“Get that education. Get that knowledge. Nobody is going to hand you success, it’s up to you to use that education to achieve it.”
This advice comes from Computer Technologies Program graduate Joseph Canada, 47. A former electrician and cosmetologist, Canada now works as a cybersecurity specialist.
“I was one of those late bloomers who grew up at the age of 40,” he said.
Canada had to rethink his career path when he developed physical problems that made it difficult for him to stand for extended periods of time. That’s when he met DOR Antioch Counselor Teresa Cole, who referred him to CTP.
“I went in with the idea that there’s no room for being wishy-washy, and the rest is history,” he said. “That’s my main advice: Hold yourself up to higher than what you think you can do. The sky’s the limit once you make up your mind to do something.”
Three things appealed to Canada about CTP: it’s mission of assisting people with disabilities learn new skills, the convenience of the program’s location, and the personal attention students get from staff.
“When I went to check it out, I was really impressed with how personable CTP staff were,” Canada said. “It felt like it would be more one-on-one and I felt I’d get more personal help. I think that personal attention really helps people be more than they could be.”
Canada also cites the professionalism emphasized by CTP, as well as the positive effect of seeing other people with disabilities pursuing new careers.
“What I took away from it was a lot of personal evolution. I wasn’t sure I was going to even walk again, but I also saw people there who were a lot worse off than me, so I thought, ‘Don’t you feel sorry for yourself.’ It expanded my horizons, because I had never been in a situation like that before, with other people with disabilities. Your only limit is you.”
Canada completed the NTST program, precursor to today’s Computer Technician Training, in April of 2016. He then started an externship at the Port of Oakland.
“That’s where I first got a taste of [IT] help desk [work],” he said. “I acquired some great networking there too. It was my first start in learning corporate structure — I knew nothing about corporate structure when I went in there.”
Canada says he hit the ground running after completing his externship, landing a help desk job at a health care company. In that role, he did various IT tasks, as well as training new employees and auditing logs. Eventually, he wanted to do more and started looking for new opportunities.
“I applied to a lot of jobs I did not get,” Canada said. Then he applied for an IT security specialist position with a hedge fund services company, and ended up getting hired within a week. “I went in not knowing anything about cybersecurity. It just goes to show, you fake it ‘til you make it.”
Canada says his CTP training continues to help on his current job.
“We do use the tools that I acquired in the training — it’s just being applied differently now. I’m still learning a lot on this job. I went on to learn about the NIST cybersecurity framework, which is a quite intense set of controls for networks. A lot of it is working within Office 365 and the tools that go with it for cybersecurity compliance.”
His experiences have made Canada confident that other people can succeed as well. He describes education, as well as holding on to high ideals and standards, as key to his story.
“I hate to sound cliche-ish,” Canada said. “But it really takes personal integrity and knowing that even if you’re unsure going forward, you can educate yourself. Nowadays, there’s so many avenues. You can go into a job and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we didn’t cover this,’ but a true technical mind is going to want to investigate.”
Canada said the internet has many great resources for continuing one’s technical education. He also emphasized the importance of motivation.
“It matters to want this for yourself. To desire it. It’s easy to get discouraged sometimes when you face new things.”
“If I can make the change, anybody can,” he said. “I’ve gone from a really bad situation that consumed my life for 10 years. By the grace of God I was able to change my life and my environment. And that was the beginning of the new me. As we age, we change. Instead of dwelling on the past, we can focus on how to change our life.”