Farmhand to an IT Man By Way of Certifications

by Jim Staats | Jul 30, 2012
Working in Western Australia more than a decade ago, Michael Boughton was more committed to working on the land than LAN.

Michael BoughtonA family man in his early 30s, Boughton was working as a farm technician, harvesting crops and maintaining 5,000 head of sheep.

That changed when his boss handed him an old, secondhand computer. In no time, a new hobby was born, eventually spilling into classes, part-time and full-time work.

"I saw that you didn't have to be a guru to work in the computer industry, especially in the 'break/fix' area of PCs so I thought I would give it a shot," Boughton said. "If it didn't work out, I could always go back to what I knew."

With the knowledge, confidence and experience Boughton said he gained through his industry certifications, there seems little chance of that. Today, Boughton is a support technician quickly moving up the IT career ladder, thanks in no small part to his CompTIA Network+ certification.

"I have always seen certification as very important and more so as time goes on," Boughton said. "Businesses that hire IT support want to ensure that the guy doing the work is qualified to perform it and is committed to doing the work. To commit yourself to study for a certification shows your commitment in the work you perform."

Boughton, who counts Cisco ESTQ and several TAFE (Training and Future Education) technical certificates from Pilbara Institute among his accreditations, held CompTIA Network+ in such high regard he was willing to make a nearly six-hour round trip to the nearest testing centre to sit for the exam.

He said he appreciates CompTIA exams are vendor-neutral.

"It focuses on the common concepts behind technology rather than on how a specific piece of software or equipment is designed to run by the vendor," he said.

Boughton's CompTIA Network+ experience has given him a better overall feel for computer networks in their entirety, he said.

"I understand more clearly what is expected of me and where my boundaries lie, especially with regard to escalating (issues) to someone else where needed," Boughton said. "The training for the certification helps keep you grounded when it comes to dealing with clients at all levels."

He estimated about 70-80 percent of what he learned through the CompTIA Network+ process could be applied to his job duties, especially when it came to troubleshooting and general network maintenance.

Boughton, who for years has reviewed the fundamentals of CompTIA A+ in self-study, is encouraged by his positive experience to take the plunge of certification in CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Server+ next.

"This is apparently going to become the basic requirement for the future," he said.

He encouraged other IT technicians to pursue industry certifications to better understand their jobs and how they fit into the big picture.

Said Boughton: "Studying for a certification forces you to look at your role as a whole, not just knowledge in technology and how it works, but how to treat clients, product management and troubleshooting."

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