After graduating from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts in History back in 2016, Aaron Steele joined the Army. He worked in various roles over the course of 6 years in positions such as a Fire Direction Officer, a Squadron Fire Support Officer, and a Future Operations Officer. In his final role as an active duty Army Officer Field Artillery Captain, he focused on project management and connected people and resources to meet specific objectives before execution.
Before ending his career in the Army, he was completing SFL-TAP, the military transition assistance program, at JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) in Washington state. He reached out to his transition counselor and mentioned that he wanted to pivot into a career in IT. His counselor recommended that he contact Ed Choe at TLG IT Careers. Ed is the Career Training Program Manager at TLG IT Careers.
After working in project management for a while, Aaron felt burnt out with juggling meetings and moving projects forward. The minutiae of it all was wearing down on him. Not wanting to immediately jump into a corporate project manager role like many of his fellow Army peers transitioning into civilian life, Aaron decided on a career in tech.
As with any change, he had some initial concerns but decided to dive right in. In 2022, Aaron joined the Network Development Engineer (NDE) IT Pre-Apprenticeship program at TLG IT Careers. He faced some challenges as he had to absorb a “firehose of information” within his first weeks in the program but he successfully completed the program and landed a job. He now works for GDIT (General Dynamics Information Technology) as a Linux System Administrator.
Read his full interview below to learn more about his journey, the challenges he faced, and advice he has for those considering a career in tech.
Did you know which route/direction you wanted to go in before starting (software vs network)?
I wanted to do software but at the time, all the slots were taken at TLG by the Amazon apprenticeships so I was advised to jump into the NDE program and since it fit my timeline I went ahead with it even though I did not know much about network engineering.
Did you have any hesitations and doubts about joining? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
My biggest worry was would I be able to find a job by the time my terminal leave ended. Learning is always a priority, especially when trying to break into a new career field, but at the end of the day I had a family with bills to pay. However, I had confidence I could show the necessary skills to find an entry level job and push forward even though I knew I would be taking a pay cut.
What was the biggest challenge for you during the program?
My biggest challenge was being completely new to almost every concept we learned. Even with a passing interest in tech I did not know about all the protocols and networking fundamentals we went over even the first week of the course. I think as long as you have a passion to learn these things, it is easy to absorb it even though it may be a firehose of information.
What did you enjoy the most during the program?
My favorite part of the program was the Linux portion of instruction. I had never touched Linux before but I really took a liking to it and it paid off since today I work as a Linux System Admin!
What would you say to someone debating on joining the NDE IT Pre-Apprenticeship?
I think you should really assess whether a career in tech is for you. Watch videos on what the day to day is like and if the material sparks interest in you. I think a lot of people are drawn to tech because they hear it pays well but if you don’t have a passion for tech it may be difficult to keep up with the material.
If you had one piece of advice for someone newly entering this program to maximize their experience and career growth, what would it be?
Even if you are learning remotely, try to make a connection with your cohorts because I usually felt that I really cemented my knowledge when talking with my classmates.
What did your job search look like?
Karise did a great job of helping me revamp my resume and linkedin profile. After that I routinely looked for opportunities on clearancejobs, indeed and linkedin for entry level roles that require a clearance so I could get that extra edge on landing a role. By the time I was nearing the end of my terminal leave I found a DoD contractor job as a system admin at JBLM that interviewed me. The only other requirement was Security+ which Karise helped me get for free through Onward2Opportunity. By the time my terminal leave ended I was starting my job the next monday.
Is there anything that you would have done differently on your path into tech? If so, what would you have done?
I think I would have done more research on what the day to day is like and put myself out there earlier in my job search. I waited to look for a job towards the end of the course but a lot of people succeeded in finding a job even during the training.
What are you doing now? (where you currently work, furthering education, etc)
I am currently in my second tech role, this time at General Dynamics Information Technology as a Linux Systems Administrator 100% Remote! The skills I learned at TLG absolutely helped me land this role.
Is there anything surprising to you about working in tech that you didn’t expect? If so, what?
I am pleasantly surprised with the autonomy I have in tech! The military really beats in your brain that you need to be micromanaged, even at senior levels. However, with tech I find that I can set tasks for myself and do my work independently with minimal check-ins from supervisors. At the end of the day, all that matters is that projects are finished, not how they are done. So I have a lot of flexibility to work at my own pace and not have my hand held constantly.
What’s in your future? Future goals, etc?
I hope to be honing my skills more in this new role, currently working a lot and learning since our infrastructure is all cloud based I am going to pursue AWS SAA and a RHCSA cert to better cement my skills in cloud and linux. In the future I believe I can finally combine my tech skills with my project management skills from the Army and find a role as a technical PM.
Congratulations, Aaron! We are so excited that you’ve landed on your feet with a career in tech and are here to cheer you on as you work towards a technical PM position in the future!
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!