Family and flexibility might not be what Sumera Shehzadi expected to be the tentpoles of her IT career, but that’s exactly what brought her to the field and helped her grow professionally. Stepping outside her comfort zone, Shehzadi followed her brother first into the military and then into a career in tech. In doing so she’s found that she thrives in such an environment and has been making discoveries about herself ever since.
Charting a Path
Shehzadi’s professional life started with her assigned placement within the military. The options at the time were record management or computer tech and she was assigned to the computer technician field. From there, her curiosity took off.
“I'm happy that I didn't get picked for record management because the computer technician was something I really wanted to do,” she said.
Intrigued by the systemic methods to solve problems with tech, Shehzadi was eager to keep building her expertise and knowledge base, which led her to CompTIA certifications. Thanks to the flexibility of how and when she could study and earn certifications, Shehzadi felt CompTIA certifications were a natural and uplifting fit for her life.
When Shehzadi left the military, she had earned CompTIA A+ certification. But soon after she got married and was expecting her first child. She looked at the current IT landscape and saw that more expertise and certification would help her resume stand out to prospective employers.
“That's why I started studying for CompTIA Network+,” she said. While studying Shehzadi started working as a network administrator. She says that win motivated her to keep studying and add even more certifications to her resume. “Because the CompTIA certification process is affordable, convenient and self-paced, I started studying for CompTIA Security+,” she said.
For Shehzadi, the self-paced certification and the continued advancement of her career that came from the certifications created a natural domino effect. Within 6 months she moved up the government pay scale form a job categorized as “GS 3” to a job categorized as “GS 9” – an impressive feat!
“I was never a paper person, a desk person, I was always going and fixing computers. So that kind of motivated me and let me advance my education in this way,” she said.
Where she used to see a language barrier, Shehzadi found confidence not only in her knowledge base but also in her ability to communicate about IT issues in an authoritative, direct manner. For example, once during a job interview, she felt her answers to the interviewer’s questions weren’t quite landing. But she felt her confidence grow with the support of the specific expertise from certifications she has earned.
“I thought maybe my interview didn't go well. But when I got that job, they specifically did say, ‘Because of what you have done and the specific skill set you have because of the certifications, we would like to hire you.’ I was thrilled!” she said.
Seeing her expertise and options increase was not only fulfilling professionally but gave her the personal confidence to trust her instincts and set her sights even higher.
“The more knowledge I gained, the more confidence I gained as well,” she said. “These certifications helped me better understand my concept of IT, and then it gave me confidence to go talk to people and help them in that regard.”
Because technology is evolving at such a quick pace, Shehzadi feels that continuing education like IT certifications helps keep IT professionals as current as the technology, staying up-to-date as the issues change and develop.
“That’s the big difference between getting your degree once and not knowing what's going on later and staying current with the field,” she said. “Certifications help you keep up with modern technology.”
The flexibility and self-paced style of CompTIA certifications were attractive to Shehzadi, especially when she had more personal obligations and responsibilities on her plate but didn’t want to stop her professional education. Even when life got hectic, she didn’t have to worry about losing ground professionally.
“It is very convenient to study at your own pace,” she said. “For example, last year I was studying for CompTIA Security+, but during that time, my dad ended up in hospital in the ICU. I was at the hospital the entire time and still, I have family, I have kids to take care of. So whenever I had time, I was able to study online rather than miss any classes or online courses. With my self-pace, I was able to take care of everything while taking care of the family.”
Once armed with the right certifications, Shehzadi found that other doors were opened to her, and new paths to navigate and explore became more interesting to her. In fact, she recently accepted a new position as a SharePoint and Teams administrator.
“Tech opens a lot of doors for you because there are so many fields within tech—if you don't like one, you can try a different one. If you don't want to spend your days in system admin, infrastructure, data analytics, etc., you can just pick another route,” she said. “At one point, I was kind of stuck with teaching or lab, which I didn't like. In this field, I get to pick and choose if I don't like this, let me try this.”
Shehzadi’s background is in basic administration and system administration, but her interest and passions are pointing toward cybersecurity, cloud computing, data analytics and other related fields. Her next plan is to learn Power BI and Tableau to bolster her knowledge and curiosity in cloud computing.
“One thing I think that surprised me is that I can learn whatever I want if I'm willing to. And that's such a good quality God has given us that we sometimes don't know until we dive into it and find out what we can do as long as we're willing,” she said. “The willingness has to be there.”
As a mom of two, Shehzadi’s time and energy is at a premium and having quality time for her family and other passions is an important balance for her. Outside of work, she loves to travel, cook and make crafts with her daughter. The flexibility of a career in technology allows for all her passions to have a place in her life.
“Right now, my job is remote, I’m working from home, so as soon as I'm getting done with my work, I can literally close my laptop and start working on projects with my daughter or start cooking. So yes, it gives me a lot of flexibility and satisfaction that I’m doing my best in all areas,” she said.
When it comes to family and career, the two have always been intertwined for Shehzadi. She credits her older brother for encouraging her to join the military and for fostering her drive for a career in IT. And now she shares her own experiences with her nephew, who is starting his own professional journey.
“My brother is actually twelve years older than me so there was a big age gap. He was my inspiration and I feel like probably I'm becoming his son—my nephew's—inspiration as well,” she said. “He has done the CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+). And when I was studying for CompTIA Security+ last year, he was studying for ITF+, and we can share the experience. We say, ‘Oh, this was my exam experience’ and that's something we like to talk about. It feels really good to inspire people, professionally or personally. And I'm happy to share that with my nephew and hopefully in the future with more people.”
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