Aaron Smith openly admits that his first knowledge about computers was simply how to type. More than 20 years ago, the school where he worked as a teacher’s aide opened up a new computer lab, and he volunteered to teach typing. Little did he know that decision would illuminate the path to a thriving career in technology.
Fast forward to 2017: Smith now has an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Computer Information Systems (with a 3.9 GPA), is CompTIA A+ certified, is studying for his CompTIA Network+ certification and works as an IT support technician for Charter Schools USA. How did he get here? Well, it was a mix of mentorship, dedication and ambition.
Meeting His Mentor
After two years of working in that computer lab, Smith met Kermit Lattimore and suddenly found there was a lot more to learn about computers.
“Mr. Lattimore became my mentor,” Smith said. “He took me under his wing and taught me all I needed to know to get started. He taught me everything about T1 lines, various components, making patch cables and a variety of troubleshooting skills.”
Lattimore later hired Smith over the summer as an IT apprentice.
“My first hands-on experience was a wiring job,” Smith said. “I learned how to make patch cables, use toner probes, install racks to hold the switches and configure those switches.” That first experience led to many more jobs with Lattimore, and Smith began to see the promise of not just a job, but a fulfilling career in IT.
Making the Time
In 2009, Smith enrolled at Kaplan University to study computer information systems. By 2011, he had graduated with his AAS. He credits these years with teaching him how to balance his time and set priorities. That lesson came in handy when Smith decided to pursue his CompTIA A+ certification.
“The advice I give to those who are preparing to take their first exam is to not rush through the material. Take your time, and get in as much studying as you can,” he said. “Set aside time to really buckle down and study, study, study.”
Smith became CompTIA A+ certified in 2016. It was his first professional certification, but far from his last.
“Adding CompTIA A+ to my resume opened many doors for me that weren’t there before,” he said. Soon after obtaining CompTIA A+, Smith added the ITIL v3 Foundations certification to his arsenal.
Since he was originally drawn to the world of technology for its ability to constantly evolve and change, staying sedentary just wasn’t an option, and he made the decision to go after CompTIA Network+
Pursuing a Dream
As the IT support technician for Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Loomis Primary Charter School, Smith manages critical and standard business systems. He performs on-site and remote analysis of computer network issues, collaborates with vendors to resolve internal technology issues, manages inventory of hardware resources, configures and deploys laptops and provides support to a sister school in the absence of a lead IT tech.
To say his schedule is busy might be an understatement, but he manages his full-time job while preparing for his CompTIA Network+ exam, making good use of the CompTIA study material, self-study preps and online study guides to help him along. His long-term goals are what keep him going.
“I want to be able to gain viable knowledge of all aspects of IT so that I may one day own my own company as a consultant or dispatch workers out in the field,” he said.
As far as other certifications on his to-do list, Smith is taking it one step at a time.
“CompTIA offers so many other certifications that it’s hard to decide. But, I would probably shoot for one or two of the master certifications that are offered in my field,” he said. “CompTIA is one of the highest-rated companies in terms of certification programs, and I value my CompTIA certifications. They are really worth putting in the hard work to help you secure that perfect job.”
Interested in an IT career? See which certification is right for you.