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Meet Sara Hutchison, NexGenT’s Career Success Coach

Meet Sara Hutchison, NexGenT’s Career Success Coach

Sara Hutchison NexGenT Career Coach

Sara’s career is rooted in corporate social responsibility and sustainability. After completing her Bachelor of Science she oversaw the IT waste reduction and surplus program for a university. In this role she discovered her passion for mentoring those who are making professional transitions, including from college to career. She received her Master’s in Career Counseling in 2015. Prior to working at NexGenT Sara owned a successful resume writing business where she assisted over 1200+ clients in writing stellar job application materials. She has been featured on The Muse and quoted in an NYTimes Bestseller Becoming the Boss on recognizing talent in others.

Sara’s background in both Career Services and IT Operations has uniquely positioned her to help the students of NexGenT. She has spent the last 6 years dedicated to helping her clients feel confident in their job applications and career transitions. Examples of her favorite success stories include moms returning to work and mid-career professionals making an industry change. 

When she is not working, she is making “vroom vroom” sounds with her son’s toy cars or watching Hamilton on repeat with her daughter. She also enjoys trolling her husband on Twitter and loving on their two rescue pups.


About NexGenT Career Service

Our NexGenT Career Service team works with you to develop your job attainment skills. We do this by first analyzing your individual strengths and weaknesses to build a custom career development plan. Your job success is so important that we dedicate a Career Success Coach to meet with you 1:1 to ensure you’re on track to reach your personal goals. Your Career Success Coach works with you to master each career milestone of a professional resume, cover letter, IT or cybersecurity interview preparation, a professional LinkedIn profile, and ultimately, a job and career success plan.

We look forward to helping you level up and achieve your career goals!

If you aren’t already a student, apply for NexGenT’s Full Stack Network Engineer program here or NexGenT’s Cyber Security Specialist program here!


Taking the Cisco CCNA From Home, Trick Questions, & How to Prepare

Taking the Cisco CCNA From Home, Trick Questions, & How to Prepare

The Cisco CCNA remains one of the top entry-level certifications used to launch careers in IT and Networking. 

Due to Covid-19, the testing environment of the CCNA has changed dramatically, and it is now easier than ever before to sit for your CCNA Exam. What exactly do I mean? What I mean is that we can now simply take the CCNA 200-301 exam from the comfort of our homes. In the past, we had to schedule our exam at a physical testing facility, so it is now much more convenient, and only requires an internet connection and a webcam for the proctoring service. It’s possible that some form of online exams may continue after the restrictions from Covid-19 have been lifted – that would be great!

There has never been a better time to get your CCNA than now, and it just so happens to also be the easiest time given the convenience. Once you are ready to schedule your exam just visit Now, since I know you are going to work on your CCNA, I’d like to share with you a few tips that I wish I had known before taking the test remotely.

How to prepare the day before

    1. The day before the exam, you will want to test the link sent in the email confirmation after scheduling the exam.  
    2. If possible determine if there are any applications that run in the background on your PC/laptop.  The first check on the morning of the exam looks to make sure all applications are closed.
    3. Lastly, make sure you have a clean, uncluttered work area in a room where you can close the door.  Someone entering the room during the test will be grounds for disqualification.  If you have a second monitor, it must be powered off (I just unplugged it and hung the power cord over the front of the screen).

The Morning of the Exam

Cisco recommends that you sign in 30 minutes prior to the start time to begin the process of evaluating your workstation and work area.  It is highly recommended that you sign in exactly 30 minutes prior to make sure you get through the pre-test checks in time.  It is stated that your exam will be rescheduled if you do not begin the exam within 15 minutes of the scheduled start time.

The general process:

    1. You will sign-in on the Pearson Vue page using the URL in the email confirmation sent to you after scheduling the exam.
    2. You will have to run a pre-system check – this is different from the one you may have run while scheduling the exam. The initial check just ensures that you have the physical resources to support the testing software and that you have a functioning webcam and microphone.
    3. The check ran on the morning of the exam will also look for applications running in the background and require you to close them.  I had some “Snag-It” application running in the background and I couldn’t find it.  I looked under the task manager and it was not listed.  Being short on time, I went in and uninstalled the application to pass the check.
    4. During the sign-in process, you must supply a mobile phone number.
    5. Once your system is deemed ready, the proctor will contact you via chat in the Pearson application.
    6. You will be forwarded a message on your phone that will contain a link that you will use to upload photos.
    7. There will be at least 6 photos requested:  Your face, a close-up of your picture ID, and 4 of your work area – from the front, back, left, and right.  If any of the photos are unclear, you will be asked to redo and upload it again.
    8. Once your photos are cleared, you will be asked to place your phone physically out of your reach.
    9. The final request will be to lift up your laptop or camera and slowly take a 360-degree pan of the room – including where your phone is sitting.
    10. Then you will be approved to take the exam.

Taking the Exam

When you begin the exam, you have the option of viewing a tutorial.  It is recommended that you go through this – the clock for the exam does not start until you click “Start Exam.

There are 102 questions and the majority are all multiple choice with the balance being drag and drop. The question topics are spread fairly evenly among those listed in the blueprint published by Cisco.

The questions on the exam are worded to make them more difficult.  Look for key-words in the question that clearly identify the answer.  Sometimes, you may have to look at the answers to figure out what the question is asking!  When in doubt, use the elimination method to rule out bogus answers.  Also, when viewing the answers, look for “the odd man out”.  Often there is one answer that does not fit in with the rest. (e .g. 3 answers that contain IP information and a fourth on passwords, for instance.) 

Key Focus Areas

There are a couple topics that seem to be the focus of the largest number of questions.  They revolve around determining the route to a destination address when given a list of routes to choose from – and static routing (both IPV4 and IPV6).  Knowing Administrative Distances and floating static route syntax is important for both of these categories.  A common scenario used is 3 routers connected in a line where you are asked to choose the proper static route to get from a network on one side to a network on the other.  You must be able to correctly identify the destination network and the next hop or exit interface used to get there.  In some cases, a default static route may be the answer

Some Additional Topics to Review

    1. Know these things not mentioned in the Cisco Blueprint 
      • EIGRP
      • RIP
      • VTP
    2. Know CDP & LLDP 
      • Default Timers
      • Configuration syntax to enable/disable globally and per-interface
    3. Know Wireless 
      • Different AP Types
      • LAP Modes
      • Wireless Security
      • Wireless LAN Controllers
      • 2.4Ghz range – non-overlapping channels
    4. Know Security Fundamentals 
      • Port Security
      • Dynamic ARP Inspection
      • DHCP Snooping
      • Requirements for Configuring SSH
      • Know the difference between configuring an enable secret and pasting a previously encrypted password into a configuration
    5. Know Network Automation 
      • Traditional vs Controller-based (distributed vs centralized control plane)
      • Intent-Based Networking (Overlay, Underlay, VXLANs)
      • Spine-Leaf Architecture
      • SDA, SDN & SD-WAN
      • DNA Center, APIC-EM & ACI
      • REST APIs
      • Interpreting JSON Output (proper syntax format)
      • Key differences between Ansible, Chef and Puppet
    6. IPV4 Subnetting 
      • Subnetting calculations will creep into many different types of questions
    7. Command line syntax and “show” command output 
      • Make sure you know the command line syntax for basic configuration tasks such as access and trunk port configuration, ACL and Static route syntax, etc . . .
      • Cisco loves to give you the output of some show commands and ask you “why?”
      • Make sure you can quickly look through “show IPOSPF interface” and find the items that are preventing 2 routers from becoming OSPF neighbors.
      • Although there is no command line configuration required on the exam, there are many questions that are easily answered based on lab experience.  There are also some questions on Wireless LAN Controllers, for instance, that can really only be answered if you have accessed the GUI of a WLC.  Do not forget to include Packet Tracer lab simulations in your studies.


You will come across some trick questions

Lastly, I believe that nobody is supposed to get 100%. So, there may/will be a couple questions on something you have not heard of, or something so specific that only someone who has worked on a specific model of a device with a particular module installed and has performed the exact thing called out in the question could possibly answer it.  This should make you laugh and not panic . . .  

Time Is Limited

Remember that you only have approximately 75 seconds to answer each question.  Don’t waste time on the ones you absolutely don’t know.  Try to do a quick elimination of some answers, choose one and move on.  When you do get a question on a topic with which you have 100% confidence, re-read the question before answering to make sure you are not being lured into a trap.

Lastly, after you have answered the final question, you must click the “End Exam” button or your results will not get sent – and you never took the exam!

The format of the CCNA 200-301 is dramatically different than it used to be and is much more similar to the way that other vendors deliver certification tests.  The new exam incorporates more information from previous specialty certifications such as wireless and security than ever before. This is a difficult, fact-based exam – but is fairly representative of the Exam topics published by Cisco.  With proper focus and practice, this exam is definitely passable on the first attempt!

The best to you and Good luck on your exam! 

Level Up!

If you’d like to level up your career with job-ready IT engineer training and real-world projects, the Zero To Engineer program is designed to do just that. We help IT and cybersecurity professionals build successful careers from the ground up. To read more about our training and certifications click here.



NexGenT Celebrates Graduates of First Cyber Security Cohort

NexGenT Celebrates Graduates of First Cyber Security Cohort

Certified and Reaching Success

Last week here at NexGenT we congratulated our very first Cyber Security Specialist cohort for passing their skills qualification check and becoming certified as a NexGenT Cyber Security Associate (NCSA)! The cohort began on March 23rd 2020 with 23 students graduating from their technical training this past August.

Out of the 23 graduates who now hold an NCSA certification, 3 are now also CompTIA Security+ certified and 3 others have already landed their first job in the industry, some even with little to no experience prior to joining the program. That is what project-based learning and real-world skills training will get you! Several other students from the cohort also already have job interviews lined up which they feel very confident about. 

We spoke to Roberto Buenrostro, NCSA #0025, about his experience completing the program. When he signed up for the Zero To Engineer, Cyber Security Specialist program from NexGenT, he was working an array of part-time positions unrelated to IT but had a couple certifications such as CompTIA  Net+ and A+. He quickly realized that certifications look great on paper, but what was missing from his resume was hands-on skills and knowledge. “A lot of other schools give you theoretical knowledge but NexGenT gives you a lot of the hands-on practical knowledge to actually know what you’re doing.” 

cybersecurity bootcamp

What’s The Program Like?

The ZTE programs are similar to that of an online bootcamp – getting straight to the meaty topics, getting hands-on knowledge and skills, and working projects instead of theory. Over the span of 22 weeks (on a 20 hour per week schedule), the program focused on 4 weeks of network fundamentals and network security, 9 weeks of core cyber security skills, and 8 final weeks of practical skills vetted inside a robust cyber range. Students had a substantial amount of engagement with ransomware, botnets, and various red team / blue team scenarios. By the final weeks, they were launching backdoor shells, gaining access into remote administrative servers, and proving their ability to mitigate these same attacks.

To become NCSA certified, students are required to do more than just a fill in the blank. They must complete and pass a military inspired skills qualification check (SQC) where they are required to perform a checklist of skills. The cyber SQC mimicked 2 cyber range scenarios including stopping exfiltration of banking data, and using snort rules to identify and remove malware from an office network. To be able to identify an attack, find the root source, delete, and prevent takes a lot of work and the students were successfully able to handle these challenges thrown at them. It was a great journey to see them level up their skills and become cyber rockstars!

Our second and third Cyber Security Specialist cohorts have also recently launched on May 22nd and July 17th 2020, respectively, and our fourth will launch on September 18th 2020. To learn more about becoming a cyber security professional and getting high-quality training with zero upfront costs, click here




NCSA-0002 Shirl Marshall
NCSA-0003 Eric Madlangbayan
NCSA-0004 Naioma McPherson
NCSA-0005 Amer Saleemi
NCSA-0006 Don Jayathilake
NCSA-0007 Jon Mallory
NCSA-0008 Gabriel Innecco
NCSA-0009 Ahmed Abdelmoneim
NCSA-0010 Tracy Orr
NCSA-0011 Sid Real
NCSA-0012 Lester Daniels
NCSA-0013 Taylor Beckner
NCSA-0014 Ralph Venisee
NCSA-0015 Antonio Rodgers
NCSA-0016 Sylvester Rolack
NCSA-0017 Michael O’Reggio
NCSA-0018 Joseph Orozco
NCSA-0019 Scott Fearon
NCSA-0021 Wendi Jonkers
NCSA-0022 Ryan Delaney
NCSA-0023 Rashiem Briggs
NCSA-0024 Lorraine May
NCSA-0025 Roberto Buenrosto


Stuck at the Help Desk? These 5 Aspiring IT Engineers Cracked the Code

Stuck at the Help Desk? These 5 Aspiring IT Engineers Cracked the Code

You know the routine. The waning hours of the day, checking off support tickets, babysitting laptops, and working through the grey hued workday with a dispassionate weight on your chest. Your stepping stone into the industry has felt far to much like a landing stone and after all this time it’s no longer new and exciting. You can guess what will happen tomorrow and the day after that. You know what’s expected of you when working help desk, and you meet it with resignation.

Sound familiar? 

Working the help desk can make you think that there’s nothing else to IT work and that you’ve seen it all one-hundred times over. We’re here to tell you that’s not true.

These 5 trailblazers are proof that there’s more for you after the help desk. 

1. From Stuck in IT Support to Network Engineer

Chris Mendez was skeptical of NexGenT advertisements but willing to take a closer look and take a shot at breaking free from the mundane help desk. He developed an interest in learning about the back end of network engineering—a field that he was almost unaware of existed—and was fascinated by how different it was compared to his help desk position.

He landed a role that is worlds away from being deskside IT support. His days have taken on new perspectives, more responsibilities, and new opportunities to explore his passions and pursue a balanced life of traveling and security. He went from a small company servicing a few hundred people to working for his city and servicing thousands of people. It was an exciting jump in his career and a title that helped him increase his income and provide more for his family.

Chris found his freedom by breaking away from the help desk and is using it every day. If you are enrolled in the Zero To Engineer program, you are likely to virtually meet him as one of NexGenT’s alumni mentors.

You can also find his Day in the Life of a Network Engineer video on our YouTube page to hear a bit of his story and see how his work-life has completely changed. 

2. The Change that Resulted in a Promotion After 20 Years

Al Minnigan had been in the IT field for 20 years when he finally decided to invest in his education and took the plunge into learning with NexGenT. He was sick of “babysitting laptops” as an IT field tech and was ready to challenge himself to learn more and go further in his IT career.

His initial reaction when he encountered the course was built off of common excuses: I don’t have enough time, I need to support my family, I’m too old to go back to school. With some tenacity and spousal support, Al took his shot and decided to sign up for NexGenT. “I underestimated my ability to learn more,” he tells us.

Al started taking initiative to help out in new areas of work and his boss took notice of the extra work he was putting in. When an IT networking position opened up that Al was interested in, his boss recognized his efforts and encouraged him to keep applying. Not long after, Al was promoted to a Network Operations Technician.

Al has adjusted extremely well to his new position, enjoys having his own desk set-up with multiple monitors, and being challenged on a daily basis.

3. From Miscellaneous IT Work to Having Security as a Network Engineer

Chris Mickinnis was in an unsustainable grind of miscellaneous IT work that drained him and made him feel frozen in time. He worked with a small company, wore many hats, and often had to be on-the-go. He knew that his job would not sustain him and his family for long and he needed to move on to something more promising within IT. 

After watching a webinar from NGT founder, Terry Kim, he knew the Zero To Engineer program was his key to leveling up in IT. He created a schedule for himself to keep up with his self-study by playing the online course videos after his kids went to bed. He would even keep the videos on repeat while he was at work or in the midst of his commute to keep the information always fresh and flowing through his mind to help with retention and learning. 

One day, he was working on a project with a manager from another company who had heard of this program that Chris Mickinnis was studying. The manager was impressed by the fact that Chris had chosen to invest in his education and recognized that he was a driven and pro-active person. He asked to remain in touch with Chris and reached out to offer him a position when an opening became available. Even better, his new position as a Network Engineer for Kirby Corp now allows him to work remotely.

“I just get a little crack grin every time I say it because I can’t believe it happened,” Chris says in reference to introducing himself as a Network Engineer.

It’s not always clear where to turn, what decisions to make when it comes to building a career you love and are proud of in IT. But it can be done, and with NexGenT, you can earn that state of pride and renewed enthusiasm for the work you do.

4. From 7 Years in the Comfort Zone to Cyber Security Engineer

Jonathan Flores only planned to be at Verizon for 6 months but stayed for 7 years.

“Thinking back now, I was very comfortable financially and avoided looking for another job because I didn’t want to shake-up my life. However, working 60-70 hours a week left no time for me to enjoy my personal life.”

Jonathan wasn’t fulfilled by working at Verizon, but it was safe and familiar. He recognized that he spent so much time working he became an absent spouse and father. He decided to do something about it and pursue a career change he didn’t think was possible. He was ready to start working to live and not living to work.

Zero to Engineer showed him the possibilities of a future in tech and he felt like he finally had a grasp on navigating the IT industry.
“I’ll never forget what Terry told me about how prepared I should be for interviews, ‘You have to be able to articulate things, make them tell you to stop’. Zero to Engineer gave me the IT knowledge I needed to think like a troubleshooter and helped me land a network tech role at Navy Federal.”

Today, Jonathon is still employed with Navy Federal credit union and has since been promoted to a Cyber Security Engineer. His future is bright.

5. From Tech Support to Network Administrator and a 20K Pay Bump

Nick Harvey was hungry for progress in his career and went on the hunt for a solution. He was looking for a different experience than his 8+ years in help desk and tech support—something new, a challenge.

He attempted Udemy courses, but it missed the mark. What he wanted was accountability and an active community where he could learn and grow in his new IT pursuits, while equipping himself with certifications that would get him IT jobs, and out of help desk.

He found his perfect fit in the IT training program when he joined the NexGenT family.  When it came time for job hunting, Nick Harvey shared that though he didn’t have the “practical” IT networking experience, but working on the Full Stack Network Engineer (FSNE) project gave him the confidence and solid understanding to take on his new network administrator role. “I really think the networking project we did is the primary reason I got the job,” Harvey said.

Harvey is now a Network Administrator, making an extra $20,000 annually. A salary increase like this makes a big difference for him and his family.

What can this mean for you?

Change is hard. Routine is hard to break free from. However, if these 5 examples of students that broke free from the help desk and support are any indication, it’s worth the leap. It’s more than possible to break from your help desk comfort zone and from your easy routine to go after something bigger and more exciting.  

If you see yourself in any of these stories, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team and learn about what your options are via the chatbox on our website. We’re ready and hoping to help you build an IT career you love in a way that provides lasting connections, and solid foundations.

You can apply to the Zero To Engineer program now and fill out a quick assessment to see if you qualify.


People of Zero To Engineer: Jonathan Flores

People of Zero To Engineer: Jonathan Flores

A devastating future was just around the corner. The calm atmosphere had morphed into one engulfed with chaos and destruction. With no end in sight, my parents decided to pack-up and leave the civil war torn country of El Salvador in the 80’s. Even with empty pockets, they made sure I had everything I needed to be successful.

After high school, I transferred to a small Christian school and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies. I loved the missionary work I did during college because I got a chance to work in countries like Israel, Hungary, Mexico and Chile. Life was moving fast and I got engaged right in the middle of the recession. I was forced to find a job quickly and ended up at Verizon as a Field Tech. I only planned to be at Verizon for 6 months but stayed for 7 years! Thinking back now, I was very comfortable financially and avoided looking for another job because I didn’t want to shake-up my life. However, working 60-70 hours a week left no time for me to enjoy my personal life. I was missing so many things at home like seeing my kids grow up and enjoying time with my wife. I remember my wife telling me that she felt like she was a single mom. The epiphany that dealt the last blow was realizing that my parents were 28 when they left El Salvador. They dreamed of me having the opportunity to be anything and have everything I wanted, yet, here I was at 28, miserable and scared to do anything that affected my cushiony life. Work was extremely taxing on my body and I knew I couldn’t work at the pace I was for the rest of my life.

My friends suggested looking into networking and trying to pass the CCNA. I took some Cisco classes to help me out, but I wasn’t understanding anything. Fortunately for me, I found Zero to Engineer. Working through the Zero to Engineer program was the first time I felt like I understood what was being taught and actually enjoyed it too.

I’ll never forget what Terry told me about how prepared I should be for interviews, “You have to be able to articulate things, make them tell you to stop”. Zero to Engineer gave me the knowledge I needed to think like a troubleshooter and helped me land a network tech role at Navy Federal. Professionally I’m constantly improving and growing and currently working towards a role in cyber security. On a personal level, giving back is my passion and I’m engaged in many activities to influence my community to have a larger presence in the networking industry. My parents took a leap of faith for my future and they couldn’t be happier with what I’ve done with the opportunity they gave me.

UPDATE: Jonathan Flores has been employed with Navy Federal Credit Union ever since and in June of 2019 was promoted to a position as Cyber Security Engineer.