The students in our ITWorks Philadelphia class are more than halfway through the spring 2017 session! With some Cisco IT Essentials and CompTIA A+ certifications already earned, the class is now onto the internship portion of the program. We sat down with one of the students, Chomno Chan, to hear about his experience in the ITWorks program. After having tried the A+ exam on his own, he needed some support to master the concepts. Read on to learn more!
ITWorks: What had you been doing prior to starting ITWorks in regards to work and/or school
Chomno: In terms of school, I was doing a lot of self-studying for the CompTIA A+. In regards to work, I was (and still am) at my family’s restaurant in South Philly. I’ve been working between odd jobs and such as well, but have not really being to move anywhere career-wise.
ITW: How did you hear about the ITWorks program? What made you decide to apply?
C: I heard about ITWorks through an internet search. I looked up training programs in the Philadelphia region that could help provide the means to find success and pave the way to a start in the IT field. I began my search after failing the A+ exams. I knew there was some sort of disconnect to some of the information I had learned. It helped me realize that sometimes self-study isn’t the strongest option for me. So naturally after applying, I quickly became excited at the prospect of learning in a class environment.
ITW: You’re about halfway through the program at this point. What has been the most challenging part of the classroom experience thus far? What about the most rewarding part?
C: While learning the technical side of IT in and of itself is difficult, the most challenging part of the classroom experience was learning how to become a professional in the industry. Every industry has its standard of how to act and what's appropriate in the workplace. I have always worked in a very lax environment, so the idea of the “Consummate IT Professional” was quite a turn. The most rewarding part was learning how to “network” with individuals through verbal, written, and virtual means. That includes understanding the idea that the small things you communicate to people can make a big difference in the way people can perceive you.
ITW: We focus on professional development each week with our Friday Sessions. What have you liked most about these sessions?
C: The Friday Session was a great way to learn how to become a professional. The thing I liked the most about these sessions were that the fact that the students were able to meet individuals and engage with organizations we would otherwise not have met through conventional means. Despite my working experience, I didn't know what a Tech Consultant, a Project Manager, or IT Security Professional were. A lot of the titles in the tech industry don’t really tell you about what those professionals actually do. So learning what these roles were, and why, was quite a joy.
ITW: What are you excited about during the internship? Is there a specific experience you are hoping to walk away with?
C: The most exciting thing about being a part of an internship is the idea of learning something new every other day. I am hoping to gain knowledge that can push me further into my career as an IT Professional.
ITW: Graduation is just a few short weeks away. Do you have any expectations on how the job search process will be?
C: A lot of phone calls and a lot of emails will be delivered. The idea of searching for a job is a fun yet can bring the doom and gloom of anxiety. Jumping into my first professional career is a not something I thought I was capable of.
ITW: What has been/will be the impact of ITWorks in your life?
C: ITWorks has been extremely beneficial in my life. I have struggled a lot of with verbal communication. Now, I am more confident in regards to working with people which will make me a better professional and a better person. The people I met, the knowledge I learned, the events I experienced have overall increased the quality of my life. There's been many times where I have felt stagnant in my personal life and work life, because there was no ladder to climb. I failed the CompTIA A+ exams in three separate instances before ITWorks. There was a time when I felt like my only strength of being the go-to tech person was, in fact, not as good as it should be. So, I was discouraged from ever trying to pursue a career in the IT field. ITWorks allowed me to pass the CompTIA A+ certification exam on my first try. That is saying something!
ITW: What are your hopes for the future of ITWorks in Philly?
C: My hope is that ITWorks becomes a much more recognizable program. The staff does an amazing job from every level. The instructor, Stefane Lamour, has been a very reliable source of information in regards to different facets of technology and professionalism. In terms of management, Jessica Mitchell and Grace Harpole have been an absolutely amazing team from organizing the classes and the awesome people we got to meet, providing insight to various professional and career subjects, finding internship for all of us hopeful students, feedback on performance, and all the way to the little things like providing lunch ever so often.
ITW: Do you think you’ll want to stay involved with ITWorks after you graduate?
C: I will like to stay very much involved, time permitting, with ITWorks after graduating. Personally, I think the ITWorks program should be more of a common practice in the major cities in America.
Over 100 volunteers give their time to each session of ITWorks. Volunteer participation is what sets this program apart and what makes being an ITWorks student such a special experience. There are several ways to get involved in all of our locations: Philadelphia, Delaware, and Las Vegas.
Become a Mentor
Help a current ITWorks student stay motivated, provide guidance and support, and encourage them through the duration of the class.
Time Commitment: 1 hour per week for 18 weeks; in-person, via phone or email.
Host a Friday Session
Teach the ITWorks students the “soft skills” they need to succeed in the workplace. Curriculum is provided. Present the topic yourself, or with a group of colleagues.
Time Commitment: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Friday of your choice while class is in session.
Host a Lunch & Learn
Join the ITWorks students over the lunch hour. Bring in food and open a discussion about your career and how you got to where you are today.
Time Commitment: One hour on any day of your choice, Monday through Thursday.
Provide an Internship
Collaborate with ITWorks staff to host a student (or two) for our capstone: a minimum 5-week internship with local IT organizations. Interns work 24 hours per week, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Time Commitment: Minimum of 5 weeks, plus time to interview and select your intern.
Our volunteers are such an asset to our programs and make a huge impact on our students. Tech Impact would not be the same without them!
Learn More About Becoming an IT Works Volunteer