From High School Graduate to IT Pro

By Amy Eernisse-Liang

Eight months after graduating from high school last year, Horacio Rodriguez Hernandez knew he needed to find a career that paid better so that he could better help support his family.

At the time, he lived in a household of five where only three of them worked, but his lifeguarding with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recs job was only part-time. Unfortunately, working part-time wasn’t sufficient to meet the financial needs of the household, as he and his girlfriend both worked only part-time hours. His father worked for a painting company and was the only household member working full time, so he was responsible for the bulk of their bills.

Horacio was extremely grateful to his father who made sure they were able to “get by” every month. However, he really wanted to figure out a way to help his father and find a better job, but he didn’t have the money to attend college. He began job hunting to no avail. Most of the jobs that seemed easy to acquire were low paying, and the higher-paying jobs required some sort of degree or higher education, which he couldn’t afford. Horacio began thinking about next steps, what could he pursue to help get him that better opportunity?

During high school, Horacio developed a passion for IT and took classes ranging from coding and programming to e-commerce and computer engineering. His AP Computer Science teacher had advised him to research CompTIA A+ and other industry-recognized certifications and explained potential benefits of pursuing certifications and a career in the IT field as an alternative path to college.

Because of his passion for technology and his high school teacher’s advice, Horacio searched for jobs in the IT field and stumbled upon the IT-Ready Technical Support Program, training that prepared students for the CompTIA A+ certification. He decided to apply and pursue the 8-week course, not knowing exactly where it would lead. But he was determined to complete his certification and change his life for the better.

With the help of the IT-Ready training and its CompTIA Tech Career Academy staff, he passed his CompTIA A+ exam on his very first try and he said he felt that he had learned all the necessary skills to be successful in the IT field.

Plus, IT-Ready gave him insight into how the hiring process works and what employers look for, resume development, and best practices for interviewing. Horacio mentioned, “Nobody really teaches this in school and I’m glad I learned this during my time in IT-Ready.” But, now it was time for Horacio to take what he learned and find that first IT job.

Horacio did just that and landed his first job as a field engineer for Unisys in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he works on and troubleshoots equipment such as Dell laptops, PCs, tablets, and “all-in-ones.” As a field engineer, he gets to work directly with clients at their locations on their equipment, makes sure all their devices are functioning properly and ensures client sites can do their work.   

After gaining the skills he needed through IT-Ready and securing his first IT job, Horacio did indeed change his situation for the better. He no longer struggled to pay bills each month and even took on more responsibility in his new job. He also was able to increase his technical credentials and acquire other certifications such as the CompTIA Network+ and become a Certified Dell Technician. He plans to pursue the CompTIA Security+ to increase his knowledge and marketability in IT.

Though he spends much of his time immersed in IT, working and keeping up with the latest technologies, he balances his time by hanging out with friends and family, playing video games online, and on any given day, one might even find him strumming the guitar for hours at a time.

When asked where he sees himself five years from now, Horacio states, “In five years, I see myself as being the go-to guy for all things tech and hopefully be a mentor to others in IT. Without IT-Ready, I’d probably not be working in IT at all.”

For new high school graduates, CompTIA Tech has two sets of IT-Ready Technical Support classes still open for applications in 2020: an 8-week full-day class like the one Horacio took but is now online due to COVID-19 health concerns, and a 16-week morning online class. Applications for the 16-week class are due this Friday, July 17; applications for the 8-week class are due August 14. Apply at


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