The 2017 Dallas Small Business Expo was a busy way to kick off a busy year for Andre Morton. He spent the day addressing local businesses spreading the word about his organization Project Vet2Tech, which helps veterans get IT training and certifications and then matches them with local businesses that need IT pros. In recent months, he has not stopped working for a second as he promotes the initiative and lays the groundwork for its ongoing success. Whether it’s arranging speaking engagements with veterans groups or connecting with potentially interested local businesses.
“I feel that it's the project that is really pushing me forward,” Morton said. “One day I said, ‘I'm just going to go to the [Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)] to start talking to people. Figure out their stories. Figure out how I can help.’”
And for Morton, figuring out how to help veterans is very personal. He knows first-hand how difficult it can be to find a job when transitioning out of the military. It wasn’t too long ago that he needed help himself and that he learned just how life-changing a CompTIA certification can be.
A Late-Night Leap into IT
Behind the security desk for another night of working the third shift as a building security guard, Andre Morton was far from where he had hoped to be. A veteran fresh out of the service, he had planned to join the civilian police force, but the opportunities weren’t coming through. He had a wife, a two-year-old child and bills to pay. Driving an hour from Dallas to his job every evening and staying all night was wearing him out.
To pass the time, Morton got to know the people who worked nights in the building and met a network engineer. Morton would greet him and let him into the rooms he needed access to, and, over time, the two struck up a friendship. He began to ask Morton how he had landed in his role and about his view of the future.
“I didn't really have an answer for him at the time,” Morton said. “I was just trying to figure it all out.”
The network technician saw plenty of potential in Morton – potential that needed to be focused in the right direction. And CompTIA certification could provide that. Morton’s newfound friend laid out the path to a career in IT and helped Morton begin working toward his CompTIA A+ certification.
Morton took to technology naturally and within a few years added CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Project+ to his resume, as well as a few other certifications. He had made the leap from security guard to IT professional.
Giving Back to Veterans … with CompTIA
This is my passion. This is what I want to do. I want to give my all to this.
These days, as a network technician at FCCI Insurance, he has a level of stability, a sense of achievement and a level of comfort that his days as a third-shift security guard could never hope to offer. Combining the experience of his career journey with work he had done for a nonprofit that helps veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he saw an opportunity to do more for his fellow veterans.
“I started Project Vet2Tech because I realized there's a lot of people out there in situations like mine who don't know where to go,” he said. “I really wanted to help them out.”
Morton has been hard at work building up both the business relationships and the teaching relationships that stand to make Project Vet2Tech, and the veterans involved with it, successful. Working on a shoestring budget, he’s been getting his first Project Vet2Tech student CompTIA certified. A valet driver with a bachelor’s degree in biology whom Morton met at the VA, he sees the same potential in his student that a late-working network technician once saw in him.
“He's a smart bright kid; he's just like me,” Morton said. “He's ready to start his career in the field and go.”
Looking Toward the Future
In his personal IT journey, Morton recently earned CompTIA Linux+ certification – and with high hopes for bringing many area veterans success along the IT path with him, he continues to make equally impressive strides. A local PC technician has expressed interest in teaching a course with Project Vet2Tech, and a nonprofit called Boots to Heels has made Project Vet2Tech a point of contact for female veterans looking to get into IT. He’s also begun partnering with a shelter for homeless veterans to provide IT classes and with a veterans resource center to provide job placement.
Most recently, Project Vet2Tech received its 501(c)(3) status. Now as an official not-for-profit entity, Morton can take the project to the next level.
“This is my passion,” Morton said. “This is what I want to do. I want to give my all to this. I'm pushing forward and letting everything else line up as we go.”
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Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.