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Navy vet networks his way to designing a better life

James Melton dedicated six years of service to the U.S. Navy as an Aviation Structural Mechanic and Supervisor. After his service, he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in 3D Animation and Media Arts through the Seattle Film Institute but ended up working in the service industry as a Fire Sprinkler Technician. He conducted inspections on fire sprinkler systems and installed them.

After several years of working in the field he started to feel the wear and tear from his time in the Navy and his job wasn’t doing him any favors. James decided he needed to upskill and find something less physically demanding.

His brother discovered VET TEC, a program for veterans to help them gain computer experience to start or advance their career in the tech industry and that’s when James stumbled upon TLG IT Careers as one of VET TEC’s approved schools. 

James applied, was accepted, did the work, and quickly graduated from the Network Development Engineer (NDE) program. He now works as an Information Technology Coordinator at Cornish College of the Arts. An ironically perfect marriage of his creative background fused with his new tech skills. 

Of course James had his hesitations and hindsight is always 20/20 on what he’d do differently on his path into tech. But, he continues to train and grow in this new path and the future looks bright! Read our interview with James for the full scoop!

Did you have any hesitations about joining?

I did, this was a career shift from a more blue collar job and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with the program.

How did you overcome those hesitations and what was it actually like?

The program was actually a little faster paced than I had anticipated and I expected somewhat of a rollercoaster already. At that point you’re already in it so you just gotta roll up your sleeves and try your best. You will still receive assistance from TLG even after the program is over but it really is best to try to get your certs on the first go, you’ll be a much more desirable hire and it’ll be easier for them to get you connected with potential employers.

What was the biggest challenge for you during the program?

Probably the certification tests. I was never any good at tests and I think I let my nerves get the better of me. I would spend hours studying everyday between job applications but never shook the feeling. I was employed before I could take another crack at the tests and have been preoccupied with learning my job. Though I do plan on getting my certs once I feel comfortable enough at my job.

What did you enjoy the most during the program?

I found I enjoyed playing around on Python and Linux more than I had anticipated. 

What would you say to someone debating on joining the NDE IT Pre-Apprenceship?

It’s a good bump in knowledge if you’re just entering the IT world like I am. If you already have that knowledge then it’s a good way to prep you for your certifications.

If you had one piece of advice for someone newly entering this program, what would it be?

Join tech forums, discord channels, and youtube channels that correlate with your chosen path. Engage and talk with your classmates. TLG will provide you resources and having those extra helping hands will benefit you.

What did the job search process and timeline look like for you?

I would meet weekly with Karise, TLG’s Placement Manager, and go over my resume and share job search results or jobs I applied to. She would also point me in the direction of job postings I missed and even reached out to her contacts to get in touch with me. This was actually a pleasant experience and more than I had expected as I had attended a school before and they were no longer supporting me as soon as I graduated. Karise’s assistance was like night and day in comparison. I was also maintaining a log with my VR&E rep and received their assistance on a bi-weekly basis.

Why did you decide to work for Cornish College?

It seemed like a good starting point for me and the benefits seemed worthwhile. I also have an art degree and while I didn’t break into the industry, it’s nice to help those who are getting started or who are teaching artists.

Is there anything that you would have done differently on your path to tech?

Reach out more to those working in the field for advice via services like LinkedIn. I had to do it for my specific veteran program but resources are out there and you’d be surprised how many already working in the field are eager and willing to offer advice and answer your questions.

Is there anything surprising to you about working in tech that you didn’t expect? If so, what?

The fact that a lot of places haven’t automated their services and programs. It’s mostly a struggle of updating tech versus budgeting. Not everywhere is going to be Amazon or Microsoft with the latest and greatest. 

What’s in your future? Future goals, etc?

I’m currently being trained to become a Network Administrator and from there I was thinking of maybe pursuing something in Cyber Security or continuing into Network Engineering. 


Congratulations, James! It’s so cool that you’re doing work that merges your background and your current path. Best of luck with your training to become a Network Administrator! You’ll do great. 

To learn more about your options with TLG IT Careers, visit our site or schedule a meeting with one of our Educational Consultant to discuss your unique needs and to determine if an IT apprenticeship or IT pre-apprenticeship is right for you!