IT is a Helping Career: Better Bring Your Customer Service Skills
Alexandrea Alvarado thought she wanted to be a graphic designer but realized a career in IT was a better fit for her. “One of the reasons I enjoy doing IT is that it’s helping people,” said Alvarado, a graduate of CompTIA Tech’s IT-Ready Technical Support program. “You’re bridging the gap of better connecting them with the world and with the community as well.”
People come from all walks of life before working in IT, whether they end up in security, networking or web development. For almost 10 years, CompTIA Tech’s National Director of Career Services Kathy Brennan has been helping people start their careers in technology and is amazed by how diverse the stories are.
“What has been the most fascinating part is everybody’s path is so different,” Brennan said. One trend she sees is that people who come from backgrounds like nursing, waitressing and retail bring skills related to helping people — and in IT that’s easily transferrable.
Working in IT Means Helping People
Sue Wallace helps people find pathways into technology through CompTIA Tech Career Academy’s IT-Ready Technical Support program, an eight-week tech program with an opportunity for CompTIA A+ certification, plus job help and mentoring.
She enjoys watching IT-Ready graduates succeeding in tech long after the 8-week program. “I just saw an update from one of our graduates, and she was celebrating a two-year anniversary working at the same employer where we helped place her,” said Wallace, CompTIA Tech’s VP of Student & Career Services, who helps adult, especially underemployed, unemployed and underrepresented people, find jobs in technology.
“Before she started the program, she was a nurse, very interested in being in a helping position but was burnt out and needed to go a different direction,” Wallace said. “She liked to tinker with things, figure out how things work really wanted to help people.”
Women get disproportionately pushed into healthcare because it’s seen as a helping profession and an industry that needs workers now. “I think IT is sometimes underrepresented as a helping profession,” Wallace said.
“I’ve heard so many stories of women who have been discouraged from getting into tech because they're intimidated, they think technology is more of a guy’s world. ‘Maybe you’re too much of a people person, and they don’t want to be stuck behind a computer, they’ll be going a different direction and enjoy different aspects of the career.”
People who find out technology is a helping career are more interested in transferring over, Wallace said. “They figure out, ‘I can still help people but I can help people by digging into some of this technology stuff and helping people solve their problems. This is something I’m actually good at.’”
Turn Your Helping Skills into an IT Career
A lot of people don’t realize that IT is helping people, said Brennan. “It’s customer services and it’s helping people solve problems.”
CompTIA Tech Career Academy screens candidates to make sure they’re a good fit for the eight-week IT training program and anyone with customer service skills gets consideration.
“We had a woman was in her 40s and working as a waitress making good money. She was saying, ‘I can’t keep this up, I’ve got a 3-year-old, my back is hurting. I can’t keep this up looking into the future.’ She’d never really thought of IT as a career before,” Brennan said. “She graduated, got CompTIA A+ certified and got a job in St. Paul at Ecolab.”
Soft skills are as valuable to technology as the IT skills that can be learned. “That experience with customer service really helps,” said Brennan. “We have an individual who works with resumes with the students, and one student was going to leave off her work at McDonald’s. She thought, ‘They’re not going to want to see that.’ We do, that’s valuable experience.”
Start on the Help Desk
CompTIA Tech Career Academy graduates get hands-on experience during their training and then move onto internships and full-time work on IT help desks at local employers.
“We are very honest with everybody that applies that the majority of the people will start out on a help desk,” Brennan said.
Even if someone has a little bit more experience, most employers like to build an educational foundation with experience on the help desk. It gives the hew hire a chance to know the company and the company gets a chance to see this person in action. “That is the main entry point,” added Brennan.
If you’ve got customer service skills and want to transition into technology, you can get started with CompTIA Tech Career Academy. Applications for future classes are open.
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