Recently, I completed the Chicago Career Tech (CCT) job retraining program in the Cisco Certified Network Associate and Network Technician track. As part of this training track, I studied toward a COMPTIA A+, Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification. In addition to my classroom study, I also completed hands-on training with LEARN Charter School Network as a hardware and software support technician. The combination of my classroom and hands-on learning experiences has given me new confidence in my skills and ability to find employment. I credit CCT and United Way for opening new career doors for me in the field of Information Technology, a field I wished I had pursued long ago.The last position I held was as the Assistant Director of the Urban Health Program for the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Pharmacy, where I was laid-off in October of 2010. Shortly before I began working at UIC, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University, where I had worked in the Student Affairs office. While in school, I also had a variety of temporary and part-time jobs to keep the bills paid and change in my pocket.Initially, I focused my job search on student affairs positions because the field was familiar to me, even though I didn’t feel much interest or excitement about the work. As my job search continued, I began to realize that while I had performed well at each of my previous jobs, I never truly felt fulfilled by the type of work I was doing. This dissatisfaction drove me to reevaluate my career interests. I spent time reflecting on who I was, utilizing strength and skill evaluators like Myers Briggs and interviewing others about their work. I eventually realized that my real career interests included analysis, evaluation and design–all of which are essential for jobs in IT.I had seen advertisements for CCT in the past, but never thought to apply for the program. A postcard I received from CCT changed all of that. After discovering my new interest in IT and learning more about the program, I was eager to apply. For the first time, I was excited about my potential career–I saw the opportunity to transition into a field for which I seemed a natural.Despite a lack of experience in IT, I excelled in the CCT program and I’m excited for my future career opportunities. Over the past six months, I have successfully earned three certifications, achieving the highest score in my CCT class on the CCENT and CCNA exams. At LEARN Charter School Network, I have acquired valuable experience as a technician and have made lasting connections to boost my professional network. I am still working with LEARN on a temporary basis with hopes of being hired permanently at their new campus scheduled to open in North Chicago. CCT has given me a new lease on my career and I am fortunate to have been a part of the program.Post submitted on behalf of John Falzone, Chicago Career Tech program participant.