How I switched careers and became a network engineer in less than 2 years

The biggest mistake of my life…

I had just earned a bachelor’s degree in business. Over the past four years I had spent many late nights studying and working a part-time job to help pay my way through college.

Finally the time had come and I was about to receive my diploma in front of my parents, who were immensely proud of me—I could tell. Having a business degree meant that I was set for life, or at least that’s what I had been told.

Within a week of graduation, I broke into a job at a company that manufactured textiles. In the beginning, it was alright. I thought I would be learning from my managers and that I would gain new skills on the job, and then move up.

But it was a little different. My job remained boring and repetitive. I didn’t get to do anything meaningful for the company—not even after almost two years of working there.

Most of my college friends were also stuck in boring jobs. So, two years after earning my degree I was starting to question if I was in the right career field.

It was a question that I had never asked myself. I always thought that a business degree would give me the best chance to get a well-paying job and buy the things I wanted.

But as days went by, I started to realize that it wasn’t about the money anymore. I wanted to do something meaningful and challenging. I didn’t know what, but I knew it wasn’t what I had been doing for the past couple of years.

I certainly didn’t want to forget about making a good living. After all, I had already moved out of my parent’s house and wanted to make a good living. So even though I had decided to switch jobs, I didn’t quit yet.

One night, after a long day at work doing nothing, I came across a book called Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. I read it in a couple of days. Reading this book I realized that my true desire wasn’t that of just earning money.

Sure, at the time I wanted to make a good living and I was open to starting a family someday, so I needed to make good money. But, I came to understand that I didn’t need to chase it, and that having a cool and engaging career was more important.

Taking a leap of faith

An acquaintance of mine, who had earned a degree in economics, had switched jobs to become a network engineer. He was a smart guy, but nothing out of this world.

Yet, even though most people believe that becoming a network engineer takes years of studying and experience, he was able to become a network engineer in just 18 months even though he knew nothing about technology.  

All he did was get some education and practice time working on real equipment, and then he landed a three-month internship.

After that, he got a job as an associate network engineer, and then, before he knew it, he was making close to 6 figures in a career that had nothing to do with his major and that challenged him every single day—he loves his career now.

I spoke to him and I knew I could do it too, even though I didn’t know anything about technology. A career in information technology could be very fulfilling, pay well, and it could also come with great challenges every day.

Not to mention the fact that technology changes so fast that you must constantly keep learning and acquiring new skills rather than just staying stagnant—not learning anything new and bored out of your mind at work.   

With that in mind, I committed to switching careers and becoming a network engineer… 

But I didn’t just quit my job the next day. I still needed a paycheck. So just like my friend who had had some success in the technology world, I started preparing to make the switch.

By just putting in 10-20 hours a week for 10 weeks going through a self-paced online training program, I was able to acquire enough knowledge and practice time to start helping others with their devices.

I began helping anyone at work with connectivity issues, and other technical stuff. In just a few days, I had become the go-to person at the company to help with technical problems.

I knew that this could help me gain some practice and an understanding of what a tech support job could look like, which was the first stepping stone in the plan I had laid out to become a network engineer.

It did! Volunteering to help people allowed me to gain confidence in my skills and a few recommendations on LinkedIn. This, even though I didn’t yet have any industry-recognized certifications, was enough to land a help desk role.

This was a major accomplishment for me at the time. Sure, I had taken a 25% pay cut but it was a brand new start with amazing opportunities for growth.

And, considering that I had a coworker in the same position who had a couple of technical certifications and a college degree in information management, it didn’t feel too shabby.

Why information technology?

One of the coolest things about a career in information technology is that it doesn’t require extensive studying to be able to get started. Anyone willing to put in a few hours of study and practice every week can break into a role and start moving up.

Now, obviously, it isn’t a piece of cake—otherwise, everyone would be doing it. But, it is possible. If you have the right mentorship and come up with a good plan, you’d be able to make the switch seamlessly.

I was lucky to find two experts, Terry Kim and Jacob Hess, who mentored me as I moved along. If it weren’t for them, it would have probably taken me way more time.

Everybody else was telling me I needed a degree and a bunch of technical certifications—they were wrong.  

Another great thing about information technology is that things are constantly changing. If you’re a go-getter, this means that you could jump on a new trend and learn a new technology.

Then, you could apply your new skills to solve some sort of problem in your company and boom, get promoted just like that—which means you’d get to work on cooler problems and technology.

Since there’s not much at stake, you can just learn new things and apply them. Worse comes to worst someone can help you troubleshoot whatever you break.

So don’t be afraid of making mistakes, especially when you’re practicing new skills that can result in a promotion. After all, it’s not like you’re a rookie doctor practicing surgery on another human! See what I mean?

The bottom line

If you’re considering a career switch, jumping into information technology is probably your best option.

Not only would you jump into an engaging and fulfilling career, but given the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), you’d likely secure a well-paying job for the next couple of decades or longer—if you play your cards correctly.

Breaking into IT, regardless of mainstream advice, doesn’t require a lot. In fact, going to college and earning technical certifications doesn’t even make that much of a difference when you’re getting started.

Almost all of those who get college degrees and certifications, and then break into the industry, end up in entry-level roles helping with minor stuff. So why take the long road?

It’s what you do once you break into those entry-level roles that truly matters. If you go in with a plan to move up, the odds of moving up in a matter of months are huge.

But, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could be in those positions for many years and that can be insanely boring.

Anyhow, make sure you apply to become a network engineer in less than a year even if you have if you want to achieve success in information technology faster than most people think is possible. Yes, even if you have zero experience today.


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