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From Laid Off to Hired – How NexGenT Student Turned His Life Around And Broke Into IT

From Laid Off to Hired – How NexGenT Student Turned His Life Around And Broke Into IT

Kent Davis was in the mortgage industry, working as a Mortgage Originator and Processor but the truth was, he didn’t enjoy his job. The money was good and that’s what made it hard to leave.

Kent was unexpectedly laid off but he knew all too well, “The bad stuff always turns good, it’s just a matter of time. So you gotta keep it positive” he tells us. And with this mentality, he knew that he had a choice to make and opportunity was just around the corner.

After some soul searching, he made the decision to not return to the mortgage industry.  “I was dealing with finances and getting people loans but I just didn’t really want that to be my calling and IT is my calling, so I made the switch” Kent explains.

Download our free 5 step guide to becoming a Network Engineer

Kent had been interested in IT and computers since he was young. He never thought to break into the field professionally but was commonly the go-to computer guy for his family and friends, calling himself the “resident techy.” 

In exploring his options, he looked online at IT programs. The one that caught his attention was a Facebook ad for NexGenT’s CompTIA Net+ course.  He signed up and was pleased with the course and how much he was learning from the online videos. “I really liked it so I went and jumped into the full-fledged program and did the rest of the CCNA class with Jacob and Rob. [The instructors] definitely know how to convey information really well and keep your attention,” Kent says. 

And thus began his journey to change career fields through the Zero To Engineer program. 

Staying Motivated

It’s no secret that online courses require discipline. Kent quickly figured out the exact plan he needed to keep himself accountable with his studies. 

Thanks to the instruction given by Terry Kim in the course intro, Kent created a vision board. He organized it by three months, six months and one year goals – aiming to complete Net+ in the three months and CCNA in six.

Although losing a job is never a fortunate situation, Kent took advantage of the extra time and devoted roughly 6 hours a day to the course material. Leveling up was his new full-time mission.

Quick Tip From Kent – It might not work for everyone but I like making notecards for the material. Even little things like the acronyms. For example, on the test it won’t break down “APIPA” in the question, it’ll just mention it. I found it helpful to quiz myself even on the smaller topics.  I also bought a CCNA book and went through and highlighted things for later review. The highlighting really helped.

Related: NexGenT Donates $5 Million in IT Course Scholarships During COVID-19

Getting Hired In His First IT Role

Perseverance and repetition will help you get to where you want to be. “I never thought I would apply so much in my life, let alone for one position,” Kent shares with a sigh of relief knowing that his search was over. After being done with the course, he searched rigorously for opportunities around him and submitted over 100 applications.

One company he heard back from, Mytech Partners, Inc. caught his attention from the first phone interview. This call in particular stood out to Kent – everything about it felt right. Not to mention, their values aligned perfectly.

Kent tells us that after the first phone interview, he had to go through an online assessment. “This thing was brutal!” He was given a 75 technical question test with 45 minutes to complete it.

Thanks to Kent’s hard work and study habits, he completed the assessment with an acceptable score and was called only two hours after completion for an in-person interview.  

Related: 4 Qualities That Will Prove To An IT Hiring Manager That You Are A Great Fit

The skills check didn’t stop there. During the in-person interview, Kent was required to whiteboard a series of technical topics to prove his ability to articulate what he knew.  No sweat off his back – he was grateful for the NexGenT instructors who thoroughly reviewed this skill in the course.

“I thought well, I’m glad I had this training because now I can just stand up here and be familiar with what to do.” Kent exclaims the interview process was rigorous. After all, to land a role as a Tier 2 Service Desk Technician, a company needs to feel confident in a candidate’s abilities. “It was really a good starter for me through that entire interview and I really felt like I related to the engineers who were interviewing me who are now my peers.” 

Kent soared through each interview and challenge and was in fact job-ready.

Getting Acclimated To IT

Kent spends a lot of time on the phone, dealing with calls, working on certain projects, building network diagrams, etc. “Things kind of change day-to-day whether I’m on the phone or on site.”

“When life closes one door it opens another. That really holds true for me”

Kent Davis, NGT ALumni

With a wide variety of work, he is getting a lot of experience and says he is trying soak up all that he can. “I’ve actually installed some hardware already within my first 30 days and I really enjoyed that,” he tells us. Kent calls it a steep learning curve but is thrilled to basically be getting paid to learn while he gets more comfortable in his new career. 

It was a big jump for him – going from the world of mortgages to the world of IT – and sometimes not knowing where to start is the hardest part.  “Knowing what you need to do to make the change is really critical. But [NexGenT] lays it out for you. They set that path and you just have to walk down it.”

He trusted the direction that he was being led in, followed the path and his vision board timeline, and successfully acquired the position he worked so hard for. A strong core foundation has helped him to understand every aspect of networking easily. 

Career Change:Life Change

As cliche as it might sound, if you are unhappy with your life, something around you has got to change. Since breaking into a field of work that gets him excited to wake up in the morning, life has completely changed for Kent. 


He admits he had to take a pay cut to get his start in the IT field, “But it doesn’t matter to me because now I enjoy what I do. I don’t dread a third of my life anymore. Eight hours a day is a lot of time to not enjoy what you’re doing. It’s a world of difference.” With the passion this man has for IT and his new position, there is no doubt that he will move up quickly into an advanced role such as Senior Network Engineer. But in the meantime, getting his feet wet in IT was a serendipitous life-change that he needed. 

“Thanks to NexGenT that I am happy in my life and in my career”

Kent Davis, NGT Alumni

He didn’t enjoy doing mortgages. “It paid the bills for sure, but IT is something I like coming in to work for. I don’t dread coming into work anymore” Kent says with a grin.

If you are craving a career change and want to break into a booming industry that you can be excited about each morning you wake up, reach out to us on our chatbox on our website or click the link below. 

If you or someone you know has been laid off recently, especially in the midst of this pandemic and would like to dedicate your available time to learning a new skill to break into the world of IT, click here.

Related: Want To Stand Out From Other IT Candidates? Read This First! FSNA & FSNP Certifications Could Be Your Answer

Is College Really Necessary?

Is College Really Necessary?

NexGenT was founded on the belief that education is for everyone and that the ideal educational system should be based on real-world skills training. The company ethos includes the belief that education cannot leave people in debt with degrees that do not teach the real skills needed to succeed, and that it should prepare people to be ready for the workforce. We want our students to be field-ready after completing our program, similar to how we trained network engineers in the military.

This is how we view proper training – it should actually prepare folks for a real job and give them tangible skills that are necessary to do the job (I know, crazy right!?). However, we find that traditional College education is lacking in technical fields of study such as information technology. What is needed in IT are people who can do the job, not people with a head full of concepts with no application.

For this reason, people mostly get hired based on their skills and certifications. There are not enough college programs that teach the necessary technical skills and to make things even worse, traditional institutions leave their students in massive amounts of debt. So, it’s important to highlight this issue of College debt, and discuss alternatives to traditional academia, but alternatives that actually provide the education needed for a great career.

Last year, more than 20 million students attended College or University, and 70% graduated with a significant amount of student loan debt. The national student debt is nearly $1.5 Trillion, collectively held by around 44 million Americans. This figure is truly unsustainable, and there must be change. The average student debt is around $37,000, and that significant amount of money could have been otherwise invested somewhere else.

At NexGenT, we provide real-world skills training for a fraction of the cost of College. Students graduate in just months instead of years and gain sought after skills without the burden of large amounts of debt. This is the kind of thinking we will need in order to fill the millions of tech jobs that will be open in just the next couple years.

And, don’t only take it from us – we created a short video with raw footage from some of our students who were inspired to share their stories and discuss this topic. The video starts with a question about College and then students share their authentic stories providing genuine insight into the value of alternative educational programs and the mission at NexGenT.

Launch your career in cybersecurity in just 6 months! Find out how.

Enjoy the video!

The ultimate guide to reach out to technical recruiters and make them want to help you

The ultimate guide to reach out to technical recruiters and make them want to help you

Reaching out to technical recruiters, besides a few things here and there, should be approached the same way as reaching out to any other person. By default, this requires an understanding of people’s natural responses to certain stimuli.

It might not seem as complicated as configuring a network with a bunch of branches from scratch or automating failover for disaster recovery, but how to deal with and influence people is quite a science too!

Believe it or not, a huge part of the success of public relations companies, politicians, CEO’s, managers, etc. comes from knowing how to awaken an eager interest and want in other people. When reaching out to technical recruiters, this should be your goal. You want to get them excited or curious about speaking to you, and you want to give them a very good reason to do so.

Download our free 5 step guide to becoming a Network Engineer

This is not that hard. In fact, the method I’m about to teach you might sound way too simple. Yet, public relations firms have been using it for years for one reason: it actually works!

So, without any further ado, here’s the ultimate guide to reaching out to the best technical recruiters (or any important person really) and make them want to talk to you even if you suck at writing:

Step 1

Do your research, don’t be lazy

Nowadays, there are recruiters for all kinds of jobs. Even in IT, there are technical recruiters who specialize in different roles and career stages. Technical recruiters need to find candidates to keep their job, so they won’t be annoyed about having too many candidates to choose from.

That said, it is critical that you’re reaching out to the right kind of recruiter. Otherwise you’re most likely going to get ignored and/or waste your time. Make sure you research what kind of jobs they usually look to fill and what career stage/s they focus on.

For example, if you’re a soon-to-be graduate looking for an internship don’t contact technical recruiters who usually hire for positions with more seniority. This can be easily done by reading over technical recruiters’ profiles on a couple of social media platforms.

You must realize that everybody else knows that technical recruiters  are constantly looking for candidates so they are probably getting a ton of messages and contact requests every day. That said, they might check them out, but will only pay attention to the ones relevant to them.

Step 2 (message #1)

Make them feel important/appreciated by asking a very thoughtful and/or considerate question

According to some of the most renowned thinkers of human history, one of the key characteristics of human nature is that of having a desire to be great and feel important. We all want to feel like we matter and that we are appreciated.

If you keep this in mind, you will be able to catch anyone’s attention just by tapping into their self-interested being. A great, if not the best way to do it, is by giving a person a high reputation to live up to and, very subtly, asking him/her to back it up.

You can easily apply this principle by asking them a thoughtful and/or considerate question that only an experienced professional could answer. Thus, implying they are an expert and making them feel important. I must admit this can be a little tricky but with a little bit of research you’ll be able to come up with a good and unique question to ask.

Nonetheless, you can’t just ask any question bluntly before setting up the stage for yourself. Once you come up with a good question, follow the structure of this template to write your message (don’t worry if they don’t reply to your first message. You must be persistent. That said, you must do it the right way. You don’t want to annoy anyone).

Note: check technical recruiters LinkedIn summaries. Sometimes they write long paragraphs describing themselves, what they do, and many other things that can give you a baseline to come up with a good-unique question.

Hey [name]

I know technical recruiters have to work very hard to find the best candidates, and that sometimes people complicate things for them. (notice how sympathetic this first sentence is)

You’re obviously an expert in your profession so I wanted to ask you a question: [insert question] (needless to say, you’re telling them that you think they are an expert, making them feel important).

I’m just trying to get a sense of what to do to prepare better for when I look to break into IT in the future. (Sincere reason for you to reach out. However, notice you’re not asking him to check your resume or consider you at all).

Hope you’re having a great day!  

[your first name]

Step 3

Selflessly provide something of value to them

Obviously your expertise is in IT, not in IT recruiting, so providing value to technical recruiters might be very tricky. However, keep in mind that many times, what matters the most is your intention. Good people will always appreciate good intentions.  

To do this, you must first understand the struggle that technical recruiters go through to find good candidates (read this article to get a good idea). Knowing the hardest part about their job, look for up-to-date tools/resources that can make technical recruiters’ lives easier.

You’ll probably have a hard time finding something they don’t already know of. Nonetheless, you’ll still be able to have the desired effect on them by going out of your way to selflessly help him or her out. Depending on whether the recruiter replies to your first message or not you’ll want to approach the second message differently.

Template 1 (if no reply to first message)

Hey [name]

I know people sometimes make your job harder by [insert pain point/frustrating action].

You probably already know this but if you use [link/name of solution] you’ll be able to fix/avoid having to put up with it. Anyways, just thought it could be of a lot of help to you.

Best,

[your first name]

P.S. Quick question: do you know why so many recruiters struggle to find candidates? It seems there are way too many people looking for jobs for that to be the case.

Template 2 (if he/she replied to your first message)

Note: keep in mind you asked a question on the first message so he/she should have replied with an answer to your question.

Hey [name]

[Address their reply, thank them for their advice if applicable]

Ex: Thank you for taking the time to reply and for giving me valuable advice, [recruiter’s name].

[Agree with whatever they said. Then lead the conversation towards one of their main pain points/frustrations (listed in the article linked above)]

Ex: I agree, too many people have too little hands-on experience and think that they are ready to break into a job and add value to companies only because they got one or two certs.

[Offer your solution starting with “You probably already know this but…[insert solution].”

Ex: You probably already know this, but there’s this entry/associate level certification where people have to prove themselves using up-to-date networking equipment and performing real world tasks. Zero written testing!

[close by wishing him/her a good day or with some form of goodwill]

Ex: Maybe this can make your job easier? Anyways, just thought it could be of a lot of help to you.

Thanks again,

[your first name]

Step 4

Ask them to check out your profile

Needless to say, even before you send them the very first message you need to make sure your profile is on point (you never know if they decide to check you out simply because they got a notification saying you viewed their profile). Likewise, try to figure out if the technical recruiters you’re reaching out to have gotten people hired for jobs similar to the ones you’re looking for.

Once you’ve provided value in any way, you can move on to make your request. Don’t hold back when doing so. Reach out to them like if you were 100% sure that they will like what they are going to see.

Keep in mind that you must make sure the recruiter’s job involves filling the particular position you’d like to land. Also, understand they might not be looking to place people at the moment. Yet, it is likely that they will in the near future. Anyway, regardless of what the case is, it is good to form relationships with as many technical recruiters as you can. You never know when they will come in handy.

Template 1

Hey [name]

Could you please check out my profile? I’m pretty sure I can help you fill one of your positions fast, and perform very well in it.

Best!

[your name]

Template 2

Hey [name],

I just got certified in-person by former IT Air force Instructors and Cisco systems engineers, and I’m ready to break into a job as a [insert job title].

Could you please check out my profile?

Best!

[your name]

Note: don’t be afraid to send another message after this one if they don’t reply to your initial request. There’s nothing wrong with following up!

Follow these guide and you will eventually be able to form relationships and get job offers from technical recruiters who work for great tech companies. Next step, make sure you know how to write cover letters and resumes that work in your favor.

The Secret Formula To Writing Mouthwatering Resumes And Cover Letters Like A Pro

The Secret Formula To Writing Mouthwatering Resumes And Cover Letters Like A Pro

Search online and you’ll find a ton of places saying that writing a good cover letter and resume is essential to getting a job, which for the most part, is true.

However, you’ll find people telling you that you should include “this and that” yet, the vast majority seem to leave out the most important thing about cover letters and resumes…

Do you want to know what that is?

It is the fact that your one and only goal, when writing a cover letter and a resume, is to sell yourself as a benefit to companies. Why? Because that is the only thing they care about!

Companies are run by normal people who are not too different from you and I. Silly right? Well, if you know a little bit about human nature you’ll know that us humans are, at its simplest, astonishingly self-interested.

If you put a company’s interests ahead of yours, and truly try to come across as if their priorities, wants and needs were more important than your own, you’ll find yourself writing the best cover letter and resume that there is to write.

Your expertise is in IT. So I don’t pretend for you to read this guide and become an expert at writing cover letters and resumes. Hence, I’ve added a few detailed examples.   

Related: The Growing Gap Between Education & Unemployment

But, before you scroll down to the bottom and start submitting applications, know that understanding the thought process that goes into writing a great cover letter and resume will help you in many aspects as you move through your career.

Cover Letters

In a nutshell, they should be used to:

  1. Address the company’s needs and wants (and long-term goals if applicable)
  2. Explain how you would add value to the organization
  3. Add a call to action

Let’s break them down one by one…  

Address the company’s needs and wants

Before getting someone interested in you, you must first understand what is it that they want and/or need so that you can offer it to them. That can be tricky. But…

Every single company out there needs to make sure that their total expenses are lower than their total revenue so they can turn in a profit; and, every single company wants to hire good people who can get along with existing employees.

That’s it. Simple, right?

With this said, if you’re applying for a highly competitive role you need to take it a step further by doing some research on the company’s market, competitors, ongoing/new trends, mission & vision, etc. so you can figure out their long-term goal and address it in your letter.

Explain how you would add value to the organization

Your cover letter should not be too long. In fact, it should only be a few paragraphs. So there’s no need to write exactly how you can provide value to the organization. That’s what your resume is for.

Nonetheless, you do need to state in a very brief and concise way, why it is that hiring you can help the company achieve and/or move closer to its goals.

This will allow you to be perceived as someone who can be an asset to the company rather than just one more employee.

Add a call to action

Essentially all you’re doing during the hiring process, from the moment you send your application to when you get hired, is selling yourself.

So think about your cover letter as the beginning of the process. You obviously want to invite your “buyer” to learn more about what you can do for them, don’t you?

You could incorporate a call to action in the same section where you talk about how you can add value to the organization. This way, you can keep your cover letter short.

Here’s an example of one of the best cover letters I’ve ever read:

Note: it is taken from the book How To Win Friends And Influence People. It’s a classic so the language might sound a little out of date.

Dear sir:

My ten years of bank experience should be of interest to a rapidly growing bank like yours.

In various capacities in bank operations with the Bankers Trust Company in New York, leading to my present assignment as a Branch Manager, I have acquired skills in all phases of banking including depositor relations, credits, loans and administration.

I will be relocating to Phoenix in May and I am sure that I can contribute to your growth and profit. I will be in Phoenix the week of April 3 and would appreciate the opportunity to show you how I can help your bank meet its goals,

                                                                             Sincerely,

                                                                             Barbara L. Anderson

Do you find anything odd about this letter?

Notice how the company and the hiring manager are the entire focus of it? Obviously she needs a job because she’s moving to Phoenix, but she doesn’t even mention that. Her focus is on positioning herself as a benefit!

Although writing the exact kind of letter might not do much for you for whatever reason, you could easily apply the same underlying strategy used on this example.

Here’s a template you could use as a reference:

Dear [whoever you’re addressing]:

Over the past [insert time] I’ve built a set of skills as a [insert role/industry] that should be of interest to a [compliment company].  

Over the past 2 years I’ve built a set of skills as a network technician that should be of interest to a growing company like yours.

My experience working in [broad area #1, #2 and/or #3], added to [your soft skills] make me a great fit to join your team as [title of job].

My experience in routing and switching, added to my ability to excel in team environments, make me a great fit to join your organization as a network engineer.

I’ll be in [location + time frame] and would appreciate an opportunity to show you how I can [help the company with whatever they need].

I’ll be in San Francisco next week and would appreciate an opportunity to show you how I can contribute to your company’s IT operations and overall growth.  

Sincerely,

[your full name]

Resumes

In a nutshell they should be used to:

  1. Position yourself as an achiever
  2. Reinforce your position of being a benefit to the company
  3. Showcase your attention to detail and organization

Let’s break them down one by one…

Position yourself as an achiever  

Companies want results. They need to either become more efficient and decrease their costs or provide more value to their customers and increase their revenue.

Hiring managers are very aware of this. So they look for people who can add value either on the hard skills side or on the soft skills side, but preferably both.

You can position yourself as the ideal candidate by strategically presenting your experience, credentials and skills in such a way that it seems that you must be considered at all costs.

Note: needless to say, you shouldn’t lie about your skill set. Don’t “put lipstick on a pig.” If you do, you might end up embarrassing yourself in an in-person interview.

Here’s how you can position yourself as an achiever:

  1. Read 5-10 job postings and write down the top skills companies are looking to hire for your desired role.
  2. Rank the skills from most important/valuable to least important/valuable in your opinion.
  3. Ask yourself the following question: what real world tasks have you performed in the past that illustrate your knowledge of these particular skills?

Once you go through this process, use this formula to present your skills:

[key action] + [key skill] + [key purpose and key result]

For example:

Designed and deployed multi branch network using XYZ technology resulting in a decrease of 10 percent in the amount of N that was generating B problem.

Repeat this process with all of your skills making sure that every time you’re coming across as someone who could add value to a company in the specific areas that the company you’re applying to is looking for help with.

Reinforce your position of being a benefit to the company

After writing a great cover letter, you want to make sure that your resume is portraying you as the “perfect” type of person to join their company. To do this, you must take care of other details besides presenting your skills in a results-oriented way, which can really help your cause.

One of them is your resume objective. Once again, another example of a topic where there’s a ton of advice, but people seem to forget that no one cares about what you want, they care about what they want!

So instead of focusing on your desired job title and the skills you hope to use in your next position, use this section to your advantage. Tell them whatever you want, but do it in a way that shows how valuable you can be to them.

Use this formula:

[credentials + experience as…] have enabled me to become an expert at [general skills relevant to the job]. I’m a [top soft skills] person with a desire to implement and expand my knowledge of [top skills desired by the company], and I’m looking to join your team, where my existing set of skills and knowledge can [benefits to the company].

For example:

My 3 years of experience working in the IT field as a helpdesk analyst and network technician have enabled me to become an expert at routing and switching. I’m a driven and motivated team player looking to implement and expand my knowledge of networking, and I’m looking to join your team, where my existing set of skills can help streamline your IT operations.

Showcase your attention to detail and organization

The way you present your resume can say a lot about you. You want to make sure there are no grammar or punctuation mistakes. Companies like people who are detailed oriented and organized so believe it or not, they will look for these kinds of mistakes.

Here’s a reference you can use to present your resume in a clean and organized way (make sure you are prioritizing the order in which you list your skills according to what you concluded are the most important for the role): 

Name & Last Name

# street, city, state, zip code

Email

Phone Number

My 3 years of experience working in the IT field as a helpdesk analyst and network technician have enabled me to become an expert at routing and switching. I’m a driven and motivated team player looking to implement and expand my knowledge of networking, and I’m looking to join your team, where my existing set of skills can help streamline your IT operations.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

COMPANY 1

Title                                                 From(month/year) – to (month/year)

  • Designed and deployed multi branch network using X technology resulting in a decrease of X percent in whatever problem.
  • Relevant achievement # 2
  • Relevant achievement # 3

COMPANY 2

Title                                                 From(month/year) – to (month/year)

  • Relevant achievement # 1
  • Relevant achievement # 2
  • Relevant achievement # 3

CERTIFICATIONS

FSNA                                                                                     City, State

  • Relevant skill performed to achieve cert #1
  • Relevant skill performed to achieve #2
  • Relevant skill performed to achieve #3

EDUCATION

[       ] UNIVERSITY                                                              City, State

Bachelor of Arts in Information Technology Administration

SKILLS

  • Relevant skill #1
  • Relevant skill #2
  • Relevant skill #3
  • Relevant skill #4
  • Relevant skill #5
  • Relevant skill #6

ADVANCED SKILLS

  • Advanced skill # 1
  • Advanced skill # 2

If you follow this process and tips, you will be able to write a resume and cover letter combo that maximizes your chances of being invited to an in-person interview—regardless of how competitive a position may seem. Once in an in-person interview, however, everything will depend on how well you position yourself to the hiring manager.

If you found this article helpful, leave a comment below and let us know what you liked about it or what additional questions you still have. 

For IT training and weekly career coaching to land your dream IT job, visit our website to apply. 

 

 

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Want To Get The Coolest Job At Cisco? It’s All About Hands On Experience

Want To Get The Coolest Job At Cisco? It’s All About Hands On Experience

You wanna know what the coolest job at Cisco is? Take a guess…

It’s not the VP of sales, or the head of systems engineering, nor it is the CTO. Heck, it’s not even the CEO! 

Side note: Chuck Robbins is definitely really cool. We met him the other day:

Cisco CEO hands on experience networking cisco live

The coolest job at Cisco involves helping people in areas that have just been hit by a natural disaster. 

Imagine if you had relatives living in New Orleans in 2005, when hurricane Katrina hit. How worried would you be if you couldn’t get a hold of them?

What would’ve been going through your mind as you sat in front of the TV looking at aerial images and listening to reporters talk about the number of missing people?

Whenever something happens, Cisco sends its tactical operations team –a team of badass first responders who have tons of hands on experience– to restore communications after a tornado, earthquake, hurricane or even tsunami hits.

The tactical operations team travels in a truck called the NERV (network emergency response vehicle), which is equipped with the necessary technology to get things up and running wherever it goes. It’s basically a network on wheels.

In an emergency situation, field communications must be mobile and easy to deploy. Hence, the NERV was built to be fully operational in under 20 minutes, be shut down in less than 15 minutes (in case it’s needed in a different location), and it can power its own systems by using an on-board generator.   

But, even though the NERV is pretty damn cool, the real heros here are the highly-skilled members of the tactical operations team, and here’s a good illustration of why: when communications are needed in places where the NERV can’t travel to fast enough, the tactical operations team uses mobile kits to set up wired, wireless, data, voice and satellite communications.

Sometimes they even camp out at the disaster area for days just to make sure that hospitals, fire departments, police, etc. have proper connectivity to carry on with their operations and that people can communicate with their loved ones. This is hands down the coolest job at Cisco!

In this exclusive NexGenT interview, Chandler Johnson, a member of the tactical operations team who has helped restore communications all over the world, walks us through the NERV vehicle and gives us an insight into what his job is like, as well as valuable career advice:

If you watched the video, you should’ve noticed that Chandler gave some key career advice for people who want a successful tech career. Among what he recommends is getting familiar with the full stack of networking technologies and learning automation.

The reason for the first one is quite clear: networks are not just routers and switches anymore. They consist of a broad range of technologies that must be integrated together in a precise way for things to operate smoothly. If you still think that companies will keep hiring people to focus on each particular area of IT, you’re dead wrong! Companies are in need of full stack network engineers because it helps them save money and streamline operations.   

More on that topic here

The reason for Chandler’s second recommendation is quite obvious too: automation makes everything simpler. Anyone who wants to have a successful career in tech needs to learn how to at least automate routine and repetitive tasks. Why is it important? In the case of the NERV, as you saw in the video, automation enables volunteers to easily contribute to restoring communications without having to be highly-skilled experts. It has a similar effect in companies…

Here’s another question for you:

Do you think Chandler, or any other member of the tactical operations team, would have any problem landing a “normal” tech job? I don’t think so. These people have so much hands on experience that any company would be lucky to have them on their teams.

Related: Secrets to obtaining 6 figure job offers from top tech companies within 2-4 years even if you have zero experience today! 

If you paid close attention to the video, you should’ve noticed that at one point Chandler said “I had to learn a lot on the job” and “I actually didn’t have any formal training before I came on the team.” The members of the tactical operations team have to manage a lot of the technologies in the full stack of networking. There is no way someone could actually learn all of these technologies through conventional education methods. 

Sure, you’ll get to know about them and maybe even understand them. But, the only way you can be certain that you have truly learned them would be by building something real. By actually getting something done! This is why companies care so much about hands on experience! Even if you’re just getting it through these tactics.

If you understand that hands on experience is what truly matters in the IT world, and you think you have what it takes to succeed in IT, try to get into the Zero to Engineer career blueprint program. You’ll learn the full stack of networking technologies (everything from routing and switching to automation and VoIP), how to carry out your own full stack networking projects from scratch, and how to land your dream IT job in record time.

The sole goal of Zero to Engineer is to give you the exact skills you need to skyrocket through the industry using a method similar to military training (in fact, the creators of the program graduated over 1,000 engineers while they served as IT instructors at the Air Force), where the only purpose is to get you ready to perform in the field, not to give you a piece of paper with fancy words on it that, in reality, means nothing and could leave you wondering if you’re ready to add value to companies. 

Chandler and his team don’t have to worry about getting hands on experience, they already have the coolest job at Cisco. But, most people are not that lucky. Especially for those starting out, getting hands on experience can be a major challenge. Yet, it seems that regardless of how many titles and certifications someone has, most companies expect people to have some.

Related: how to use LinkedIn to get technical recruiters to offer you interviews 

You can choose to keep going in circles, chasing cert after cert like if they were some golden ticket to the top (they do help, true. But, they aren’t the answer). Or, you can pull your head out of your ass, follow Chandler’s and NexGenT’s advice, and get started on your path to becoming a full stack network engineer. Not by passing written exams. But, by getting your hands dirty with real world equipment, and getting mentored by some of the best engineers in the world. 

Who knows? Maybe Chandler and others in the tactical operations team will become mentors in the NexGenT platform one day…

You can apply to Zero to Engineer here