You can start learning IT skills today!
Updated: Sep 18
Cybersecurity is a popular pathway for Tech-Moms, and there is a lot of IT in cybersecurity. IT, or information technology, deals with computer hardware, networking, operating systems… Basically, anything that allows computers to work on their own or together. Whenever someone tells me they are interested in cybersecurity, I tell them to work on building IT skills since the fields are intrinsically linked.
A few years ago I wanted to develop my hardware and networking chops in order to become a more capable software developer. To structure my learning, I decided to pursue the CompTIA A+ certificate, which covers a range of entry-level IT topics. Certificates alone do not qualify you for jobs, but they can help. Here’s what I did to study for this certification.
I highly recommend practicing hands-on every chance you get. Studying for these tests can feel like a memorization fest, but try not to fall into that. It’s really about what will make you an effective technician, and that includes lots of hands-on experience.
I bought a computer at a local thrift shop and took it apart so I could learn more about its internals. Highly recommended!
I also asked coworkers for computers they weren’t using and took those apart as well. Many people have old tech lying around that they are happy to offload.
I installed a WiFi scanner app on my phone and used it to learn more about the networks around me.
I installed Wireshark to learn more about our internet traffic.
I changed our router’s settings, then set them back.
I changed networking settings on my devices.
I mapped out devices on my home network. I did this pretty superficially and wish I had gone more in depth.
I added and deleted users on my computer and tried granting them different privileges.
I ran all the commands I learned about on the command line with different flags.
I asked the IT head at my company to look at a crimper and a tone and probe kit. I was hoping he’d offer to let me use them, but he did not. Next time, I’d specifically ask!
I looked into my devices’ BIOS and startup settings.
I installed a profiler that let me monitor my computer’s internals in detail
I inventoried the various cables in my home by type. I paid close attention to connectors I knew would be on the test.
Courses/Study Materials There are lots of different options when it comes to IT courses and other study materials. Your success with these may vary based on your learning style, so check a few out and see which ones you like.
Mike Meyers' A+ Udemy course was very helpful in teaching me which hands-on activities to do, as well as giving me lots of useful information for the test. It was called Total CompTIA A+ Certification. The exact course number changes over time, so make sure you are looking at the most up-to-date version.
I also watched a bunch of Professor Messer videos, which are free on YouTube. Then I bought his study sheet for the test. It was about $35 but useful.
Basically every time I watched a video, I had more questions, which I researched online. This is a good idea because you can get additional context about things.
I also used online study materials from CompTIA themselves. It is possible to take practice tests this way.
I downloaded an app onto my phone that quizzed me about test content. The quality of the app and questions wasn’t outstanding, but if you are just sitting around waiting, it can be a more productive way to pass time.
Look at your networks and find people willing to share ideas, give advice, and answer your questions (the Tech-Moms community is a great place to start!).
Check out some online forums and read what others are talking about. Once you feel comfortable with how the group works, you can begin to ask your own questions.
If you are currently working, ask folks in your IT department what they did to get into their jobs.
When you're looking at job posts, check out which specific IT skills or capabilities they are looking for, and start working on those.
Even without formal IT training, anyone can start developing basic IT skills by following some of the suggestions I've listed here.