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Online networking learning opportunities?

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{too long; dont care}
need recommendations to learn networking skills from online vendor that will give real world info, not just a piece of paper.

{the back story}

I have been an aerospace welder since before I joined TPU. While I am considered top in my field, every employer has had a seniority retention policy. I have not been in any one place to gain enough seniority to keep a job in these horrible times. While there are other welding jobs and careers, I am not qualified to try to test for a certification.

So, I want to switch careers entirely. I have been an amateur radio dude since '16 and find radios and radio systems fascinating. If you dont know, most professional/commercial radios (walkie talkie style, truck mount, mountain top, warehouse, hospital, etc) are connected over the internet to different systems for different simultaneous use. While I have a broad understanding of how these systems work, and have programmed my own radios to work with different kinds of systems (DMR, Yaesu System Fusion, regular packet over RF), my networking skills dont meet the requirements to get an entry level job working with radio systems of any sort.

Where do (did) you folks get your networking skills? The regular college path is too slow, too expensive, and outdated these days. I have about 72 credits in mostly math and science, but that wont help at all. I see one course offered by Google called Bits and Bytes of Computer Networking. Another site called Alison has a bunch of classes. There's also lynda, and coursera, and a few others.

My main concern about those mentioned is whether a prospective employer will take them seriously. It looks like the course material will actually teach me about networking, and I will really get an education, but will it be enough to get me in the door for an interview? Nothing replaces real job experience, but how do I get networking experience with online classes?

Please share success stories as well as horror stories.

{even more back story}

Some of you may know, I moved from Virginia to Oregon to advance my quality of life and career, and it paid off 'til corona virus. I have been out of work since April, but we are ok. We took the plunge and sold our Oregon house while moving back to Hampton Roads in Virginia. We have a bunch of friends and family in the area that are a great help for many aspects of life. Before, I was the majority income producer, while still spending a lot of time with the kids. Now, wife wants to be the bread winner while I study for my next life path. Family can spend time with the kids while I do my studies. Friends can help with getting experience (ehem, thats where you come in, and am asking for your help).

Thanks for reading,
1fd
 
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My main concern about those mentioned is whether a prospective employer will take them seriously.

Generally they wont, I think the best path is to take whatever piece of paper you decide upon then for a while try to get a job that's somewhat related to this field and then try to apply there.
 
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...while try to get a job that's somewhat related to this field and then try to apply there.
Ya, the real world job can substitute for formal education, while paying the bills.
 

Frick

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So do you want to work with computer networks or radio systems or both? I don't have insight on how things work in the US, but I imagine you need certs for most of the stuff you mention.
 
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Right, both. Networking is as important, if not more so, than the actual radio work. The networking can be included in the radio system itself as a RF link from one site to another, think 10GHz Point to point. The jobs I am looking at require Electronic Technician degrees along with networking certs, or suitable work history. I don't have either, but I do have my amateur station history as related experience.

I plan on getting the networking experience through a different job, then going for the RF Tech positions using the networking experience. Its a long game for sure.
 
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I'm trying to self-study my way into IT as well. I have an exercise science bachelors degree that I'm doing nothing with, and computers and tech has always been my passion. As @Frick mentions and from what I understand, a lot of the jobs require specific certifications. I would recommend looking at postings for a position you're interested in and seeing what they require. I would imagine most networking positions are looking for a CompTIA Network+ or Cisco CCNA certification at minimum. I just earned a CompTIA A+ cert back in July using a textbook I bought off of amazon and some online resources from professormesser.com. I would imagine you'd have similar success doing the same with a Network+ cert.
 
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Check your local community college. Most have decent IT courses. And the advantage to going with a local institution is they often cater to the needs of local corporations and businesses in your area. This helps in job placement after you complete their curriculums.
 
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Check your local community college. Most have decent IT courses. And the advantage to going with a local institution is they often cater to the needs of local corporations and businesses in your area. This helps in job placement after you complete their curriculums.
Exactly this. I'm signed up for two IT courses working towards a Associate of Applied Science degree which has a curriculum designed to get you right out into the field. Even if you didn't want to be degree-seeking, they'll offer courses that will help you earn the certifications necessary to get yourself an interview.
 

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Right, both. Networking is as important, if not more so, than the actual radio work. The networking can be included in the radio system itself as a RF link from one site to another, think 10GHz Point to point. The jobs I am looking at require Electronic Technician degrees along with networking certs, or suitable work history. I don't have either, but I do have my amateur station history as related experience.

I plan on getting the networking experience through a different job, then going for the RF Tech positions using the networking experience. Its a long game for sure.

I don't see how network experience translate to RF though.
 
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I absolutely have checked the CCs here. I am actually enrolled for Cisco CCNA, but its two fucking years for four classes. One class per semester, one now, one in spring, one next fall, one next spring (2022!!).

I don't see how network experience translate to RF though.
It doesn't. At this point, I don't want an engineering job, just a tech job. The engineers worry about the RF design, and I would put it together and connect it to the internet. I have years of experience dealing with plans I did not create, but have to implement.
 
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I am actually enrolled for Cisco CCNA, but its two fucking years for four classes. One class per semester, one now, one in spring, one next fall, one next spring (2022!!).
Two years for four classes? Talk about a kick in the nuts. It's four classes for one certification? Interesting.
 
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It's four classes for one certification? Interesting.
Ya, that's why I enrolled, but it is not gonna work out. I missed getting into the first class by hours, and they won't let me in. The college self-service website works, but is so outdated and a menu driven Oracle BS that one hiccup in the class enrollment process requires a call to my advisor. That gets old really quick. That's the main reason for this thread....how can I legitimately study and get certified so I can start learning the job. I am very lucky that I have almost unlimited free time NOW. If my brain can handle it, I can study and take classes literally all day. My usual workday was 12 hours of tedious work, computer work, and paperwork.

How did you get the CompTIA cert? From what I've seen, Prof Mess doesn't certify you. You went straight to CompTIA to test?

I'm gonna look at a different community college to see if a different program it available.
 
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need recommendations to learn networking skills from online vendor that will give real world info, not just a piece of paper.

Edx.org
 
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So, I want to switch careers entirely.

I am a man married with technology and at my 52, I still find it hard to get away from this spiral which does not deliver a decent pay and neither any stability.
If you shown more brave than me, then you may reconnect with No1 stable profession, that is farming.
 
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Ya, that's why I enrolled, but it is not gonna work out. I missed getting into the first class by hours, and they won't let me in. The college self-service website works, but is so outdated and a menu driven Oracle BS that one hiccup in the class enrollment process requires a call to my advisor. That gets old really quick. That's the main reason for this thread....how can I legitimately study and get certified so I can start learning the job. I am very lucky that I have almost unlimited free time NOW. If my brain can handle it, I can study and take classes literally all day. My usual workday was 12 hours of tedious work, computer work, and paperwork.

How did you get the CompTIA cert? From what I've seen, Prof Mess doesn't certify you. You went straight to CompTIA to test?

I'm gonna look at a different community college to see if a different program it available.
Yeah, certified through CompTIA itself. The textbook I got included a 10% voucher for the 2 exams which was nice. Purchased the exam vouchers from CompTIA and then tested through Pearson. Would've had to go to a testing center but on account of COVID, they decided to start offering proctored online exams so I opted for that instead. Used the textbook for the base material. It included practice exams, but they just regurgitated the same questions over and over. Started doing well on those and questioned if I was doing well because I was actually learning or just because I was remembering the answers to the same questions. Checked out Prof Mess and spent $60 on his practice exams and exam objectives. His practice exams put me on my ass and really helped highlight what I needed to study more.
 
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You get CompTia certs by taking tests with CompTia. No way around that really.
Ya, I wasn't sure how it worked. I have had other professional certs and licences that were the same way, after you get it, everyone knows you had to get it from the source or a test center.

I think I'm gonna do the bits and bytes from google, then start CompTIA studies.

@milewski1015 how long did your process take? I'm guessing you went through the practice exams 10-15 times?
 
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Ya, I wasn't sure how it worked. I have had other professional certs and licences that were the same way, after you get it, everyone knows you had to get it from the source or a test center.

I think I'm gonna do the bits and bytes from google, then start CompTIA studies.

@milewski1015 how long did your process take? I'm guessing you went through the practice exams 10-15 times?
Quite a while, but I wouldn't say my experience is the norm. I graduated back in August 2018, and don't think I decided I wanted to pursue an A+ cert until maybe Jan 2019. I bought the textbook on amazon and "studied" that. Made it through a few chapters, but mainly procrastinated and didn't get much done. Summer 2019 comes along, and I learn that in July (if I remember correctly) is when they would update the curriculum (for A+ they do this every three years). So because I didn't feel confident enough to take the test before the curriculum update, I put it off more. Ended up buying a new textbook (to match the new curriculum) and started studying that. I tiptoed around it for a few months, and scheduled my exams for the middle of June 2020. June approached, and I had still put off studying a good bit. I had read through the book but wasn't really doing anything to reinforce that I had learned the material. Luckily, because the testing center was still closed due to COVID, my exam was pushed back a month to the middle of July. I kicked my ass into gear and started doing the textbook practice exams daily about a month out from the exam. Maybe a week before the exam, I questioned whether I had actually learned anything, and a coworker recommended Prof Mess to me. I checked out his site, watched a few videos, etc. Felt okay about my ability to do well on the exams but was a bit nervous. Literally the day before, I said f**k it, ponied up $60 more for Prof Mess exams and objectives. Took those three exams and they put me on my ass. I was up until about 2am the night before my exams. I woke up early and crammed some memorization stuff in before exam one, and then some more cramming during my lunch break before exam two. Was relieved to have passed both.

Definitely not the most efficient way to get certified. My textbook had a "guide" for the amount of hours you would need to spend studying to put yourself in a position to pass. I actually have the network+ textbook (it's the required textbook for my networking fundamentals course at CC that starts in October), so I could see if that one has a breakdown as well and pass that along to you. It sounds like you have a lot more free time (and self-control!) than I did, so I would imagine you wouldn't need nearly as long as I took.

TL;DR: Between procrastination, curriculum updates, and a month-long testing delay due to COVID, the entire process took me about 1.5 years.
 
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I started my network formation with Cisco.
You can find some Cisco CCNA stuff online (can't say where tho ;)).

It gives you proper knowledge on how networks work, the concepts asscociated and how to use Cisco devices in the same time.
It's the only formation that really gives an insight on HOW networks work, from hub to switch to router to WAN to WLAN.

They use Packet Tracer too which is a network simulation, so you can practice easily on your PC.
It's heavy theory, but with Packet Tracer, it's nice to apply the theory with fun little virtual lab tests :).

Afterwards, you should be able to do the certification if you feel like it.

Currently, I do mostly work with Fortinet, which are AWESOME devices, but their formations imply you already know network concepts.
 
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Ya, I had aspirations of doing ccna, but is not going to work out, unless I can find a program that won't take two years (four regular semesters).
 
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It's the only formation that really gives an insight on HOW networks work, from hub to switch to router to WAN to WLAN.

It isn't much of a textbook or course if they don't tell you that. That is basic information.
 

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Best thing I can suggest is get involved in Network Administration discussions on various communities, vendor forums, Reddit channels, etc. Learn different router, switch, web filter environments by creating a home lab. This will have a cost, but the ROI is really substantial if you go for it and stick with it. This also shows motivation that many employers will be interested in. Or at least I do when interviewing folks for positions we're hiring for, and its something other MSP's and firms in the business group I'm a part of which covers the lower 48.

I earned an AAS in Network Administration five years ago, and while it was useful and I also earned a number of certs during that time (A+, Net+, Sec+, and several others), the on-the-job experience I gained at the same time was far more useful, so was the home lab I started about halfway through my time in college. The latter two made a massive difference, my lab is fairly useful and still in-use today as it contains a local domain, file server, print server, Plex server, several Minecraft servers, test VM's of various Windows and Linux systems, I run two old PC's as my "servers", since I work for a Microsoft shop, learning Windows Server and Hyper-V environments is critical and has proven to be extremely useful. Really if I could've taken that 20-ish grand and put it into a home lab, buying cert exams, study guides, and cloud hosted accounts for things like GSuite and Microsoft 365, I'd have been on a path to big success. Granted I will say the CCNA course I took was pretty decent, albeit old...learning manual subnet management via CIDR was one of the hardest parts for me, but was totally worth it to be able to quickly know what gateway and usable address for a subnet mask of /30 uses, or that knowing a 255.255.255.252 is a /30 for example.

The labs and time learning in college was pretty solid too, but honestly if you're driven enough to learn, I'd work on earning some certs and working through some labs on your own time, break things, fix them, do the long-hard way kinda lessons so you don't have to learn them on-the-clock and potentially lose a job opportunity or promotion.

A+, Net+, Sec+, CCNA, MS certs, etc. all have at least some value on a resume and to your knowledge and experience. There's tons of YT videos, deals at education sites, cisco provides CCNA study material, there's a lot out there if you spend the time and investment looking for it. But you're going to spend two resources no matter what, time and money. How long it takes is really up to you.

Pick up some old Cisco hardware, learn command-line. Pick up an old PC, make it a pfSense box. Pick up an old SonicWALL, learn that. Learn site-to-site VPN's, road-warrior VPN's. Make a home server setup, local domain, learn Group Policy. A lot of stuff is going cloud, learning AzureAD is more important than ever, but is also more costly. Learning things like MS InTune and even GSuite MDM (Mobile Device Management) is critical in this day and age, doesn't matter if you're doing IT work for education facilities, enterprises or SMB's. Cloud hosting and virtualized environments are pretty much the core of everything.

Learn some backup solutions, Veeam, ShadowProtect, Macrium Reflect, Datto Continuity, etc. There's A LOT of them. You might be able to get an idea of what's most used in your market as well. But backups are more important than ever, especially with encryption, replication and other mitigations to prevent ransomware damage.

Learning RMM software is a different can of worms and is also good, but odds are you'll learn that getting onboarded with an IT dept for a large enterprise or working for an MSP, etc. But remote managed services is still big business, albeit far riskier now.

A big plus to security education is learning and understanding concepts of SSL certs, MFA options and why they're more necessary now than ever and how to implement them, also understanding firewall rules and how they affect WAN connections, manage VPN's, etc.

This is a very crazy, deep, constantly moving/changing rabbit hole. Its fun, engaging, challenging, and totally worth it! :toast:
 
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I am on my way to get dinner, but thanks a ton.

If you saw the Google Bits and Bytes on a resume, or someone brought it up, what would your reaction be? Is it worthy of putting on a CV, or is it for a network simpleton?

Again, thanks a million @Kursah
 

Kursah

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I wouldn't give it too much weight, but it would still be worth listing if you choose to earn it, it shows dedication and willingness towards self-improvement in skillset and education.

Being honest, Google Bits and Bytes to me really means nothing more than the fact you were able to commit to earning a certification in basic networking, which is important for sure but not necessarily a deal maker or deal breaker. In-fact most of the baseline certs like A+, PCPro, etc. are seen that way. Even Net+ is that way. They introduce you into the concepts, give you the framework, and show you've invested some money, some time and some effort into learning more about this career path. Knowing that you are able to commit to them is almost as important as earning them for employers. Sometimes more-so. For example, my coworker, an Army vet, earned A+ and Net+ both in 1-week sessions. They were crammed, 5 full days of learning, labs and practice testing. But you cram so much in, what do you really gain? I let my CompTIA certs expire, I still list them as earned, but retaking them would be a waste of time and money for someone with my experience at this point.

It would be more impressive to me, if interviewing you, to know that you've been building PC's, learning networking, maintaining a well functioning home lab environment, and learning more advanced networking, security and administrative concepts that are used in the real world (based on your area of course). If you were doing it in your spare time because you were passionate about learning more, that you were so involved in ensuring your success that you're focusing on self-enrichment through experience gained from situations that thrive on success and loss with real experience.

Some of my earned certs from TestOut for their PCPro and NetworkPro certifications, which were correlating with the A+ and Net+ certs from CompTia were utterly useless when looking for a job, I usually had to explain what they were. Thankfully the class combined both certs into one course. Employers recognize CompTIA much more than many others, many require them. Again, its mostly for understanding basic concepts and showing motivation.

I'd honestly say the biggest issue I face now isn't lack of technical aptitude, if you're willing to learn it we can teach it, but the biggest struggle is good customer service skills. Too many folks are used to various forms of electronic media interactions, being more assholes to each other than learning respect, professionalism, and responsibility in communication etiquette. It might sound stupid, but in the current working force this is our biggest issue. Talking to someone face-to-face or even over the phone is a challenge for some folks, and sure there's a case to be made for the technical savant that hides out in the data center or dev lab, but that's the exception to the rule for companies like the one I work for. Learning how to respond to different levels of distress, learning how to triage a situation that may need escalation or may just need added to an existing ticket queue, and so on are harder to teach than ever. With enough time and if you're willing to start at a more introductory position, learning on the job while earning certs in your own time (which we pay for if you pass), is a great way to go in all honesty.

But if you're looking to get an edge into a slightly higher position, I wouldn't look at just certs, you have to gain real-world usable experience. If certs are all you really had to offer, I'd still place you in a low-level tech position to start and see what you were capable of.

Real-world experience, like any other career path is the most valuable, and in this field, constantly sharpening your skills and learning new ones, new products, new services, new protocols, etc. is absolutely vital. Once you go idle, it better be at a place and position that values you and job that you will appreciate even if you get bored. The only way to make forward progress is to roll up your sleeves, swallow your pride (if accepting an IT job offer is a lot less than you were earning, I took an over 50% pay reduction to change careers initially, now I'm earning over double what I was in my previous career.), and go for it.

Learn as much as you can about their process, do the best you can every day, the things you dislike the most or suck at are the things you should focus on and succeed at, then find the things other guys don't like doing as much, and dominate it. Make yourself useful and necessary because of your skill set. Be a good teacher to your peers, and be a good learner too. If that organization doesn't do the trick for you, but you'e mastered what they have to offer both on service and client-facing sides, move on. Some guys start their own gig at this point, some move to bigger firms, some move to specialized IT fields for engineering or medical firms, etc. A lot more options open up this way.

Advanced certs is another topic, if you research what to do after Net+, Sec+, etc., you'll see all sorts of certs, literally dozens. This focus path usually is only valuable if an employer needs it and its what you want to be your focus. Higher-end certs cost more, sometimes require hardware investment, require a lot more time generally, but you can then be in a narrower field of applicants. Just make sure you look around your area and make sure that's a desirable route to go for or if you'd need to move or if its a waste of time.

Sorry, I tend to be wordy, but I'm happy to share what I can. Keep in mind, my experience may not reflect some others that while into IT, took a different route. I have moved into more of a management position, managing several teams of engineers on dozens of projects. I still do plenty of IT work, but I also do a lot of admin-style work as well, a lot of hiring, assessments, some firing. The market in Missoula, Montana may not line up to what your market desires. But that being said, a lot of the initial strategies for accelerating your experience is valid and valuable. :)
 
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Best thing I can suggest is get involved in Network Administration discussions on various communities, vendor forums, Reddit channels, etc. Learn different router, switch, web filter environments by creating a home lab. This will have a cost, but the ROI is really substantial if you go for it and stick with it. This also shows motivation that many employers will be interested in. Or at least I do when interviewing folks for positions we're hiring for, and its something other MSP's and firms in the business group I'm a part of which covers the lower 48.

I earned an AAS in Network Administration five years ago, and while it was useful and I also earned a number of certs during that time (A+, Net+, Sec+, and several others), the on-the-job experience I gained at the same time was far more useful, so was the home lab I started about halfway through my time in college. The latter two made a massive difference, my lab is fairly useful and still in-use today as it contains a local domain, file server, print server, Plex server, several Minecraft servers, test VM's of various Windows and Linux systems, I run two old PC's as my "servers", since I work for a Microsoft shop, learning Windows Server and Hyper-V environments is critical and has proven to be extremely useful. Really if I could've taken that 20-ish grand and put it into a home lab, buying cert exams, study guides, and cloud hosted accounts for things like GSuite and Microsoft 365, I'd have been on a path to big success. Granted I will say the CCNA course I took was pretty decent, albeit old...learning manual subnet management via CIDR was one of the hardest parts for me, but was totally worth it to be able to quickly know what gateway and usable address for a subnet mask of /30 uses, or that knowing a 255.255.255.252 is a /30 for example.

The labs and time learning in college was pretty solid too, but honestly if you're driven enough to learn, I'd work on earning some certs and working through some labs on your own time, break things, fix them, do the long-hard way kinda lessons so you don't have to learn them on-the-clock and potentially lose a job opportunity or promotion.

A+, Net+, Sec+, CCNA, MS certs, etc. all have at least some value on a resume and to your knowledge and experience. There's tons of YT videos, deals at education sites, cisco provides CCNA study material, there's a lot out there if you spend the time and investment looking for it. But you're going to spend two resources no matter what, time and money. How long it takes is really up to you.

Pick up some old Cisco hardware, learn command-line. Pick up an old PC, make it a pfSense box. Pick up an old SonicWALL, learn that. Learn site-to-site VPN's, road-warrior VPN's. Make a home server setup, local domain, learn Group Policy. A lot of stuff is going cloud, learning AzureAD is more important than ever, but is also more costly. Learning things like MS InTune and even GSuite MDM (Mobile Device Management) is critical in this day and age, doesn't matter if you're doing IT work for education facilities, enterprises or SMB's. Cloud hosting and virtualized environments are pretty much the core of everything.

Learn some backup solutions, Veeam, ShadowProtect, Macrium Reflect, Datto Continuity, etc. There's A LOT of them. You might be able to get an idea of what's most used in your market as well. But backups are more important than ever, especially with encryption, replication and other mitigations to prevent ransomware damage.

Learning RMM software is a different can of worms and is also good, but odds are you'll learn that getting onboarded with an IT dept for a large enterprise or working for an MSP, etc. But remote managed services is still big business, albeit far riskier now.

A big plus to security education is learning and understanding concepts of SSL certs, MFA options and why they're more necessary now than ever and how to implement them, also understanding firewall rules and how they affect WAN connections, manage VPN's, etc.

This is a very crazy, deep, constantly moving/changing rabbit hole. Its fun, engaging, challenging, and totally worth it! :toast:

im going to agree with alot of this.

The one thing you need to understand is that unlike tech forums or gaming forums professionally orientated forums or boards are generally more forgiving. IE the BS arguments and attitudes are at the door.

With that said, you are expected to do homework. If you join a Juniper based forum and are like huur derr what are IPs? you will probably get the cold shoulder. Half your fight in the industry once you make it and when you are probing for info is going to be learning how to ask questions. Safe bets for conversation starting are usually something like the following.

I think this
I know this
I think this will happen
Am I right?

For general questions something like.

I believe that X is Y and causes Z can anyone tell me whats correct?

I would also like to note that I believe certifications are important in todays field and I really think you should get them.


You will come across ones like the A+ (hardware orientated) where 90% of the material is already known to you. Don't skip this, the 10% matter.

On the otherside of that coin though, I did not when I was hiring engineers and alot of the leads I have met do not give a shit about certs.

They are for you to personally grasp the technology at play and to make it past the HR checklists.

The person that will actually hire you or be your boss depending on level of entry will more than likely host a technical interview without taking your certs into the equation. Doing is Doing after all. I have hired college kids with bachelors in computer science for example, for entry level HW work and would get schooled by more sr techs that never got formal education or even certs.

Don't just get them to make the interview, get them and have a passion to keep learning. If this isn't you, you will do poorly in this industry or never make it past the entry level, thats cold and thats blunt, but thats the truth. IT is not a money filled industry, IT nets you big income at certain levels, and in those levels your peers live and breath it.

When in Rome.
 
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