Jacob Brady, sales engineer at NetScout, said that he has always been kind of a nerdy guy, which might be a surprise for someone who sees him riding his Road King around the Washington, D.C., area with the Philistines Motorcycle Club or making his way through the obstacle course of an extreme Tough Mudder race. But Brady has a passion for technology, and finds as much freedom in his current job as he does riding his motorcycle. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Brady’s eight years of service gave him the opportunity to professionalize his knack for technology, and, with a focus on certification, prepared him to move up the ranks of the IT world when he joined the civilian workforce.
“The Marine Corps brought me into the world of IT,” Brady said. “I started as a regular help desk guy and I just climbed my way up to working for a vendor and selling the product.”
When he started in the service, Brady was a computer fan but not a fanatic – he had tech intuition but not a great deal of training. He took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test to determine what would best suit his skills, and military computer networks were the perfect fit. Boot camp started, and shortly thereafter so did Brady’s process of getting CompTIA certified.
CompTIA credentialing was critical to doing the job, in part because DoD directive 8570 necessitates certification for any staff who touch government networks. But for Brady, certification was more important than just filling a requirement. When he talks of his certifications, he talks of what each individual certification did to build his full view of the computing landscape. His CompTIA A+ certification, which he got in the service, set him up to handle the troubleshooting of physical hardware. It also – along with the career help the military gave him – set him up for a smooth transition to civilian life.
Brady got out of the service in 2012 and, certification in hand, started out working on a military contract through a company called Smartronix at the help-desk level. From there, he began climbing the career ladder. With each new role he needed new certs, and he earned them. He got CompTIA Network+, which taught him how data traveled from the point he hit the keyboard to the point it landed. He got CompTIA Security+, which set him up to handle securing the network. He needed to do advanced work on Linux machines, so he got CompTIA Linux+. With each subsequent step up, he got the additional certification necessary to prove he knew his stuff. By the time he moved on from Smartronix, he was a tier-four enterprise tools engineer and held the CompTIA Advanced Security Certification (CASP).
“I was never told no I couldn’t take a class or no I couldn’t take a cert,” Brady said. “They were there for me when I needed it and helped me grow.”
In 2015, Brady joined NetScout, a provider of network monitoring solutions. There, Brady architects and secures custom solutions that meet the specific data needs of a given client. It’s highly technical work, and work where the knowledge gleaned from his advanced certifications often comes in handy. Brady praised the testing method of some of the newer CompTIA certs, which feature hands-on, scenario-based questions that demand the kind of quick, in-depth thinking that’s needed on the job. Such testing methods are good for IT pros, and good for the confidence level of their potential employers as well.
“It’s letting an employer know that not only do you have hands-on experience but you also have a certification saying that you know what you’re doing,” Brady said. “It gives them that warm and fuzzy. If you have hands-on experience, you should also get the cert. That way you’re just standing above your peers. I think certifications are a great way to make yourself stand above.”
As big a fan of CompTIA certifications as Brady is, he is an equally huge proponent of NetScout’s product and of the company. He intends to continue to grow there – with an eye towards getting more certifications and possibly a master’s degree in computer science to add to his impressive collection of certs.
With support from his family, who he loves spending time with, Brady will no doubt still be riding.
Out on the roads of the nation’s capital, some of the crew Brady rides bikes with are, like him, veterans – others even work in IT. And some, well, he isn’t sure what they do. But with his riding buddies he finds the feeling of brotherhood he had in the military, enjoying the freedom of the open road together.
And when he is at a client site, he experiences a different kind of freedom – that which comes with knowing exactly how to build the right solution, no matter how complex the network or complicated the need. It’s a space where he is free to keep growing and learning.
“Every day I’m learning something,” Brady said. “How to come up with solutions to help people. I learn so much and it’s a fun challenge.”
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.