How Did You Get Into Tech – Kerry Hazelton
In this week’s How Did You Get Into Tech blog series feature, Kerry Hazelton describes his journey from USC to the help desk and eventually a career as a Cyber Security Specialist.
Where Did your interest in technology start?
I’ll admit I’ve always been interested in computers (and technology in general) since my childhood. You name it, I probably either messed around with it or have heard of it. The Coleco Adam, the Commodore 64, the Tandy 1000, the Apple lle (later succeeded by the Apple II GS).
It wasn’t until 1993 when I was introduced to Windows 3.1 after my father purchased an IBM-compatible PC. Of course, I wound up crashing it inadvertently. So as punishment, my father made me sit down next to him with a notepad and pen to take notes.
A couple of years later I attended the University of Southern California as an Aerospace Engineering major where I started learning FORTRAN and HTML.
What was your first job?
What is your current position?
Computer Security Specialist
What type of educational background do you have?
Apart from spending one year at USC, I would later take a computer repair course at a tech school in Oklahoma in 1998 as part of my vocational rehabilitation. Just recently I completed a 5-day boot camp for the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker course and passed the relevant exam.
What resources did you use for your tech education (university, community college, meetups, training, online tutorials, MOOC courses with EdX, Udacity and Coursera)?
There were several computer labs on campus during my time at USC; at least two or three were dedicated UNIX labs. After I left, the only resources available prior to my accident in 1998 were the computer books (and a couple of PCs) at a local library. Beyond that, most of the material I was able to find online.
Did you have any mentors, professors, colleagues or supervisors who offered career guidance?
The one person I can name as the greatest influence on my career this far was my mentor, who also happened to be my supervisor when I started working at the aforementioned help desk job. He had been in the industry for twenty-five years and taught me everything he knew and then some. He also encouraged me to stay the course and learn more about the inner workings of the Windows operating system, Linux/UNIX, networks, and security.
What resources do you find to be the best when continuing your education?
Anyone who’s been in the game longer than I have and is still active.
If you were to give an individual advice about starting a career in tech, what would you say to them?
If I were to give advice to anyone transitioning into IT as a career, my advice to that person would be to know how to take a computer apart, know what each component does, and how to put it back together. Know how the Windows (or Linux) operating system works, understand its limitations (and try to break them). Become familiar with how computer networks communicate with each other, and how to properly harden a workstation, server, and firewall. Start learning at least one programming language, such as C/C++, Java, or Python.
Then go study for the CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ exams and pass them. It may seem like a whole lot, but between the practical experience that a person has picked up just by learning and the certs to validate said experience; he or she now has a good, strong, solid foundation on which to build his or her career in IT.
Above all else, maintain a sense of curiosity about computers and never, ever stop learning.
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