We recently had the opportunity to chat with Gabby Thayer, one of our first scholarship winners, to discuss how the opportunity changed her life. As Gabby prepares to graduate from the ITSA program, hear about how a very determined young lady overcame physical obstacles to earn multiple, challenging, IT certifications at MyComputerCareer. (Pro Tip: This is worth the four-minute read!)
When Holly and Aaron Middleton tragically lost their 5-year-old daughter Scarlett, they were determined to find inspiring outlets to keep her memory alive. True to their word, one of those outlets was partnering with MyComputerCareer to create the Scarlett Sunshine Memorial Scholarship. The first of its kind in school history, the initiative awards two full-tuition scholarships to qualifying members of the military community.
Q: Hey, Gabby! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Talk about how it felt to be awarded one of the first scholarships from the Middleton family in honor of their daughter, Scarlett, at MyComputerCareer?
A: Honestly, I hadn’t realized I was one of the first to win the award. (When I submitted the nomination) I didn’t think I was even going to get interviewed, much less win. By choosing me and allowing me the opportunity to get the education that I needed and wanted, I’m one step closer to providing for myself and my family. I cannot express in words how much of a blessing it has been that I was picked for this scholarship.
Q: Take me back to the day you learned you received the scholarship? How did that feel?
A: Bruce (MyComputerCareer Chief Marketing Officer) and Jenny (Operations Manager) talked to me for an hour then told me the news. I cried because I was handed the opportunity of a lifetime, and that’s what it was. I’m the kind of person that has had to work hard to get where I am and having something so big land in my lap after having this conversation was huge – I couldn’t believe it!
Q: Speaking of working hard in your life, you overcame some physical obstacles to finish a pretty grueling program. Do you mind talking a little about that?
A: No problem. Having epilepsy and cerebral palsy that basically means I definitely had to work harder learning the concepts then somebody with no disabilities. Even though you can struggle to understand the concepts at MyCC without any physical limitations, for me this meant I spent a lot of time upstairs in the room that I dedicated to studying. I would just hammer on the different command lines for Linux, the measure-up questions, the labs – it didn’t matter what it was, I was using all of it to understand the concepts in the program.
Q: That perfectly leads to the next question. MyComputerCareer’s IT training takes dedication and a strong will. Tell us a bit about your experiences working through the program? What went well? What was challenging?
A: Some of the challenges were related to working virtually and certain labs or programs not always working perfectly. And sometimes there would be a mentor or instructor who would do their best to try and explain a concept or answer a question, but I didn’t always click with everyone trying to teach me.
There’s also a real time commitment. I was almost always in my classes 15 minutes early. If I wasn’t in class I spent most of my time studying on my own or with classmates, which I just found easier. When I needed my classmates they were there for me, and when they needed me I was there for them.
I also talked to my mentors, my instructors, and even my dad (a former MyCC student) and his peers who helped me understand concepts that I was asking about in a slightly different way.
Q: How many IT certifications have you earned so far and do you plan on earning others?
A: I started in Security+ and came out with six certifications. But I’m one of those people who doesn’t stop and I have a whole list of others I want to earn. Next on my list is either CASP+, or, if I don’t go down the road, Certified Ethical Hacker.
(editor’s note, Gabby’s certifications include: MTA Security, CompTIA A+, MTA Server, Linux Essentials, MTA Networking, and CompTIA Network+).
Q: Did you ever consider quitting?
(Emphatically) A: No…not even for a second!
Q: What advice or tips do you have for fellow students in the program, or those considering attending?
A: I was talking to someone and they asked for advice about going into this program. Here’s how I answered: Be prepared to spend a lot of time with your nose in a book or looking at concepts and questions that you might not understand at first. What really worked for me was finding multiple explanations and different ways of understanding one concept. Another thing is to make sure you figure out your weak point. Back in A+ (CompTIA A+) I figured out really quickly that my weak spot was hardware. 1001 was more difficult than 1002 so I had to put more effort into that cert than in 1002. I definitely leaned on my peers during server and Linux as well, and a couple of my classmates managed to make Linux fun for me. After listening to their explanations these concepts finally clicked, which was so helpful.
Q: What are your goals after graduation?
A: I have a whole list of other certs I want to earn. Other than getting those certs I want a job and ideally I would like to become a mentor at MyComputerCareer. If I can’t do that I’m hoping to find a position on Fort Bragg with my dad because I could ride with him to work each morning!
Q: Has this changed your life? If so, could you describe how?
A: This has changed my life because I am one step closer to becoming more independent. Right now because of my medical condition I live with my parents and I can’t support myself. Before this opportunity I didn’t have the knowledge I needed to be an IT professional and I have all of that now. This is bringing me closer to my next chapter which is being independent and going and living life beyond the house I grew up in.
Q: Any message for the Middleton Family who chose you for this scholarship in honor of Scarlett?
A: I just want them to know what a blessing they’ve been by granting me this scholarship. Honestly I wish I could hug them because I would not be here if it weren’t for them.