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Nugget Hero: Unusual Road to IT Didn’t Include High School Diploma

Mike Ghazaleh, our Nugget Hero.

It surprises many people to learn that I am a high school dropout. I have followed a very unique (and unusual) road to IT. I had an interest at an early age with technology, and as a result, my family was very good at hiding electronics from me (not good enough!), so that I wouldn’t dismantle them. The good news is, I’ve always been good at disassembling things. The bad news- I’ve never been great at assembling them.

When I was about 16 years old, I visited my brother—who was the resident “IT guy” for a small company—in Florida. He did it all: servers, networking, website design, etc. While visiting him, I saw him remotely configuring network devices from his home. I thought it was the coolest thing, and it didn’t take me long to decide that’s what I wanted to do. Upon my return back home, I started passively researching IT careers. I looked at certifications, salaries, job postings — you name it. I quickly decided the best path for me was the Cisco one, and as a result I began studying for my CCNA here and there. At that time, my family moved around a lot, and ultimately I decided to drop out, and get my GED. The constant moving around was hampering my education, and I felt like I was ready to move on from the high school experience. I dropped out, got my GED, and began searching for my next move — whether that was college, or an IT job.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that college was really expensive. I eventually looked into the U.S. Army as a way of gaining experience in IT, as I quickly found nobody wanted to hire someone interested in technology, but with no real experience (or certifications). I joined the U.S. Army with the intentions of gaining experience, certifications, and school money, then planned to get back into the workforce as a CCIE. While with the Army I got experience in a wide variety of positions initially, and later began specializing more, which was fantastic. I ended up leaving the Army in 2011, and am immensely thankful for the experience I gained while in the service. I didn’t quite make it to the CCIE part yet, but I managed to get some fantastic experience while seeing the world, and I also gained a wealth of life experience in the process.

As I said before, my path has been somewhat unusual, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I did things my way, following the path to what I truly knew in my heart I should be doing, and made it there. It’s just the beginning though! I feel my story is a great example of how it’s not just all about the finish line, but the journey that leads you there.



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