David Thibodeau on graduation day at Herzing College Ottawa (Computer Networking Technology Program)
You really never know where life will take you. Most people switch jobs several times before settling into the right position. Others head back to school later in life to learn a completely new set of skills—and end up in a career they never imagined.
David Thibodeau is a perfect case in point. He started a career in computer technology 10 years ago, gave it up to work in construction—and then found himself back at Herzing last year, studying tech all over again!
What brought David back to the world of computer technology? What was it like studying at Herzing, and where is he working now? We interviewed him to find out how this remarkable story unfolded.
Here are the highlights from that conversation.
Q: David, can you tell us a bit about your background?
David: Sure! I've been based in Ottawa since 1992 . Before that, I was living in Calgary and Thunder Bay. I've actually studied at Herzing before, back in 1998/99. I took a version of the computer technology training back then.
I had 3 kids at the time, and was working, so it was tough. I really had to keep my focus and work hard to make it through the program.
But I did it, and landed a job with a sleep diagnostics company—they make equipment for sleep clinics. I was hired to install the equipment, and train users, in hospitals all across North America.
By 2010, I was ready for a change, and got into the construction and renovation business, working for a property management company. I stayed with them for years, until I got laid off. That's when I decided to go back to school.
So, I headed to Herzing, and applied to the Computer Networking Technology program. I graduated from the program in 2018. Ironically, now I'm back working in the sleep diagnostics field! I've come full circle.
Q: What inspired you to choose a career in computer networking? Have you always been interested in IT and tech?
David: I wasn't really drawn to IT and tech originally. I had always been involved in construction, but I didn't want to keep doing that for the rest of my life.
At first, I thought about going into programming. But I didn't like the idea of sitting behind a computer all day, so I decided to study computer systems and networking instead.
That's when I earned my first diploma at Herzing, back in '98. Afterward, I got my first technical support job, and I ended up loving it—it was really cool. The whole field grew on me, and I've come back to it now again.
Q: How did you end up choosing Herzing? What was the admissions process like for you?
David: It was a little different the second time around—when I went back to earn the second computer technology diploma. Most of the staff I knew from before were still there! It was like going back and seeing old friends.
I did a lot of research first, through Second Career at the unemployment office. I looked at which tech careers were growing the fastest, to make sure I chose a program that would lead to a good job after graduation.
It's really important to study the employment forecast for the position you're going for. I found that computer tech is really booming, so I knew the training would be a good investment.
Herzing was great, really helpful, and made sure I had all the right paperwork. They made the whole application and admissions process really simple and easy.
Q: So, what was the training like? What really stood out to you about your experience at Herzing?
David: The instructor and students were amazing. We worked a lot in groups, switched things up, and kept it interesting.
It was an intense experience and quite challenging—but in a good way. When you go through a one-year course, everything is condensed. On the very first day, we dove right into the material. It's amazing what we learned in just 12 months.
I worked hard and studied a lot. I was never bored, that's for sure. I actually really liked the fast pace. It reflects a real work environment. When you get into the field, you know exactly what to do, and you're ready to hit the ground running. You feel like, "I can do this!"
The truth is, I wasn't the fastest or the smartest student in the class. 99% of the time, I was the last one walking out of the tests (we had one or two tests per week).
I took my time and that's what worked well for me. By the end, I wasn't afraid of entering a real work environment. I had confidence in what I'd learned.
Q: Was it difficult to find your first job after graduating?
David: It took about a month. I really wanted to find the right fit for me. And then something funny happened. A friend told me the sleep diagnostic company I'd left back in 2011 was looking for someone.
I went in to meet with them, and basically started right away. It worked out perfectly...a very easy process.
It can be really scary after school, not knowing what might work out. In some ways, you just want to stay a student forever, and not face the whole job-search thing.
Joseph Perera (Director of Career Development at Herzing) was amazing, though. He helped everyone a lot with the job search.
By graduation, pretty much all of my classmates had found jobs. It was great seeing everyone secure a position. Everyone had jobs within a month or two....some even got hired before they finished the training!
Q: So, tell us about where you're working now. What's your role and responsibilities?
David: I'm a technical support specialist at Natus Medical. They provide medical equipment, and diagnostic and monitoring tools to hospitals.
I train people on software and systems. I take calls from people who are having difficulty using the Citrix system, or having software/hardware issues.
I help people track down lost files, and rebuild computers to get them up and running again. Every day is a bit different. The job is really cool that way.
Since I first started in this business 10 years ago, a lot has changed. I'm using the skills I learned in the Computer Networking Program every day. Everything I learned in school, I'm applying at work.
Q: What would you say is the best thing about your job?
David: It's not work! It's only work if you don't like it...right? I'd say the best part for me is connecting with people, and helping people. It's great seeing people really understand something technical, for the very first time.
The light bulb goes off, and they're really excited to finally "get it." That's really rewarding for me. And then there's the appreciation you get after the training is done. That's one of the nicest things about my role.
I plan to stay in this position for the next 15-20 years. The job security is good, the hours are ideal, and I have weekends off. It's the perfect job.
Q: In your opinion, what are most important skills for networking professionals today?
David: You absolutely must be customer-oriented. You need very good communication skills. You have to stay calm when clients get frustrated with a piece of technology they don't understand. It takes patience, and the ability to break things down into simple terms.
You must stay focused on resolving the issue, and ensuring the client fully understands what to do. I've found that these are the top skills employers are looking for in support specialists. They want "people skills" just as much as technical knowledge.
If you know how to connect with others, and put them at ease, you'll have a big advantage landing jobs in computer support and networking.
A huge thank-you to David for catching up with us this week. We wish you all the best.
Want to learn more about computer networking training at Herzing?
The Computer Networking Technology Diploma is 12 months long. Areas of study include COMPTIA (A+, Net+, and Linux+), MCP, MCTS, MCSA, MCSE and CCNA.
The cost of the A+ certification is included in the course.
Chat live with an Admissions Advisor now to learn more. Or click below to explore the program and get more information. We're here to help!