James Marsh graduated with an associate’s degree in Networking Information Technologies, but life events kept him tied to a career in the service industry until he enrolled at NexGenT. James explains how NexGenT’s Full Stack Network Engineer Immersive bootcamp put him back on course, giving him the skill set, support, and confidence he needed to pursue his dream career and land a job as a Technical Service Desk Technician. Plus, since James is now an Associate Instructor at NexGenT, he shares his advice for future students about how to get the most out of a network engineering bootcamp!
What inspired you to pivot into network engineering?
I spent most of my adult life working in restaurants and bars, but I actually have an associate’s degree in Networking Information Technologies, and years ago, I also earned my CCNA. Due to illnesses and deaths in my family and the fallout from Hurricane Katrina, I wasn’t able to invest in my networking career so I went into the service industry.
If you already had an Associates Degree in Networking IT, then why did you need to enroll in a bootcamp like NexGenT?
I could talk at a general level about networking and concepts, but I had forgotten the hands-on knowledge and skills. I was employed at a casino when I saw a NexGenT ad for their network engineer bootcamp. I had wanted to get back into networking for a long time, so I took a shot at my dream.
Did you research any other cybersecurity or networking bootcamps? What stood out about NexGenT?
I had researched several bootcamps, but what drew me to NexGenT was the hands-on aspect of the program. I loved the idea of being in a situation where I could apply my knowledge, not just learn about theory.
What was the NexGenT admissions process like for you?
I reached out to the NexGenT admissions team, and they connected me with NexGenT’s founder, Terry Kim. He asked me about my IT and educational background. My impression from our interview was that Terry wanted to see if I was enthusiastic and fascinated by the subject, and if NexGenT was a good fit for me.
Did you have to complete any pre-work at NexGenT?
I did 5-6 months of Basic Training before the bootcamp began. In the prework, we did labs through Packet Tracer, and completed our full stack project, where we designed the network, built it out, tested, and troubleshooted. This project integrated firewalls, phones, routers, switches, servers, and setting up the host. We also had to figure out a cost estimation, and present our work. We continued working on this project throughout the bootcamp. The pre-work training even taught me time management! It completely prepared me for the bootcamp.
What was a typical day like in NexGenT’s Full Stack Network Engineer Immersive?
Once I began the bootcamp phase, it was very intense. NexGenT gave us a stack of real world networking equipment. Our instructor would do a short lecture about what we were going to work on and review key concepts with us. Then we dug into working with the equipment up and making it work. The curriculum took everything we learned during our pre-work training and had us apply it in a realistic environment. It's one thing to be on an imitating a networking environment and a whole other thing to have a CISCO IP phone, configure it, and call someone on the other side of the classroom!
What was the teaching style like at NexGenT?
Our instructors were enthusiastic and to the point. They outlined what the technology did and how it worked. We were taught what we needed to look for and why they are that way. There were a lot of hands on work. We had labs we built out and worked with almost every lesson.
Since this is a remote bootcamp, were you able to interact with your peers?
I was in the bootcamp a few years ago when NexGenT was just starting out, so the student community was beginning to grow and we didn’t interact with the other students to the degree that NexGenT students do now. Coming back to NexGenT as an instructor now, I can see how the program is more comprehensive and interactive .
Did you see a difference between learning network engineering at college versus at a bootcamp?
Absolutely! At NexGenT they emphasize as much applied, practical knowledge as possible — even teaching us how to work within your own computer to do the networking tasks. In the community college that I attended, I went through two semesters before I touched a switch or router and experimented with configuring and troubleshooting. With NexGenT, I was using networking equipment right away.
Do you have any recommendations for incoming students on how best to set up their remote learning environment for a networking bootcamp?
My advice is to be organized, reach out to other students, attend every class and watch the recorded lecture, take notes, create flash cards, and write flow charts or knowledge-based articles. Imagine that you have to write an article about one of the technologies and leave directions for a novice. That should help you clarify your learning.
Did you receive any NexGenT certifications while in the bootcamp?
I achieved NexGenT’s Full Stack Network Associate (FSNA), and I am working to get my Full Stack Network Professional (FSNP) certification. After I get my FSNP, I will enroll in NexGenT’s Cyber Security Specialization course. NexGenT encourages students and instructors alike to continue to learn, and they make courses available to their instructors. It's a very positive environment.
How did NexGenT prepare you for the job hunt?
NexGenT taught me how to market myself, write my resume, present myself on LinkedIn, search for jobs, find open positions, and how to interview. When I finished the NexGenT networking bootcamp, I knew I was ready to work in the field. I didn't know everything, but I knew I could use the intellectual methodologies NexGenT taught me to overcome challenges and successfully work in the industry.
Tell us about the first job you landed after graduating from NexGenT!
After the bootcamp, I moved to Texas and landed my first job as a Technical Service Desk Analyst. I worked for a managed service provider that supports a large hospital account of three main hospitals with a bunch of satellite sites.
I stood out in my first job because of the training I received from NexGenT. The people who hired me for the Technical Service Desk said they were really impressed with my interview. They purposely asked me questions I couldn’t answer fully to see how I would approach the situation. If there was a problem I couldn't immediately solve, what would I do to find the solution? How would I describe the problem, analyze it, and research it? Each step of the way, I explained what questions I would ask, where I would look, what the problem could be, and so on. When I couldn’t find the answer, I told them I would escalate the issue to a higher team. That was what they were looking for. As a Technical Service Desk Analyst, you need to prepare the stage for the next expert you hand the issue to. That's critical in the IT field. Many people had trouble doing that, but they didn't have the training I did with NexGenT.
In my IT position, I learned a lot about the industry at that level, but I was in a role where there was no room for advancement. So I went back to NexGenT and became an Instructor Assistant. If you can, I recommend focusing on your NexGenT studies and go as far as possible with your learning.
Now you’re an Instructor Assistant at NexGenT! How are you working with students?
I've been in this job for a little over a month grading homework, offering support, engaging in discussions, and keeping students accountable. I had a call yesterday with a student who has fallen behind because of life's circumstances. He asked me, "How can I learn this stuff better?" The most important advice I told him was, "Create an imaginary person who doesn't understand this technology and explain it to them." Einstein said it best, "If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you probably don't know it yourself." It helps you to determine what is important.
As a graduate and an Instructor Assistant, what’s your advice to future students about how to get the most out of NexGenT?
Take advantage of everything that's offered – not only the training but also the wonderful support staff at NexGenT. NexGenT has a counselor on staff to help students with issues, motivation, or organization. We have a special accountability plan for students. Reach out to the instructor assistants — we can help you! So much work has gone into expanding this program and focusing on the needs of students, and it’s an exceptional opportunity.
What has been the biggest challenge and roadblock in your journey to becoming a Network Engineer?
My biggest challenge was adjusting my mindset to believe in myself. From there, I’ve been able to stay calm when I get stuck, remember the big picture, and integrate positive and empowered thinking.
Looking back on this journey into networking, was NexGenT worth it?
Unquestionably, yes! If I had not enrolled in NexGenT, I would not have had the confidence to leave a lifelong career in the service industry and land a job in IT. Since graduating from NexGenT, whenever I run into technical issues, I have the confidence to step back and document key information to express it to someone else who might have the solution. That’s what I learned at NexGenT.
Why Bismar chose Springboard to help him make a career change
Inside the new learning format and courses at Devmountain
How devCodeCamp prepared Air Force vet Andrew for a job at AWS