This feature first appeared in the Spring 2015�issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
One of Alex Ehret's favorite quotes is "A computer once beat me at chess, but was no match for me at kickboxing." This is especially true since Alex has a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo and he's working on his fourth.
Alex, age 31, is also very capable of matching wits with just about any computer problem you can imagine. The impressive fistful of IT certifications he currently holds includes Comp-TIA's A+, Network+ and Security+; as well as TestOut Corporation's PC Pro, Network Pro and Security Pro.
Currently living in Atoka, Tenn., and a full-time student at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in Covington, Alex is extremely busy. He teaches martial arts part-time, recently opened his own computer repair business, and is engaged to be married.
Alex said his favorite fictional character is "Michael Weston from the TV series Burn Notice, because he helps people with their problems, no matter how big or small." He also wishes he had the computer skills of Felicity Smoak from the CW series Arrow. "It seems like there isn't anything she can't do on a computer," Alex said.
When you hear Alex talk, it's easy to get a sense of his sincerity and desire to help others.
Explaining why he opened his own computer repair business, he said, "One thing I really enjoy about my job is being able to educate home users and small businesses about certain products and/or concerns.
He talks about cybersecurity like he's defending a date from a mugging which he could totally do, by the way. "I like to help customers because ultimately they kind of really don't know how to protect themselves user knowledge is the best defense," Alex said.
For Alex, money isn't his main motivation he enjoys offering and providing solutions to his customers. "I get gratification when the light bulb goes on with a customer, when I give them the tools to make a more knowledgeable choice," he said. "I'm proud of all the projects I'm involved in. I take pride in every job or project I do. It doesn't matter how big or small they may be.
Alex's interest in IT started in the 5th grade when computers were introduced into his classroom. "We had a couple of Apple computers, but no one knew anything about them. I asked if I could try, and the staff just let me go at them," he said. "I'd install software without having any idea what I was doing just tried to follow directions, and things just kind of went from there.
After completing his GED, Alex enrolled at TCAT, where he was able to really dive into programs and operating systems. "I learned a bunch about applications and operating systems, Microsoft's Office Suite, etc., and earned my first certification, CompTIA A+, in TCAT's Computer Operation Technology class," he said. "Unfortunately, I didn't work with the computer hardware as much as I wanted. I didn't get to do much tearing down of computers.
Upon graduation, Alex realized that there weren't many entry-level positions in the area. "I wanted to work as a bench-tech, or on the help desk, but area companies realized they could just pay their current employees a little bit more and let them handle the extra load. So, I went back to roofing.
Although he was a roofer for eight years, Alex never lost interest in IT. In 2013 he enrolled in TCAT's Computer Information Technology program and began furiously earning certs like Bruce Lee busting up bad guys. "Since then I've earned my CompTIA Network+ and Security+, and TestOut certifications in PC Pro, Network Pro and Security Pro, and I'm currently working on Microsoft's 70-680 cert," he proudly said.
Alex has high praise for TestOut's LabSim method of certification training. He described it as being "spot-on for getting you set up for real-world situations. It gives you the gist of what you need to know and do.
Although staying busy with life, Alex also manages to stay physically fit. "Some of my hobbies include playing pool and shooting firearms at the gun range," he says. But Taekwondo is where he really shines, and it's certain that no one can call him a wimpy geek: He is ranked No. 1 in the State of Tennessee in three specialties: sparring, weapons forms and combat sparring (using weapons in a fight his specialty is the mid-range staff). As if that isn't enough, he's also ranked No. 4 in the world for sparring!
Alex is an example of the phrase "sound mind in a sound body." He's a member of the National Technical Honors Society and SkillsUSA, whose respective goals are to promote STEM education initiatives, and ensure that America has a workforce able to compete in the global market.
While he doesn't get much time to watch movies, he did say that one of his favorites is The Matrix, with Keanu Reeves: "It goes hand-in-hand with my life I'm a technology geek and I like martial arts." Alex also said he doesn't have a favorite vacation spot, because he never vacations: "I work and go to school so much that I don't have time for vacations at the moment. I do always enjoy going to martial arts competitions I guess you could consider those my vacations.
Like Ryu from Street Fighter, in pursuit of the next challenge, Alex travels to Little Rock, Ark., three to six times a year to compete in martial arts tournaments. He's even competed in Atlanta and Chicago, and said his plan is to go to Florida for his honeymoon and "maybe take in a competition while I'm there.
He's IT certified, a certifiable martial arts master and a romantic. If that's not a can't-miss combination, then we don't know what is.