This feature first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Growing up there was a steep road around the corner from my house. Next to the road was a vacant lot full of thick shrubs. For my brothers and I, the combination of the hill and vacant lot meant endless possibilities for fun. One of our favorite things to do was hike up the road with our scooters and get going as fast as possible down the hill towards the lot. At just the right moment we would yank our handlebar sideways, which sent us flying through the air to a soft, pillowy landing in the shrubs.
My early career followed the pattern of those scooter rides, of floating along and ending up wherever I landed. There was no real direction, and therefore no real progress, financially or otherwise. I had heard all my life that if I went to college I could get a good job. What a shock when I found out it was not that simple for someone with no direction. Every employer wants people who have good communication skills, but it turns out there is not a specific job for someone who majored in speech communication.
After I had been out of college for a few years and was still struggling to find my dream job, I realized that something needed to change. I knew I was doing something wrong, but did not know what, or where to look for answers. I started to read success books, hoping I would find some answers.
I read a ton of books and seemed to see the same three themes repeating themselves over and over again: work smart, use systems to increase effectiveness, and get to work. After seeing the same principles enough times, I dubbed them the three keys to success.� Here's what I've since learned about putting into practice each of the three keys.
I recently planted some trees in my backyard. Shortly after getting started, I discovered a seemingly endless patch of rocks beneath the grass. Everywhere I stuck my shovel I would be greeted with the clank� of metal to rock. I managed to remove the layer of sod, but anything below that was next to impossible. After hacking away for 10 minutes with my shovel I had only managed to remove about another inch of dirt and rocks.
I didn't have any other tools to break up the rocky soil, so I shut things down for the night. The next day I purchased a pick and a hand tiller. Before long, I was ready to actually put trees in the ground. I was able to complete a job that would have taken me hours without proper tools in a fraction of that time.
I've seen the same principle borne out in my employment with TestOut. We help instructors, students, and professionals work smart through our innovative approach to learning. Using our LabSim online education platform, learners can watch professional demonstrations, read text lessons, and work through real-world scenarios in a simulated environment.
Schools that use LabSim don't have to purchase thousands of dollars' worth of computer hardware, but students can work through the same problems they would encounter with hands-on devices. If schools do have practice labs, then students move up to physical equipment after getting the hang of things online. The physical equipment takes less of a beating from inexperienced users, and instructors spend less time grading and resetting labs.
Use systems to increase effectiveness
My job is part sales and part marketing. In order to be effective in sales and marketing, you have to continually be in front of prospects, either via phone, e-mail, face-to-face visits, or other means of communication. Traditionally, a person in this kind of role would have to keep organized using a calendar, task reminders, and so forth. By setting tasks, you don't have to remember who you are supposed to contact and when.
Yet even with the traditional task method, there is still a lot of work involved in writing individual e-mails and performing different outreach activities. I recently started using sales and marketing automation software that dramatically increased my effectiveness. Instead of having to write e-mails one at a time, I can set up a series of e-mails that will be sent according to a specified schedule, thus freeing up my time to pursue more sales opportunities.
TestOut does many similar things to help instructors and students increase effectiveness. All courses integrate seamlessly with learning management system (LMS) platforms such as Canvas or Blackboard. We have created apps for certain platforms that allow instructors to point and click the links they want, instead of having to spend hours and hours creating LTI links.
On top of auto-grading students' work, we also facilitate grade passback, which saves time having to export and import grades. The best part is that, because of the way our LabSim platform is structured, we have eliminated the need for deep linking found in other platforms. We also have an implementation team that will create classes for instructors at no additional cost.
Get to work
At one point in the fumbling around phase of my career, I decided to start my own business. I understood my product and how to sell it, but I hadn't figured out how to work smart or to incorporate systems into my work. I knew there had to be a better way of marketing and spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it was. Too much time, ultimately.
This pattern of spending too much time figuring things out and not enough time working is called analysis paralysis. If I would have just gotten busy working, then I could have figured the rest out along the way. Instead, I ended up losing my business because I didn't make enough money to stick around. When faced with a problem you do not know how to solve, get to work and the answers will come to you. Genius is born in the doing.
I speak with information technology (IT) instructors from all over the United States and Canada. One thing I hear a lot is how much time is spent in getting courses ready. From writing curriculum, to purchasing equipment, to figuring out a particular vendor's software, and so forth. I have even seen instructors make video tutorials just to help students figure out how to navigate complicated courseware.
They end up providing tech support for the vendor, which hardly seems fair. TestOut has solved all of these problems in an effort to help instructors and students get to work. Our courseware is so simple and intuitive that an instructor could have their class up and running (including LMS setup) within a couple hours of deciding to use TestOut.
Putting it all together
In light of the new Executive Order on Strengthening America's Cybersecurity Workforce, it is more important than ever to use IT training materials that effectively teach concepts and give students the experience needed to become contributing members of the workforce.
TestOut is getting ready to release ethical hacker training and certification courseware that will help learners become job ready in a fraction of the time required by other solutions. Let's consider some of the key highlights:
Our new Ethical Hacker Pro is convenient and ready to run out-of-the-box, with no setup required. The simulated equipment saves users more than $100,000 in hardware and software costs. Students get real work experience by addressing real-world scenarios. Students can earn TestOut's own performance-based certification, in addition to being fully prepared to take and pass EC-Council's Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification exam.
In addition to the highlights mentioned above, students who successfully earn TestOut's Ethical Hacker Pro certification will be able to take advantage of a benefit not offered by any other courseware provider or industry certification program: TestOut's Skills Guarantee.
We are so confident in our training, and so confident that Pro-certified individuals will succeed in the workplace, that we will back them up with a $1,000 guarantee. If any employer finds, after hiring a Pro-certified student and putting them to work for at least 3 weeks, that they do not possess the IT skills we have certified under the applicable Pro certification, then TestOut will pay that company up to $1,000. (More details are available online.)
Get the benefits
In order to work smart, increase effectiveness, and get to work as an IT instructor or as a student entering the tech industry, it is important to start with a solid foundation. TestOut's courseware can help learners and instructors looking for training in ethical hacking (and many other IT areas) get up and running quickly and efficiently.
Where other certification providers either recommend or require years of on-the-job experience before new learners are able to sit for a certification exam, TestOut allows students to quickly gain a certification that is backed up by a $1,000 guarantee. Assuring job readiness and employability is our foremost concern as we support the effort to strengthen America's cybersecurity workforce.