ITWorks Student Spotlight - Dan Zelo

The students in our ITWorks Delaware class are more than halfway through the Spring 2018 session! By the end of this week, students will start their CompTIA A+ exams and be preparing for their internships. We had the opportunity to catch-up with Dan Zelo, a current student, to hear about his experience. Not fully knowing where this program could take him, Dan has been amazed at the countless opportunities presented to him. Now he’s ready to get started in the career he always wanted. Read on to learn more.

ITWorks: Congrats on passing the halfway mark, Dan! I recall that you currently work at a movie theater. I imagine it will be quite busy this weekend with the newest Avengers movie! What do you do there?

Dan: Right now, I am an Assistant Manager at a movie theater which I’ve been doing for about three months, but I previously worked at another theater as well. I do inventory at the end of every night, as well as supervise all the other employees – make sure they are presentable and doing their job, on-time, etc. I would enjoy it more if it was more of a team environment where we are working on things together, but that’s not really the experience I am getting.

ITW: Sounds like you found ITWorks at the right time then! What about technology caught your attention in the first place?

D: I got into technology through video games, quite honestly. My cousin used to come over with his N64 and we’d play Super Mario all night long. That is what sparked my interest initially. I always wanted the newer and better consoles and devices, so I eventually got myself a PC. As it goes with tech, they need to be fixed all the time. It was when I started working on my own repairs that I became even more interested in IT. When I thought I could tackle the troubleshooting on my own with some online help, I was eager to do so (thank you YouTube and Reddit).

ITW: There are a lot of great online resources for the self-taught tech community! When did you start thinking about IT as a possible career?

D: I always wanted to be able to fix my own stuff, so I had a thirst for knowledge in that regard. My family and friends also frequently asked me for IT help, so it was fun for me to be that go-to person. But as I kept learning and digging deeper, I found more and more things that captured my interest. I realized that if I could make a living doing something that I actually enjoy – it could really change the whole game for me. I found that incredibly enticing. So that’s what led me to ITWorks and eager to make this career shift.

ITW: That’s a great progression. It must be satisfying to realize you can make a living in a field that is both personally and professionally appealing. So, how did ITWorks get on your radar?

Dan1D: My mom told me about ITWorks. Her work friend had mentioned the program. I kind of brushed it off at first. I was just getting into management at a movie theater, and thought I had a good pathway moving forward. After a few months of shuffling around, my mom brought up ITWorks again and I decided to check it out. I was skeptical initially. I didn’t know what the program really was and where it would lead me. The longer I am here, though, the more respect I have for it.

ITW: The IT field is so expansive. Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet! Can you elaborate a little bit? What about your experience has garnered such respect?

D: I think it’s great what this program is doing – not only working on the technical skills but also the professional development (multiple times a week). It stresses the importance of both. I can’t believe all the volunteers that have crossed our paths – I’m not sure how that all happens! I mean we had the CIO for the State of Delaware spend over an hour of his time with us. I didn’t think this program was that big of a deal until I started meeting some incredible people and going to some incredible companies. There is so much opportunity here. It has made me realize that there are other options out there besides the traditional college pathway. It can be the right choice for many people, but programs like ITWorks are sometimes a better alternative. To me, college seems very theoretical. Here, it’s all tangible and practical. Between hands-on labs, interviewing, internships, soft skills training – it’s all right here in front of us and I love that about it.

ITW: What a powerful testimony! It sounds like you are truly taking advantage of every opportunity the program has provided, and it’s only been 8 weeks. How do you envision the next (and last) 8 week will be?

D: The A+ is coming up next, and I think I’ll knock it out of the park! After that, I’m so excited to work hard and get some experience at my internship – wherever I end up! Until graduation, it’s really all about gaining knowledge and learning as much as I can.

ITW: That’s such a positive mindset to have. Now is the time to be a sponge and soak up as much as possible! Looking ahead to after graduation, any idea on what might be next for you?

D: I’m not certain of an exact position. I do know that virtualization as well as security are the fields that I am really interested in. I enjoyed learning from VMware when they came for the Lunch and Learn, so that might be a company I target in the future. I also really liked the environment at CAI when we went there for the Friday Session. I really admire their Autism2Work program. I have a little brother who is autistic so that means a lot to me.

Those are some great businesses to keep an eye on! We can't wait to see where Dan lands in his career and wish him great success as he completes the second half of the ITWorks program. 

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