When Wendy Howard moved away from a competitive technology environment in Texas to be near her family in Oregon, she investigated local job openings to feel out the environment. The jobs she came across weren’t for performance test engineers, which she’d been trained in and spent years doing at IBM. What people in Central Oregon needed most was support.
“Everybody has a computer and needs help with it,” said Howard, now an IT engineer for St. Charles Health System in Bend, Oregon. “Everyone needed desktop and software support, so I looked up the best way to get into that market, and what I came up with was CompTIA A+ certification.”
To pay for the exam, she took a leap of faith and approached Little D Technology, a local computer shop in La Pine, Oregon, with a creative proposal.
“I said, ‘I really want to get back into computers, and I think the best way is to get certified in A+,” she recalled. “‘If I volunteer my time in your shop, would you pay for my certification test?’”
Howard started working in front desk support, where her bubbly personality suited the company’s customer service needs. When she wasn’t on the job, she received training from technical support staff. While learning how to break down and reassemble printers, she focused on her CompTIA A+ exam. Two and a half months later, she passed with flying colors.
“As soon as I got that CompTIA A+ on my resume, I got all kinds of jobs offers,” Howard said. “The doors just flew wide open.”
As soon as I got that CompTIA A+ on my resume, I got all kinds of jobs offers. The doors just flew wide open.
Howard spent some time driving to different companies to repair hardware and reinstall printers before taking a contracting job that connected her with St. Charles.
“They put me on desktop support work, and I had a really good manager who recognized my talent and encouraged me to do more and more,” Howard said. Compared to the competitive engineering environment she’d left in Texas, the support from her hospital crew was a major turnaround.
“The most encouraging people in my life in Oregon have been female role models and mentors,” Howard said. “I meet women who are strong and intelligent, and I want to be like them. When I connect with them, they turn around and encourage me to do good.”
She pays that positive experience forward in her work, and encourages managers to do the same.
“When you spot someone with talent whom you want on your team, it helps to groom them a little, train them a lot and encourage them overall,” Howard said. “I’ve learned that from the female leaders in my life.”
Her leadership group encouraged her to keep expanding her skills and earn her CompTIA Network+ and Healthcare IT Technician certifications while she worked.
The two years Howard spent at the call center gave her the chance to learn everything about the hospital system and to build relationships with different departments. Another manager recognized Howard’s talent and hired her for his infrastructure team.
As an infrastructure engineer, she keeps health care records flowing securely and smoothly. She helps stream medical records to hospital nurses’ stations all over the country, something that couldn’t have been done 50 years ago.
When you spot someone with talent whom you want on your team, it helps to groom them a little, train them a lot and encourage them overall. I’ve learned that from the female leaders in my life.
“You have one copy that you can stream to 500 machines, and nobody has to go to that computer to fix that software,” she said. “Virtual applications.”
When she moved over to her new infrastructure job, Howard qualified for and accepted an invitation to be a CompTIA Subject Matter Expert (SME) and add her insight to the latest A+ certification exam.
“We worked on the test questions for the CompTIA A+ exam, which I had taken and had basically launched my career,” she said. “I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”
In exchange for her time, she received a voucher for a new certification, which she used to earn her fourth CompTIA certification, CompTIA Mobility+.
Getting certified multiplied her career options and gave her the chance to go anywhere to work in tech.
“I basically could get a job with Citrix servers anywhere in the country right now,” she said. “The doors are completely wide open — but I’m pretty happy where I’m at.”
How has your CompTIA certification opened doors? Share your story in the comments or via our testimonial form.