OTC Alumni: Nick’s Story (Salesforce)

Orange Technical College is inviting alumni to share their stories of career success in their own words. Contact us for a submission.

I came to the States from the Republic of Belarus in 2009, a small post-soviet country in Eastern Europe. The country offers no freedom of speech, no free media or public opinion and very little opportunities to achieve much of anything.

When I got to the states (with $500 in my pocket), I spoke pretty good English thanks to my degree from a linguistic university. Back in Belarus, I worked in IT for some time, but I could not find a job here in the US without a “US-based” education or experience on my resume.

I came across Mr. Thoss’ Computer Systems and Information Technology (CSIT) program at the Orange Technical College – Mid Florida Campus (then called Mid Florida Tech) while googling around for an affordable education program to enhance my skills.

When I started attending TJ’s class in 2010, I was working in housekeeping at a motel nearby making $7.50/hr. ($15,600/year). I was living on premises, sharing a motel room with another housekeeper, as I couldn’t afford to rent an apartment of my own at the time.

TJ’s class opened a completely new concept of “IT certificates” for me and their value in the modern IT industry. I knew nothing of them before. Currently, I hold 10 (see wall of pain fame photo lol), and I’m not stopping there.

I attended the class to the best of my availability (I had to work 12-14 hr. shifts almost daily so finding time for studies was not easy). TJ quickly noticed my efforts and helped keep me on track through the course. Thanks to his support and guidance, I managed to complete the course and prepare for the exam.

In November of 2011, I passed the CompTIA A+ exam.

TJ supported my success by recommending my election into the National Technical Honor Society at the Mid Florida Campus in March of 2012.

In April of 2012, I got the CompTIA Network+ certification.

In the summer of 2012, I quit my job of a maintenance engineer at a local hotel ($24,000/year) and moved to the Washington DC area. Within two weeks, I was able to find an entry-level job in an IT support role. It was a point-of-sale software company of only 35 employees. I jumped from $24,000/year to $40,000/year in a day.

I continued studying for more exams, and in October of 2012, I got the CompTIA Security+ certification.

In August of 2013, I passed the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist exam.

Over the next four years, I grew a lot professionally – moving from a Junior Tech Support Specialist to Senior Tech Support Advocate and then to Systems Administrator. I became responsible for hardware and software assets, wired and wireless networks, dozens of servers, end-user desktops and laptops, POS-terminals, peripherals, NAS devices, corporate anti virus, backup, and disaster recovery solution, etc., etc.

In October of 2015, I got a CompTIA Storage+ certificate (while also refreshing the 3-year expiration counter on all the lower-tier CompTIA certs).

At the time I was making $60,000/year.

In early 2017, an opportunity to become a Salesforce (a leading CRM software) Administrator appeared. I jumped on it by getting the Salesforce Certified Administrator ADM 201 certification in July of 2017. I then joined a team of Salesforce professionals and external consultants, building a new customer-facing enterprise sales platform.

By the end of 2017, I was already making $86,000.

I started being contacted by recruiters on LinkedIn, which was a very unusual and uplifting experience. I was offered job opportunities just from my experience and list of certificates. I didn’t have to search for a job anymore – the jobs were searching for me.

I started 2018 with a six-figure contract for a new company as a Salesforce Administrator. I’m still working there currently, having transitioned from a contractor to a full-time employee with all the benefits. I’m also working from home half of the week.

In November of 2018, I obtained a CompTIA CySA+ (Cybersecurity Analyst) certificate just out of curiosity and also to refresh the 3-year counter on all the lower certs.

I also gained a set of new CompTIA “Stackable Certifications” just by having all the previous ones:

  • CompTIA IT Operations Specialist – CIOS (A+; Network+)
  • CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist – CSIS (A+; Network+; Security+)
  • CompTIA Security Analytics Professional – CSAP (Security+; CySA+)

I am currently working on my Salesforce Platform App Builder and Salesforce Advanced Administrator certificates, which I’m hoping to get by summer. And I want to continue going towards the SF developer and SF architect credentials – as these are one of the sweetest spots in the IT industry right now.

I got married in 2017.

In 2018, we bought a house not far from DC.

I am now able to support my parents (and friends) overseas because the financial situation in Belarus has deteriorated over the last decade.

It took me nine years and a tremendous amount of effort to get where I am now. I keep saying to those who doubt that they can do something similar (or much better!) – remember, in 2011, I was a bed-making specialist for $7.50/hr.

Everything is possible!

The only thing that prevents you from becoming anyone you want is you. America is a wonderful land of opportunity for those who work (and study) hard. Regardless of your background, financial situation, ethnicity, gender, and beliefs. All it takes is that first step in the right direction with your goals in front of you.

I am most grateful to TJ Thoss and his CSIT class for helping me take that first step back in 2010.

P.S. – Last summer my wife and I went to Florida for a vacation, and I stopped by the motel where I used to work. The biggest shock was seeing someone I worked with before… nine years later. Still doing housekeeping there, still making minimum wage. This was an eye-opening experience and a vivid confirmation that nothing changes by itself unless you change it.