I love getting unsolicited email like this from our students:
“Hello Everyone at OST (especially Kelly),
Just an update…Since I completed the Linux/Unix System Admin Certificate courses, I have received 3 job offers to go to work as a Linux System Administrator. I have accepted one of the offers and I will be starting work next week.”
This email is from Bill McKinley, who enrolled in our Linux/Unix System Administration Certificate in April, and earned his Certificate in June.
He goes on:
“It really felt good to know the answers that the Chief Technical Officer asked me in my interview. At another interview, the Tech Manager told me he was just ‘going to skip to rest of the questions’ and followed by saying ‘I’ll have HR send you out an official offer letter by the end of the week.’ And they did…so the hardest thing about taking courses at OST became deciding which position to accept!
Thanks OST for very useful real world courses that are loaded with good applicable information. And thanks to my instructor, Kelly, for the insights, guidance and teaching. I will be taking additional courses from OST in the future…especially since I can immediately apply the info I learn!
Bill McKinley from Texas”
These are the kinds of emails that keep me going. And in case you’re incredulous at the idea of someone getting a system administration job after working on it for only 4 months, here’s how it works:
When we started this school back in 1997, we set out to break down the barriers to learning that too often prevent smart, hardworking folks like Bill from getting the job they deserve. By barriers I mean things like rigid schedules and location, but I also refer to the intimidation that comes from the notion that technology is out of reach for the non-alpha geeks out there.
We wanted first of all to take away any need to download and configure hardware or software for a class, since that can often be harder than the class itself. Then, the idea was to streamline and automate project building, the handin process, the grading process — ONLY things that were not essential to learning and skills-retention. Finally, our goal was to ensure that all work was done in the actual technology being learned, with real-world projects and courseware that was conducive to learn-by-doing, rather than simulations or watching videos.
The result is a combination of self-paced courseware and open-ended projects, a web-based Learning Sandbox, and instructors in a one-to-one coaching role, that allow the student to quickly progress by working on their skills in a guided fashion — making mistakes, getting coached, and then taking that to the next level. The instructor doesn’t allow the student to go on until she masters the previous concepts, yet the student is allowed to master those concepts in creative ways by building websites, databases, programs, etc. that play to her strengths. The best part is, when finished, there is a large portfolio of projects in the student’s account that she can show off to potential employers.
And this is exactly what Bill did — he was given a Learning Sandbox with a virtual Linux root server, courseware which guided him along, and his instructor Kelly who graded all his projects in detail and coached him when he got stuck. He experimented with all kinds of Linux commands in that server, built actual networks and scripts, and installed software. Undoubtedly, he screwed up the server at many points and had to get Kelly’s help to fix it. And I’m sure that there were many instances where Kelly handed back a project and said “you need to improve A, B, and C and hand this back to me” until he got it right. Maybe there were times he’d get frustrated, but he persevered.
Isn’t that just the kind of experience you need in order to be a system administrator? I’m sure this is why his interviews went so well — not only could he show them exactly what he could do, but he could also address any potential problems because he’d already experienced them. In short, he was on-the-job ready in 4 months.
I truly believe that in breaking down learning barriers, we at OST have created a shorter path to career education goals. If you’ve already been through college, why must career education take years when the skills you really need for the job you want can be acquired so much more quickly? After all, HR and IT managers really don’t care how much time you’ve spent sitting in a classroom or studying for a paper exam — they want to hear about your actual experience doing the tasks that are needed for the position, and your abilities to solve the problems that will crop up. So why not skip the superfluous methods and get right to acquiring the skills at hand? Those are the questions we are always asking here.
P.S. Congratulations to Bill on his exciting new job! We’re so proud to have played such a big role in his success.