Independent IT Project/Program Manager
Brian Cunningham knew as a sixth grader that he wanted to work with computers. That ambition led him to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science and launch a career that began in computer programming but for more than 10 years has focused on IT project and program management.
"I just kept pursuing it," said Cunningham, who worked for VARtek Services Inc. and Pomeroy IT Solutions before recently starting his own business as an independent project manager. Based in Hebron, Ky., Cunningham oversees POS deployments, IT infrastructure rollouts and data center installations on contract to medium to large corporations. "I've been very lucky."
Which exams have you helped develop?
CompTIA Project+, CompTIA Cloud+, and CompTIA Green IT. I participated on-site (at CompTIA headquarters) for question writing, did remote question-writing, helped with job task analysis, and helped decide exam domains.
How did you get into IT?
From a very young age I knew I wanted to do something with computers. Once I completed high school, I earned an academic scholarship to Western Kentucky University and enrolled to earn a computer science degree. In college, I interned as a computer technician for the Kentucky Department of Labor. When I got out of college, my first job was in programming.
How did you begin volunteering for CompTIA as a subject matter expert (SME)?
I saw online that CompTIA needed people to help write Project+ and felt I offered a good perspective because I had been working help desk, break-fix support, server and network configurations for a long time before I gradually worked up the project management ranks.
I was later asked to be a member of the CompTIA SME Technical Advisory Committee (CSTAC).
What do you get out of volunteering with CompTIA as a subject matter expert?
You go into being a subject matter expert thinking that you are just providing CompTIA with information. But once you come together as a group working on an exam, you get to know people and they become your friends. You form relationships, and you learn from them. You pull from other people’s experience and it makes you a better person, a better IT professional. You learn as much as you give.
Also, it's really rewarding to know that the time you are spending is going to help others advance in their careers.
What do you do for your day job?
I’m a contract project manager. I work three- to six-month contracts—one and done, and then I go to the next project. Lots of time people retain me for the next one.
What do you do when you're not working?
Spend time with my wife, family and friends. I enjoy working out, riding my motorcycle, and relaxing outside doing landscaping.
Do you have any advice for people considering volunteering with CompTIA as a subject matter expert?
You can look at the CompTIA website to see when CompTIA needs people for exam-writing workshops. Then you can decide when you want to help, and schedule yourself around that. I’ve scheduled vacations around going on-site at CompTIA to help with exam development.
Once you participate in one (exam writing project), you will be asked to come back and work on others, as long as CompTIA benefited from your work there.
What’s your advice to people interested in pursuing a career in IT?
Diverse specialization is always a good thing, but you just never know what you are going to be good at doing until you experience it.
So start in an area in IT that genuinely interests you, and over time you will see in what areas you excel. From there, start specializing.