Journey for an IT Job (Switching Careers)

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stin187

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Mar 29, 2024
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Figured I may as well document my journey switching careers into IT and see what other folks think of the approach, or what others have experienced along the way. A bit of background first ...

I was in the music industry for 20 years and a lighting designer and programmer as well as a systems/network admin for lighting and video rigs on some pretty major world tours (at the end at least). After the pandemic showed me I enjoy being home more than living on a tour bus I decided to change things up a bit. In order to keep the lights on I've ended up doing HVAC work for the past few years but I really don't enjoy it. I've always enjoyed technology and with the subtle push from a few friends and a very supportive wife I've made the decision to get into IT professionally and do something I enjoy for a living.

I've been working on getting my CompTIA A+ certification to show a base level of proficiency and supplement a lack of higher education. I passed my Core 1 exam yesterday and am planning on having the Core 2 done by this coming weekend. Hoping that will open the door to a few interviews for some entry level positions and I can grow from there. The salaries seem to be a pretty even trade from mid level HVAC to entry level IT so I can make that part work for a bit. The main interest is the ability to be perpetually learning and growing in a field I enjoy.

Anyone else here currently on or thinking about beginning this type of journey? Fingers crossed it all works out ha!
 

stin187

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Mar 29, 2024
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Just passed my Core 2 exam! I now have my first IT certification with the CompTIA A+. Now to spend a few days updating the resume and website to add the homelab and some skills and hopefully I can snag a few interviews and really get the ball rolling. I'm very excited at the possibilities and look forward to much more learning.
 

Tech Junky

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Oct 26, 2023
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A+ will get you a basic job in tech. It's a start though.

Do you have any special skills? Any focus on a particular aspect of tech? What kind of salary are you targeting?
 

stin187

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Mar 29, 2024
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A+ will get you a basic job in tech. It's a start though.

Do you have any special skills? Any focus on a particular aspect of tech? What kind of salary are you targeting?
Great! A basic job is right where I want to start so I can continue to learn and get more certs and opportunities.

I did a bunch of networking and hardware during my time on the road with the concert stuff. Haven't really locked down a specialty yet. Thinking of getting the network + and the security + to get the foundation documented and go from there.

Salary target at the start is 45-55k
 

Tech Junky

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I went through the whole A+/N+/S+ route back in 2007 before narrowing down where I wanted to be. I thought well, maybe MSFT might be the route as it was still popular back then but, it seemed like every other idiot admin had one and the salary vs daily idiots you have to put up with just didn't make sense.

I already had a keen sense of networking so I focused on Cisco as my gateway to less idiots and better salary. Nailed down the CCNA fairly easily and that didn't boos the salary as much but, opened different doors than your basic tech support gigs that still suck in terms of dealing with a different type of idiot. So, I pushed forward with the CCNP and that's where things got interesting in terms of jobs / salary.

Let's put it this way....
Comptia trio - ~$40K
CCNA - about the same
CCNP - 80K
CCIE Written + experience - 100-130K

Of course this all depends on your market too. I had some resistance on the first 130K job where they wanted a discount but, I held firm as the transition to that company would mean moving from one market to another and selling / buying real estate. So, I made them pay a premium to get a yes for the inconvenience.

If you come up with a game plan now it will save you tome and money chasing things down. Comptia is low hanging fruit though but, it does provide a good foundation to leverage over someone book smart with an associates / bachelors.

Cisco Certification Forums

For me the exams were a PITA to just get out of the way and lock down the right job. That's when I discovered I had ADD which explained a lot of my issues in school from elementary onwards. Went and saw the doc and got RX for Adderall and it made a huge difference with the exams and recall of how they worded things. I was then able to knock out the 4 exams within a month and move on to actually doing the work in a new company.

On the flip side ADD / meds can be a double edged sword as the agitation factor goes up if you don't take a break now and then. Being focused for extended periods with a routine schedule has some drawbacks to the situation. I picked up one job that wasn't quite as rigorous and had a ton of travel instead to kind of reset things a bit and it helped getting out of the M-F 9-5 world. Working for a services company has some perks to getting your hands dirty with a variety of different tech though you can do the same in a data center environment as well.

There's a lot of different directions you can go in though within tech. It comes down to how you handle people and how often you want to deal with them. There are niche's though where you can find solitude and focus or you can be the face of the company and deal with all of the noise everyday.
 
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T_Minus

Build. Break. Fix. Repeat
Feb 15, 2015
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My suggestion is to just start DIYing, getting your hands dirty and exploring AS MUCH AS YOU CAN before you start taking on jobs. When we hire someone with 5 years or less experience it's very noticeable they haven't ran into enough problems or try to toe the line when someone who's been in the industry for a long time understands sometimes that maybe isn't the best way even if it says it is... or that doing x and y together will not work, even though it should work.

I don't think you have anything to stress at the 40-60k\salary range but 90k+ we really start to pay attention how longs thing take, even if you do it 100% correct.

I know this isn't groundbreaking or anything new, but if you're going into a new field, and you think "I wonder if they can tell" the answer is yes, we can tell based on the questions you ask that you are new, even if you are proficient with the technical aspects. Don't overshoot your skills\experience because if they want someone experienced and you're technically capable but not experienced it ends up they made a mistake, and you require more hand holding than the rest of the team, that's noticeable too. Plenty companies hire and train up, that's my suggestion for the entry level job... get in there, put out some fires, get used to it all.


@Tech Junky yikes, where are those salaries at? Does not sound like California.
 
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Tech Junky

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California
Is like NY for salaries because of inflated COL. For the same skills in CA I would be demanding 3X more as the market has funny money to play with when it comes to salary. NY would probably be looking at 5X those numbers.

It's all relative to COL / market as I said before. It's just my experience to give an idea of the jumps between different levels of certs. Also, I don't have a state income tax to deal with which adds another 5-10% of equity in other states that do have one.
 
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ccie4526

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Jan 25, 2021
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I know this isn't groundbreaking or anything new, but if you're going into a new field, and you think "I wonder if they can tell" the answer is yes, we can tell based on the questions you ask that you are new, even if you are proficient with the technical aspects. Don't overshoot your skills\experience because if they want someone experienced and you're technically capable but not experienced it ends up they made a mistake, and you require more hand holding than the rest of the team, that's noticeable too. Plenty companies hire and train up, that's my suggestion for the entry level job... get in there, put out some fires, get used to it all.
This right here. Experience is key. I'm working with a bunch of folks who allegedly passed their CCNAs, sure it'll get them in the door, but I'm having to teach them what the real world is really like. I'll turn them loose on a problem, and after 4+ hours they're still trying to figure it out.... when I figured it out within like 10 minutes, and already have the fix queued up and ready to copypasta, and then have to go through the whole process of how I figured out the problem and how I came up with the solution. 40% of the time, they actually learn from it. We just won't talk about the other 60%....

So yeah, get your hands dirty. Several times over.

Time for me to dig out the 25 Year CCIE logo and replace my 20 Year logo. Interesting side note... when I passed my CCIE, Cisco had just announced the CCNA and CCNP programs, but didn't have any of the exam process ready. Yeah, I'm an old networking fart. Vampire taps for the win!
 

Tech Junky

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That's only half the battle as you stated. The other half have tons of experience and no cert or they have both. There's also the crowd that is book smart and lack common sense.

The best advice is that Cisco tells you what it wants when you enter commands or sift through logs. It's pretty straight forward IRL to figure out the issue of you take your time. As time passes though you get quicker recall of what the trigger might be to narrow down the solution.

R/S is the foundation that's broad but, it's what everything else is built off of. Without it none of the other stuff works.

There's also engineers that are conceptual and other that are ops. The conceptual ones sometimes miss the basics of making changes and wonder why their stuff doesn't work when the ops that are knee deep daily can spot the issue right away. Some get multiple IE badges for sport it seems or maybe it's ego? Spending 10K on labs to me doesn't make much sense when it comes to daily functions. But, the quick and dirty for renewing things is the written exams vs diverging into other options as they are straight forward without the fluff you see in others. Cisco exams though are a racket kind of like selling Costco memberships after you've been doing it for awhile.
 

stin187

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Mar 29, 2024
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I thankfully have the mind and temperament for problem solving. 20 years going around from arena to arena across the globe gets you pretty accustomed to thinking on your feet. My hope is that with a few certifications and a decent resume and website I can get myself into a situation where I can showcase my talents and grow and learn. It's an interesting place to be changing things up career wise at this point in my life but I'm very excited for what the future may hold.
 

ccie4526

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R/S is the foundation that's broad but, it's what everything else is built off of. Without it none of the other stuff works.
That is precisely what I tell everyone who comes to me asking if they should go down the wireless path or the voice path, etc., etc.... If you don't know route/switch, you don't know the basics of ISO layers 1-4, and if you don't know that, then how are you going to know how all the higher level stuff is supposed to work?

On conceptual vs operations, fully agree with you there. Fortunately I have a mindset and am in a position where I can do both.... and that goes back to being able to see and understand the big picture, and then being able to narrow down to one specific device, and understand how what I do on that one device can affect the entire enterprise. In my case, it just happens to be the worlds largest and most automated beer brewery. :cool: And from running a broadband wireless ISP in a small town where I was the only engineer.
 
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Tech Junky

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how are you going to know how all the higher level stuff is supposed to work?
I've run into that many times w/ PEBCAK IE's that specialized in say Security but, didn't know R/S at all and wondered why their changes didn't work. For me though dealing with the security stuff is like having dyslexia as everything gets inverted.

I tend to deal more with the WAN side of things though as apparently there's a lack of people that understand it? I've never really been interested in the LAN side as it tends to either work or not. But, there's a bunch of different mechanisms in play to tune it. Being a bit of a merc for awhile I've had tons of exposure to different approaches by different engineers though and it's intriguing sometimes to see things implemented. Most of the companies I've had my hands in though are telco providers and way back when MSO's, when DOCSIS was becoming a thing.

Exposure and experience though make life easier when jumping into a foreign network and deciphering what's going on w/o wasting much time. Something you won't find many people doing.
 
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ccie4526

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Exposure and experience though make life easier when jumping into a foreign network and deciphering what's going on w/o wasting much time. Something you won't find many people doing.
I spent a lot of time as an engineer with a channel partner, and this is what I enjoyed the most. Troubleshooting the massively ugly legacies that were left by former employees or vendors and making the determination on the best steps forward.
 
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Peter Blanchard

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I thankfully have the mind and temperament for problem solving. 20 years going around from arena to arena across the globe gets you pretty accustomed to thinking on your feet. My hope is that with a few certifications and a decent resume and website I can get myself into a situation where I can showcase my talents and grow and learn. It's an interesting place to be changing things up career wise at this point in my life but I'm very excited for what the future may hold.
Problem solving is good. It's important in IT.

I've been asked in interviews about problems solved and the techniques used. First time, "I just solved the problem". These days I'd reference problem solving techniques in addition.

If nothing else, you need to properly understand the problem to solve it. Incomplete understanding can lead to failure.
 
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stin187

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Mar 29, 2024
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Thinking of going for either the network + or the security + next. My thought is that those three will show a foundation and then I can after more specialized learning once the basics are covered. Does this seem like a good plan or are there other things I should be considering?
 

Tech Junky

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should be considering?
Already noted above.

You need to consider where you want to end up whether Networking or somewhere else?

Not too many things want/need a S+ though. It's a handy personal knowledge kind of thing. If you're aiming for network security there are better options like CEH / CISSP / etc.

If you're aiming for something cushy then maybe aim at MSFT / servers / infrastructure

If you want to specialize in something maybe we can make a recommendation. Most major vendors offer certs for their products but the fundamentals are the same. Getting into the nuanced things like Alcatel / Nokia / F5 / etc. will feel different in how to manage them vs bouncing around between Cisco / Juniper.

Just looking at the current Cisco exams seems like they've changed things up since I last bothered with one. Apparently now you can get a CCNP for $750 / 2 exams vs 4 exams @ $150 and maybe some other nuances.
 

stin187

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Mar 29, 2024
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You need to consider where you want to end up whether Networking or somewhere else?
An entry level job with no specialties is the goal currently. Step number 1 is to get out of 140F attics and off of 100F rooftops and into a basic entry level gig.

Once that is complete then I can take some time and decide which path I want to peruse and what special education and training will come with that.

This isn't about where I want to end up in the long run but rather about getting in on the ground floor and figuring out the specifics later.

With that in mind are either of those certification worthwhile or is there somewhere else I should be looking to get my foot in the door and land some interviews for basic entry level jobs.
 
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Tech Junky

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You can land a entry level position w/o any certs. Look at the local cable / telco co's and pick up a tech support position. It gets you off the roof and behind a desk and pays some of the bills. If you work the late shift it give you plenty of time to read books for exams.