SysAdmin Turns Hobby into IT Career with CompTIA Certs

by Matthew Stern | Jun 12, 2017

Alan Killingsworth on a hike in the woods, stopping by a creekVisiting a one-day music festival in Salt Lake City, Alan Killingsworth saw something that opened his eyes – a gigantic jellyfish. More specifically it was the Jellyfish 12000, a towering LED-lit art installation that piqued his curiosity – and his desire to create. Killingsworth had begun his career as a hair stylist after being blown away by the skill of the top-tier hair professionals. He’d learned the trade at the renowned Paul Mitchell School and was working at an award-winning salon. Now, seeking a career change, he stumbled onto another kind of art he wanted to work on – one that would require resuming his tech education.

“It was a combination of getting back into something I knew I liked and getting into something that would benefit me in my hobbies,” Killingsworth said.

Watch Alan Killingsworth in our video, “Success Starts with Certifications.”

Killingsworth, like so many early tech adopters, had started out his computing pre-career tinkering with the family PC and occasionally breaking it. He poked around the early internet looking for security holes, not out of malice but out of curiosity, and learning as he went. As he got older, Killingsworth learned some scripting and coding, but eventually his career went in another direction.

Seeing that vibrant art installation, though, brought it all back. He wanted to work with computers, and he searched for carrier-oriented resources from names he knew he could trust.

Discovering Western Governors University (WGU) and Rediscovering CompTIA

“The fact that I would get five or six CompTIA certifications out of my degree sealed the deal for me.”

In 2013, Killingsworth started in a tech support role at medical records firm Medicity. He knew that to move forward in the space he would need some formal training and education. He searched the web and discovered that WGU was highly regarded for its online, competency-based degrees, with flexibility that appeals to working professionals. In conjunction with CompTIA’s Academy Partner Program, WGU has built many CompTIA certifications right into its curriculum. Having some tech background, he already knew the CompTIA name well.

“The fact that I would get five or six CompTIA certifications out of my degree sealed the deal for me,” Killingsworth said.

Starting out studying software development, Killingsworth realized as he accumulated work experience and CompTIA certifications that it was IT, not coding, that held the real appeal for him.

Coming Full Circle and Beyond with CompTIA

With his CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Network+ certifications in hand, Kilingsworth moved into a position as a system administrator at Air Medical Resource Group. The new job, a direct result of his CompTIA certifications, represented a drastic increase in salary – and responsibility. Managing and securing a network that controls a nationwide system of Life Flight resources has been a blast already. And he’s been so thrilled with the expertise he gained from Security+ that he’s changed his focus at WGU to network security.

In Salt Lake City, which has taken on the name “Silicon Slopes” as tech companies continue to set up shop in town, there are a plethora of future opportunities for Killingsworth. Pursuing cybersecurity, he’s getting closer to his childhood dream. As a kid, he scoured the web, trying to poke and prod networks to find vulnerabilities for curiosity’s sake. Now, decades later, thanks to WGU and CompTIA, he plans to find where today’s advanced networks fall short – in order to fix them.

“My early teenage self would be high-fiving me over getting to be that guy,” Killingsworth said.

Turn your tech hobby into a career with CompTIA certifications.

Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.

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