and all of the YouTube channels that come along with it.
This lead me to reaching out to some of these channels, to pose the most original question ever “Am I too old to start a career in I.T.?” Yes, I am being sarcastic. People ask this question all the time about many careers, and it was a long shot that anyone would reply. You can imagine how surprised I was to get a response from I.T. Career Questions. My question was answered overnight, and it was positive and encouraging and it changed my life.
I am 36 years old, with 0 experience in I.T. but all of a sudden that didn’t seem to matter!
I have been working towards breaking into the industry ever since.
So where did I start?
Well, at ground 0. I looked into all of the options on “How to get into I.T.” and the general consensus was as follows:
Get Certified, Gain Experience, Get a Degree, Get an Entry Level IT Job.
Attaining a degree wasn’t an option, so I decided to go for certifications. I decided to start at rock bottom and pursue the CompTIA ITF+ certification. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that it was a good choice for me. Even though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who plans to take the A+, I needed to see if I had any aptitude for this industry and a breadth exam seemed like the best choice at the time. Especially considering I am married and have a family so I needed their buy in on this.
Starting cheap, with little risk was my best bet. And I loved it!
I learned so much and soaked everything in over a 4 week period of studies, scheduled the exam, took it and PASSED! Honestly, I know how little value this cert has in the I.T. world. I know that this is probably the lowest certification out there for this field, but the feeling that I got when I accomplished a first step toward this ultimate goal was worth every penny. And I went on from there to pursue the A+ (220-1001 exam passed!) and Project+ certifications which I am currently working towards finishing up.
Certifications are, aside from the cost, relatively easy to pursue. You have 12 months on the CompTIA vouchers and Licensed Training so, you can essentially gain a cert a year if you want to drag it out. Even longer if you just get the book! But that gives way to another problem, certs or no everyone wants experience on your resume to get almost any job. Which poses the question:
“How do I get a job that requires experience, without having experience, because I need experience to get the job that will give me the experience I need to get the job I want!?”
Seems like a pretty awful cycle, and it is tough to break. To make matters worse, I am now going through certification training and working full time. What to do? Well, I went back to the community and looked into it. “Network with IT professionals, and pursue volunteer opportunities and internships.” Well, it looks like I had some work cut out for me.
Turns out, Networking is more than TCP/IP. It’s a soft skill, and I am very glad that I happen to be blessed with it. I began relentlessly seeking leads, pestering anyone I knew in the I.T. world, complete strangers even who happened to be unfortunate enough to mention to me that they were in I.T. we’re soon agreeing to connect with me on LinkedIn. I even got a guy to agree to connect with me on LinkedIn who told me he was a systems admin, while I was delivering him a pizza (yeah, another side hustle to help pay for project+) I left no opportunity unexploited.
From all of this, I got a total of 2 people willing to give me a chance to get hands on experience. And that, was more than enough.
The first person I connected with happened to be a Sr. Network Manager for a construction company. He has been in Networking since the late 90’s, and is a master at his craft. He manages a wireless network at a local non profit as a volunteer, and was looking for someone to be trained as a backup. We met briefly and spoke for a little bit, and he offered me the opportunity to help him install a wireless AP. I showed up, worked hard, asked the right questions and I have been on call with him ever since. Whenever there is a chance to work on anything with him I drop whatever I am doing and I go learn and do my best to add value. He has become a huge supporter of my journey and I can’t begin to express my gratitude for him and his investment in me.
The second person is a well known and respected member of the custom PC building community. I haven’t asked his permission to share his name, so I’m leaving it out. He owns a custom PC shop near my town, and after months of pestering him he agreed to allow me to shadow him at his shop every Saturday. The shop is absolutely out of this world, extreme PC builds made with world class craftsmanship is something I get to watch and learn about first hand. I am tested weekly on certain areas of knowledge, and he is teaching me how to take what I know and make it work in a business environment. “Time is money, don’t waste time doing something you don’t need to.” Becoming a more efficient problem solver is something that is being instilled in me. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity this man has given me, and do my best to add value to his shop whenever I am there.
So that’s where I am, I started this in July of 2019, and in the past 6 months I’ve managed to change my situation from hopeless to hopeful. I have certifications completed and pending, I have 2 opportunities to gain experience, I have networked to open up more opportunities in the future. I even managed to get an article published on a well known IT Website as you are reading now!
Do everything you can, leave no opportunity unexploited, be relentless, be persistent, add value, and be passionate about what you want to do and people will respond to that well. It all starts when you decide it is time, and if you got a late start like me, it’s ok “Better late than never!”
Article written by: Antone Andrade