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Air Force vet crosses oceans for career and family

I have yet to find anyone in my professional network from TLG that dedicated the time and effort and didn’t succeed – but that’s the ‘catch’ – it took sacrifice.” Mustafa Koprucu, former Air Force LRS Technician and recent TLG IT Careers Network Development Engineer (NDE) IT Pre-Apprentice graduate shares some words of wisdom. And Mustafa knows about sacrifice. 

After working several various jobs after the Air Force, he eventually ended up working as a Web Development Project Manager for a small dog rescue company on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mustafa fell in love with working on tech. He’d been a tech junkie most of his life, but being able to work in the industry launched his passion for the field. His dedication to his continual professional growth and development was key to the success of his career. He eventually learned about the TLG IT Careers programs while looking for certification programs offered through the VA. 

Once accepted into the program, Mustafa made the hard decision to move to Washington state, away from his wife and children in Hawaii. He and his wife decided to keep the family in school in Hawaii while he focused his time on the NDE program for several months. Aside from the challenges of learning a lot of new information, he said the hardest part was being away from family and missing key holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. 

After completing the program Mustafa moved back to Hawaii and started the grueling process of applying for jobs in the industry, in turn, this became his new full-time job! Eventually, he was rewarded for his dedication and hard work with a job offer from the Denver-based company, Zivaro, as a Jr. Linux Cloud Engineer. His role is entirely remote and allows him to be back in Hawaii with the family. 

Read from Mustafa’s own words below about his journey and his advice to those interested in pursuing a similar path. You’ll notice that his commitment to continually learning is a huge part of his success.

What were you doing before joining the program?

Lots of things! I’m a dad and often spend time with my girls going on walks, swimming, to the markets and libraries, etc. In my professional life, I was working as a field operator and looking for continuing education programs. I ended up taking a break from University during COVID and wanted to find certifications that would still allow me to grow in the IT fields I was interested in. 

What led you to make a jump into tech? 

COVID was honestly the real turning point. I’ve been a hobbyist tech junkie most of my life – primarily just tinkering with my own stuff – whether building computers or refurbishing classic iPods. After the semester following the initial COVID breakout, I found a job as a Web Development Project Manager for a small Hawaii-Island rescue and fell in love with pursuing tech as a career. I loved being able to work in and around the industry – collaborating with those who had far more knowledge than me, but also spending my own free time learning as much as I could. I quickly realized that I was missing foundational/core knowledge about networking fundamentals. That job, and my follow-on job in Field Operations, were my first true experiences with things like the OSI model, understanding ports, how to navigate and document troubleshooting, the difference between Agile and Waterfall methodologies, and a lot more.

Did you know which route/direction you wanted to go in before starting (software vs. network)?

Not particularly. I can’t stress enough that I loved it all. I knew long term I wanted to be behind the screen – either building or solving problems. But a lot of my short-term goals were centered around being hands-on. I had no problem terminating lines, installing keystone jacks, and working in Tier I and II onsite positions. For me, I’m still very much in the infancy of my tech journey. There are times I still revisit core knowledge to ensure I understand how what I learned then correlates to what I’m learning or doing now.

Did you have any hesitations or doubts about joining the program? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

I didn’t have any hesitations after I overcame the doubts. The doubts were mostly if I was capable enough of understanding. I think it’s human nature to have those kinds of feelings when you pursue something new. I couldn’t attend (TLG) remotely, so I had to travel from Hawaii to Washington. Making sure the investment was worth not only the fiscal portion but the time away from the family, was something I thought about for a bit.

What was the biggest challenge for you during the program?

Mostly being away from the family. I attended during the winter cohort (October-January), So I missed the two greatest holidays (Christmas and Halloween, I’ll let you guess the order) with the family. But their support was phenomenal. We treated it like “dad’s mini-TDY” and I think I missed them more than they missed me anyway haha.

What did you enjoy the most during the program?

This is a tough one because I’m truly torn between Net+ and Linux+. Cliff and Hussein are great, and I don’t mean to leave out the other instructors as memorable and fantastic, but the knowledge and opportunity not only to learn from those two but their openness to let you pick their brains about things you’re having a hard time grasping made them the best mentors/instructors anyone could have at the foundation of their tech journey.

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

I would tell them to reflect on what they want the next year of their life to be like. The sacrifices I had to make are no more or less great than another person’s – because they’re relative to my life. If you’re thinking about joining, you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to invest the time – because that’s what it comes down to. You may have to alter your schedule, you might have to travel, or maybe give up hobbies for a bit (video games, gym, family time, etc). Then you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. I have yet to find anyone in my professional network from TLG that dedicated the time and effort and didn’t succeed – but that’s the ‘catch’ – it took sacrifice. 

For me, I’m still approaching the 1st anniversary of leaving Hawai’i for TLG, and I’m so grateful for where I’m at (and sometimes really blown away that I made it this far). But I’m also still making sacrifices, in time and more, to make sure I continue the momentum of this path I’m on.

If you had one piece of advice for someone newly entering this program to maximize their experience and career growth, what would it be?

“You won’t look stupid for asking for clarification”. Ironically, I give this advice, because I often struggle with taking it myself. But it’s the truth. If you’re deciding on TLG, maximize your growth potential and ask the questions. Take the time to build relationships with your cohort mates and create a network that you can lean on or collaborate with.

What did your job search look like?

*Insert ‘this is where the fun begins’ Anakin Skywalker meme* haha – kidding.

The big tech layoffs began in December 2022, into January 2023. This was right at the end of my TLG cohort dates, and a lot of us had expected potential Amazon interviews/opportunities like some of the graduates before us.

After graduation, I came back to Hawaii and began the hunt. I worked diligently on my own time – making career-hunting a full-time position. I was able to land some solid interviews, but many of the positions in Hawaii were on-site on another island, which was no problem, but required a clearance that, for me, had expired. 

I began hunting for positions on the west coast with the help of TLG’s Rockstar Career Services Manager. Then, I found a position.

The offer was from a Company in Oregon as an on-site Network Engineer for a large Data Center. The salary was great, but the downside was that I would have to leave my family again. The girls were in school, and my wife was a stay-at-home mom, also pursuing her degree – so it would be unfeasible to uproot them. This was early/mid-April, about 10 weeks after my January TLG graduation and return to Hawaii.

We began planning for Dad to leave. The plan was for me to go to Oregon, and then either I would stay there for 6 months to a year, and travel back and forth when I could, gaining experience in my position, then hunting for a job back in Hawaii; or, I’d get to Oregon, and we’d begin the plans to move the family over the coming months.

Then, two things happened; First, negotiations began to break down with the company’s original offer and relocation, and I began having hesitations about the enormous toll my family and I would have to undertake – but after months of interviews and no offer, I felt it would be best to ‘suck it up’ and make the sacrifice not only for my journey but to support my family. The second, and I truly can’t make this timing up, is that I got the call from Insight regarding a potential interview for a position at Zivaro – they were looking for a remote jr. engineer. Between the breakdown of the first company’s offer, and a nice bout of imposter syndrome, I expressed that I’d be happy to interview, reinforced that I’m still very much in the infancy of my IT journey, and that should they want to schedule, I would hold no expectations (if anything, it would be good practice). To my surprise (and ineffable joy), I was offered the position a week later and accepted.

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

Yes, I would have reinforced the fundamentals earlier. I don’t know how commonplace this is, but one of the first things I thought of when getting into tech was (stemming from my love of movies) robotics, AI, and, of course, hacking. Who needs the fundamentals?! Just install Kali Linux and bam!

I love addressing the fundamentals now and have a lot more continued reinforcement to go. But truly understanding is my favorite part. Not knowing how the flow of information is working, and then solving that core conceptual idea is a small win – and I’m excited for them to grow into larger victories.

What are you doing now?

I work heavily in infrastructure-as-code environments. We work with automation tools like Ansible and rely heavily on collaborative Agile methodologies to ensure best practices and proper system functions. Much of what I do relies on templates to implement playbooks, python scripts, or assist in the continued development of pipelines by higher-level engineers and administrators. I work with fellow engineers to address issues, assist with end-user accounts, or run plays that provide proper system functionality.

This fall, I’ll be returning to University part-time, in tandem with my career, to continue honing my skills and furthering both my professional development and education.

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

How fun it is! I love learning from my mistakes, so sifting through code to find indent issues or solve more complex problems when a play doesn’t run properly is a blast.

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

Personally, I just look forward to spending time with the family. Being able to work from home means I can hang out with the kids on my lunch break – or pick them up from school and come home to get back to work. I can help my wife around the house if she needs it – and take pride in being a support pillar (with some cracks around the edges of course).

Professionally, I’m continuing my education and certification journey. I’m currently working on a personal eight-month to one-year goal of continuing the AWS certifications and would like to, once I meet the time requirements, go for my CISSP.

In my hobbyist-endeavors, I enjoy just taking the dog for walks, hiking, and cruising the island. I’ve dusted off some old raspberry pi’s that I plan on starting some projects with over the coming weeks and have plenty of books from the local library to keep me occupied and geared up for my future tech growth.


Congratulations, Mustafa! We are honored to be a part of your journey to tech and will continue to cheer you on!


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!