Joining Forces: Stepping Outside my Comfort Zone

A guest blog post by Ryan Stiles, Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Technician, USMC

At the age of 22, I was comfortable. I was comfortable in my job as an engineering technician, but I have found being comfortable is not always a good thing. I knew if I didn’t make a change, I never would. So I joined the United States Marines.

I love being a Marine, but I am now transitioning back into the civilian world at the end of October. What do I do now? What change is coming? I don’t want to get too comfortable.

I have spent the last four years leading 22-40 subordinates and direct reports from Mississippi to Japan to Chicago. I dictate when they eat, sleep, and work. And now my time has come to an end and my new life is starting. I knew it could be challenging being the “new guy” because I am equipped to handle responsibilities and leadership that have become ingrained in me during these past four years, but I may not have the credentials my peers in the civilian sector might have.

That’s when I had the sense of urgency to get those certifications so there would not be any gap in my resume. I did not want anything to stop me from landing my dream job after my time in the service.

Joining Forces Initiative 

The Joining Forces press release was emailed to me from a friend of mine. I knew I would have to jump through hoops to get into the program because I was not currently in the IT field and I did not know anything about the entry-level certification, but I filled out the application and waited to be put into the White House IT pilot program. And I got in!

I had taken a number of certification exams prior to the NetApp exam and had failed one, which was discouraging, but the NetApp course was the best one I have done so far. The access to the physical control room remotely and the lab environment was most beneficial to my background.  The hardest part was determining what to study because it is a technical degree with performance-based homework in the lab. You need to know everything inside and out for the certification exam. But after one week of taking the self-take classes after work I was ready.

Congratulations- Second Graduate to Pass
I passed with an 82% (only one question away from not passing- but who’s counting right?). After I took the exam, Mark Conway from NetApp who runs the program emailed me to congratulate me and tell me only one other person had passed. If I can pass it with no IT background, then most people with the experience should have no problem!

Life after the Marines
I have been taking the certification exams in order to be ready to get a job I love.  These certifications have real value.  It was time well spent and now I am ready to put my certification into hands-on knowledge.

About Ryan:
Ryan Stiles is a Marine, and he is only the second person that has passed the NCSA exam. He is currently stationed in Chicago and planning to move to San Jose, CA once discharged.

For more information about the Joining Forces program please visit: The NetApp NCSA details can be found under the Certification tab – in the Network and Computer Systems Administrator job/training section.