From Helpdesk and A+ to six figures and VP, my personal path, plus some advice (long)

TheFORCETheFORCE Senior MemberMember Posts: 2,298 ■■■■■■■■□□
Disclaimer: This is my own experience and what has worked for me in the past might not work for others in the present or future but if you continue reading you might get some points or options on what you can do or be motivated to create your own success in the IT world.

Around a month ago I got contacted by a recruiter regarding a job opportunity, I said it sounds interesting and gave my information. Didn’t hear anything for a while and then last week I went and had 2 interviews back to back. Met with the Directors and the MD’s of the company. Interview went well and they made me an offer a week later for a Security Officer and a VP position helping with technical advice and implementing security programs for the company. This would be my first position at such a high level and even though I am somewhat nervous, I will put a lot of effort to showcase my skills. I will be more involved with audit assessments, compliance, pentesting and be in meetings all day probably lol. I plan to stay here long term to solidify my skills and experience at the role and considering that the benefits are great (one being 4 weeks’ vacation!) staying at this role will be my long term plan.

I went to the interview prepared and on-time, the first impression is very important. I cannot stress enough the importance of being well mannered and well-dressed when you go to these interviews. Get a nice haircut, get a suit that fits you well and get shoes that match with your suit. Keep a good posture and be assertive when you shake hands. Be personable and smile, don’t be all serious or shaky. Be consistent on your answers to questions they ask you, you will interview with multiple people on the same day or different days, they will ask similar questions so you need to give similar answers, consistency is a big part of interviewing. Read the job description and prepare for questions that might come up, know your resume very well and get a nice portfolio for it too. Don’t just go with a piece of paper to the interview.

Now onto my story and how I got to where I am today. This is my 10th anniversary on TechExams and even though I took a break from it after my A+ I focused on expanding my technical skills and become a bit more sociable. The majority of IT people are not very sociable and this hurts them a lot, I still work on this part every day. You need to take some steps on improving your people skills as you get into the workforce and as you move higher, it will pay dividends in the end. In my early years I was interviewing with supervisors and managers, then with AVP’s and VP’s then with CISO’s and Directors, that means you need to be aware of who you are meeting with and prepare accordingly. It’s all about small steps to help you make the big leap. The other thing to focus is experience.

These 3 factors, experience, degrees and certifications can and will change your career, I will elaborate more on this later as I am a believer of “Hard work is an ability when ability is not working hard enough”. Too many times I see people not putting in the effort even when they have an ability, they rely solely on that ability and then they wonder how other people surpass them, how they have difficulty finding even entry level Helpdesk positions or simply un-willing to get a first low paying job to start, in the mean while people that start slow and put forth a progression plan work hard and make hard work their ability and over the years adding to their experience start to see the seeds of their labor become fruitful and produce results. You can do the same.

For me everything started with the A+, I was a noobie in 2006 at 26 and even though I had been around computers since I was 15 I had never worked in a corporate environment. I see people posting here “I’m 26, I’m 28, is it too late to get into IT?” If you like something, if you want to improve your life, focus on your goal and you will get further than where you are now, just keep at it and do it, stop focusing on the small stuff and make sure that the small stuff add to the big puzzle that is your career. I will take a quote from the sunscreen song that says,

“Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind
The race is long and in the end, it's only with yourself”

If you quit, you are only quitting for yourself and no one else, you will only let down yourself and all the possibilities that await for you might go to waste. The world, a house, a family, your degrees they did not get completed in 2-3 months or even 2-3 years. It took many years, and if you consider the big picture you will see that yes, sometimes we get ahead and sometimes we fall behind but as long as you do your best the race will be won in the end, just don’t give up.

It took me 10 years to be where I am today, in 2006 I only had the A+ and was traveling from office to office fixing laptops, my first IT job, I might have replaced countless of motherboards, I got so good at it that I could replace a D600 motherboard in less than 15 minutes, power it and hand it to the owner. Practice, practice, practice, it makes perfect. I posted my earnings progression for a reason below. And that reason is to make people see that you can start low but if you have a long term goal and a plan you will make it, just keep the plan simple. Set small milestones in your plan, you don’t even need to have a complete plan to begin with, our lives change and our plan has to be able to evolve and change also. Take what you can get and as much as you can get from your millstones and continuously progress. Improve on you skills and evolve, gain the experience and apply it and then do it again.

Take calculated risks and don’t be afraid to be your own entrepreneur with your career. You do not have to build a start-up to have a good life. Start-up your own career and be your own entrepreneur, build your brand by gaining skills to become more marketable, your career is your Start-up and you are the CEO, make sure you invest in it by investing in yourself, the profit will come. I see people worry about the cost of their study material, the cost of certifications etc. To that I say, stop worrying, the only cost is the time you dedicate to your studies, you will recoup the money and probably some of the time also. Not going for a certificate because it costs $500 to take the exam makes no sense to me when that certificate can give you thousands extra every year.

After working as a Break-fix field tech for 1.5 years, in 2008 and at 28 I went to the Helpdesk and my first corporate job. I learned a lot from this role but had to quit in 2009. The Helpdesk was not providing me with the thrill anymore, there was something that was missing from my life/career and that was my degree. I had left it unfinished. I even posted here on TE for suggestions on what I should do and everyone said go finish your degree.

I finished my degree in 2009 while doing the contractor gigs. Global Insight had some good roll out projects and they still do, if you want extra money or experience contact them right away. If you do not know what to do in your early years or don’t know what you are passionate about, I would recommend that you spend 1 year or 2 at the Helpdesk. It’s not as bad as people make it seem, as long as you have your eyes open you will learn, I only have positive comments to say about this, do it for maximum of 1-2 years. You will have interactions with the networking team, security team, server team, compliance team, audit team, HR, etc etc.

Ask questions and soak up the knowledge. If you ask, you are bound to find someone that will take you under their wing. I always asked and was fortunate enough that the people I was asking questions had no problem in explaining things and providing info on how certain things work, just ask. Do not worry about “job security” the moment you notice someone start mention those words, consider your options and start looking. Any time you notice that a sys admin or a networking admin or even a Helpdesk lead are withholding knowledge or information that can make you better or your job easier, that is the time for you to start moving. The only job security is learning new skills, period.!

In 2010 I got re-hired for the same Helpdesk role I had vacated with no pay-increase even though I now had a Computer Science degree, I said to myself, get the job and do the OT, get the experience! That year and in 2011 I was making 10-15K in OT!

When someone was sick I was volunteering to go and fill their shift, when there were holidays, I was volunteering to fill the spot. Weekend work, no problem I will do it. I was soaking in experience but there was 1 added benefit by doing the OT and that is, it will show on your W2 and you can use it as valid salary even though it might not be your base salary, you worked for it, so technically it is your salary. I knew that if I wanted to move up and make more money elsewhere, I had to find a way to bump up my salary and OT was that method. In 2012 when I moved to the 3rd company, they said “you only have 1 year experience and no security certifications, we will give you 55k.” I said “Here’s my W2, I already make 56K, you have to bump me up to 61K” Now I was within the middle of the range, they said ok that is fine. I sacrificed some of my time and did the OT on my previous jobs when I was younger but it paid off because without it I was making around 45K but the OT helped me get my base salary up. Employers love people that can work for little money but you can benefit from it too.

In 2011 I got my first break transferring out of the Helpdesk and into the IT Security space. My then IT Director said this during the internal interview “This position is high visibility, high accountability and high responsibility, are you sure you want to do this?” I said “give me a chance and I won’t let you down”. Don’t be afraid of internal openings, take your chances and keep your eyes open on the intranet page of the company, usually they post the jobs internally first. Any time I was getting a ticket while of the Helpdesk I was doing the research, getting notes, putting comments, basically doing a lot of research before I would transfer the ticket to the Security team. They liked that my tickets had plenty of info and comments on the troubleshooting I did, it helped them a lot. I started making connections with them and even though not part of the team yet, it made me feel like I was part of the team.

Anyway, I worked just as hard after this internal promotion but the money was not there, being an internal promotion and such so after a year or so I choose to move on and work for another company, use my little IT Security experience gained so far as a spring board to gain more. 2012 to 2014 I worked for another company and started reading more about certifications and started following TechExams again. Up to this point I only had my degree and A+ plus my little experience and those 3 things had gotten me far enough but the fuel was burning out. I had to gear up again and not lose focus if I wanted to remain competitive and keep moving. I had to get a security certification so I started studying for the CISSP in 2014 and passed the exam the 1st quarter of 2015 and right after got my ITIL.

I learned so many things from studying for the CISSP, I consider it one of the best all-around certificates but if you are new, wait and get experience and then go and tackle it. Get whatever certificate is relevant to your area of work being networking, sys admin, security etc etc, it is important to have the combo and do not forget to have a good work ethic either. My opinion regarding certifications is that, they should be the reward of your knowledge to validate your experience and to validate your studying and not to just pass HR filters.

Right after that my cell started ringing every day. I now had new fuel added to my resume, degree, experience, certifications. Each of them individually can get you employed but the 3 of them combined can make you desirable, and marketable. Something that a lot of the veterans here preach on every post. If you have the experience, there is nothing wrong with getting the certificates. So many people make the mistake of giving up on 1 of those 3 items.

So I hope this little, long post has been informative and gave some encouragement to the new people that if you focus, it doesn’t matter where you start, you can go where you want to go.

Now to the tough part of how to put my notice in, my manager will probably get disappointed as I’m running a lot of the security programs in my current role and was basically given free rein on how to design and implement. Plus I also feel sad that I won’t be able to finish them and see something I created being used in production. I hope they will understand and be happy too. A big thank you also goes to everyone here at TE that contributes on the forums, write reviews, gives career advice, resume advice and motivation, this forum is a tremendous resource of support, I implore everyone to visit the forums at least 2-3 times a week if not more lol. With that said, below is my own 10 year progression and the realization of one of my goals to move up to the corporate ladder.

P.S. I plan to get the CISM or a Masters next, depending on how this new job will go.
P.S2. When you get to work say these words to yourself everyday “Hard work is an ability when ability is not working hard enough”
P.S3. You all should listen to the “sunscreen song”. I listen to it 2-3 times a month lol.



WorkYear Earnings Degree/Certifications Position/Company
2006 $8,730 A+ Field Tech -Break Fix/Company 1
2007 $26,284 A+ Field Tech -Break Fix/Company 1
2008 $34,460 A+ IT Helpdesk/ Company 2
2009 $14,653 B.S Computer Science/A+(Degree completed) Part Time Contractor / Freelancer
2010 $42,920(+OT) B.S Computer Science/A+ IT Helpdesk/ Company 2 (Re-hired)
2011 $56,375(+OT) B.S Computer Science/A+ IT Security(generalist)/ Company 2 (internal promotion)
2012 $61,096 B.S Computer Science/A+ IT Security Specialist / Company 3
2013 $65,498(+Bonus) B.S Computer Science/A+ IT Security Specialist / Company 3
2014 $68,480(+Bonus) B.S Computer Science/A+ IT Security Specialist / Company 3
2015 $80,807 B.S Computer Science/CISSP/ITIL/A+ IT Security GRC Lead/ Company 4
2016 Accepted Offer at 110k+Bonus B.S Computer Science/CISSP/CCSP/ITIL/A+ Security Officer, VP / Company 5
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Comments

  • scaredoftestsscaredoftests Security +, ITIL Foundation, MPT, EPO, ACAS, HTL behind youMod Posts: 2,781 Mod
    Congrats!
    Never let your fear decide your fate....
  • AndersonSmithAndersonSmith Member Posts: 471 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Wow, that is a truly inspiring story! Thank you so much for sharing!
    All the best,
    Anderson

    "Everything that has a beginning has an end"
  • 636-555-3226636-555-3226 Member Posts: 975 ■■■■■□□□□□
    TheFORCE wrote: »
    I will be more involved with audit assessments, compliance, pentesting and be in meetings all day probably lol.

    P.S. I plan to get the CISM or a Masters next, depending on how this new job will go.

    Congrats and welcome to my world (except I'm not a VP!). If you ever need any advice/tips/tricks with audit assessments/compliance/pentesting give me a PM. I like to learn from others and also share what I've learned. Why start at ground zero on some of this stuff when someone can help you start higher?

    CISM or Masters? I'd bust out the CISM first since it's quicker and while working on that complete the Masters application process. If your new employer does tuition reimbursement you'll probably need to wait 6-12 months before starting that anyway, and that's the perfect time to work on the CISM (CRISC is a well-deserved follow up I'd recommend). To be honest, in my experience the only InfoSec masters program I'd recommend would be SANS. The rest might be OK, but that's going to give you the most knowledge and ROI, esp. if the boss is paying for it.
  • TrucidoTrucido Member Posts: 250 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Wow that is a truly awesome story. Congratulations. Thanks for sharing!!
    2017 Certification Goals
    CompTIA A+ [ ] CompTIA Net+ [ ] CompTIA Sec+ [ ] CCENT [ ] ITIL [ ]
  • CMalon02CMalon02 Member Posts: 25 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Congrats man glad to see hard work pays off I just have to keep at it.
  • cyberguyprcyberguypr Senior Member Mod Posts: 6,926 Mod
    Congrats on the new gig and thanks for the rambling... I mean... inspirational story icon_smile.gif. This should be required reading for those "lost my motivation" threads. Stuff like this is what keeps me coming back to TE.
  • DatabaseHeadDatabaseHead Teradata Assc 16, Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014, CSM Member Posts: 2,712 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Thanks for the table, that helpssummarizes your journey. What it tells me is that once you received your CS degree you began to fly......
  • PCTechLincPCTechLinc Senior Member King City, CAMember Posts: 646 ■■■■■■□□□□
    Thank you for the inspiration FORCE! This is definitely something I'll be sharing with my students tonight.
    Master of Business Administration in Information Technology Management - Western Governors University
    Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance - Western Governors University
    Bachelor of Science in Network Administration - Western Governors University
    Associate of Applied Science x4 - Heald College
  • jamesleecolemanjamesleecoleman Member Posts: 1,899 ■■■■■□□□□□
    Thank you for posting your experiences along with the break down. I had just recently made a post about spending money for certifications and what you've posted helps as well. I really enjoy reading these kinds of posts and wish more people here would make posts similar to this.
    Booya!!
    WIP : | CISSP [2018] | CISA [2018] | CAPM [2018] | eCPPT [2018] | CRISC [2019] | TORFL (TRKI) B1 | Learning: | Russian | Farsi |
    *****You can fail a test a bunch of times but what matters is that if you fail to give up or not*****
  • morkethmorketh Member Posts: 26 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Grats on the new job!
  • NetworkNewbNetworkNewb Member Posts: 3,298 ■■■■■■■■■□
    Awesome post! Definitely gets me thinking I should knock out that CISSP sooner rather then later...
  • gespensterngespenstern Member Posts: 1,243 ■■■■■■■□□□
    Agree with cyberguypr, stuff like that is what keeps me at TE. Congratz and well deserved! Respect!

    BUT!

    There's more, don't stop! I currently make a little below 200k and I expect that I will get bored at my current gig in about a year or two. My next goal is breaking quarter million and I know I can make it. So head for even more, I know that anyone who knows what hard work is will get there!
  • networker050184networker050184 Mod Posts: 11,962 Mod
    Congrats!

    $110k sounds pretty low for a VP. Hopefully that bonus is like 100%!
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • thehappyonethehappyone Member Posts: 22 ■□□□□□□□□□
    These are the posts I come back for. This will keep me motivated for a long while. Thanks for sharing. A+ must be the hardest certificate to get through, I'm sure I'll fly through the rest.
  • Chrisbari14Chrisbari14 Member Posts: 83 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I really Appreciate this post man! I'm young and just finished my first year of IT experience and I must say that sometimes you can feel lost, and discouraged. Have to stay motivated and willing to continue to learn! First cert down! Three more to get before I finish my second year of experience!! These are the type of post that us technies need to see!!
  • volfkhatvolfkhat Member Posts: 968 ■■■■■■■□□□
    I thought this was gonna be a self-congratulatory rant about how awesome the OP is....

    NOPE.

    Suddenly i feel a renewed push to get my act together!
    Thank you Sir
  • TheFORCETheFORCE Senior Member Member Posts: 2,298 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Congrats!

    $110k sounds pretty low for a VP. Hopefully that bonus is like 100%!

    Thanks everyone! You might be right networker, but considering 30k increase from my last role plus the title I think it was a good deal. To tell you the truth, I didn't try to negotiate just because this has been my biggest jump yet and didn't want to be greedy. This will definitely change my life and my family's life the way it is already. Will keep pushing for the future as always though.
  • CyberscumCyberscum Member Posts: 795 ■■■■■□□□□□
    Only at 6 figures after 10 years....slacker ;)

    I love IT, one of the few career fields where you can make a ton of money in a short amount of time.

    If you are good at judging tech for the future you stand to make a lot of money.

    There are plenty of people in the career that are under 5 years making over 100k because they are businessmen at heart with a love for technology (myself included).

    Good job and keep up the hard work. I personally would be a bit hesitant to take a VP role; it takes a real man to take in a responsibility like that.

    Good luck and congrats.
  • VeritiesVerities Member Posts: 1,162
    You should have added *drops the mic* at the end. In all seriousness, congratulations on the new job and promotion! I agree with all the advice you offered and its refreshing to see hard workers getting rewarded.
  • steelodonsteelodon Member Posts: 103
    Very informative thread. Also, congrats on your recent achievement!!
  • ITSpectreITSpectre Member Posts: 1,040 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Thanks for this. I am stuck in a rut and this really helped me get out of it.
    In the darkest hour, there is always a way out - Eve ME3 :cool:
    “The measure of an individual can be difficult to discern by actions alone.” – Thane Krios
  • ClmClm CISSP | CCSP | CCSK | AWS Architect Professional | AWS-Security Speciality | Terraform Associate Member Posts: 444 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Congrats on the success hope there is more to come.
    I find your lack of Cloud Security Disturbing!!!!!!!!!
    Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/myerscraig

  • beadsbeads Senior Member Member Posts: 1,520 ■■■■■■■■■□
    National average for a CISSP is still little over 120,000 a year. You've encouraged me to stay at the architect role and make the additional, well, more than $110,000.

    Congrats on the title!

    - b/eads
  • NetworkNewbNetworkNewb Member Posts: 3,298 ■■■■■■■■■□
    beads wrote: »
    You've encouraged me to stay at the architect role and make the additional, well, more than $110,000.

    And here I thought he hit the ceiling of $110k and that was highest salary anyone can make. Thank you for throwing my whole reality out of whack!! crash.gif
  • TheFORCETheFORCE Senior Member Member Posts: 2,298 ■■■■■■■■□□
    beads wrote: »
    National average for a CISSP is still little over 120,000 a year. You've encouraged me to stay at the architect role and make the additional, well, more than $110,000.

    Congrats on the title!

    - b/eads

    Beads, we all know you are the grandfather of IT and IT Security and we all try to catch up to you, maybe in 20 years I hope i am where you are now :) and hope to work with you one day too.
  • jcundiffjcundiff Member Posts: 486 ■■■■□□□□□□
    your progress and mine are very similar except I am working on the BS now and then CISM/MSCIA and working toward getting back into management. and I am about 18 years in, been in IT since 98 and security for the last 5 years Congrats!
    "Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn't Work Hard" - Tim Notke
  • ThePawofRizzoThePawofRizzo SSCP, A+, N+, Sec+, CySA+, Cloud+, CWTS Member Posts: 389 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Thanks for sharing your experience TheForce. I think that is valuable advice, especially to those just starting out, or in the earlier years of their positions.

    I think you emphasized taking on the extra opportunities, working overtime, taking on-call etc. Many IT jobs require on-call, so even experience like that can get some attention from a prospective employer because not all IT employees will take that on.

    And of course, keep learning - whether by taking classes, self-study for certs, etc, although I highly recommend using one's learning toward degrees or certificates so you have a paper trail for a prospective employer to initially see on a resume. (Yes, I too have known techs and admins who were idiots that had both as well, but in most cases co-workers I've known who earn certs and degrees show that they have learned from the coursework.)

    And don't forget to work on those "soft skills" - customer service, interpersonal skills, team work, writing and other communication. Someone who has both technical ability and those soft skills can see some great success in their career. Most career articles I read these days about tech job emphasize their importance, and often one's soft skills show in how their resume is put together and how they present themselves in that initial meeting.

    I actually took what at the time was about a 20% cut in pay to get into IT in a Desktop Support role, because I figured the job would have better opportunities than where I was. And I was right. If I were still in my first job role out of college I would have been lucky to be making a third of what I make now. Granted I don't think salary range is necessarily one's only sign of success, but it sure can be nice. In getting that big bump, it feels like all those late nights studying, or struggling with a problematic server, etc. were worthwhile.

    I can say I entered the "six figure" world a couple years ago after about 12 years in IT. Although one doesn't have to be a VP to get to that level. I've worked with Engineers and Architechs who make in that range, which is the angle I prefer to pursue as I don't want to manage people.
  • DAVIS NGUYENDAVIS NGUYEN Member Posts: 1,472 ■■■□□□□□□□
  • Santa_Santa_ Member Posts: 131 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Verities wrote: »
    *drops the mic*

    *pics up mic*


    This post made me realize I need to get my act back together after taking the last 6 months off! icon_study.gificon_cheers.gif Congrats!
  • rajpoot296rajpoot296 Member Posts: 27 ■■■□□□□□□□
    WoW!
    Somehow your journey and mine are very similar.
    You are a couple of years younger but a couple of years ahead in level and salary.

    Don't worry, I will catch up very soon. :)

    Thanks for the write, it just gave me some extra juice to pursue the goals even harder and yes, I totally agree, the people skills are extremely necessary which most tech people neglect.
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