Having changed my education plans late last year I’m currently well into my studies and exams for a series of professional IT certifications from the American-based Computing Technology Industry Association, better known as CompTIA. A vendor-neutral non-profit which validates the knowledge and skills of IT professionals, CompTIA is especially popular in the US where its qualifications align with many of the requirements for employees of the Department of Defense and other federal agencies but some of its credentials are gaining a bigger foothold in Europe too.
So far I’m working my way through the organisation’s entry-level “trifecta” of certifications: the A+ cert for an IT technician, the Network+ cert for a network technician and the Security+ cert for an IT security technician (this qualification is relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic but it’s the next logical step in the career core I’m following). I’ll soon be moving on to studying and “labbing” for the tougher certifications: CySa+ or cybersecurity analyst and then the CASP+ or advanced security practitioner (I’ll probably do PenTest+ as well, a credential for penetration testers which looks really interesting). All this is been done through self-study using softcopy and hardcopy materials a few hours after work each day and then several hours a day at the weekend, every week for the last eight months. The ultimate aim is to move into information security, where I already have some auditing and inspection qualifications, and leverage that internally within my company for a better role and salary (and because I just enjoy it).
However, home-study is no easy thing and if you have a full-time job with minimal exposure to the subjects you’re studying its all the harder. There are times when you feel like you’re banging your head against the brick wall of learning or that you’ll never master the things you are trying to come to grips with. And in the IT world acronyms and multiple descriptions for the same processes or devices are never-ending. So along with developing a fundamental understanding of how various technologies and protocols work there is lots and lots of rote memorisation. My head is filled to bursting with abbreviations, tables and lists (and “Please Do Not Throw Sausage Pizza Away” and other very American mnemonics!). To the point that I feel like just closing the literal and metaphorical books and giving up.
Which makes it nice to see that others have undergone similar struggles and managed to muddle through (and some with far greater disadvantages than me). The YouTuber caitlinV3 has a nice video on passing the CompTIA Security+ examination and the difficulties – and opportunities – around it that might resonate with some of you out there doing similar part-time or online courses. Network Chuck, one of my favourite YouTube channels, offers a similar experience with his years of studying and qualifying for advanced certifications, though mostly on the manufacturer-specific Cisco track. And for those of you who lurk around various sub-Reddits and other forums dedicated to IT learning, ignore the occasional snobs with top-of-the-line certifications who seem to get off on looking down at technology novices and those seeking to advance their knowledge or career through entry-level and intermediate credentials. They were in the exact same place you were once and the snarking is more about pulling up the ladder behind them than anything else.