Tony Carmichael doesn't take lightly the importance of being well prepared in carrying out his IT duties.
A military veteran who has had to troubleshoot computer systems under direct enemy fire, Carmichael credits the success of his civilian career to his solid foundation of skills and knowledge earned through CompTIA certifications.
"Technology, especially computer technology, is constantly evolving," said Carmichael. "One must be prepared and have the basis to build on as changes occur. Core knowledge is always needed. My certifications provided a foot in the door to maintain and keep my position."
Not content to rest on 20 years of service on behalf of his country in the field of communications and computer systems control, Carmichael, 43, followed his retirement from the U.S. Air Force with CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certifications in 2009.
At the outset, post-military life might not seem too far afield. Carmichael, a resident of Sumter, S.C., now handles IT systems for a military contractor working in areas including aerospace, combat systems and marine systems.
He's had a lifelong fascination with computers since receiving his first one at age 10. That interest only grew through his schooling, including a mentor of a college professor with “ a string of certifications under his belt,” according to Carmichael.
Enticed by travel and education benefits, he enlisted in the military in 1988 and put his passion for electronics to use, eventually being deployed to Iraq. Technical troubleshooting under stressful conditions was often an understatement.
Carmichael remains steadfast, however, that without his certifications, "I would not have this nice-paying job that I presently have. As I get more certifications, my potential to excel increases," he added.
The military man expects others to follow his lead as "many veterans are finding themselves in positions dealing with the IT field, even though their backgrounds may be unrelated."
Military personnel, Carmichael said, were well equipped for such test-taking strategies and study habits required of CompTIA's industry-leading standards. Similar testing was required for military promotions, he said.
A military career might not require certifications, but a post-military career in IT certainly does, according to Carmichael.
"Without the certification, someone else with the certification can and will secure the position over you," he said. "It makes one shine above their peers."
In fact, from his relatively new perch in the civilian workforce, qualifications were often seen as secondary for job applicants.
"Having the certification would secure the interview and job by itself," Carmichael said.
Many IT roles require certification as a hiring prerequisite and the ones that don't often include a timeframe for on-the-job accreditation. Carmichael didn’t see the need for industry professionals to put off the inevitable.
"Having the certification already relieves you of the stress of trying to keep your job until you get it," he said.
Regardless of his technology-bred background, Carmichael maintained his CompTIA affiliation increased his knowledge and assured his employer they have competent personnel on the clock.
"My primary job is to repair computer systems and networks," he said. "Obtaining A+ and Network+ certifications exposed me to easily recognizing and, thus, repairing and troubleshooting problems."
"Much like a college degree, certifications go beyond a simple piece of paper," Carmichael said. "It is not always what you know, but what that piece of paper you have in your hand says that speaks for you," he said.
To others exiting the military with an eye toward a technical career, Carmichael's motto was simple: get as much training, classes and certifications as one can handle.
"I would be leagues above where I presently am had I taken my own advice a year or two before I retired from the military," he said.