This past May Day in the UK was a rare day to catch up on gardening and other household tasks for the always-busy Ed Baker, technical evangelist at Microsoft UK. But sitting in his home office in between sporadic rainfalls, he was already looking ahead to the meetings, events and keynotes set for the coming weeks. Were it not a public holiday, he would, from the same base of operations, be fielding calls with clients assisting with higher-level technical development and deployment for Microsoft products – and he would undoubtedly have his webcam on. As his current professional title implies, Baker is serious about using and promoting the latest cutting-edge technology. Likewise, he’s serious about preparing students of all ages and backgrounds to take part in, facilitate and thrive in today’s tech-savvy world. Baker is a seasoned IT educator with a strikingly impressive list of training roles on his resume. CompTIA certifications and other industry credentials have been instrumental both in confirming his own skills and setting him up to spread IT knowledge and career readiness to students of all walks throughout the UK – and each class has offered Baker its own sense of gratification.
“Any student that learns anything, it doesn’t matter what age, what background or what industry – if they can come out of it and feel positive and happy then I’ve done my job,” Baker said.
Baker got his start in IT in a place some might see as unexpected. Baker was a police officer beginning in the 1980s and, for 14 years, he did everything from walking the beat to motorcycle patrol to criminal investigation. But during his free time, he was tinkering with personal computers. He had jumped in around the precinct to troubleshoot computer problems as necessary, so when his supervisors were looking for someone to implement an online crime mapping system, they tapped Baker to handle it. In short order he had jumped from hobbyist to professional. He learned, too, the value of certifications. Getting his first certification taught him the ins-and-outs of the hardware he would be working on and confirmed to anyone he was working with or for that he knew his stuff.
As his career continued, Baker struck out on his own as a self-employed IT project manager. There, he began to view certification and training from a new perspective. He had just locked down a big contract, and realized he needed an apprentice working with him who had the kind of tech skills and professionalism that would help his business shine. But he found such skills sorely lacking in his interviewees. Seeing the need, he resolved to change things himself; first by putting his apprentice through an online training course and later by moving into being a trainer himself.
“[I decided to] change jobs and try to get a job as a full-time trainer training apprentices to give something back,” Baker said.
From that point on, Baker lived and breathed IT training. In a litany of roles full-time and part-time, he has spread the word of IT and the skills it takes to be successful. And as he’s done so, he picked up CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Server+ and CompTIA IT Fundamentals (then Strata) himself, along with no fewer than 50 other industry certifications.
“I did all those certifications as well then got hooked, became a certified trainer and just took exams for fun,” Baker said.
Baker has molded young people into career-ready adults and helped them take their first step into the workforce. He has taught A+ and Network+ boot camps to help IT pros meet their immediate career needs. He has helped adults who never thought themselves capable of working in tech learn the right skills and confirm them with the right certs. He has approached all these different audiences, and many more with a tangible enthusiasm for the field and for making the world better through IT training and certification. Hearing his story and seeing the busy schedule he keeps, even on holidays, it’s clear that one could benefit not only by having him as an instructor, but by watching his approach to IT success.
In his two-and-a-half years at Microsoft UK, Baker has focused mainly on the company’s products. But his advice about having a career in IT, now and in the future, resonates industry-wide.
“To succeed in IT you just have to be willing to never stop learning,” Baker said. “You have to be willing to change.”
And as CompTIA continues to keep its finger on the pulse of what’s going on throughout the IT field, and build its certification exams around the hands-on needs of the rapidly-changing IT industry, CompTIA certifications offer a way to keep skills fresh and applicable, and to heed Baker’s sage advice for success in the field.
“We’ve got a whole bunch in the industry at the moment who are my age or slightly younger who have done something the same way their whole career,” Baker said. “That is changing. We’re moving into things like cloud technology, DevOps, A whole bunch of different skills that are required, and that will leave them on the sidelines if they do not change. And that’s exactly the same at every level of the industry. So work hard, learn hard and never stop learning, and never lose the willingness to change what you do.”
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.