Truck Driver on the Road to a New Tech Career

IT pro transitions from truck driving to IT with CompTIA certifications.

Truck Driver on the Road to a New Tech CareerFrom 2:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on workdays, Randolph Sexton loads packages into a tractor trailer and drives them to their destinations for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). He has been an USPS employee for the last five years and has been working similar jobs since retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps a decade ago.

An avid weightlifter, physical strength and endurance have always served him well in the workforce. But more recently, speaking with older drivers had him reconsidering the long-term prospect of being a commercial driver. The picture they painted of life loading and driving trucks had downsides. Sexton feared he was facing doing the same job, day-in and day-out, until he could no longer stay ahead of the aches, pains and injuries that come with age.

No Experience in Tech

Sexton wanted work he could do comfortably for decades. He wanted to develop expertise; to launch a career where the more he learned, the more in demand he would become. He wanted the chance to move up in title and in salary as he built his skills. 

He had heard from friends and family that the IT industry could provide such opportunities, but he had no background in computing whatsoever. He did not grow up with a computer in his home and, outside of having to send an email or occasionally surfing the web, had barely used them in a professional environment.

“Initially I shied away from IT because it looked so intimidating,” Sexton said. “That thing about teaching an old dog new tricks, so to speak.”

As he researched the resources available to him, though, it began to look doable. He signed up for courses from an online certification training institution with a curriculum and a schedule that fit his lifestyle. He purchased a computer to use for video calls and coursework and, when the semester started, was introduced to CompTIA A+ certification.

A few CompTIA certifications served as the bedrock of the training program’s curriculum, starting with CompTIA A+. For Sexton, pursuing that certification proved to be one the most difficult, fulfilling and illuminating steps in his career reinvention.

Finding a Knack for IT With CompTIA

Sexton began his coursework and was immediately introduced to a world of new concepts. He found it fascinating. Computing was more involved than he ever imagined, and he was determined to wrap his mind around it all. He knew he could learn whatever he put his mind to, as long as he focused.

When he reached the CompTIA A+ Core 1 exam objectives, he started to understand the shape that focus would have to take.

“It was just so comprehensive,” Sexton said. “It covered operating systems (OS), it covered hardware, software, troubleshooting. It was rough.”

His first time through the Core 1 exam, Sexton missed by about 20 points. He was briefly discouraged. But the experience of sitting for the exam helped him realize what it would take to pass.

He immersed himself in the CompTIA A+ objectives, studying in ways he never had before. He used online video in combination with his course readings, and looked for resources anywhere he could find them that would make the concepts click and stick.

His next try at the exam, Sexton proved there was something to his study methods: He passed. Shortly thereafter, he passed his Core 2 exam and earned the CompTIA A+ certification.

Checking off that professional objective was only a start. Continuing on with the program, Sexton was already getting comfortable with the Linux command line. And now that he has found a study method that works for him, he has been moving quickly through course objectives.

Sexton has discovered that he has a knack for technology, and as he looks toward using his growing skills to make his professional mark, people in his life already in the industry have been stepping up to help.

A Network of Friends and Family

Each day when Sexton parts ways with his wife for the day to go load trucks, she stays right there, working from home. Sexton’s wife is an engineering operations manager with 20 years of experience and an advanced degree, and she has been helping her husband become a career-ready IT professional.

One day, as he was studying, she gave him some news about a great opportunity. She had mentioned his interest in the field to a coworker of hers. Her coworker’s husband, a deputy director at a multinational credit monitoring agency, had an opening for a mentorship. Sexton signed on.

A couple of times a month, Sexton meets with his mentor via video conference, getting a full view of what it’s like to work in cybersecurity, an area he is most enthusiastic about learning.

Sexton has another family member, too, who is enjoying bringing him into the fold of the computing world. One day in September, Sexton’s nephew, who he describes as an absolute tech guru, came over to talk shop and walk him through installing a Linux-based OS as a dual boot on his computer. His nephew has also begun teaching him Python.

“He’s going to take his uncle under his wing and show him the ropes,” Sexton said.

Sexton is working hard and learning fast, with friends and loved ones helping him become the family’s next IT pro. In the Sexton household, there is plenty of excitement, too, about what his impending new career stands to change. Both Sexton and his wife anticipate a workday where Sexton does not have to head off to load a tractor trailer, but instead joins his wife working from home. And since they love traveling, they could even hit the road together, commuting remotely from a spot they never had the chance to visit.

“We’re looking forward to it every single day,” Sexton said.

Staying Hungry for IT Success

Sexton sees at least a few more certifications for himself on the horizon, beginning with those he will earn in his training program. The study strategy he plans to employ for CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ is the same one that got him there with CompTIA A+. He plans to churn through his course work quickly and effectively, absorbing everything he can from every angle, researching independently, asking questions, building his expertise and taking the exams to validate the skills.

Ready for the job market and actively upskilling, Sexton is walking proof that even those who are just beginning with computers later in life can, with CompTIA certifications, get started in IT. For those coming from similar backgrounds, he suggests that adopting the mindset and the approach he has is a strong first step.

“Get a vivid picture of what [an IT career] will entail,” Sexton said. “If all signs point to go, get in it and really apply yourself. Be aggressive and hungry and eat everything up. You have the ability to learn so much more and increase your value. The sky is the limit.”

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Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology and various other topics and industries.

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