Preston Wood

Career Switch from Lyft Driver to IT Professional

By Michelle Lange

The health scare that upended so many lives in 2020 gave Preston Wood a different kind of opportunity: time to learn the skills he needed to get his first job in tech.

“I probably would have been sitting there for two months, not finding a job and just being bored,” said Wood, who was part of the first-ever online class for CompTIA Tech Career Academy. “I don't mind sit-downs, but after a while, it's like, ‘I need to go out and do something.’”

Back in March 2020, Wood figured life would get back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe in a month or two. In the meantime, he’d do his IT training in the CompTIA Tech Career Academy and go back to ride-share driving when commuters came back online.

Instead, the pandemic stretched way beyond his estimate and Wood is grateful the coronavirus shifted his thinking on how to build his career. “This is a wonderful opportunity to get my foot in the door,” Wood said. “It was an opportunity that couldn't have come at a better time.”


Seizing the Opportunities at CompTIA Tech

Wood now works in the south Chicago suburbs, a quick commute from where he grew up. When he first heard about CompTIA Tech Career Academy, it was just a few days before the next class was scheduled to start and he had to hustle to get his application together.

He qualified for a grant to cover tuition for the program — plenty of people do. Financial assistance is available to women, people of color, veterans and even people who make more than minimum wage. See this list of qualifiers to calculate your options.

In the IT-Ready Technical Support program, Wood learned the technical skills necessary to prepare for the CompTIA A+ certification exam, one of the leading industry certifications for landing a job on an IT help desk and launching a tech career. He also got targeted help on professional development skills like how to make his resume attractive to IT recruiters, how to communicate, work on a team, manage conflict, problem solve and use critical thinking.

“I didn't know what to expect but I was like, ‘You know what, this is a field I want to get into so I'm going to make the most of this opportunity and do what needs to be done,’” Wood said. “This really has been an amazing opportunity thus far. I'm so happy.”

Before the coronavirus, Wood was driving for Lyft to bring money in for his wife and two kids, and he probably would have kept driving. Then all of a sudden the money dried up and he needed a new career plan. Wood had looked into tech programs before, 8-week training programs and IT bootcamps that promised good-paying jobs. What he liked about CompTIA Tech Career Academy is that the class was completely online and didn’t have any strings attached. CompTIA Tech Career Academy includes:

  • Lessons by CompTIA A+ certified instructors,
  • Access to online learning tools,
  • Discussion forums to reinforce IT studies, and
  • Vouchers to sit for the CompTIA A+ certification exam.

“I don’t have to pay anything out of pocket? Plus, you're going to help me get a job at the end of this?” Wood said. “I didn't expect to get a job, but I had a job before the class ended.”

Wood said he was ready to pivot to the CompTIA Tech Career Academy in a second because he saw the program for what it is: A chance to change his career path and make more money, a chance to change his life. “It worked with my schedule, which was basically open at the time. They were like, ‘We'll help you get a job.’ I thought, ‘Okay, this can work.’”


Growth Opportunities for IT Workers

Companies and individuals are trying to figure out how to get as many people certified in IT because there’s a skills gap that needs to be filled.

“Every day IT is growing, every day it's something new out there and there are no nowhere near enough people certified or have the experience to do the work that needs to be done,” Wood said. “There is a real demand out there for people to do something, and you got stuff like artificial intelligence in the early stages of development, IT is eventually going to need people to control that and to work with that.”

Certifications like CompTIA A+ can be earned in 8 or 16 weeks rather than “companies wanting people to get certified as soon as possible without having to wait for them to through get a four-year college program,” he said.

“You can go through Google and get certified. I think Apple has their own kind of certifications. There’s so much you can get certified in for. You can pretty much start learning, go anywhere and create your own path and get anywhere you want to get to basically,” Wood said. “People take four years to learn. You're learning in eight weeks. If you can learn by sitting, watching someone talk and can take good notes, then of course you will pass easily.”


How Best to Learn Online

You’ll get the most out of the fully online CompTIA Tech Career Academy if you know how you learn best, Wood said. “You’ve just got to understand how you like to learn and figure out a way to use that to your advantage,” Wood said. His secret weapon: a locked door.

Every morning he would remind his family that during class hours he needed to be left alone, and that he’d check in whenever he could. “I literally locked myself in my room,” he said. “I moved a small desk in my room and I would lock the door. I would tell my kids, ‘I'm studying, I'm in class right now. Leave me alone for at least the next hour.’”

He’d set the kids up with a project in the other room and head back to his IT HQ to plop on headphones and learn the basics of IT from the CompTIA Tech Career Academy. The class took a 10-minute break each hour plus a lunch break, so Wood was able to step out between sessions and connect with his family.

After learning the basics in the online CompTIA Tech Career Academy, Wood is getting on-the-job experience that is teaching him new things every day. “Now I get to actually see the inside of a laptop in person, I’m seeing the memory card or the RAM versus just seeing it on the computer,” he said. “I get to see it, see how it functions, see how it fits in this laptop versus just seeing it on a computer screen and not really knowing how it goes in and what it does.”


Learning IT Skills on the Job, Too

The CompTIA Tech Career Academy connected Wood with employers who were hiring, and he got his first entry-level IT job before he even graduated from the program. He’s continuing to problem-solve and says every day unlocks a new challenge he learns how to overcome.

“One day I had a lady who had a bunch of desktop icons and she wanted them to migrate over to her new computer automatically.” He didn’t know how to do it exactly, but he learned in the CompTIA Tech Career Academy how to research the answer and dig in to find out more. “I was able to learn how to remote in from the office to have two computers and move everything from one laptop to the other laptop without her lifting a finger.”

For Wood, the CompTIA Tech Career Academy was an effective platform for both learning the basics of IT and getting him his first job in the technology industry. “I'm learning a lot more than I thought I was going to learn,” he said. “I thought we were just going to be doing low-level stuff, packing up computers and that was the end of that. The experience so far has been very great.”

Grants for the next classes starting in 2021 are available. To see the full schedule for 2021 classes, check out the Academy’s apply page.

You can read more about Preston's success at his tech job on the CompTIA blog.


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