CIAT Resource Library

My Tech Journey – Mathew Birchard

Episode 3


Mathew talks about landing his first internship, earning IT certifications, CIAT’s career support team, and offers some words of advice for new students.

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00;00;21;21 – 00;02;49;09

Congrats on landing your first internship! Can you tell us a little bit more about that…

Yeah. So I actually applied for the internship back in October or November, right when I first started the school. And I said to them, you know, I saw the job at actually on Indeed and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the school and everything. And they were looking for actually an IT help desk technician. And I just shot them a message.

I said, “hey, I’m nobody I am not qualified in any way for this position, but I am starting my degree in tech and I would really appreciate the opportunity to come learn with you guys while I grow. Is that something that would work for you?” And they reached out to me. It took a really long time to do it, but they reached out to me and they said, “Well, we don’t really think we could hire you as an actual I.T. technician, but maybe we could do an internship” that ended up working out to where, you know, I had an a couple of interviews and them and that ended up working out to where I am officially an IT intern.

It’s a paid internship. I get to go in every day, work with a really incredible group of people, just phenomenal leadership who who emphasize that it’s family school and then them. So they’re super flexible. And then I have the opportunity to deal with some of those things, taking a hands-on experience from my classes and apply it in work.

But I’ve gotten to do things like go through some of their tech deficit and work on some of the laptops they have, reimaging those those hard drives, really looking at their network topology, the physical structure of their network and how things are working there. And then also just seeing what all of this stuff from the technician side to A+ to Network+ and the ITF, how all that actually looks in a enterprise environment, which is really cool because it’s the largest home builder in the Pacific Northwest.

So we have a huge number of people and they’re in a lot of different locations and our office supports all of those remote locations, the different job site tech technologies, as well as the Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, all of those different sites. So it’s really a great experience.

00;02;49;09 – 00;04;23;03

When you started evaluating options for IT training and certifications, what made you decide to enroll at CIAT?

So when you start looking at what schools you’re going to enroll in and what kind of options you have for training, you can choose the certification path you can choose that the degree path. And then some people, you know, they can just go and they can just get their hands dirty and work their way up through IT, you know, doing that. And so you get a lot of options. For me, I had to have a way to pay my bills, and I also had to have a way that I could get – like it had to be guaranteed for me.

And I wasn’t going to take something that wasn’t going to give me the certifications but would give me the education, the degree and and vice versa. I wouldn’t take just the certifications, but not the degree because I know that a lot of times in the job market they’re asking like their entry level positions says “ten years of experience” and all this crazy stuff, and you’re like, no way how you know, it’s completely unreasonable.

But I would take it as far as I could. So CIAT was the only option that I came across that afforded me not just the degree but also the certifications and gave me the flexibility plus my with my veterans benefits, the income to meet all of those requirements. I analyzed in MIT, I analyzed Duke, Oregon State University. I went through every institution, accredited and otherwise that I could possibly look at as an option and CIAT was the only institution offering that level of training.

00;04;23;03 – 00;05;22;12

How did you take advantage of the support from our Career Services team?

I have not used it as much as I want to. So I did meet with Ms. Young a couple of times over at the Career Services team and she was phenomenal in helping me kind of set some benchmarks and some initial thoughts in motion. Right? So I was able to work through my resume and realize that the networking component in the IT field was going to be important as I get my name out there, build my LinkedIn, which is something I didn’t have before.

I didn’t have LinkedIn at all. And so I’ve just gotten started a little bit there, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to meet with career services a little bit more to really make that LinkedIn profile stand out, but also to make to get the curriculum vitae, not just the resume and make myself more marketable in the job place. And I think that the the career services department will be critical in that.

00;05;22;12 – 00;06;13;14

How have your IT training and new certifications helped you in entering your internship?

So the A-plus and the network plus as well as the program that I’m pursuing, was super promising for that internship because from their perspective, they have the opportunity to kind of train a guy into the position, but they don’t really have a network guy per se, or a security guy per se, say, they’re just kind of a couple of them have been in IT for a really long time.

So they’re very comfortable with the technology and so they built their systems based off of that. They’re excited about having the opportunity to bring a guy who’s actually pursuing this this path with the networking and cybersecurity that can bring them new eyes to the to the team down the road. Their hope is to eventually hire me into that role after the internship, whether that happens or not.

And if it weren’t for this path, this degree program, they wouldn’t even be able to entertain that with me.

00;06;23;20 – 00;07;44;11

CIAT encourages students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom – do you see this internship helping you build confidence?

So CIAT’s approach on that is, I think, perfect. And I had a few meetings with Kirsten on it as well. And she said, you know, she works through a lot of this. It builds a lot of confidence in me because if you’re just doing the school, you might not see every day what it’s like in the office.

Right? We get a ton of requests for silly things. Somebody actually had a problem recently with they couldn’t preview a PDF document in their email and we had to figure out how to do that. And it took us like 4 hours because it was just a difference in 32 bit software versus 64 bit email. But you would never really know that so we’re doing all this stuff in class, which has zero correlation to that real world applicability.

But when you’re on the ground and you work through that, you do have those issues like our network, our whole network in the building failed last week. Then you get to go back to the class where we’re learning. You’re out troubleshooting and say, All right, awesome, let’s let’s apply some of what we learned here. And that was super fun to be able to actually see that. So you get both of the like, okay, this what it’s really like mostly like emails and my mouse won’t connect. And then you know that every once in a while applying what you learn in school.

00;07;44;11 – 00;08;35;20

What is one piece of advice for new students who want to build a career in tech?

I would say to just get started, right? You’re going to know something about what you’re interested in, but until you get your hands in it, until you actually get there in it, it’s going to be extremely difficult to know what your aptitudes are, what are you good at?

And then what do you really enjoy doing? We all love what we see on TV about the cybersecurity. They’ve made it super glorious, you know, with all the LEDs and stuff and the hackers and all that. But that might not be the right path for you. Coding could be super boring for you. And I’m finding out just now in Python that I really enjoy coding, which is – I did not expect that.

So just get started, take the first step, get into it, and then you can you can make adjustments.

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