Theo on Technologist Talk

IT-Ready Helped a Tech-Savvy Continual Learner Become a Cybersecurity Pro

By R.C. Dirkes

Theo Hysell refers to his early interest in technology as the “Curse of the Family IT Guy.”

“You’re a little good at computers some of the time, so everybody comes to you all of the time,” Hysell tells CompTIA’s Andrea Rios McMillian during the latest chapter of Creating IT Futures’ award-winning Technologist Tales podcast.

He shared his “technologist triumph” with McMillian, a guest interviewer, who hosts her own motivational podcast, Tuesdays with Andrea, as part of a regular series that tracks successful graduates of the IT-Ready Technical Support course from the CompTIA Tech Career Academy.

Hysell’s youthful tech-savvy did not come from a love of technical pursuits but an innate curiosity. When family members came to him with computing complications, Hysell explains to McMillian, his first instinct was to investigate the problem.

For example, on some occasions, Hysell would discover that the family member dealing with a glitch had not written down the error code. So, he would capture the alert with a screenshot, then type the text into a search engine in pursuit of known solutions.

“Asking questions is hard [for some people] sometimes,” says Hysell. “Nobody wants to feel stupid.”

Over time, though, he realized that he had “no problem feeling stupid” if the sensation led to answers to his questions. Through solving problems this way for others, Hysell came to recognize that comfort with admitting and accepting gaps in knowledge is an aspect of continual learning and could be an advantage when building a career.

This understanding put him on the path to becoming a successful cybersecurity professional.

How CompTIA Tech’s Training Helped Convert Tech-Savvy into Technologist Skills

In due course, Hysell’s role in fixing family tech troubles led him to pursue an associate degree at a technical college in Minneapolis. To support his education, he worked for a major office supply retailer. Then, in 2012, Hysell was laid off, motivating him to find another way to complete his technical training.

He found the IT-Ready Twin Cities pilot program on a popular job board, applied, was accepted and qualified for financial assistance. In 2013, Hysell graduated from IT-Ready, earning CompTIA’s A+ certification in the process.

IT-Ready “gave me the tools I needed to start” a technology career, he says, and to develop from an IT help desk position to specializing in cybersecurity. He credits CompTIA Tech’s staff not only with helping him hone foundational technical skills, but with helping deepen his business acumen by teaching networking techniques and providing communications coaching.

“One of the hardest things to do in cybersecurity is to get your foot in the door,” Hysell elaborates. “It’s not an entry-level job. You have to know a lot about a little bit of a large swath of technologies. Nobody just learns that on their own. You have to be in the business. You have to learn how the business functions.”

How Cybersecurity Jobs Helped an IT Pro Weather the Pandemic’s Challenges

As businesses of all types and sizes work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the cybersecurity field is becoming increasingly critical to the U.S. economy.

“The pandemic has opened up companies to being remote as a thought process now. So, if anything, it's made the job market even more open for people like me,” says Hysell, who now is a senior IT security analyst for TCF Bank.

“I've been in cybersecurity for eight years now,” he continues. “In those eight years, I've increased my salary four-fold. So, I went from making $28,000 a year (before I took my IT-Ready class) to making over six figures now.”

He adds that his tech career has provided financial stability that helped insulate his personal life from COVID’s negative economic effects: “I switched jobs in the middle of the pandemic… I got married in the middle of the pandemic… My wife and I just closed on a house in the middle of the pandemic.”

Hysell concludes, “It wasn't that long ago that I was struggling to figure out how to pay rent for next month while eating. So, it's a contrast that not many people are fortunate enough to have. You just won't forget what got you there. You're always grateful.”

Are you -- or someone you know – contemplating career options after completing your education? Or considering changing careers as a working adult? Consider launching a technology career with CompTIA Tech. 2021 classes are open for applications. Apply here.

Meantime, hear the rest of the conversation between Theo Hysell and Andrea Rios McMillian here: Chapter 54 – Theo’s Tale: From Tech-Savvy Continual Learner to Cybersecurity Pro

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