How Alexander advanced his IT career with a Professional Certificate

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How Alexander advanced his IT career with a Professional Certificate

My journey with information technology growing up in Sierra Leone

I grew up in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, at a time when computers were a luxury and largely inaccessible. I got lucky when I was eleven and was able to use the computer for the first time when my mother was assigned a work laptop. I had the opportunity to help her enter data into a spreadsheet while she was taking a call, and I became instantly fascinated with the technology.

She was so impressed that she allowed me to continue using the laptop, which none of my older siblings were even allowed to touch. I spent hours working on the computer and took every opportunity to learn about the internet. I became her IT shadow, teaching myself how to use the computer, manage settings, and even install software and operating systems. 

My desire to help people access and use technology made me the de facto “IT expert” in my community. It was especially satisfying to use those skills to help people in a country where the digital divide is still huge, and it is my hope to help broaden access and digital literacy in countries like Sierra Leone.

How I advanced my career with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate

Despite my college degree, passion for computers, and my previous internship role as an Information and Communication Technology Officer, my lack of formal qualifications in IT were limiting my career opportunities. That’s why I started the Google IT Support Professional Certificate on Coursera.

Following the successful completion of my first few courses in this program, I felt confident enough to take up a new challenge: I applied for an information security role at a leading local bank in Sierra Leone. This was the second time I had applied for a job there, and the only thing that had changed since my first application was the addition of courses from the Google IT Support Professional Certificate to my resume. 

This time, I got a call to attend an interview!

Since the job was in information security, most of the interview questions were about concepts like cryptography, authentication, and network security. These were concepts I had just learned in the IT Security: Defense against the digital dark arts course. I did well in the interview and was given the job. 

How I overcame my obstacles and stayed motivated

One major obstacle I faced in completing the Google IT Support Professional Certificate was access to the internet, which is very costly and slow in Sierra Leone. I got around this by using one of Coursera’s coolest features – the ability to download videos. I started watching them on the commute to work and during my free time. 

The instructors in the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program kept me motivated throughout the entire process. They’re all from different cultural and racial backgrounds, and their diversity gave me the confidence that I could learn IT, complete the program, and one day share my own success story. 

My tips for learning on Coursera

1. Download course videos to watch offline: This is especially useful if you have limited access to the internet or limited time. Having your course videos available offline ensures that you never miss a chance to study when you have a break. 

2. Organize topics in course materials according to difficulty: Try to understand the difficulty of course materials and organize them into categories such as familiar topics, easy topics, and hard topics. Categorizing the content in this way helps me plan which videos I can watch while commuting and which ones I need to watch (or rewatch) in a quiet place. 

3. Take practice quizzes and tests as soon as possible: Don’t get into the habit of postponing taking tests and completing assignments. You are more likely to do well in a test when you take it as soon as you complete the lesson, when your retention level is highest. 

4. Participate in discussion forums: Participating in discussion forums is never a waste of time. In addition to helping me learn, taking part in these forums also helped me stay motivated as I shared my story and learned from other students with similar experiences, challenges, successes, and goals. 

5. Practice: Always make time to go over what you have learned. If you can, spend more time in the labs to practice, even after you’ve completed your required tasks.