Building an IT Career—and a Sense of Accomplishment
Parent’s PC rebuild sparks lifelong love of computers and networks
When Julio Hernandez was in high school, one of his buddies taught him how to work with computers. So when his parents brought home a brand-new PC, he figured it would be a simple task to install some extra RAM.
But he figured incorrectly. “I put the RAM in wrong, broke one of the clips, and the computer wouldn’t start,” recalls Julio. “I was afraid I’d get in trouble with my parents when they found out. So I ended up taking the computer completely apart, and reassembling it.”
Since then, Julio has built a career out of helping others with hardware and software issues. Today, he’s a Network Security Administrator for an engineering consulting firm that designs railroads, bridges, airports, roads, and other infrastructure and buildings for municipalities and businesses. The company has hundreds of employees in 32 offices across the United States.
“I serve everyone in the company, and make sure their network stays up, and get it running as soon as possible if it goes down” says Julio. “I do a little bit of everything to make our offices run efficiently. It feels good to be counted on.”
Sharpening his focus through certifications
After graduating from high school, Julio took a few classes at a junior college, and got a job in customer service. “I was making decent money, but I wanted to be more accomplished, and pursue something that I actually enjoyed doing,” says Julio. “I also liked working with my hands, without being supervised, so networking was the perfect option. I don’t shy away from any challenge.”
When Julio turned 22, he understood that there were jobs in IT, and that networking could be a career track for him. He went back to college, and received associate degrees in Network Administration and General Science when he was 25. He then got his first IT job. “I started at the bottom, working in a call center, where I’d help people who had basic computer problems and did general troubleshooting. It was a very stressful environment.”
Because he didn’t have as much experience as others, Julio was passed up when opportunities came up in the company, even though he had college degrees. He decided it was time to improve his knowledge.
To get ready for his first Cisco certification, Julio leveraged his Cisco Networking Academy teachers and the online student portal that can be accessed from anywhere at anytime. He read many networking books, and used Cisco.com and the Cisco Learning Network to prepare for the CCENT exam.
More responsibilities—and more opportunities
“I let my boss know that I was pursuing a CCENT certification, which demonstrated that I was willing to learn new things,” says Julio. “Certifications indicate that I have the technical background, and can do tasks in a timely manner without supervision. It’s very rewarding to put into practice what you studied for, and know what you should and shouldn’t do.”
Cisco CCENT and CCNA Routing and Switching Certifications gave Julio a sense of accomplishment, and helped propel his career forward with a new postion. “The more training I get, the better I look. I won’t be passed up for opportunities anymore. My certifications have helped me move from being a Tier 1 employee to Tier 3 and 4. It’s also benefitted my employer, since the more knowledge and responsibilities I gain, the less outside help they need.”
Going forward, Julio plans to finish the CCNP Routing and Switching certification track, and has his eyes set on the CCNA CyberOps certification as well. Whatever the future holds, building a connection with Cisco has been extremely valuable. “I appreciate that Cisco takes the time to connect candidates, past, present, and future, through social networking and the Cisco Learning Network. Engaging with the IT professional community is important, and Cisco has built a great platform for this.”
What advice does he have for anyone who is considering a certification? “I would definitely encourage getting Cisco Certifications. They strengthen the fact that you can do the things you say you can do. Everyone has areas they can improve on, and certifications help. Learn as much as you can; that way, you’re better equipped to deal with a difficult situation in the future.”
“Find a passion that you like doing and make it your own; whether it’s data center, cybersecurity, networking, wireless, security, or something else. Never be afraid to ask questions; it’s true that the only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked. And if an opportunity presents itself, take it.”