Life was not always easy for Osvaldo De Coo when he was working as a security guard. With bills to pay and a family to feed, he found himself doing what he had to do to get by, though, and night watchman and security guard jobs were the jobs that he could get. In fact, the low pay often forced him to work more than one job at once. De Coo was literally working night and day, and the times when that much work was available were actually desirable, compared to the alternative. Security guards were always in high demand, but work could be sporadic, so though he was often overworked, he could also find himself underemployed at a moment’s notice.
One day in particular, De Coo realized that the sorts of positions he was working were not only less than glamorous, they were also potentially risky, even dangerous. Faced with someone who was belligerent and attempting to steal merchandise at a location he was watching, De Coo was put in a position anyone would hope to avoid.
“I couldn’t stop him because I didn’t have a police badge,” De Coo said. “You tell him to stop. If the person is bigger, you’re not going to stop him.”
Working long hours for minimal money at multiple locations was one thing. But as a family man, being asked to put himself at the sort of physical risk these jobs was one of the final factors in making De Coo decide he needed a change.
De Coo said, “I was thinking about it and I asked myself, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ ‘What is important? What’s going to be the future?’”
De Coo found the answer to these questions in the IT profession. Having some personal experience with computers but no formal training, De Coo had spent some time as a night manager at a computer-related business. While working two jobs, he had been taking classes on top of his already packed schedule. After finishing a degree in business management, he moved into pursuing a degree in computer technology, so as to have as a skill-set as well-rounded and marketable as possible.
From there, De Coo began to climb up the ranks of the profession. Beginning as a consultant, managing assets and installing software, De Coo was working in the field and honing his applied IT skills every day. In 2008, his company had him get CompTIA A+ certified. Passing the test was required for his position, but found that CompTIA A+ certification was good for more than just that. It ended up being a boon to his career and enabled him to continue to move up in the field.
De Coo was hired as a senior systems engineer – a position he still holds – at The Informatics Applications Group (TIAG) in 2012. Like in his previous position, CompTIA A+ certification was a must. Having already gotten the certification gave him the credentials to match his skills; to let the company knew he had what it took to do the job. Today, he takes on a broad range of tasks, from software installation to managing networks and data centers.
For De Coo, IT provides both work that is both intellectually engaging and stable. “Since I started working in IT, I have never been out of a job for more than two weeks, which is basically the time I take for vacation,” said De Coo.
De Coo still runs into constraints on his time these days. But they are of a far different type than those he faced in his earlier jobs. A demanding IT career often gives him a full schedule, but one that he is happy to have. Even when he is swamped with work, the IT field gives him career freedom.
With an eye toward taking his career even farther down this professional path, De Coo sees certification as playing an important role in his future. He hopes to eventually get certified for project management and focus on building his career in that direction.
He knows such career advancement is doable. Along the road to success in IT, he has learned one important thing about himself.
“That I can achieve what I set my goals to,” said De Coo. “That anything is possible.”
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago.