When her post-retirement career didn't work out as planned, Navy veteran Mellisa Stroman trained with New Horizons of Southern California to earn IT certifications and get the IT instructor job she really wanted.
Stroman worked in IT nearly her entire Navy career while raising two children with her husband, also a Navy sailor. "I just always wanted to go into the computer field," she says.
From 1985 through 2005, Stroman's Navy rotations included maintaining an IBM mainframe system in New Orleans, working at an IT help desk in Japan, teaching IT to sailors at a San Diego training center, and managing the network and crew computers on the USS Bonhomme Richard when the ship deployed to Iraq after 9/11. She retired from the Navy as an Information Systems Technology Chief Petty Officer in 2005.
After retiring, Stroman earned her real estate license, thinking it would be a good career option while her children were still in grade school in Murrieta, Calif. By 2009, however, real estate in southern California was a bust, and Stroman re-entered the IT workforce via a help desk job, working for defense contractor SAIC on a swing shift.
She enjoyed helping fleet ships all over the world resolve problems with IT networks and equipment. "When you help someone on a ship over in Bahrain, their appreciation comes through," Stroman says. "It's rewarding, but I wanted to take it to the next level and teach again."
A teaching job would give Stroman a day-time work schedule in addition to face-to-face interaction with students, but she was concerned about the four-year gap in her hands-on IT work experience. From 2005 to 2009, shipboard IT systems had changed a lot; for example, administrators were managing servers through virtualization.
To fill in knowledge gaps, Stroman began training for IT certifications at New Horizons Southern California in San Diego, using her 9/11 GI Bill benefits
to pay for training and exam vouchers. Stroman worked through the program with a co-worker, doing their jobs at SAIC and training at New Horizons SoCal on the same schedule.
Stroman acknowledges that completing the training and passing the exams is hard with a full-time job and family. "You really have to find time to study daily, she says. "To see the goal through, you have to be committed."
Over the months, Stroman earned the CompTIA A+
, CompTIA Network+
and CompTIA Security+
credentials, as well as the Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist certification, and began to apply for instructor jobs. In April, Stroman landed the SAIC job she wanted: teaching sailors about shipboard networks.
"Getting the certifications has helped me to move into the position as an instructor by boosting my confidence," Stroman says.
"It's been a good refresher to refine my skills," she says of the certification training. "The credentials show potential employers that I still have the knowledge, and that they should hire me with all the experience I have as well."
"If the vets are not taking advantage of this program, they are really losing out on an excellent opportunity," Stroman says of her fellow veterans eligible for Post 9/11 benefits.