Category Archives: NOVA IET Career Pathways

CLRI Completes Spring Cohort with Executive Networking Event

The Spring 2024 Career and Leadership Institute (CLRI) was capped off on March 28 with the Executive Mentoring and Networking event!

A total of 24 students graduated from the Spring program, completing 7 workshops that covered topics including Leadership and Communication Skills, Building your Personal Brand, Technical Resume Writing, and Understanding Clearances and Vetting for Government Jobs.

The spring program covered 5 weeks starting in February and culminated in the Executive Mentoring and Networking event with 13 industry executives from Iron Mountain, HR Tec, Stack Infrastructure, CoreSite, AWS, A Foot In The Door, Vetting Konsultants, Micron, and Digital Realty.

Both mentors and students were recognized at the end of the event, and participants stayed an extra hour to network with industry partners.

Feedback from CLRI students included the following:

“I’m in the cybersecurity program and looking forward to entering the workforce. This event has been amazing; it helps break the ice, and all the questions I’ve been stressing about are being answered. Having come from the medical field, I’m entering this environment fresh. I was concerned about whether companies would hire people with no experience. Now, I understand what these companies are looking for in their employees, including certifications, and so on. It has been a fantastic experience.”

~ Kayley Radar, Cybersecurity

“I enjoyed speaking with professionals in groups along with other students because it prompted me to think of questions I hadn’t considered before. It allowed us to bounce ideas off one another.”

~ Arisiema Legasse

“I think it was cool that you could talk to industry leaders face-to-face. They were all very friendly, engaging, and interested in getting to know the students.”

~ Patrick Gilllespie, Data Center Operations

“This event was excellent as it provided a good opportunity to practice interacting with others. At NOVA, not many people engage in conversations; they attend their classes and leave. So, this experience was beneficial.”

~ Josh, Computer Science

“Andy Chavez said that working for a company is like a future relationship: the company wants you as much as you want them. I really liked this event.”

~ Nga Tran, Cloud Computing

PWCS IT Intern Now Working at NOVA in IT

Fatima Shareen comes full circle from NOVA cyber student and CLRI to NOVA IT employee.

 By Kristy Gillespie

Fatima Shareen is a recent NOVA cybersecurity graduate and now works as an Information Technology (IT) Support Technician at the bustling Woodbridge Campus, future site of NOVA’s Data Center Operations Training Facility and where NOVA’s Information and Engineering Technologies (IET) program is based.

Her current career pathway was trailblazed from her time as a Prince William County Schools (PWCS) IT intern when she was a NOVA student. From the beginning, the 150-hour internship at Forest Park High School provided flexibility as she could choose between an eight or six-hour day, giving her the freedom to efficiently manage her busy schedule at work and at George Mason University, where she is pursuing a cybersecurity bachelor degree.

Like many technology students at NOVA who are looking to develop their soft skills, Shareen previously completed NOVA IET’s Career & Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI): “I loved the CLRI program. I actually enrolled twice because the instructors provided great support for the interview process and helped with resume building.”

Shereen highly recommends that NOVA IET students take advantage of CLRI so they have better internship opportunities, as being a CLRI grad played a pivotal role in securing her own PWCS intern spot.

Her key tasks during the internship included computer imaging (which involves the installation of operating systems, applications, and settings) and computer scripting for automating tasks in websites and web applications. She utilized Configuration Manager, a systems management software product, to handle a total of 3,000 laptops.

At Forest Park High School, Shereen progressed through her internship in a “warm and welcoming environment with supportive individuals.” One person who had a profound influence on her was Sylvia Avila, an IT Support Technician. “I’ve been working for the last six, seven years, but never encountered someone like her. She was simply amazing and incredibly helpful,” Shareen said.

The PWCS internship significantly bolstered her resume, enhanced her teamwork skills, expanded her IT knowledge, and provided valuable hands-on training. Shareen emphasized how those skills acquired during the internship continue to support her in her current career, particularly with diagnosing and resolving computer errors or technical issues: “If you are in the IT field, troubleshooting is the most important thing that you should know.”

Shareen has come full circle, from NOVA student to NOVA employee. Reflecting on those who made a positive impact during her time as a student, she singled out IET Professor Michael Spiller as her favorite instructor: “The way he taught was different from other teachers. He always showed up to class stating that he was the boss and we were his employees. I took 3 or 4 classes with him. He was amazing.”

In her professional environment, Shareen is keenly appreciative of NOVA’s “positive vibe,” with friendly people and job tasks similar to those performed during her internship.

Looking forward, Shareen aspires to venture into entrepreneurship and develop her own business, possibly through the Fulfillment by Amazon platform.

Shareen’s heartfelt message to NOVA students is: “your time at NOVA is an invaluable investment in your future, and I encourage you to approach it with dedication and belief in your capabilities.”

PWCS IT Internship Opportunities are currently available for NOVA students. Apply by December 13 through the NOVA Career Connection portal

More about NOVA IET at https://www.nvcc.edu/academics/divisions/iet/index.html

#Nighthawks #NOVAPride #InDemandTech #InformationTechnology #Internships #InformationTechnology

CLRI Graduates Network With Industry Executives

Education meets opportunity! Our 6th cohort of NOVA IET CLRI (Career and Readiness Leadership Institute) grads at Northern Virginia Community College used new skills to make industry connections at our recent networking event aimed at securing #InDemandTech internships and jobs!

We had a record number of students this Fall, with 61 students at the preliminary interest meeting and 65 students attending at least one workshop.

NOVA IET’s  M. Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle have done excellent work inspiring students to get involved and understand the value of interpersonal relationships in the technology industry.

Overall, 41 students are on track to complete CLRI, ready to get ahead with valuable soft-skills (Building Your Personal Brand, Interview Prep, Professionalism & Accountability, Effective Communication, Trends in IT, and How to Write a Technical Resume) that are vital for their technology career journey.

During the program, students were offered at least 4 site tours to Data Centers and a microchip processing plant to gain a fuller understanding of what they are preparing for.

The big finish – an Executive Mentoring and Networking Event where industry professionals advised and conversed with students to help them build their network. Many of these companies will provide internship and job opportunities to CLRI participants, as has been the case every time we do CLRI!

Big thanks to the following executives and companies who invested their time, knowledge, and experience for our CLRI grads looking to launch their careers:

CoreSiteMiguel Ramos, CMCO
Sustainable Workforce Development Solutions (SWDS) – Daisy Saulls
FedHIVEMichael Cardaci
Amazon Web Services (AWS)Stephen Jolly
Micron TechnologyMichael Guttman
A Foot in the Door, Inc.Keith W. Francis
Technology Infrastructure Advisors – Ajay Bawa

The feedback we received from students was effusive. Here’s a few of the responses:

“CLRI is an incredible program from beginning to the end, every single day was filled with great opportunities to learn and explore new careers. The best program ever created to achieve students confidence at the door step of widely expanding technology industries in Virginia. I’m thankful and grateful be in this program and hope future NOVA students will continue to be inspired by CLRI.”
Shamalee Jayakodi Arachchige

It was fantastic! I had very thoughtful and insightful discussions with industry leaders. I feel much more confident in myself and in my speaking abilities. Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate, learn, and apply the concepts you’ve instilled in my CLRI teammates and I.” – Gabriel Diaz-Rosero

“Thank you for the the event. The mentors are so welcoming, open to share and listen. We are so glad to be a part of the community. I left with a clearer vision of my next step.” – Nga Tran

NOVA students who are interested in getting in on the 2024 CLRI sessions, go to https://bit.ly/CLRI24

More about CLRI at https://www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html

Digital Realty Internship Leads NOVA Grad to Data Center Career

Photo: Alec Vaca during the interview at Digital Realty


Story by Kristy Gillespie, NOVA IET STEM Writer

Despite it being his day off, NOVA graduate Alec Vaca joined us in a brightly lit, spacious conference room, eager to discuss his journey from NOVA to securing an internship at Digital Realty and eventually progressing to the role of a Data Center Operations Engineer 1. Vaca was enthusiastic about the chance to share his experience with the NOVA community.  

When questioned about the moment he realized that Digital Realty was the ideal fit for him, Vaca explained with a smile, “it was at the end of my first three weeks here on this campus. I was like, this has to be it. I want to do the things that they are doing, to learn, to be as equipped as they are, because it’s amazing stuff we do here. And I really do enjoy it.”

“I was so excited. This is a new path, a new journey, a new chapter in my life. And thankfully, it worked out,” he added.

Vaca started his journey at Micron as an intern and spent three years working in fabrications. During that time, he built an impressive background at NOVA, having earned an A.A.S. degree in Automotive and another in Engineering Technology. Before marking his one-year anniversary with Digital Realty in September, he spent six weeks interning.

During the internship, Vaca had a variety of experiences. Some of his favorites included learning how to run the remote operating center, which he explained is like the “brain” of the building. He also had the opportunity to try on an arc flash suit used for critical switch manipulation. In addition, one of the projects Vaca was most proud of was a handbook that he created for future interns.

Vaca encourages NOVA students to intern at Digital Reality, a business that supports the data center and colocation strategies of firms across six continents, over twenty-five countries, and more than fifty metros. In fact, there are over fifteen locations in the Northern Virginia area alone. Vaca works at the IAD39 data center in Ashburn.

Vaca explained how his internship at Digital Realty helped him recognize his capabilities and potential within the company. During this experience, he gained valuable insights into the day-to-day operations of a data center and their direct impact on customers and their equipment.

When asked for advice he’d give to NOVA students interested in an internship at Digital Realty, Vaca emphasized the importance of open communication with professors. He suggested letting professors know about their interest in the internship opportunity. Additionally, he stressed the significance of humility, patience, and staying relaxed, as securing such opportunities often takes time.

We also had the opportunity to talk with John Limbacher, the Data Center Manager for IAD39, who, as a military veteran, acquired a technical background during his service. When asked about what Digital Realty looks for in a potential NOVA intern, he emphasized that students should have a willingness to learn, collaborate in a team environment, and possess essential soft skills, including communication, creativity, and problem-solving, among others.

Just prior to his internship at Digital Realty, Vaca had recently completed NOVA IET’s Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI), a free program offering NOVA students, particularly those in IET fields, the opportunity to enhance their competitiveness as job candidates. Vaca highlighted the CLRI’s benefits, citing his significant learning experiences in communication skills and resume building. “I’ve learned so much at NOVA and I’ve grown as a person through it,” Vaca said.

When describing a typical workday, or rather, a worknight for Vaca, he explained that it starts with discussions with the engineers to gather information on ongoing tasks and important updates. Following this, he conducts checks to ensure the stability of the Building Management System, which acts as the center’s eyes, and to address any potential need for replacing critical batteries.

For NOVA students interested in future opportunities at Digital Realty, Limbacher advised seeking out education reimbursement programs and completing certifications such as data center professional certifications, design, and construction certifications.

Limbacher also highlighted the diverse career pathways available within the company once an individual secures a position. In fact, beyond data center operations, employees have opportunities to transition into various roles including design and construction, implementation, portfolio management, marketing, sales, cybersecurity, and more.

Although there is a lot that Vaca enjoys about his career at Digital Realty, he mentioned that having positive relationships with his team is at the top of his list. He explained, “I have a voice and I can say, ok, this is a good idea, let’s go for it, or let’s talk about this because it doesn’t seem right to me.”

With an infectious smile, he added, “the biggest thing that hit me when I came here was strong relationships and I really enjoy it. I like how we communicate and that there’s good open dialogue.”


Information About Internships

Applications for Digital Realty internships can be accessed through NOVA’s Career Connection portal. Click here for DCO and here for Remote Hands. Postings will be up through November 17th:

Internships will be over the holiday break between semesters for 4 weeks up to 40 hours per week. Interns will be based at the Digital Realty locations in Ashburn and will be paid $20 per hour, with a maximum earning of $3,000.

Digital Realty is a valuable partner to the college in providing accessible pathways to in-demand technology careers. The NOVA Foundation has also provided outstanding support by establishing the NOVA IET Fund, which directly supports NOVA IET programs such as internships for the Data Center Operations program.

#InDemandTech #DigitalRealty #Internships #DataCenterOperations #DCO#InterpersonalSkills #BoldlyNOVA

Story by Kristy Gillespie, NOVA IET STEM Writer

NOVA Launches DCO PD at ACTE Conference in Denver

NOVA IET launched the DCO PD (Data Center Operations Program Development) grant award with ACTE at their National Postsecondary CTE Summit in Denver on September 21st, with a call to action for college and secondary educators to participate in a DCO Fellowship that will bring them to NOVA for professional learning, then return to their schools and institutions with an action plan to implement and expand DCO in their service area.

Data Center industry experts  Anthony Hatzenbuehler, from CoreSite, Vanessa Kennedy, from STACK Infrastructure, and Jeffrey Cassar from Cologix, Inc., added their valuable insights as panelists at the launch presentation led by NOVA SySTEMic Director Josh Labrie.

Labrie opened by noting that “the DCO industry is growing fast and markets continue to strengthen across the U.S. DCO’s goal is to raise awareness for the national need for data center operations education and to increase capacity for DCO education at community colleges and technical colleges around the nation.”

One way this will be accomplished this is by bringing college and secondary educators to Northern Virginia Community College for a Professional Learning Fellowship.

By a wide margin, Northern Virginia is the No. 1 site for data centers in the country and the world. With NOVA’s upcoming Data Center Training Facility underway at the Woodbridge campus, the region is an ideal locus to facilitate training that will act as a catalyst for expansion throughout the country.

After the fellowship, participants will complete an externship at a data center in their region and develop a DCO Education Action Plan that can applied in their professional practice, inspiring and equipping more people to get into Data Center careers, no matter what their background.

Cassar stated during the panel session that “someone with a solid base education and  who’s motivated has so much opportunity within data centers. It’s a career, it’s not a stepping stone.”

Hatzenbuehlar added “what I’m looking for is somebody who has the drive, desire, and the aptitude to keep going and furthering their knowledge even beyond the education system to the industry they’re in.”

Kennedy highlighted the importance of fostering industry awareness and talent: “Data center growth in employment is outpacing the economy. There are so many career opportunities. We’ve been really big on pushing internship programs and diversity, trying to get women into the data center and technology sector. We need that talent. STACK has been partnering with NOVA to do these internships with a goal of finding them a place in the industry. We want everyone to be successful.”

Hatzenbuehlar later capped off the panel by stating “that’s what we’re looking for in partnering with NOVA – we’re really in need. there’s a ton of demand for operators and very little supply. We need to partner together to build that supply chain.”

Educators can apply for the DCO Professional Learning Fellowship here. 

Read more about DCO PD at www.nvcc.edu/systemic/dco-pd-nsf-grant.html

NOVA IET is looking forward to working with Association for Career and Technical Education and co-principle investigator, Sophia Ward-Alston on DCO PD.

Special thanks also to Thomas (TJ) Ciccone, Albertine (Laury) D.,  Josh Levi and the Data Center Coalition.

DCO PD is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

#DCO #DataCenterOperations #MissionCritical #InDemandTech

 

CLRI Kickoff Our Biggest One Yet

The Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI) kicked-off at the NOVA Annandale campus on September 7th and this Fall’s group is our biggest one yet with over 50 registered participants.

CLRI is free and provides NOVA students the opportunity to become more competitive job candidates.

NOVA IET’s M. Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle have established a highly regarded program that equips NOVA students with career readiness and priority consideration for paid internships with industry partners.

The kick-off event is intended to give CLRI participants an invested and friendly opening to what’s become a vital program at NOVA.

Just from the kick-off alone, surveyed students responded with the following feedback:

“This was an amazing session, something I needed for a very long time. Today I found my brand with the help of two amazing mentors. Looking forward to gain more valuable tips.”

“Thank you for being genuine and for sharing personal experiences with us.”

“It was great! The guest speaker went over all communication skills in great details, provided great examples and requested the crowd to participate as much as possible. Best workshop so far in my opinion.”

“It was interesting and educative. I’m glad I joined this program. I really need a mentor in life.”

“It was a great experience, learned a lot of tips and important aspects of interview techniques. In fact, it helped to build confidence and hope in me. Great workshop.”

Fall CLRI sessions are are currently underway. where CLRI students are training how to interview, create a resume that stands out, network effectively, manage interpersonal skills in a diverse workplace and more. For NOVA IET students, the CLRI is a vital component in learning soft skills to complement technical skills.

Many CLRI grads have landed internship and job offers from tech industry partners directly through the program.

New Spring sessions will be available to sign up for in Jan 2024. Fill out our Interest Form and we will alert you when registration is available.

More about CLRI at www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html

 

NOVA Student Success Spotlight in DCO: Tim Shutz

Last year, Tim Shutz  departed from his previous career in search of something new.

Starting his new career pathway at NOVA, he dove into Engineering Technology, Data Center Operations, and Computer Science. He also signed up for CLRI (NOVA IET’s Career and Leadership Readiness Institute) in 2022 to hone his professional and interpersonal skills, after which he landed an internship with AFCOM Potomac Chapter in 2023, fostering a passion for Data Centers along the way.

Now he has secured a job at Iron Mountain Data Centers as a Critical Facility Specialist.

When deciding to switch careers, Tim started with a leap of faith:

“It was as nerve-wracking as you can imagine, leaving behind the comfort, rhythm, and familiarity I had known. With the onset of the 2020s, as the world grew increasingly volatile, technology appeared to be on an exponential rise, and the pace of change outstripped my preparedness, I knew I needed to undergo a personal transformation. This journey brings to mind a cherished quote by Warren Buffet: “If the future is uncertain, invest in yourself.”

After Tim invested in himself through NOVA, CLRI, and AFCOM internship, and now at Iron Mountain, Tim’s leap of faith is paying dividends and he is confident about the future:

It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m grateful for the series of events that have brought me to where I am today. I can’t wait to contribute my skills and embark on this exciting journey with an amazing team. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my path.”


Interview with Tim Shutz

We caught up with Tim and asked him a few questions about his experience with CLRI and AFCOM and how it prepared him to go to the next level. His answers give some insight on what he has learned and accomplished, who has helped him, and where he sees himself in the future.

Tim’s CLRI experience: 13 questions and answers
(Internship-specific answers detailed after the CLRI portion)

Q: What IET field are you pursuing and why?

I pursued and finished an Engineering Technology certification, and am continuing a Data Center Operations certification and an Associate’s degree in Computer Science. These choices stemmed from a desire to engage in technical work while also challenging myself through the pursuit of a computer science major.

Q: How did you find out about CLRI?

My introduction to CLRI came during my fall semester when I received an email about the program. Recognizing the importance of exploring various clubs and opportunities, I was drawn to the intriguing prospects offered by CLRI.

Q: Why are soft skills and effective interpersonal communication vital if you’re pursuing a career in a technical field?

The significance of soft skills and effective interpersonal communication cannot be overstated for those venturing into technical careers. While technical expertise opens doors, it’s the soft skills that pave the way for advancement and growth.

Q: How have you fostered continuing professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers?

Cultivating enduring professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers has been an organic process. By embarking on the AFCOM internship together and sharing subsequent experiences, we have forged strong bonds that greatly ease navigation within this field.

Q: Tell us about how CLRI aided in building your personal brand?

My involvement in CLRI significantly contributed to the refinement of my personal brand. Beyond the connections I established, working closely with a professional resume writer resulted in a standout resume that has garnered numerous compliments for its quality.

Q: In CLRI you worked on building an effective resume. What are the best ways to make your resumé stand out both technically and with the content you include?

Crafting a remarkable resume in CLRI involved strategic decisions. Placing my educational achievements at the forefront and quantifying my contributions with specific metrics enabled the resume to stand out both technically and content-wise.

Q: How did CLRI hone your leadership skills? Why is it important to have these skills even if you are not interested in pursuing a management role?

CLRI played a pivotal role in honing my leadership skills, particularly aiding me in enhancing my networking abilities after a period of isolation due to the pandemic. These skills hold value even for non-managerial roles, as they facilitate meaningful interactions within the data center profession.

Q: How did mock interviews prepare you for real interviews?

Participating in mock interviews through CLRI, particularly the ones hosted by Amazon, allowed me to refine my STAR interview technique, offering invaluable preparation for real-world interviews.

Q: How did CLRI enhance your professionalism and accountability?

CLRI’s influence on my professionalism and sense of accountability was substantial. Engaging with experts on soft skills and receiving personalized advice provided valuable insights. One conversation with a speaker helped me recognize the depth of experience I possessed, boosting my confidence.

Q: It was said during CLRI “every day is a job interview.” What does that mean to you?

The adage “every day is a job interview” underscores the importance of presenting oneself in the best possible light during all interactions. Just as in formal job interviews, daily encounters offer opportunities to make positive impressions.

Q: How effective was the networking event? Anyone in-particular that you connected with?

The networking event was effective in connecting me with individuals who have since become valuable professional contacts. The experience was highly positive, although additional in-person talks would have enhanced the connection-building process.

Q: What’s next for you? What opportunities do you feel you might have missed if you hadn’t taken CLRI?

So recently I was offered a job at a great company. Without CLRI I don’t think I would have gotten there. CLRI introduced me into data centers which got me into the DCO program, then into AFCOM, right into a job.

Q: What would you say in recommending CLRI to NOVA students?

I honestly think a program like this should be mandatory for students. My point is that school is only a part of the recipe to success, if you don’t go out of your way to meet industry professionals you will have a very difficult time getting the dream job you want, or even figuring out if the major you are in is the correct one.

Q: Anything else that we’ve missed?

CLRI introduced me to inspiring professionals and fellow students, setting the stage for what was to come. Thank you M. Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle!

TJ Ciccone’s ENE195 class was a game-changer, teaching us the art of acing interviews and igniting my passion for data centers. Thank you Thomas (TJ) Ciccone


Tim’s AFCOM Internship: 14 questions and answers

Q: Generally, why are internships important?

Internships hold universal importance as they offer firsthand experience, allowing individuals to assess their suitability for a role and their compatibility with a company. Additionally, internships facilitate longer and more revealing interactions with potential employers.

Q: What did you learn during CLRI that helped you in your AFCOM internship?

The insights gained from CLRI played a pivotal role in my AFCOM internship experience. This foundation enabled me to engage effectively in discussions surrounding data center operations and ask pertinent questions, showcasing my acquired knowledge.

Q: A number of CLRI grads have gone on to do internships together. How has that developed a sense of professional community?

The collective pursuit of internships by fellow CLRI graduates fostered a profound sense of professional community. This camaraderie not only provides ongoing support but also expands networks, enabling connections that will likely endure throughout our careers.

Q: Tell us about your AFCOM Internship experience? How did it build on what you learned through CLRI?

CLRI played a pivotal role in enhancing my soft skills during my internship. Many individuals have emphasized that cultivating these skills is indispensable for securing a position in data centers, which further underscores the significance of my experience there.

Q: Why have you pursued an internship in this particular field?

My motivation to seek an internship in this specific field was fueled by a keen interest in data center operations. The desire to comprehend the intricacies of these facilities and contribute to their efficiency guided my choice.

Q: What specific activities have you engaged in during your internship? What has been your favorite task or project?

During my internship, I engaged in a range of tasks, including rounds, coil cleaning, and learning about the building management system. These activities allowed me to gain hands-on experience and expand my understanding of data center operations.

Q: Who has had a particular influence on you during your internship?

My mentor, Hansen Troy Hill, significantly influenced my internship experience, providing valuable guidance and support. Thank you Troy and AFCOM Potomac Chapter. Moreover, Stephan Plock, the manager at DLR, offered indispensable insights during my job search.

Q: What skills have you learned during your internship that will help you during your career?

The internship equipped me with vital skills, particularly in terms of networking and professional connections. These relationships will likely play a pivotal role in shaping my future career endeavors.

Q: Have you discovered a job or career path through your internship that you want to pursue?

I’ve taken a job in data center operations at Iron Mountain which I plan on pushing as far as I can. I do plan on going further into the data center realm but I want that fundamental understanding of how the buildings work in order to hopefully help with engineering/software aspects down the line.

Q: Tell us a little about the personal side of internships. What are the relationships like with peers and with supervisors?

I had a great relationship with the team over at DLR. I really enjoyed the managers and team and thought they provided me with a lot of openness and helpfulness in understanding different aspects of the company.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

I had some challenges making sure that I was pushing myself to ask the right questions and make sure if I had nothing to do I found somebody who did. This took a bit of getting outside of my own comfort level but I think I managed to do that well.

Q: What has been the biggest game-changer for you in this internship?

It was the ability to get three different job offers, which was a blessing. I went from nobody responding to my applications to three on the table, you can say that was a huge confidence booster.

Q: What else should we know from your experience as an AFCOM intern?

I think the AFCOM internship is essential for anybody that wants to get into data centers. Even if you have an in, you will gain so much more than an immediate job.

Q: What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I hope to become a manager in 5 years and in 10 years working on engineering projects within data centers to help push the boundaries.

 

NOVA Student Success Spotlight in DCO: Liz White

 

Elizabeth (Liz) White wants to be successful in an in-demand tech career field and she’s making all the right moves.

Liz is currently pursuing a double major in Engineering Technology (with a focus on Data Center Operations) and Information Systems Technology (with an emphasis on Cloud Computing).

Liz also is a recent graduate of NOVA IET’s Career and Leadership Institute (CLRI) and recently completed a 10-week internship with AFCOM, an association for career advancement of IT and data center professionals.

On top of that she just got hired at Google as a Data Center Facilities Technician. She’s also a mom to two children.

We did a Q&A with Liz to discuss how CLRI and the AFCOM internship equipped her for her new position at Google and a fantastic new career path (30 questions and answers).

It’s not just about the technical skills required for a degree, it’s also about interpersonal adeptness, knowing how to interview, networking effectively with potential employers and a lot more.

Her answers and insights are instructive to anyone wanting to pursue an in-demand technology career path, especially after making a career switch.


Liz’s CLRI experience: 15 questions and answers
(Internship-specific answers detailed after the CLRI portion)

Q: What IET field are you pursuing and why?

I am currently pursuing a double major in Engineering Technology with a focus on Data Center Operations, and Information Technology Systems with an emphasis on Cloud Computing. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 prompted me to reevaluate my career as a hairstylist, recognizing its vulnerabilities in times of crisis. The realization led me to make a conscious decision to put my hairstyling career on hold and pivot towards achieving an academic degree. For years I dreamt of earning a degree, but words woven with fear and doubt were the shackles that restrained me. The pandemic was the catalyst that propelled me forward.

My interest in cloud computing was initially sparked by its high demand and resilience in the face of uncertainty. As I dove deeper into my classes, an opportunity through CLRI allowed me to gain insights into the stable job market and flourishing demand within the data center sector. This prompted me to embark on a path within the data center field by starting with taking TJ Ciccone’s class ‘Intro to Data Centers’. The steps taken from there laid a foundational understanding that I believe will serve as a strong basis for my career journey.

Q: How did you find out about CLRI?

Being a student enrolled in an IET division degree program, I regularly received emails showcasing numerous opportunities within the division. One day, an email landed in my inbox detailing CLRI, which offered a series of workshops designed to bolster soft skills, aid in resume refinement, and culminate in a networking event featuring prominent figures from the industry. CLRI was the exact opportunity I had been searching for.

Q: Why are soft skills and effective interpersonal communication vital if you’re pursuing a career in a technical field?

Venturing into a technical career demands a readiness to engage in productive teamwork. Strong interpersonal abilities and effective communication are pivotal resources for fostering successful collaboration. Particularly within the technical field, where advancements occur rapidly and assertively, individuals must be prepared and capable of strategizing and executing alongside their colleagues.

Q: How have you fostered continuing professional relationships with fellow CLRI peers?

I can’t take full credit for maintaining the comradery between fellow CLRI peers. WE formed a close bond and made sure to keep in contact throughout our journey; we shared similar ambitions and aspirations related to pursuing a career in IET, regardless of our varying ages and backgrounds. Our camaraderie extended beyond casual interactions as we consistently stayed connected and harnessed the valuable resources offered by CLRI and the IET division.

Interestingly, most of us ventured into the same data center course, an opportunity that arose from a data center tour led by CLRI leaders Andy Chaves and Sedrick Settle. Among these connections, three of my friends, Tim Schutz, Daniel Rivera, and Prasit Acharya, who are also CLRI alumni, enrolled in the “Intro to Data Centers” class taught by TJ Ciccone. TJ was the person who previously guided us on a tour of STACK Infrastructure, serving as a source of inspiration. Significantly, all four of us secured job positions while in the AFCOM Internship program, which paved the path for promising careers within the data center industry.

Q: Tell us about how CLRI aided in building your personal brand?

CLRI played a pivotal role in equipping me with the essential resources to navigate my career transition in a successful way. Through their guidance, I not only cultivated self-assurance and professionalism, but also had the opportunity to connect with genuinely accomplished, authentic, and motivating individuals.

Q: In CLRI you worked on building an effective resume. What are the best ways to make your resumé stand out both technically and with the content you include?

Crafting a standout resume requires balancing technical formatting and strategic content. On the technical side, maintain a clean layout with consistent fonts and headings, ensuring appropriate white space. Customize the length based on your career stage. For content, tailor your resume to each job posting, spotlighting relevant skills and experiences.

Begin with a concise professional summary, emphasizing key skills. Highlight notable accomplishments in work experience and focus on outcomes. Prioritize job-related experiences while showcasing transferable skills. Include a dedicated section for technical skills and certifications. If needed, emphasize education or relevant projects. Prioritize relevant education and relevant projects if work experience is not within the industry being applied for. Incorporate volunteer work if applicable. Avoid personal details and proofread for errors.

Q: How did CLRI hone your leadership skills? Why is it important to have these skills even if you are not interested in pursuing a management role?

While managerial roles may not be the immediate goal, life invariably presents us with choices. These decisions, in turn, come with their own outcomes, and navigating them effectively hinges on possessing leadership skills. The ability to exhibit courage and determination when confronting situations with a disparity between right and wrong is no simple feat. Leadership entails the willingness to opt for the more challenging route for the betterment of the collective and the welfare of those involved, regardless of whether you hold a formal management position.

Q: How did mock interviews prepare you for real interviews?

Participating in mock interviews proved instrumental in enhancing my interview performance by simulating real-world scenarios. Practicing allowed me to receive constructive feedback and valuable insights into both my strengths and areas that needed refinement. Engaging in multiple mock interviews further honed my adaptability and flexibility in addressing diverse interview dynamics. The experience reinforced  my belief in my capability to excel. As the saying goes, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance,” and mock interviews undeniably played a crucial role in my readiness for real interviews.

Q: How did CLRI enhance your professionalism and accountability?

In many ways, CLRI emphasized the significance of consistently making choices that align with our utmost potential. Whether it pertains to our roles as students, professionals, or individuals in our personal lives, the everyday decisions we make influence our professionalism and accountability. The demonstration of professionalism extends beyond words; it encompasses maintaining proper posture, active engagement through eye contact, and investing effort in establishing meaningful connections. These traits collectively reflect one’s level of professionalism and accountability. CLRI notably highlighted the effectiveness of networking, showcasing how connecting with others can yield significant benefits.

Q: It was said during CLRI “every day is a job interview.” What does that mean to you?

The statement “every day is a job interview,” as emphasized in CLRI, holds a distinct significance. To me, it underscores the idea that opportunities can arise unexpectedly in any situation or encounter. Regardless of our location or context, we are constantly interacting with diverse individuals. How we carry ourselves, the attitude we embrace, and the mindset we adopt are all within our control. Each day presents us with a choice—a choice that invariably yields a consequence. This decision shapes the outcome we attain. Essentially, the notion encapsulates the idea that our daily approach influences the results we achieve.

Q: What did you learn from the executive mentoring program?

The lessons I gained from the executive mentoring program exceed what I can encapsulate in this response. It became evident that dedicating myself fully, investing genuine effort, and translating the advice received into actionable steps reaps rewards that make the exertion entirely worthwhile.

Q: How effective was the networking event? Anyone in-particular that you connected with?

The networking event acted as a catalyst for numerous opportunities that have unfolded in my journey. Its impact exceeded my initial expectations by far. I had the privilege of connecting with individuals who not only became sources of inspiration and mentorship but also turned out to be those I interned for, received job offers from, and built lasting professional relationships with.

Q: What’s next for you? What opportunities do you feel you might have missed if you hadn’t taken CLRI?

My next step involves commencing my career with Google next week. Reflecting on all of this, it’s apparent that I might not have been presented with this remarkable opportunity had I not been a part of CLRI. The transformative sequence, transitioning from my role as a hairstylist to a student at NOVA College, subsequently embarking on an AFCOM Internship, and now securing a full-time position at Google, underscores the profound impact of my involvement with CLRI. CLRI opened a door, I just had to walk through it.

Q: What would you say in recommending CLRI to NOVA students?

Honestly, I’ve recommended this program to every friend in school I’ve encountered since my graduation from CLRI. The program has unequivocally transformed my life for the better. CLRI, TJ Ciccone, and AFCOM provided me with an arsenal of tools, invaluable exposure, and a platform to demonstrate my dedication and commitment to my aspirations. It has enabled me to be part of a meaningful impact.

My gratitude extends eternally to the leaders of CLRI, the IET Division, TJ Ciccone, and AFCOM. During times of self-doubt, they believed in me. They propelled me past my apprehensions of inadequacy, urging me to transcend the fear and reveal my true capabilities and identity. My journey is a testament to their unwavering support.

Q: Have we missed anything? What else should we know from your CLRI experience?

In reflecting on my CLRI experience, I believe we’ve covered the significant aspects. However, it’s worth mentioning that CLRI not only provided me with invaluable professional growth but also fostered a sense of community. The connections I formed with fellow participants, mentors, and industry leaders have continued to shape my journey beyond the program. The supportive environment, coupled with the exposure to real-world scenarios, has been instrumental in preparing me for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in my career.


Liz’s AFCOM Internship: 15 questions and answers

Q: Generally, why are internships important?

Internships are a pivotal steppingstone to creating your own fulfilling professional journey. They’re a bridge between academic knowledge and real-world experience. They provide an opportunity for hands-on experience and opportunities to develop and refine both technical and soft skills relevant to your area of interest.

Theoretical knowledge can be applied to real-life scenarios through an internship with room to receive constructive feedback. It’s much easier to make informed career decisions by gaining insights into the daily operations, challenges, and opportunities in the industry of interest. Internships give you a chance to make connections and friendships which can help open even more doors for job opportunities and mentorships.

The exploration you have through an internship is eye-opening; you gain a much clearer understanding of what aligns with your career goals and what doesn’t. The confidence building you gain through an internship offers validation of what you’re capable of and reinforces your belief in your ability to meaningfully contribute to a team. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and adapting to new environments will only encourage personal growth and enhance your resilience and problem-solving capabilities.

Q: What did you learn during CLRI that helped you in your AFCOM internship?

I discovered the importance of making choices driven by courage, rather than succumbing to the fear of inadequacy. This perspective empowered me to confidently engage, understanding that every question holds the potential for valuable contributions.

Q: A number of CLRI grads have gone on to do internships together. How has that developed a sense of professional community?

Many of the friends I connected with during CLRI embarked on similar journeys. While our paths led us to intern with different companies, we stayed connected throughout the process. We consistently made an effort to meet in person, exchanging our individual experiences and insights. In particular, a few individuals offered their invaluable support during challenging times, helping me to overcome obstacles. I hold deep gratitude for their presence in my journey. These relationships have not only enriched my professional growth but have also magnified the significance of such connections in my career development. I have full confidence that we will remain connected throughout our careers. If that isn’t a genuine sense of professional community, I’m not sure what else would be…

Q: Tell us about your AFCOM Internship experience? How did it build on what you learned through CLRI?

My journey throughout the past three months as part of the AFCOM Internship encompassed a dynamic learning adventure. This period not only provided me with a comprehensive understanding of data center critical infrastructure but also served as a practical lesson in navigating the complexities of the business world. The principles instilled by CLRI, particularly the significance of professionalism and accountability across all situations, came vividly to life during this internship. The multitude of decisions presented each day carried their own set of consequences; a concept emphasized by CLRI. The alignment between my goals and the choices I made was a testament to how CLRI’s teachings guided me in making meaningful decisions throughout this internship.

Q: Why have you pursued an internship in this particular field?

My drive stemmed from the desire to acquire practical, hands-on experience within the data center sector. Despite dedicating extensive hours to studying inside and outside the classroom, I recognized the immense value of an internship that transcends theoretical learning. Honestly, as a 30-year-old mother of two, my aim was to establish a steadfast foothold in my career transition by gaining early exposure and reliability. An internship felt like the most pragmatic approach to this change.

Q: What specific activities have you engaged in during your internship? What has been your favorite task or project?

If I could share my internship reports with you, you would witness the extensive array of activities I engaged in over the summer. During each visit to a data center site, my primary focus was comprehending the intricate power distribution network throughout the building. Subsequently, I delved into understanding the nuances of cooling requirements, their utilization, and maintenance protocols. Every day presented me with numerous avenues of exploration, spanning mechanical and electrical systems, fire life safety protocols, building management systems, and electrical power management systems, among others.

One of my most cherished tasks involved collaborating with the remarkable and welcoming team at STACK NVA04D. I dedicated time to cleaning chiller coils, makeup air units, and rooftop units alongside this team. This experience provided a deeper understanding of the equipment and the integral role each component plays within the larger system. Despite the challenging outdoor conditions, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside the team. Amidst our diligent efforts, they generously answered my myriad questions, willingly sharing their valuable knowledge and expertise.

Another highlight was my time spent with the team at CoreSite’s VA3 building. Their guidance extended to teaching me about telecom operations, utilizing a visible fault locator for fiber tracing from MDF to IDF to ODP to the client’s cage – a process aimed at troubleshooting light level issues. I also gained insights into tasks like cleaning and inspecting fiber before connection and the termination of copper Cat6 cable, alongside acquiring knowledge about fiber splicing. Engaging in POST troubleshooting on servers within the data halls was yet another invaluable learning experience.

Q: Who has had a particular influence on you during your internship?

Countless inspirational people. TJ Ciccone VP of Operations at STACK Infrastructure, Miguel Ramos Sr. Data Center Manager at CoreSite VA3, Chris Lettiere Sr. Director of CoreSite VA, Emily Maldanado Data Center Technician at CoreSite VA3, Shelby Angulo Data Center Technician at CoreSite VA3, Ju Kim Data Center Operations Manager at VA1/2, Troy Bowen Operations Manager at Infrapros, Zachary Miller Area Operations Manager at Google, Isaac Canales Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Ray (Ramone) Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Angela Maruca Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Shane McDonald Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Brandon Osefoh Critical Operations Technician at STACK Infrastructure, Reid Thomas Critical Operations Manager at STACK Infrastructure, Joe Kendra Critical Facilities Manager at STACK Infrastructure, Troy Hill Director of Iron Mountain VA, and the list goes on.

Every individual I had the privilege to engage with, collaborate alongside, and foster professional relationships with significantly shaped my internship journey. Expressing my gratitude for each of these individuals is beyond the scope of mere words.

Q: What skills have you learned during your internship that will help you during your career?

I gained a comprehensive understanding of HVAC systems, including vaporization cycles, chilled water systems, CRAC/CRAH units, and humidification systems. I performed preventative maintenance tasks, which included routine activities such as blowdowns, cleaning water-cooled and air-cooled chiller coils, replacing filters for VESDA systems and air handlers, and maintaining chiller strainers.

Fire Life Safety Systems became familiar territory as I engaged in hands-on tasks such as jockey pump replacement for fire pump systems and methods of procedures for isolating fire pump valves. My proficiency in double interlock pre-action systems was complemented by my experience in managing VESDA systems and STULZ humidification systems, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of safety protocols.

I also gained valuable experience in managing additional daily rounds of the building, quarterly and annual maintenance duties, ensuring the reliability and longevity of critical systems. I feel more enabled to effectively manage and maintain climate control systems, ensuring optimal performance in various environments.

Moreover, my internship exposed me to critical power distribution concepts, ranging from utility/generator, main switchgear to client load, and I became well-versed in electrical fundamentals such as Ohm’s law and single, two, and three-phase power. I gained more confidence in making informed decisions regarding power management and efficiency in my future career.

In terms of infrastructure management, I learned about IDF/MDF/MMR rooms and structured cabling. This experience highlighted the importance of organized customer space and proper maintenance, ensuring seamless operations and scalability of systems.

Shadowing technicians exposed me to various software applications and control systems. This built my confidence to effectively troubleshoot and replace faulty hardware. I oversaw internal management of data center cabling using FNT, ensuring well-organized and efficient connectivity.

My ability to collaborate actively within a team to troubleshoot hardware issues, perform cross-connect terminations and relocations, and verify device statuses was greatly enhanced. I also conducted end-to-end fiber optic cable continuity checks, further solidifying my grasp of connectivity diagnostics.

Additionally, I gained proficiency in terminating copper Cat-6 cables with RJ45 pinouts and learned about fiber cable splicing. In the realm of network management, I was provided hands-on experience in learning how to manage IXPs, point-to-point, and point-to-multipoint connections. I verified device physical statuses and adhered to the BICSI standard, ensuring high-quality information and communications technology systems.

Overall, my internship equipped me with an extensive range of skills encompassing HVAC systems, critical power distribution, infrastructure management, fire life safety systems, control systems, troubleshooting, cabling, and standards. All of this undoubtedly contributes to my success and competence in my future career endeavors.

Q: Have you discovered a job or career path through your internship that you want to pursue?

Yes, I am now a Data Center Facilities Technician at Google. I plan to fully pursue an Operations path and hopefully end up in a leadership role.

Q: Tell us a little about the personal side of internships. What are the relationships like with peers and with supervisors?

The level of inclusion extended beyond mere formality; I found myself fully immersed in the day-to-day operations of the team. What stood out was the genuine encouragement and openness with which I was met. I was not only invited but genuinely welcomed to participate in the team’s troubleshooting, problem-solving, and daily operations. This sense of collaboration and shared involvement went beyond the ordinary expectations of an intern’s role, underscoring the supportive environment that defined my internship experience. My peers and supervisors alike fostered an atmosphere where my input was valued, and I was able to contribute meaningfully to our collective efforts.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Overcoming imposter syndrome has undoubtedly been my most significant challenge. As is often the case, there’s inevitably someone who attempts to undermine or disparage your journey, regardless of your path. Transitioning from a hairstylist role to that of a Data Center Operations Technician could have easily overwhelmed me with intimidation. Along the way, I encountered instances where individuals sought to convey that I didn’t belong in this industry, a sentiment compounded by the imposter syndrome I grappled with. Confronting these challenges has proven to be far from effortless.

Yet, it’s important to recognize that those who dismissively closed their doors are mistaken, much like the unfounded notion of my inadequacy. Amidst these doubts, I constantly remind myself that I am more than capable of contributing significantly to any team. I am more than enough.

Q: What has been the biggest game-changer for you in this internship?

Providing a definitive answer to this question is a challenge in itself. The entirety of this internship has been transformative, redefining my outlook. If I were to pinpoint a single experience, it would be the journey I undertook during the interview process, culminating in the moment I accepted a job offer. This marked a particularly significant turning point.

Q: What else should we know from your experience as an AFCOM intern?

This opportunity has had a profound impact, not only on my life but also on that of my family. Before being accepted into this internship, I found myself in a position where I believed that commencing my career would remain a distant goal, despite my unwavering determination to start immediately. Navigating the complexities of college education and job-searching while raising two children, particularly amidst the backdrop of a pandemic, was a daunting challenge. Life’s expenses, coupled with the considerable cost of education, cast a shadow over my aspirations.

This internship not only provided me with an education but also paved a path into my chosen career. This convergence of education and career prospects has wrought a seismic shift in my life’s trajectory. The magnitude of this transformation cannot be overstated. I’m profoundly grateful to have been a part of this remarkable opportunity, which has provided me with the means to shape my future and break barriers that once seemed insurmountable.

Q: What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

My aspiration is to gradually climb to a role where I can extend the same kind of support that I’ve received. I envision myself assuming a leadership position, collaborating with a team of authentic individuals, and contributing to bridging the talent gap within the industry.

 

 

Fall Block Scheduling Available For NOVA IT Students

 

Block scheduling for information technology students, called Block IT, is available this fall!

NOVA IET is offering a unique opportunity for IT students to be part of a cohort taking the same block of courses for the Fall ’23 semester. The Block IT scheduling program will provide additional support and services for you while creating community and a network of fellow students sharing similar experiences. You will be better aligned and connected to NOVA and jumpstart your college journey.

To participate, you must be enrolled in all 3 of the courses listed below this fall. They can be taken online, in-person, or hybrid. The format of the course you’re taking doesn’t matter (7, 10, 12, or 15 weeks). What matters is that you are taking all 3.


Courses
SDV 101 Orientation to Information Technology (1 credit)
ITN 100 Introduction to Telecommunications (3 credits) – OR-
ITN 101 Introduction to Network Concepts (3 credits)
ITE 152 Introduction to Digital and Information Literacy and Computer Applications (3 credits)


To sign up, make sure you are enrolled in all courses and join one of the Block IT kick-off meetings linked below the first week of school.

Block IT Kickoff Meeting 1 | Aug 23 | 11:00am
Block IT Kickoff Meeting 2 | Aug 23 | 6:30pm

If you have any questions, contact Sedrick Settle, IET Career Advisor at ssettle@nvcc.edu

For more information on IT at NOVA, click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLRI Celebrates Spring Graduates at Networking Event

On March NOVA IET hosted the Executive Mentoring (EM) and Networking event at the Annandale Campus as the culmination of the Spring Career and Leadership Readiness Institute (CLRI). 

CLRI students completing the program networked with nine industry professionals from various organizations including Microsoft, Coresite, Iron Mountain Data Centers, HRTech, Simple Technology Solutions, Cytalks, AWS, and Lockheed Martin.

A total of 23 students completed the Spring CLRI program and were recognized for their efforts with a short ceremony where they received CLRI leather portfolios and a CLRI T-shirt. They participated in facilitated roundtable discussions with the industry professionals who shared insights into careers in the IT industry before a catered networking event with CLRI grads eager to learn and build their networks.

The industry professionals shared their stories, provided career advice, and encouraged learning and professional development as keys to starting an enriching career. The CLRI program depends on the participation from industry professionals both as workshop presenters and EMs.

The Spring CLRI program offered a blended approach including virtual and in-person workshops, Technical Resume Writing, in-depth discussions about Government vetting and clearances, Mock Interviews, a team project formulated around a case study with a community service component and the EM and Networking event.

All sessions were recorded and are available through Canvas.

NOVA IET’s Sedrick Settle and M. Andy Chaves lead this Spring cohort and served as mentors and guides to encourage attendance, participation and completion of the CLRI program elements.  Many of these students have applied for paid summer internships offered through various NOVA IET strategic partners.

For more about CLRI go to www.nvcc.edu/career-services/clri.html