Jordan Breen had only been working for a week as a help desk technician at Apartment Management Consultants and was already deep into the world of PC support – and he already loved his job. Setting up workstations at the corporate office, taking on PC troubleshooting tasks and handling desktop security to stave off malware events, he found himself at the start of what he hopes will be a long, fulfilling career in the world of IT. But in order to get to that career starting line, he needed to take the leap from being a lifelong tech learner to a sought-after asset for potential employers. Only within the last year did he discover that CompTIA certification was the key to taking that step.
From a young age, Breen was curious about computing technology. But growing up, he didn’t have steady, high-speed access to the Internet, and so the genesis of his interest in computing differed from many who came of age in the early 2000s. Rather than spending his time after school surfing the web on the family Windows XP machine, he was exploring the parts of the computer’s OS more casual users look right past.
“I would have games and stuff, but the only other thing I could do on the computer was explore the settings and the control panel,” Breen said. “So I went all around the control panel just by clicking on things.”
Satisfying his curiosity with what was available to him, Breen was teaching himself the IT basics.
Computers were everywhere by the time Breen reached high school, and Breen took IT classes in addition to learning the basics of HTML and CSS. He was also continuing to tinker on his own, building machines and running Linux on them. When he got out of school, though, the professional world wasn’t allowing him to demonstrate the tech-savvy he showed at home.
By 2014, he was working in a corporate leasing office. It was in a position adjacent to an IT department, but he found it impossible to make the leap into IT – at that job or anywhere else. Breen had the skills, but he didn’t have the credentials – nor did he know what he needed. One day, a conversation with a coworker revealed the steps he would need to take.
Breen’s coworker was going to school to study IT. But Breen himself wasn’t in a position to pursue a degree. The coworker mentioned that besides going to school, certification was a good option.
Breen looked into it. He purchased a CompTIA A+ textbook and began studying for the exam, eventually taking a month off just to focus on getting certified. As soon as he had his A+, the job market started to open up.
“Once I got certified I just immediately hit the pavement and I sent out a lot of resumes; between 20 and 30 within two weeks,” Breen said. “Pretty shortly after that, within about a week of each other I had a couple of interviews and got two job offers within less than 30 days of having my certification.”
Because A+ is built around the real-world skills an IT pro needs to make it in the working world, Breen felt he had a distinct advantage while interviewing. It wasn’t just that he had A+ on his resume – though he did always bring the certification with him. It was that he was able to talk about things with his interviewer like how to work in a command-line environment; a skill beginner IT pros without A+ might not be familiar with. Such skills have come in handy for more than just getting hired, too. He has already had to use command line tools like CHKDSK and net use in the course of his work.
As Breen continues on in his career, he is getting advice and encouragement from many different channels. An avid user of Reddit, he has received guidance from the various IT Reddits he reads. His fellow Redditors suggested that he move on to CompTIA Network+, which he’s studying for now, and CompTIA Security+, which he intends to look at next.
Breen sees his current company expanding and he’s excited to grow professionally along with it. Though he’s only been there a short time, his boss is already providing him two of the best things one can hope for from a supervisor – guidance and inspiration. His boss, Breen said, has made it in IT with certification and experience, and is fully supportive of Breen’s ambitions to pursue further CompTIA certifications. Seeing his boss’s success, he knows that an IT future is well within his reach.
“I feel like if he can do it, I can do it,” Breen said.
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.