Alumni Spotlight


How Brandon Went From Gig Work to IT Support with Merit America

By Liz Eggleston
Last Updated April 11, 2022

Brandon was working in gig jobs for Instacart and Doordash, but saw an entry point into tech through IT Support. He enrolled at Merit America to learn IT alongside his career coach and used the Success Sharing Agreement to avoid upfront tuition, balancing the remote program while continuing to work in New York. The career team at Merit America set Brandon up with an interview at Infosys, and today he is working as a Tech Support Associate on a project at Aerojet Rocketdyne. Read Brandon’s advice for other beginners who want to get their foot in the door and hear if Merit America was worth it!

What were you up to before Merit America, Brandon?

Before Merit America, I did have an interest in tech as far as basic hardware and software installation. I’ve always been somewhat of a tech guy, I’m good with my hands when it comes to things like computers and gaming.

In 2018, I was working as a Slot Operations Supervisor at Resorts World Casino in New York, which was probably the closest I was going to get to a career. I didn’t have college experience and I thought I was going to be there for a while. After I was let go, I started various jobs including working for FedEx and gig work with Instacart and Doordash. until the pandemic when I encountered Merit America.

What inspired you to make a career change into IT?

My family and friends pressured me since I had always been computer savvy so it’s always been in the back of my mind. When I first got the email for Merit America in February 2021, I thought it was spam! But something told me to click on it. I looked at the website and saw their purpose. Unlike other organizations, they were pretty genuine with their goals and what they wanted for learners. That’s what prompted me to apply to the Merit America IT Support Bootcamp versus another bootcamp or program.

Did you participate in Merit America’s Success Sharing Agreement?

Yes, you don’t have to pay anything upfront and you also don’t have to pay until you get a job with a salary of more than $40,000 per year. I got a job in September 2021 and I’ve been working for about six months now. 

The agreement is capped at $5,700 for the full course and even after the agreement is over, they’ll still be there to support you with job-related resources.

The Success Sharing Agreement isn’t like typical student loans. Once you’re earning over $40,000, Merit America sets up the monthly payment agreement. And if you lose your job for whatever reason, they’ll stop the payments. You just need to let them know and you won’t have to pay until you get another job making over $40,000.

What was the admissions process like for Merit America? Did you need tech experience to apply to the IT Support track?

You don't have to have a technical background, you just need to bring your passion and drive to succeed. I was fortunate to have some technical knowledge, but there were other learners who had never done IT before. The application process involves you bringing a willingness to learn and they’ll welcome you with open arms.

Do you think it’s true that someone with no technical experience can be a great IT Support Specialist?

Absolutely, I feel that anyone can do Tech Support once they put their mind to it. Everyone learns differently and there’s a learning curve, but as long as you put effort into it, anyone can do it.

What was the teaching style like at Merit America?

I’m the type of person that likes learning on my own. I learned on my own time spending 20-25 hours per week reviewing, studying, taking quizzes and exams, and doing online lab work via Coursera. We met with our cohort once a week at a time that worked for everyone. I graduated with the Google IT Support Certificate. 

We didn’t have traditional instructors at Merit America; instead, we did one-on-ones with our Career Coaches two times a month and on top of assistance with learning, they helped us with career support like mock interviews and other job skills.

What did you actually learn about IT Support in the curriculum?

The course went through the basic fundamentals like hardware and software support, system administration work, Active Directory, cyber security basics, navigating through the command-line interface instead of the graphic user interface, and things like that.

We had labs to complete and set content to complete each week. We had to submit it to our career coaches by 6:00 PM on Mondays.

Merit America has three phases.

  1. The first is the preliminary Foundation Phase which takes a couple of weeks. If you decide you don’t want to continue in that first phase, you can drop out with no strings attached. 
  2. The second phase is the Immersion Phase and there’s no turning back from there. You’re fully acclimated with a career coach, meeting schedule, and IT support work.
  3. The third phase is the Job Placement Phase, where a Specialist works with you to support you to find a great job–from recommending jobs to look at to reviewing your cover letter

Did you find it difficult to balance working gig jobs with learning?

It was not easy at all and I’m grateful that the courses were 100% online. If I had to account for commute time, it would have been significantly harder. Luckily, the Merit America program is flexible and gig economy work is also flexible. 

I was able to balance both, but it wasn’t easy. I had a lot of sleepless nights with both gig economy work and the program. I was working seven days a week. At the end of the day, it was worth it. It was difficult, but a lot of things in life aren’t easy and I’d rather it be this way. I had the end goal in mind to come out of Merit America as a better person.

How did Merit America prepare you for the job search?

During the final Job Placement Phase, I was paired with another career coach who helped me with the job search and things like LinkedIn.

I rarely used LinkedIn before Merit America; I had always used Indeed. My Career Coach helped boost my LinkedIn and networking capabilities tenfold. They also use Glassdoor, Career Circle, Huntr, and a number of other job search tools to help you.

There are employee partnership managers that send you jobs every week and we also utilize the Slack application to stay in contact with career coaches, cohorts, and other staff within Merit America.

Did Merit America connect you with a job in tech?  

Merit America has partnerships with employers that they send students to for interviews. They sent me to Infosys, which is one of their premier partners, for an interview. It’s kind of like skipping a step because you normally have to submit an application and wait to get an interview. In the application process, Merit America told us they were going to help us get jobs, but I didn’t realize it was going to be like this.

I completed the course near the end of May 2021 and started working as a Tech Support Associate for Infosys near the end of September.

Congrats! What does your day look like as a Tech Support Associate?

I’m working on a project now with a government contractor called Aerojet Rocketdyne. They engineer and design rockets for NASA and missiles for missile defense. I can’t say too much under my NDA, but I’m solving IT issues either through the phone or remote access if necessary. I work remotely from New York City. 

Do you use what you learned at Merit America and in the Google IT Certification in your work?

Yes, especially with SysAdmin work and utilizing Active Directory. I use that on a day-to-day basis and I utilize it a lot to get administrative access to files.

What has been the biggest challenge so far in your journey into IT support?

The challenge was getting in and finding a company that would hire someone with technically limited experience. It’s a full career change. My first job was at 17 working at a KFC, then I was a general manager at Radio Shack and many other jobs. I had experience from those jobs, but I didn’t have a lot of technical experience. That was the biggest hurdle for me. 

Do you have tips for people on the job hunt?

A lot of jobs are listed as Entry-Level, but they require 1-2 years of technical experience – that’s a catch-22. There are resources out there to help you continue learning. I’m going to give a shout-out to a friend of mine on YouTube called KevTech. He’s from New York as well and he does a lot of work preparing people to work with Office 365. Watching his videos helped me a lot.

It might be discouraging to receive rejection emails, but just keep going, tailor your resume, and don’t let it get to you. The main thing is to keep educating yourself, even if you don’t get a certification, there are a lot of training courses out there. IT is vast and if an interviewer asks you a question and you’re not sure of the answer, it’s okay to say “I don’t know but here’s how I would learn.” That’s better than trying to fake it.

Have you gotten any other certifications since graduating?

I’m constantly on the hunt and thirst for knowledge. I’m working on my Python certificate right now – coding is honestly one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn. I’m willing to put in the work because the knowledge and skill to be a programmer is highly in-demand. Even if I don’t plan to be a programmer in the future, that knowledge is essential. 

I’m a big gamer so learning C++ for that and Java development is interesting to me. I’m also planning on learning data analytics and I want to get the CompTIA+ certification. 

Was Merit America worth it for you?

Yes, there’s a difference between a job and a career. When I first saw the email from Merit America, I thought it was spam and I almost disregarded it. If I hadn't done Merit America, would I still be working? Yes. Would I have money? Yes. Would I be happy? No.

As I said, I do Doordash and Instacart and it’s fine, but at this stage in my life, I wouldn’t be truly happy without this career. I would just be spinning my wheels doing the same old work. 

Now, I’m in a place where I’m excited for my work. When you wake up and you’re actually excited for work, that to me is the definition of a career. From that standpoint, Merit America was worth it to me. 

Find out more and read Merit America reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Merit America.

About The Author

Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!

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