In the small city of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Shane Loftin was looking for a change of pace. Since his youth, Shane had been working at his family business, an electrical contracting company. He learned the ropes of the industry starting on the ground floor – if not literally below it – digging the ditches to hold the underground cable that would bring electricity to Loftin Electric's customers. And he'd grown, alongside the business, into a jack-of-all-trades, sometimes handling the paperwork in the office, sometimes managing customer relationships and sometimes back out in the field pulling wire. But by the time he was 32, Shane was looking to grow in a different direction.
"I knew I didn’t want to take over the company," Shane said. "I realized I wasn't getting any younger, and the longer I waited, the harder it would be to transition into another career."
Changing Careers in His 30s
As he searched for a new career path, Shane considered his interests. He had spent many years as a part-time law enforcement officer and, in his free time, had done some tinkering with computers. And so the burgeoning field of cybersecurity made sense – it would let him explore two of his personal passions and could be potentially lucrative.
But as a 32-year-old with no formal IT experience, moving into this highly technical field was going to take some leg work. It would demand big adjustments to his schedule, a rigorous study of a whole new field and credentials that would prove his value to potential employers. And when it came to credentials his personal research pointed him to the industry's accepted foundation for baseline IT skills: CompTIA A+.
Fitting a Career Change into a Busy Life
A career shift can be a tall order even for those with light schedules – and when Shane decided to start down the IT career path, his schedule was anything but light. He was still working full-time at Loftin Electric and had family obligations to his wife and children. To that, he added pursuing an associate degree in cybersecurity via remote online courses at Indiana's Ivy Tech Community College.
Balancing everything – and staying healthy while doing it – required Shane to start waking up two hours earlier than usual to get his daily workouts in. And as he started looking at the CompTIA A+ curriculum, he discovered that it would demand as much exercise and conditioning for his mind as his morning routine demanded of his body.
"Overwhelming would probably be the best one-word description," Shane said.
As he sought online training resources to help get himself in good shape for his CompTIA A+ exam, Shane added another item to his busy schedule. Trading off some overtime hours at the family business, he took on an apprenticeship at a solution provider run by a family friend. Beginning at National Networks, he was shadowing a seasoned professional – and shortly after he started, Shane passed his CompTIA A+ exam.
The First Professional Step
In his first few weeks on the job, Shane had already seen a lot. National Networks receives repair requests from far outside of Louisiana, providing a constant stream of broken monitors and laptops to diagnose and fix.
As Shane watched his family friend and National Networks tech Josh, he was impressed by how quickly the IT pro could identify what he was looking at when it came in the door. Josh knew laptop models, years and other specs like the back of his hand.
Although Shane couldn't be expected to have this sixth sense for hardware quite yet, he had a CompTIA A+ certification, so there was no question about letting him get hands on with the machines.
"Josh is really good about not babying me with the computers," Shane said. "He tells me, ‘Hey, go here pick up the screwdriver start doing stuff, this is what has to be done to it.’ If I get stuck or have questions, I just ask."
A New Frontier with CompTIA
Shane is only taking the first steps down the path to his new career, but his three-pronged approach of certification, apprenticeship and online education is poised to get him there quickly. As he's applying his CompTIA A+ knowledge in the National Networks office, he's learning the high-level concepts of network security in his online courses.
And sooner rather than later, he plans to pull it all together with additional CompTIA certifications.
"I'm pressing on to get CompTIA Security+ next," Shane said.
There's a lot of excitement to come for Shane as he pursues his tech education at work and at home. And with his wife planning to go to medical school, there's enough excitement – and change – to go around. With a potential relocation to an area that will both suit their career needs, the Loftins have considered the Dallas/Fort Worth and Washington, D.C., areas, both major metropolitan areas with big IT job markets and big needs for talented, certified cybersecurity professionals.
With each passing day Shane is learning more and getting closer to the career in penetration testing he envisions himself in. And every day, he's finding a use for his CompTIA A+ knowledge.
"I would say [a CompTIA A+ certification] is valuable just for the knowledge it's providing me to be able to provide useful support in a part-time job while I'm getting my foot in the door," Shane said. "I think it's 100 percent valuable."
Do you want to develop the skills it takes to get your foot in the door like Shane Loftin? Read about CompTIA A+ and our other certifications and discover what works for you!
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.