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Written by Dan Seitz
When I started working my side hustle in the early 2000s, it was just me, a netbook, and an Ethernet cord. Since then, though, I’ve had to learn IT on the fly. Data, code, and networking are becoming more and more important to even the smallest business, and I’ve found the best way to stay on top of them is to do what the IT pros do, and take a certification course.
IT and certification.
Unless you’re in IT, you might not have heard of the Computing Technology Industry Association, generally called CompTIA. The non-profit trade group was founded in 1982 in part because it was becoming clear to IT professionals at the time that the industry and its demands were moving faster than technical manuals or in-person training could keep up.
It was founded to be vendor neutral and to focus on exams and certifications of maximum value to business. At 2.5 million certifications and counting, it’s become a key resume line for the IT folks I work with.
In my side hustle, it’s just me, my clients, and my personal devices. And when I started a decade ago, that was all I needed. I’d write the copy, send it to my clients as an email attachment, get their notes back, and rewrite what was needed.
Over time, though, IT tasks began to creep in at the edges. First, an infection with Vundo left my netbook crippled and forced me to wipe its hard drive and replace Windows with a Linux distribution. I had to inform my clients of the risk, get my copy written, and keep my business running on an unfamiliar operating system.
It’s only gotten more complex from there. Now I’m regularly asked to work on data projects, use multiple cloud systems to share projects and collaborate, develop visualizations, and comply with cybersecurity provisions in contracts. It’s nothing like what IT departments deal with on a regular basis, but it’s enough that I have to consider its impact on my business and call on friends for informal help.
I was talking with a friend about the latest round of updates, and she told me she had the solution to my problem. I should take the same courses she uses to stay current.
The 2021 Complete CompTIA Certification Prep Super Bundle is on sale for just $49 ($4,400).
She sent me a course taught by the team at iCollege covering CompTIA’s IT Fundamentals + exam. At first I wondered why I should bother if I wasn’t going to take the exam. Then I settled in for the course, and instantly got it.
iCollege is an official CompTIA partner, and in this bundle teamed up with ITProTV, CompTIA’s official video training partner. I was worried I’d be swamped with the kind of jargon I have to edit out of content, yet I found the course was clear and precise, making it easy to follow. Broken up into short lectures, I was able to fit in a course or two every day, fitting it into down time or any places I was stuck waiting with nothing to do.
I wouldn’t say that taking the course made me my own IT guy. But it made it easier to diagnose concerns, tighten up some basic security procedures, and talk with my friends about the problems I was facing. Since then, I’ve used the Linux course to be more informed about the Ubuntu distribution I’m using, and their cybersecurity courses to be better versed in the topic when I talk with clients.
Speaking the language.
In particular, I’ve found being able to “speak the language” and understand both what my clients and their IT departments need. I’m probably never going to need to use Metasploit to attack my laptop and see if hackers can get through, or wire up a server to stay on top of my data needs. But I also don’t have to ask anyone what they’re talking about or frantically Google terms on a Teams meeting, either.
It’s even helped with my day-to-day business. When I’m asked how I secure data, I have an answer. And I’m able to better determine if I can fit my clients’ needs.
Others, though, go much deeper. Some of my IT freelance friends use these courses to add certifications to their resume, and keep on the cutting edge in a rapidly growing industry. I’ve even known some people considering changing career tracks in IT, or getting into IT, starting with their certifications.
When you’re starting out, you’re your own IT person. You’re the one who has to protect your data and maintain your uptime, whether you’re working in more creative pursuits or focused on coding as part of your business. Whether you’re looking for that certification, or want to keep up with the IT team, I’ve found learning the way IT people learn to be invaluable.
Get the 2021 Complete CompTIA Certification Prep Super Bundle for $49 (reg. $4,400).
Prices subject to change.