Iris Colon wanted to take the leap from customer service and sales jobs into a new, challenging career with opportunity for growth. After completing an online intro course at NexGenT, Iris found her new career path in network engineering. Even as a beginner, Iris explains how NexGenT helped her build the knowledge base and confidence to pursue a career in networking and land a NOC Technician job at Insight Global! Plus, Iris shares how NexGenT’s live, interactive curriculum and online community made her bootcamp experience more enriching.
What were you up to before you enrolled at NexGenT?
Before NexGenT, I had tried going back to school several times but could never find my niche or career track. After an extended leave from the workforce, I worked a few jobs in customer service and sales. I’m a timid person, so sales was not a great fit for me, and I became more dissatisfied with my work. Once the pandemic hit, I began looking at schools again. Despite not having a background in technology, I have always been interested in tech and decided to pursue a tech career. That’s when I found out about NexGenT.
In your research process, what set NexGenT apart from other bootcamps?
When I was still early in the process of identifying schools, I looked at an in-person Computer Science degree program in Florida. While I enjoyed the idea of being in-person, you had to pay tuition up-front. I chose NextGenT because of its flexible income share agreement and the live, remote teaching style.
Do you recommend taking NexGenT’s Basic Training before officially enrolling in the bootcamp?
Absolutely! The course helps you gauge your ability to understand the course material and whether you'll be interested in this field.
I knew nothing about networking before NexGenT, other than how to hook up a home router. NexGenT's Basic Training course helped me build confidence that I could do this sort of work. NexGenT organizes the course under the assumption that you know nothing about networking. The course is self-paced and it took me about a week to complete. The class covered the basics of networking, including what a router and switch are.
What was the NexGenT application process like for you?
Aside from the intro course, I had to complete an aptitude test. I worked primarily with an advisor who walked me through the application and interview process. The entire process is synergistic where you have an advisor working with you the whole time.
You mentioned that you used an ISA – could you tell us about that process?
NexGenT offers an Income Share Agreement (ISA), so you don't pay tuition until you get a job that pays at least $40K per year after graduating from the program. I currently have student loans and I don't particularly have anything to show for those loans, so I was attracted to the prospect of paying after getting a job that paid a good wage. The ISA resonated with me because if this career path didn’t work out, I would not be on the hook to pay thousands of dollars. The ISA also means NexGenT invests in your success with the incredible instructor, career, and counseling support.
As a bootcamp graduate, has NexGenT’s ISA repayment plan been manageable?
My current ISA will require me to pay 10% of my income per month. Since I'm a contractor, I am not paying back my bootcamp tuition yet, but I have confidence that when my contract is complete, my current employer will hire me full-time. I do feel that the ISA payments will be manageable then.
What was a typical week like in NexGenT's Full Stack Networking Engineering bootcamp?
At the beginning of the bootcamp, we had live instruction four days a week. There was also online, self-paced instruction to work through the other days of the week. NexGenT teaches you networking basics, including what a router and switch are, and advanced topics, such as dynamic host configuration protocol. The topics can be challenging, but live instruction was beneficial as I could discuss topics with those in my cohort and ask my instructors questions in real-time.
Did the teaching style match your learning style?
The teaching style synced up with how I learn. I also had the opportunity to work on my own and be in a classroom setting to ask questions when I needed answered and engage with peers.
Who else was in your cohort at NexGenT?
You’ll find a variety of tech backgrounds in the bootcamp. There were people in my cohort who started in tech building computers, and then others like me who did not have a background in tech before enrolling at NexGenT.
Since you did this bootcamp remotely, how did you connect with your cohort and instructors?
Connecting with others was important to me because I was concerned about feeling isolated in an online bootcamp. I had spent ten years at home with health issues and I wanted to make sure I had a program where I could connect with others. NexGenT provides an online networking resource, where you have access to people from previous and new cohorts. I was actually able to help someone get a job with my company through this resource! It is a great way to meet new people, troubleshoot, and make friends with those from previous and later cohorts. One of the members in my cohort started a Discord server, and we continue to keep in touch with each other to check in.
What kinds of projects or labs did you work on in the Network Engineering bootcamp?
We do a lot of labs during the bootcamp, and then the last portion of the program focuses on two projects. The instructors help you walk through both a brownfield and new deployment, as if you were a project manager. You plan the entirety of the project, which encompasses real-world scenarios, with support from the instructor. You then begin to complete the project, which requires you to build a network from scratch and continuously add improvements to the network.
Which industry certifications did NexGenT prepare you for?
Having the NexGenT certifications, Full Stack Network Associate (FSNA) and Full Stack Networking Project (FSNP), on my resume did help in my job search. The company I'm working with was so interested in the NexGenT bootcamp, they had a 1:1 with NexGenT CEO Jacob Hess to learn more!
How did NexGenT prepare you for the job hunt?
Career services at NexGenT cover resume building, cover letter writing, updating your LinkedIn profile, and interview skills. Every other week, we received live instruction from the career services team, where they breakdown best practices to land a job. NexGenT also provides a counselor that is available to current students and alumni. She had provided resources on imposter syndrome and how to overcome it.
What roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating from NexGenT?
I lean towards self-doubt, so I didn't believe I was qualified for anything, but I applied for everything! I felt most prepared for networking technician positions, but the roles you feel qualified for depends on your aptitude and confidence. A classmate just landed an engineering position, which is my ultimate goal.
Congrats on your new contract NOC Technician position at Insight Global! What was the remote interview process like?
Insight Global was asking for 1-2 years of experience for this NOC technician position. I spoke with the hiring manager, and found out that they actually like to hire people just starting their careers because they're teachable. It helps to take the chance to apply to roles, even if you don't meet all the qualifications or requirements!
I did an initial interview with the contracting company, who then prepared me for an interview with the hiring manager at Insight Global. I was also interviewed by an engineer, which went smoothly and made me realize that I knew more than I thought! My interviews felt good, so when I posted in the NexGenT community chat about an open position at my company, I felt confident giving the hiring manager the name of someone in the next cohort because I had confidence in our curriculum.
What kinds of projects are working on at Insight Global?
My official title is NOC Technician, which is similar to a Tier One Technical Support role. My day-to-day includes taking inbound calls from clients to troubleshoot and resolve layer two and layer three issues. I work within the networking team, and we operate under a group of network engineers. Depending on the problem, we may reach out to engineers, technicians, and construction to help resolve issues. This role has been a great opportunity for me to pick the brains of the engineers on my team and understand the day-to-day work of a network engineer.
Are you using all of the concepts and tools you learned at NexGenT, or have you learned a lot on the job?
I am learning a lot of new things on the job! The foundation I received from NexGenT was beneficial and provided the basics, which has helped me learn new command lines and operating systems more efficiently. NexGenT focuses on Cisco-based devices and prepares you for the CCNA. At my current company, I'm learning to use Juniper, ADVA,and RAD.
Women are often the minority on cybersecurity teams. Do you have any advice for other women who are getting into network engineering and cybersecurity?
I recommend that other women interested in networking and cybersecurity go for it! It can be challenging but stick it out. There are quite a few women at Insight Global, but it is still mostly men on my team. That said, I do believe this career and industry is worth taking the leap!
Was NexGenT worth it for you?
NexGenT was worth it! I don't think I would have understood the technical aspects of networking successfully through self-teaching alone. Without NexGenT, I wouldn't have known where to start in this field, especially with career services and navigating the job search. The career resources NexGenT provided, such as personal brand management, were highly beneficial to me.
I am pleased about where I'm at in my career. I am also more fulfilled in my career as I am helping people stay connected.
What has been the biggest roadblock in this journey to make a career change into network engineering?
The biggest roadblock has been me! I tend to second-guess myself. I'm in the last few days of training at my company, and my trainer has encouraged me to trust myself more as I navigate calls from clients.
What is your advice to anyone just starting the networking engineering bootcamp at NexGenT?
I would recommend applying yourself to the program early. There are so many resources available to you at NexGenT, and you should use them. You should challenge yourself to be better every day. If I had pushed myself harder, I would have been able to get my CCNA before graduating the bootcamp instead of after.
Also, if you see room for improvement at NexGenT, be sure to let them know. For example, when I was enrolled, the curriculum was set up in a way that didn't naturally flow, and the cohort provided staff with that feedback, which they then incorporated for later cohorts.
Find out the key differences between web design and web development!
Go inside the new online part-time and full-time data science bootcamps at Metis!
2 projects we love from a Hackbright Academy Demo Night!