Alumni Spotlight

How Zachary Got Into IT at a Racing Company after Eleven Fifty Academy

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on August 25, 2022

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A health scare led Zachary Anderson to reassess his life and make a career pivot. He didn’t have time to complete a four-year degree program, so the fast pace and industry-informed curriculum at Eleven Fifty Academy’s full-time, online cybersecurity bootcamp was perfect for Zachary. Today, Zachary gets to apply his passion for helping others as an IT Support Technician for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing! Plus, learn about the two industry certifications, CompTIA Network+ and Security+, that Zachary took while at Eleven Fifty. 

What inspired you to launch a career in cybersecurity?

Most of my professional experience has been in customer service, retail, sales, some auto insurance work, and landscaping, but I've always had an aptitude for tech. I was the kid that would program VCRs for neighbors and was generally tech-savvy. I've always been detail-oriented; I love going down rabbit holes, helping people, and doing the right thing. Cyber security always stuck out to me as something really cool and interesting because it's always changing and I love learning. 

What launched my career pivot was a health-related wake-up call that kickstarted a need to fulfill my passion, fast and feasibly. I wanted to apply my deep passion for helping people, and since I was handy in tech anyway, I figured I might as well turn it into a job! Plus, I joke that I also had to find my own way of fulfilling my family history of careers in law enforcement. 

There are so many cybersecurity bootcamps now -- Why did you choose Eleven Fifty Academy’s Cybersecurity Pathway?

I looked at Eleven Fifty Academy, and it was clear that Eleven Fifty was the way for me to go. I was impressed that Scott Jones, the founder of Eleven Fifty, built the bootcamp from the ground up, rooted in his passion for helping people make the jump into tech. He’s a respected and well-known figure in the community and I definitely wanted to learn from him. 

The job placement rate at Eleven Fifty Academy also amazed me, and how they continued to support their graduates into successful careers in their studied field. I always recommend that people look up the bootcamps’ alumni on Google or LinkedIn to see what program they took and where they’re working now. Are they working in the same field? How did the bootcamp support their career development?

I was impressed to see that people who were in the coding program at Eleven Fifty are doing coding in their careers. People who went through cybersecurity are now in analyst positions. That gave me confidence to apply. On top of all that, their next program was within the timeline I was looking for and everything felt like a green light for me!

How did you afford the bootcamp tuition at Eleven Fifty Academy? 

Since I got into the bootcamp in 2021, I was able to get my tuition completely covered under the CARES Act, which was available for certain programs in the state of Indiana that supported individuals who were affected by COVID-19 to get job training. My Admissions Advisor, Dave Brunner, went above and beyond to ensure I received this funding and enrolled in the right program for me. Dave walked me through every step of the process and did most of the heavy lifting to get me funded and enrolled in time for the next cohort. From the time I submitted for more info to the time I was fully enrolled and ready to go with funding approved was between 24-36 hours. They were amazing. 

What were your career goals when you enrolled in the cybersecurity bootcamp? 

I knew I wanted to go into cybersecurity. I tried to do a traditional online four-year program through another major Indiana school two years ago, and while I loved the course material, it was not the right time of my life to do that program. Still, it was warm in my brain and I knew I was good at it and wanted to explore my options. 

By signing up for cybersecurity, I knew I was signing up to be a life-long student. In the cybersecurity field, there will always be new threats, certifications, and knowledge, which absolutely delighted me! Cybersecurity really resonated with me above all other aspects of tech. 

Did you feel like you had to know basic tech skills in order to apply to Eleven Fifty Academy?

Eleven Fifty Academy is designed as a stepping stone for those who are pivoting into tech for the first time. It is helpful to have some tech skills, but the program is designed to accommodate those without any previous tech experience. The application process was simple and straightforward. All that was required was my driver’s license and high school diploma! 

Before the cybersecurity bootcamp begins, you gain access to the portal to complete pre-work, that covers basic knowledge needed to keep up in the actual certifications, like Linux and hardware. Reading up on these concepts ahead of time helped so much when it came time to dive into the bootcamp curriculum. 

What was a typical day like in the online cybersecurity bootcamp at Eleven Fifty Academy? 

My cohort was fully remote. They offer full-time and part-time programs. The part-time program is spread out over about 6 months, and enables time for working and taking care of other responsibilities in addition to the bootcamp. 

The full-time program is 40 hours a week of live classroom instruction, plus 10 hours a week of additional homework for 15 weeks. We were in class on Zoom full-time from 9am to 5pm, then our homework included TryHackMe rooms and additional studying. We self-studied over the weekend. Full-time is designed to move as quickly as possible, so it’s unlikely to be able to manage another job, since all of your attention will be on this bootcamp. 

What did you actually learn in the bootcamp?

It’s extremely fast-paced, but Eleven Fifty Academy ensures they have given you a solid introductory foundation before diving into more complicated topics. Students at Eleven Fifty progress through Badges: 

Badge 1: 5 Weeks

  • Study for and pass CompTIA A+ certification.

Badge 2: 5 Weeks

  • Study for and pass CompTIA Security+ certification.

Badge 3: 5 Weeks 

  • Study for and pass CompTIA Network+ certification.

Near or after graduation

  • Career Services starts helping you with interview prep, job referrals, building LinkedIn profiles, and answering any questions you may have. 
  • Atlas program is available for learning and mentorship geared to helping graduates refine their skills.
  • Live, immersive, hands-on instruction and practice in their cyberbit range, which is a simulated enterprise network environment of cyber attacks where you learn how to spot, document, and stop cyber attacks in real-time.
  • More practice in TryHackMe rooms and Hack the Box.

Did you pass your CompTIA certification exams during the bootcamp?

Eleven Fifty Academy’s curriculum specifically trained us to the CompTIA standards for Network+ and Security+. The cost for each exam was included in the bootcamp tuition! 

It takes most people 3-6 months to study for either one of those exams on their own, yet the majority of our cohort passed both exams in 5 weeks or less! 

Since this was an online bootcamp, did you feel connected to your cohort?

Given the circumstances of COVID, Eleven Fifty Academy did everything they could to make it an awesome experience for us online. We got to know each other live on Zoom and a lot of us still keep in touch on LinkedIn and Slack, but it was undeniable that we missed having that in-person interaction. 

In their cyberbit range particularly, they tried to replicate an actual stock analyst team. We coordinated with teammates to communicate and delegate tasks, and collaborated on documentation. They make it clear that everything in cyber is team-oriented.

What tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating from Eleven Fifty Academy?

The curriculum at Eleven Fifty is designed to be a stepping stone into tech, which means they teach you everything you need to know to get into an entry-level tech role and nothing you don't! The bootcamp is designed to get you into roles that have development programs that will help you continue to learn and grow. Eleven Fifty Academy connects graduates with employers who are interested in pushing your knowledge and investing in your growth. 

Graduating from Eleven Fifty, I felt qualified to apply for entry-level roles, like SOC Analyst, Junior Cyber Security Analyst, and IT Support Technician. I wasn’t looking for Senior roles, but I felt I could get my foot in the door with a good, caring employer. I noticed in interviews that employers care less about four-year degrees and more about developing potential into their desired roles. Eleven Fifty Academy filled that talent gap brilliantly.

Congratulations on landing your IT Support Tech role at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing! How did you get the job? Was it through a connection at Eleven Fifty Academy?

Yes! I’d applied to and interviewed with many other companies on my own for about two months, with the support and guidance of Career Services. My career advisor, Luis Orozco, sent me this job about a racing team looking for IT support tech, asking if I would be interested in applying. I submitted a talent resume and got an email back revealing who the company was, and then I was really excited! Turns out they were specifically looking for a bootcamp grad that was flexible and could learn quickly, and my advisor advocated for me to get an opportunity at the job!

Was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing interested in your certifications for the IT Support Technician role?

They were really interested in the Security + certification. They wanted someone who could come in to improve and reinforce security poses right away. They wanted to be able to teach someone their IT, which is totally unique to the racing industry, and hit the ground running. 

What does an IT Support Technician do on a daily basis?

My team consists of three people, so while there aren’t a lot of us, we each need to be highly trained and capable tech staff. It’s a really collaborative environment, including a great mentorship relationship with my boss who gives me a lot of guidance.

When I’m in the office, it looks like a traditional help desk. People call in about IT issues about their email, etc, and we make tickets for them, then we research and fix them. I’m infusing that cybersecurity knowledge to infuse more secure practices into what they have been doing.    

But I’m also working in racing, so then again, it’s not just a typical IT office job! There is a bit of travel involved in my role, which means I can be on the racetrack with the team. This year, I’ve been on-site for the Daytona 500 and a few other Indy races. I’m down in the pits as the IT guy but I’m throwing tires with the pit crew, too! A big reason Rahal picked me is because I’m flexible and problem-solve quickly. In my interview with the team, when they asked what I specialized in, I said, “Putting out dumpster fires.” The IT manager and racing program manager smiled, and said “Well, we’ve got a lot of fires so I think you’re perfect!”

Are you using what you learned at the bootcamp now on the job? 

There's definitely been opportunities to branch out into secure networking and traditional IT, but my boss told me recently that he was so impressed with how quickly I could hit the ground running. He was worried he’d have to teach me everything and I floored him with the knowledge I came in with after graduating from Eleven Fifty! The knowledge and training I gained there has been absolutely crucial to my job now. 

What is the next rung on the cybersecurity career ladder that you’re trying to get to?

I absolutely love what I do now and I would love to move up and take on more responsibilities in this area. I think I’ll eventually move towards network engineering, secure network design, or cyber security analysis. I also have a deeply investigative and curious mindset and I would love to explore cyber forensics or penetration testing. 

The wonderful thing about tech is that if I get bored or complacent with what I’m doing, I can move toward something else that piques my interest! It’s not a fixed industry; there’s a lot of flexibility! You can always change your mind, change direction, get new certifications, or apply for new roles. There's always something different to learn and a new path to follow, but the main thing is being able to take that first step.

In your experience, do you need a college degree to work in IT or cybersecurity?

I was recently at a large networking event with many major companies and the general consensus is that there's a huge push away from four-year degrees, especially for entry level roles, and a new interest in candidates with two-year degrees, certificates from bootcamps, and self-taught experience. I’ve heard from multiple managers that companies are looking for people that have passion and the drive to learn, grow, and do the job. They want you to have enough to get started and they’ll train you from there. 

The state of Indiana offers a program called the State Earn And Learn (SEAL) Program through the Indiana Office of Technology. If you have dedication and the ability to learn, there are many companies who are ready and willing to take you from there. 

At this point in your career, was Eleven Fifty Academy worth it for you? Are you happy that you went down this route and got into cybersecurity?

It has been 100% worth it for me. A year ago, I was burning out at an entry-level job and had no idea what I was going to do next. I never would have believed that this is where I’d be a year later. It has been the wildest ride, but that leap of faith has been an absolutely amazing experience. Eleven Fifty did everything they said they would do and I owe them a lot! 

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

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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