Featured Students – Andrea Vega

Career Changer Andrea Lands IT Tech Support Job Within Hours Of Her Interview

Andrea Vega

Job Title: L1 Service Desk
Company: Morgan Stanley

CIAT Program: Associate of Applied Science Degree in Computer Information Systems, 2021

Previous Education: Some prior college course completed

Every student that works with our CIAT team leaves a mark. Andrea is no exception. Her success story is the epitome of how perseverance pays off and how quickly your career path can change.

She made such an impact during her job interview that she received an offer within hours. To top it off, Andrea landed her first official IT position within weeks of graduating from her Computer Information Systems Associate’s Degree program.

Many students search for months getting their foot in the door with their first IT position, which is not uncommon. Luckily for Andrea she wasn’t starting from a blank slate. She had built a resume of professional, corporate experience and she was able to combine with the technical skills she learned at CIAT to the land her new position.

Making a career change later in life can come with its own set of hardships and complexities, but Andrea took it in strides. After two years of hard work, she successfully transitioned into a dedicated IT support role that would serve as the launchpad for her new career.

“I decided to submit an application for a technical support job with Morgan Stanley.  The interview process went very quickly and within a few hours they called back and offered me the position, which I was pretty excited about!” 

Andrea’s career journey:

Like many career changers, Andrea had built an extensive resume of experience, but she was missing one critical piece: the passion. She was, deemed by many, very successful in her career, but her job left her feeling burnt out by never-ending urgent customer issues, with little to no growth opportunities in sight.

Andrea worked as a Project Manager for multiple companies, and while she never held a title as a dedicated IT Project Manager, she always hovered closely to technology topics and technology related issues with many of her projects.

Tech-savvy at heart, a spark of new interest led her to re-evaluate her educational path. Andrea was determined to build up her technical skills so that she had the best shot at a successful career change.

“I’ll just jump in… I decided to start at the bottom. That’s the best place I can get the most experience to really hone in on the skills that I had learned and use them on a day-to-day basis.”

As she navigated through her coursework, she built more and more confidence as she progressed through her program. She followed the CIAT methodology starting with building a strong foundation in computer hardware, software, networking, and security fundamentals before diving into advanced topics in server management and advanced cybersecurity courses.

She knew she was on the right path when she realized that as she transitioned from project to project, that she missed being involved with IT and being around people that were managing the IT initiatives of her project.

The light at the end of the tunnel was growing brighter. Soon, the dead-end position she felt in her day job would soon become merely a steppingstone in her greater IT career journey.

A successful transition:

Her hard work over two years had officially paid off. Within a matter of weeks after Andrea’s graduation date, she landed a L1 Service Desk job with Morgan Stanley, one of the global leaders in the Financial Services industry.

Landing this new position gave her a huge boost of confidence that the path she chose was the right one and that spark of passion that ignited when she started her program is holding strong.

Andrea excelled in nearly every one of her courses gaining exposure to a wide range of technical competencies from Computer Hardware Fundamentals, Operating Systems, Networking and Security Foundations, Windows Server and Linux server management, Certified Ethical Hacking, Advanced Network Security, and more. With the first few weeks of her new position, Andrea saw connections between what she learned in the classroom and skills that are expected of her on the job.

What did you enjoy most about your class experience?

As a busy working professional, Andrea was adamant about a learning experience that:

  • Combined both online and on campus learning environments
  • Structured class schedule that fit with her busy work life
  • Live interactions with classmates and instructors
  • Labs built into the curriculum that helped build strength in technical skills
  • High-touch support that she could lean on for questions or concerns about her coursework
  • A path to earn in-demand certifications that would accelerate her career

When she evaluated CIAT’s technical Associate Degree program, she found everything on her education wish-list. Unlike some of the community college and traditional college courses she took previously, she wanted her degree path to lead her straight towards her career goals.

The focus of technical training in a structured environment built into her work week allowed her to balance her existing job while focusing on the time she needed to invest to build her new career.

Keeping on track when COVID hit:

As an on-campus student, Andrea’s learning experience that she had grown to love, like many others, took an overnight turn. On-campus classes went 100% remote, physical labs turned 100% virtual, and she was forced to adapt to a new schedule and a new style of learning.

She felt surprised with the seamless transition and was put at ease with the accommodations put in place to meet the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What I enjoyed most was the interaction with instructors. Even after COVID happened, everything went remote, but we still had that opportunity to have that in-class experience.”

Live classes were held on the same schedule, this time without the burden of the physical commute. Andrea ended up spending more than half of her degree time with the COVID restrictions in place but learning never stopped.

She enjoyed the highly interactive environment, support from her instructors, skills-centric virtual labs, and breakout groups for more personalized attention. She relied on support from her instructors, both in and out of class, and was put at ease as her instructors remained highly available for questions, concerns and help with assignments.

That level of support extended beyond technical classes, into general education classes as well, for a comprehensive educational experience that gave her the career-readiness results she was looking for.

What advice would you give for someone trying to start their IT career?

For new students just getting started in their program, Andrea helps set the right type of expectations – to get ready to work hard, but the word work will pay off and translate to results on the job. She adamantly stresses the importance of keeping on top of readings, deadlines, and assignments to not let yourself fall behind.

“Even though the classes are very fast paced and a lot of information to retain in a short amount of time… having the job I do now, I’m able to pull on those resources. It’s a lot of work, but it does sync in.”

For students like her, who are nearing the end of their programs getting ready to take the next step in applying for jobs, Andrea’s job searching advice is one that can resonate with nearly anyone at any stage of their career planning.

Andrea enthusiastically jumped in headfirst applying to as many jobs as she could get her hands on, often up to 50 jobs each week. She never got deterred and stayed positive that she would find the right fit.

Taking a strategic, data-oriented approach, she learned that applying to jobs was simply as she called, “a numbers game”. Even if her qualifications didn’t 100% line up with the job requirement, she didn’t let that deter her from giving it a shot.

She took feedback from employers and crafted that feedback into her next resume submission and call back interviews.

Andrea’s strategy highlights some of the challenges we see students go through when they start their job hunt. Getting your resume through the large ATS systems many employers utilize for resume screening is the first hurdle. Keeping a positive outlook and staying open to a trial and error process while you find the right fit will help you get across the finish line.

What’s next for Andrea?

At this milestone, Andrea feels like she’s just getting started. She has learned to balance completing the daytime responsibilities at her job with the nighttime responsibilities of her education and is planning to continue her technical training and certification preparation while she earns her Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems.

Summary – Tips Any Student Can Walk Away With:

Every student’s career journey is unique. Here are a few key takeaways of what you can learn from Andrea’s approach and apply it to your own goals – whether you’re just starting out, coming back to the workforce after a break, making a career change, or advancing in your current position.

  • Start from the ground up – When making a career change it can be a tough leap to leave a high paying position to start over from ground zero. It’s crucial to think about your long-term plans and ROI planning. Even with a temporary dip in salary, if you’re moving from a job with no upward mobility to the IT field with lots of growth opportunities and areas to specialize, you’ll make up any lost salary once you start advancing your skills.

  • Persistence pays off – Don’t get discouraged if your first handful of job resumes yield no results. It often takes dozens of applications, and rounds of tweaking your resume, to find the right position with the right fit for your skillset. Stay the course and trust the process.

  • Follow your passion – Following the money will only take you so far. If the only driving factor in your IT career change is the search for a higher salary, you may find yourself burnt out or unable to keep up with amount of personal time and investment required to be successful.
  • Find the learning experiences that will help you be successful – Test out different learning experiences that meet your personal needs and help you balance demands of work, family and personal life to avoid burnout or avoid feeling isolated in your education. Do you like the structured, live, interactive environments? Do you like being forced to a set schedule? Do you like more freedom and flexibility in your time? Identify roadblocks early on in your education path to figure out what works bets for you.

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