It was not a typical day at the office for Chelin Sampson. As the AsQ country officer at SQS Group in Durban, South Africa, Sampson generally spends his busy days accompanying the team of four that he manages in assessing and troubleshooting IT service desk tickets. Meeting the international service desk needs of the rapidly-expanding software testing company requires handling daily inquiries from as far away as Western and Northern Europe while also providing hands-on desktop support as close to home as upstairs in the building. On this particular Friday, however, he was meeting with the Germany-based service desk lead, going through the annual review process for him and his team. It was a day – as Sampson might think of it – to press pause and review his stats.
That’s because Sampson is a serious online gamer. The world he inhabits when he’s not at work is filled with personal statistics to improve and achievements to unlock. And he sees the steps he takes in his career much in the same light as the MMO he plays. The new world of multiplayer online gaming isn’t, after all, about defeating a boss or reaching the last level. It’s about building up a character’s attributes with each subsequent success. During his workday, Sampson sees tasks like finishing out tickets and providing good customer service as challenges that he can master, complete and, in doing so, move up. It’s a mindset that has no doubt been a big factor in his having taken such impressive career steps in a short period of time. In his never-ending personal mission, CompTIA certification has been one of his most effective power-ups.
“[In video games] you have to build yourself up constantly and I always try to implement that in my IT career,” Sampson said. “I’m always trying to improve myself with my stats. Sometimes it’s going hardcore on another level, and I’m feeling it, like, physically.”
Such a hardwired drive for constant self-improvement would mean success in any field, but for Sampson IT has always been the area in which he wanted to thrive. He feels he was born to work in IT, and remembers tinkering with computers from the earliest days of his childhood in Durban, learning as much as he could about their inner workings. Naturally, as he got older, he became the go-to person for friends to ask when they needed a computer fixed. In high school, as he sought to learn more about the nuts and bolts of networks, he found that the technology courses offered tended to focus more on coding and Web development. The two-year degree he pursued at Varsity College in information technology networking, however, remedied that. It was no coincidence that the school’s IT-focused curriculum taught – pound for pound – the material that CompTIA’s exams test on. It did not, however, offer the opportunity to take the CompTIA exams themselves.
Benefiting from Varsity College’s strong alumni connections, Sampson was put in touch with Gijima, an IT company that offered him an internship opportunity at SQS. Only shortly out of school, Sampson began racking up successes – and certifications.
When he arrived at SQS, Sampson was one of around 15 interns. Gajima gave him the opportunity to officially take the CompTIA A+ exam – a snap, as he had covered the information in class – and he used that knowledge to grow in his skills and professional role. Within two years he had moved from intern to contractor to permanent employee. He picked up a CompTIA Network+ certification along the way and since then has already made the leap from the entry-level service desk to the higher-level position he now holds.
“I have just been progressing as fast as I can,” Sampson said.
As he continues to – as a gamer might say – level up, he now supervises, in addition to the other members of his team, an intern who came through the same program he did. As he mentors and offers his wealth of IT knowledge and enthusiasm for the field to the new talent coming in, he notes that there’s something special about those with certs.
“You can clearly spot the difference between someone who is actually internationally certified versus someone who has worked with it here and there and has experience and not the actual certification,” Sampson said. “You can already see that [the interns] have their A+ and N+ base understanding. That’s already moving them through the ranks.”
While he’s quickly established himself in a supervisory role, that doesn’t mean Sampson is done with IT education or certification – quite the opposite. In April 2016, Sampson passed his Security+ certification, and, with an eye toward continuing to grow professionally, he’s considering not just new certifications but getting re-certified on certs that have been updated since he last took the exams to confirm he’s up-to-date and internationally endorsed in those areas.
And as he continues to confirm his skills with certifications and build his career, Sampson evaluates his stats – scoring based on the good feedback he gets and the good feedback he gives; on teaching his teammates and on learning from them. As he climbs the ranks, it’s clear he’s playing the game he was meant to play.
“IT is my passion,” Sampson said. “I’m all about providing efficient, correct and a good service to the users.”
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.