Chicago Career Tech and United Way: Opening New Doors and Finding My Passion

Chicago Career Tech Group 5 Orientation- John Falzone pictured second from right.

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.  

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