October 11, 2018 at 8:30 am #169462hayabusaParticipant
Nothing seems to be more deflating to many IT professionals than dropping resumes and hearing nothing but silence. To be shot down even before an initial conversation with an employer stings, especially if due to their HR filters weeding out ‘unqualified’ individuals before they’ve even garnered a look. There are numerous red flags that corporate recruiters quickly home in on when paring down a stack of resumes such as a lack of time in the industry, little if any directly relevant experience for a position, or that a person seems to frequently jump from job to job. All of those are valid. However, one glaring item usually stands out as a disqualifying issue faster than the rest, and it’s one that seems to affect a large number of senior people in technology – the lack of a college degree. In this article, I’ll highlight a little of my past and present to show where I’ve come from and where I’m going. I’ll look at how I just accomplished what I like to call ‘Education Hacking’.
[See the full article at: Education Hacking to Achieve an HR Filter Bypass]
October 11, 2018 at 9:56 pm #169465Michael J. ConwayParticipant
Thanks for the article. I went the non-traditional route as well. I went straight to college after finishing high school but really had no idea what I wanted to do. As a result I just kind of drifted around in class and never really focused. I eventually walked into the Air Force recruiters office and ended up doing 10 years in the Air Force as an Aircraft loadmaster. It was a great job, let me see the world and got me a taste of the physical aspects of security. My last assignment was for the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF).
CCAF is one of the best kept secrets of the Air Force. It allows enlisted members of the Air Force to earn college credits and even an Associates of Applied Science degree in their career field. In my case, that was Aviation Operation. My assignment to CCAF came after I had earned my own degree from CCAF. A degree from CCAF is unique in that many of the core credits, the English, Social Science, Humanities, and Math credits are earned outside of CCAF through either taking classes with a regular college or university or taking exams. For me, the exams were a gift from above. I could go and validate the knowledge I had without having to sit though a traditional class. The rest of the credits came through the technical training provided by the Air Force. I had several technical classes like the basic loadmaster course and SERE. I also had professional military education. The degree was 64 semester hours. Of those 64, I only sat in a class for about 12 of those not counting technical school.
After getting to CCAF, the school bug bit me. At the time, I wasn’t flying anymore and was home every afternoon by 1630. My wife had finished her bachelors from an online school and enjoyed it and she encouraged me to go and finish my bachelors. So I did. I ended up applying, getting accepted and enrolled at Colorado Technical University. What drew me there was that they would take my AAS as meeting the requirements for the first two years of classes effectively starting me in my 300 and 400 level classes. So for me, I got to cut out the boring classes and get right to the meat of my program. The second thing that drew me in was that it was designed to be finished in 15 months from start to finish.
After starting, I found I loved the format. Classes only lasted 12 weeks and I was doing typically 2 at a time. I could suck anything up for that short period of time even if I hated the class or found it to be less than interesting. When I finished my bachelors I rolled right into a masters program. That too was designed to take 15 months. While I didn’t fly through as I took the 30 months total, I found that the flexibility of the online format fit best within my life at that time.
Also while at CCAF I met the guy responsible for getting me onto the path that I am on today. So while beating the filters is a great first step, my experience, because I had the degree, was that it was about having a person in the organization be there for you. It wasn’t so much what I knew or had but rather who I knew. When I started in information assurance, I was wet behind the ears and really had no practical experience even though I did have my CEH and Security+. It was my friend and mentor that got me that first job out of the military.
Anyway, sorry to be so long winded in my comments. You are right about getting by the filters. In the time I have been out of the military, I have been in the position to hire folks. I’ve done the interviews and have met some stellar performers that didn’t have the degree. Thankfully, my HR screener passed quite a bit on and I have no idea how much he really filtered. But I also met a lot with degrees and certification that didn’t understand Alice and Bob. Its not just the degree that will get you the job though it may help get you in the door.
Thanks for telling us about your path. I wonder how WGU would have worked for me.
December 2, 2019 at 8:06 pm #174497hayabusaParticipant
Very sorry it took me this long to read and respond to your comment (embarrassed). As Don knows, I’ve actually had two job changes since writing this article and have been kept extremely busy.
It’s funny how many doors opened when I added the ‘paper’ to my resume. In fact, one of the places that reached out to me had openly told me (very ‘matter of factly’) that they wouldn’t have even taken a second glance at me without a degree, even with my background, certifications, inside connections, etc.
Today, I’m a CISO, with a lot more responsibility on my plate, but enjoying the challenges it brings.
As for your experience, it sounds like it was definitely a great fit for you and met the need you had at the time. I’d bet WGU would’ve worked for you as well, but glad the end result was the same. (And, oh yeah, having an insider at a job definitely helps get you in a door, as well. No argument from me there.)
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