Trainer Talks: Ben and Garth on Certs, Experience, and Patience

Every year we get all our trainers together for a weeklong Trainerpalooza. It’s a great week at CBT Nuggets and this year, we sat down with Ben Finkel and Garth Schulte to talk discuss IT certifications, job experience, and how to exercise patience. We edited this interview for clarity.

You can watch all the uncut Trainer Talks interviews on our Youtube playlist, which we update regularly with more advice and stories from your favorite CBT Nuggets trainers.

So, Garth, what advice do you wish you had when you started IT?

For me, I wish someone had told me to be patient. That’s the big one. A lot of people when they get into IT, they’re like, “Alright. I want to get a job tomorrow.” And it’s like anything else. You’ve got to build up time and experience with it. So, I’d recommend anyone have a little patience and persistence.

This is one of the most important questions we get from new learners. Should they get lots of certs? Or should they get lots of experience?

This doesn’t necessary answer that question, but overall you need good problem-solving skills — and back to patience, because number one, you can’t learn IT overnight. It’s a long journey that’s gonna take a lot of experiences, battles, and frustrating times — and even good times to build up that knowledge base.

As for certifications, it depends on the field. If you’re in networking and sysadmin, usually you’ll want go deep in your certification paths. (Meaning pick a path like networking and follow it to its most advanced level.) If you go in development, you need to learn databases, programming, and often system administration, too. It’s much more experiential.

That’s actually a pretty good hand-off to Ben. How can someone get experience before getting a job?

That’s always a tough one. No one wants to hire someone without experience. And how do you get that experience when you’re fresh out of college? So, I think the best thing that you can do is turn technology into a hobby for yourself. You know, make things. Even just little things. They don’t have to be complicated.

You’re a developer, though. Does that apply to IT pros as well?

Absolutely. Like I said, make things and build things on the side that you’re excited about and interested in, and then bring those samples to your job interviews, and say to people, “Look, I don’t have the practical hands-on experience in a career, of course, but here’s some of the things that I’ve done and here’s what I can show you.” It’s just like an artist’s portfolio.

A few more resources from CBT Nuggets:

If you’re looking for a few more tips on how to gain IT experience, choose your certification path, or figure out your next step, the CBT Nuggets blog has plenty of great resources to help you along:

Five Tips for Getting Hands-on Experience

Elevating Your IT Career: College Degrees vs. Certs

How to Get Your Networking Career Started

5 Reasons Why IT is Right for You

Mapping Your Networking Career Pathway

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