Aaron Staines, system and network administrator for Barry County, Michigan, had been as busy as ever. During the day, he was handling everything from managing the firewall to rebuilding computers when his team was short staffed. In the evenings, he was putting in extra work as a road cop. And at home, he was anticipating a new responsibility – he and his wife, April, also a county employee, were looking forward to the birth of their first child. But the Staines’ family’s busy schedule took an unexpected, frightening turn.
April began having complications with her pregnancy and was admitted to the hospital. For a time, things were hovering close to tragedy, but, thankfully, the situation turned around. April’s condition improved, and she and baby Hudson were released. Despite this massive weight taken off the family’s shoulders, April had a long road to recovery ahead. With April on bedrest until she healed, Aaron was thrown into the parenting deep-end, caring for his wife while learning to manage a baby who was awake and crying every two hours.
Somewhere in the middle of this exhausting scenario, Staines received an email indicating that his CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications were up for renewal. Of course, certifications were the last thing on his mind. But still, they were valuable professional credentials he was hesitant to lose.
“I had studied so much [to get the CompTIA certifications initially],” Staines said. “I didn‘t want to let [them] go. But obviously, there hadn’t been time to study and buy a book and get caught up and go schedule and take an exam – it wasn’t an option.”
But luckily, Staines came across a message promoting CompTIA CertMaster CE – a convenient recertification tool – on the Spiceworks community. CompTIA CertMaster CE appeared to be just what he needed to preserve his certifications; the ones that had been a driving force both in his personal IT path and Barry County’s path to an updated IT presence.
Switching His Focus from Law Enforcement to IT
There hadn‘t been time to study and buy a book and get caught up and go schedule and take an exam – it wasn‘t an option. ... [CompTIA CertMaster CE] gave me the leverage to get it done.
In 2008, Staines began his career at Barry County. Though his degree was in criminal justice, Staines had worked an IT help desk in high school and was able to manage such tasks for the county. As for the higher-level IT functions – the small county was doing a great deal of outsourcing.
But as Staines built his base of working knowledge over the years, he saw a lot more that the county could handle in house.
“I took it upon myself to evolve into not just knowing the basics of things and just being the help desk guy, but instead actually really, truly understanding the network role.” Staines said.
Growing His Career with IT Certifications
Staines had heard about CompTIA certifications and knew that if he could pass a few of those exams, he could walk out with the knowledge and confidence to handle a bigger chunk of the county’s higher-level IT himself.
Staines bought a book, self-studied for CompTIA Network+ and passed. And when he was awarded his certification, it confirmed to him that he’d built the base of foundational knowledge it would take to move forward.
A year later, Staines added CompTIA Security+ to his list of credentials. With each step along the certification pathway, he helped Barry County’s IT improve along with him.
With a small, skilled tech team in place, Barry County’s IT department began supporting more departments throughout the county – replacing old devices, configuring VPNs and comprehensively handling the county’s network needs.
By 2017, Staines had been promoted to system and network administrator in the small three-person IT department. Alongside the county’s IT director and new help desk pro, the team was supporting 200 employees with around 500 devices. He had the title to match his skills – and wanted to maintain the certifications that confirm them.
Renewing Fast with CompTIA CertMaster
With a baby crying and a wife recently out of the hospital, time and concentration were in short supply at the Staines household. But when Staines logged into CompTIA CertMaster CE, he found that the quick, targeted training didn’t tax either of them.
When he was studying for his first round of CompTIA exams, Staines had accumulated more knowledge than he thought he could handle. With CompTIA CertMaster CE, it wasn’t necessary. He already knew his stuff. He just needed to confirm it. And he did – in just four hours. Then it was back to the baby.
“[CompTIA CertMaster CE] gave me the leverage to get it done,” Staines said.
Getting Back to Normal and Getting Better
Today, April is still on the mend but doing much better than when she first returned home. And Aaron is back at the office, with his CompTIA certifications up to date.
And as life has returned to its normal rhythm, Aaron has already begun planning the next steps in his IT education; ones that might include pursuing CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification.
Local government networks, after all, have become ever-more-attractive targets for hackers. They’re treasure troves of valuable data – but often without the budgets or the buy-in that top-tier cybersecurity demands.
And at Barry County, Staines and his team are determined to do what it takes to stay ahead of the omnipresent threat. To do so, despite being as busy as ever, Staines would have no problem squeezing in studying for another CompTIA certification or two.
“My life’s just a constant go,” Staines said. “Lots of Red Bull.”
Do you need to renew your CompTIA certification? Check out CompTIA CertMaster CE for an efficient, self-paced online renewal.
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.