From Poverty to Career: I Got A Career in IT and You Can Too!

Hello Jay,

Having trouble getting into IT? You CAN do it! Here’s my story.

There’s no doubt about it… you’re a very interesting man. Not only that, you’re definitely someone to look to as a role model and emulate.

Myself I have issues with info retention. It is very frustrating that I have to do things many times before I retain the infos. Then sometimes after only a few weeks of not doing something, I forget. I don’t have your blessing\curse of hyper-focus. I’m past my prime in my mid 50s doing what I can to further develop my relatively short IT career.

I’m certain you will say the turtle - slow and steady - always wins the race. Don’t give up. Keep at it. You have essentially lived that Aesop fable.

Thank you.


Thank you! I’m hoping that video helps a lot of people.

In regards to retention, even with Hyper-Focus, I still lose details. I have the exact same problem as you do with info-retention. I’ve even consulted my own books at times if I haven’t done something in a while.

The way I combat this is that I take really really good notes. When I set something up, I jot down every command I use. Then, I destroy whatever I’m setting up and then do it again, testing my notes, and removing any commands that aren’t actually necessary.

Then, I commit my notes to a Git repository so they’re always accessible. I find myself consulting my notes every day, and I have probably over a hundred note files at this point.


Hello Jay,

I understand your notes, tear-down, re-build methodology. It makes perfect sense. However, I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t have the patience to put in that time and effort. For me I sometimes feel like I’m slugging my way over the worst mountains.

Your advice on Git is something I’m seriously looking into. Have to develop my own system.

Best Regards

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I understand where you’re coming from. I think it depends on the mindset you approach it with. If you approach it with focusing on having fun, and not the pressure involved, it’s easier. At least for me. I don’t focus on anything but trying things out, having fun, and experimenting. Sometimes you even find yourself more efficient the second time around. But I do understand that not everyone has the same amount of free time.


I have noticed that IT rock stars seem to be obsessive. So they’re willing to put in months and years until they figure stuff out.

What frustrates me is that there is not a whole lot of great IT learning resources out there, mostly because IT instructors can’t write and\or just can’t teach. The quality of IT teaching online is atrocious in my experience. They tend to be cash cows for places like CBT Nuggets, David Bombal and others. All the ones I’ve checked out are scammy to certain levels - some a lot more scammy than others.

Motivation and discipline are my main personal battles. It is me, myself and I. I do great with collaboration, but learning in isolation - it never works very well for me.

“You can do it !” is never enough for me. I fail on the follow-through. Up to this point, I’ve only been able to complete the LPIC Linux Essentials. And that bothers me as I expected by this point to already have complete LPIC-1 sometime last year.

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I understand about being unable to learn in isolation. What do you feel is a better way? Is there something that doesn’t exist but you wish did exist? Perhaps I can come up with an idea, that will improve learning.

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Thanks Jay.

I really don’t know the answer to collaborative learning.

Slack ? Discord ? Group learning projects ? (my experience is that everybody has differing levels of commitment - to the detriment of the most committed participant).

David Bombal ran a paid small group CCNA course where there was the instructor and only something like 10 other course participants. Everything taught, practiced and learned as a group via texts & vids, pod casts, labs (remote VMs as well as home labs), online review sessions, . More or less like a Carnegie Mellon comp sci course atmosphere.

Structure, regular practice and someone to keep an isolated learner accountable would help.

The reason I ask, is because I am working on something but I can’t say too much right now. I’m targeting April or May to announce it, and September to release it. I think it will help you.

However, since that doesn’t exist today, I’ve thought about other things that I can do to help people learn. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but I may start a Discord server and perhaps encourage people to break out into groups and study, or work on a project together. We could do that here in these forums. Basically, have a project such as “set up a web server” and have several people join in, one to spin up the server, another to design a simple web page, another person to harden the server to secure it, etc. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, I find activity-based learning to be the best.

Feel free to give me your thoughts (and anyone reading this as well) and I’ll try to come up with some sort of system or idea.


Activity-based learning focused on tasks is definitely the best method. You know that from your own IT career path.

I’d be all-in if you do a Discord server and the projects focused around your book for Ubuntu Server, Linux firewall and a Linux hardening test like Donnie Tevault’s. “Read the book, then lab. Re-read the book. Then lab. Repeat… until you get calluses on your fingertips. Don’t give up.”

I want to be a competent Linux admin, but my real goal is Linux security at a high level - something that is not so straight forward. Looking into it, you have the network security, then you have the AppArmor\SELinux security, then there are all these case scenario specifics that just don’t get covered in text books.

Anyway, I always look forward to what you will come up with next.

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Thanks! I can’t wait to reveal it, but I have to make sure everything is in a better-planned state first so I don’t get into a situation where people get excited about features that don’t materialize. When I’m a good way through the process, I’ll reveal the plans.


Thank you so much for sharing your story Jay. I finally watched your video about having trouble getting into the IT field. And since I also have ADD I’ll watch your video on that in just a few minutes.

I think that having a rough start inclines one to be appreciative. And that appreciation in turn lends one to want to help others. I had a rough start as well. Volunteering for a nonprofit computer refurbishment organization and being a door greeter at CompUSA [back in the day] is a part of my early beginnings :rofl:

I’ve already stated in my bio that I’m trying to get back into my tech game. I really get hyper-focused on it so I’m quickly absorbing what has changed in the past eight years though I only have a couple of hours a day to spend on this right now.

I had good reasons for leaving the IT field. I wanted to devote myself to my wife and kids; and I really used to be a tech addict; so I need to “watch myself”. God bless!


I wanted to get into IT but no one wanted me because of my weight and ADD. Did years of schooling only to be told sorry. Moved to Web design and found out no one wants to pay you for a web site. Stopped doing computers for a few years. Gotta say I lost ALL the knowledge in that time. Trying to get back into networking and it’s really difficult. I also have number dyslexia so that doesn’t help either. Hopefully joining this community will help me with some of my problems.


Welcome to the club. You certainly won’t get any judgment from me. Now that I’m older l get to stack other health issues on top of my A.D.D. so my progress comes in spurts.

I was doing pretty good the past three weeks but this week not-so-much.

So I wait, and pray. I figure that God/the Universe/whatever you want to call it/him knows what my limitations are and I have all the mental/physical facilities that I need to accomplish these great ideas I’d like to accomplish.

I personally doubt I’m hireable at this point. But that’s ok, I can figure out something on a small project basis, or I can eventually set up some sort of services in my home that will benefit my family and others.

Go where your passions take you, and don’t focus on the money. That will come later if you are doing something that you enjoy. First the enjoyment, then brainstorm with others about how you can apply what you are doing to something others might be willing to pay for :heart:


Welcome! I’m happy to have you here. Don’t stress too much about re-learning or how much you have to learn. Focus ONLY on the fun, and if you get frustrated, just step away and come back later. As long as you force yourself to avoid burnout, I think you’ll be fine.


Welcome! Pace yourself, and enjoy the ride. Focus on the fun, and not learning everything. You’ll never learn everything. Just learn what’s relevant to what you want to achieve or work on. And I totally understand that sometimes life takes you away from current priorities, I have to deal with that sometimes too.


Hello Jay,

Any update status on the training & Discord resources that you had mentioned that you were either mulling over or currently working towards launching ?


Really helpful thread. It is nice to know other folks interested in tech are not all geniuses. Working memory problems, memory retention, taking/using notes, difficulty with follow through, feeling overwhelmed by the amount there is to “know”, taking on projects that are too ambitious/unrealistic, social anxiety, etc…all problems I bet a lot of people attracted to technology deal with. I think some of these personality traits, mental deficiencies happen to be related to the ones that interest people in tech.


The main issue lately, has been a combination of annoying and tedious things getting in the way of the stuff I want to get done. For example, pandemic-related challenges of having to help with home-school at the same time as I try to do other things. This school year, alone, has stolen more hours of my available time than I can count.

When it comes to the channel, it’s growing SUPER fast, which is great - but along with that, comes additional challenge. And the better things get, the more time it takes to produce the content. So I’m also looking at ways to try and simplify my workflow so that things don’t take as long for me as normal.

More specifically, I decided to have an outside developer help me with the training platform. The idea is that even though I really wanted to develop it myself, I can’t develop this and also produce content at the same time. It’s somewhat of a passion project for me. But I also understand that there’s only so many hours in the day. I found a developer, but then I ran into another roadblock because the quote was three times more expensive than the initial estimate, putting this particular developer outside of what I can afford. So I decided to produce a Kickstarter video to help cover this effort. But my challenge now, is that people aren’t likely to back a Kickstarter project if they can’t at least see a general idea of what it’s going to look like. With no prototype done yet, I have nothing to show in a video. I have my doubts that a video talking about it wouldn’t be as effective as a video that shows something exciting.

Thankfully, work on the Discord server has already begun as of yesterday, because it seems like the simpler to-do item on my list right now, so I may as well knock it out. The server does exist now, but I was pulled away while working on it, and I am hoping to finish it soon.

After some very long thought, I’ve decided the following:

  • Allow people to volunteer and help out, which will give me some of my time back. I just need to come up with a list of things people can choose to volunteer for. I have some ideas. I will make an official announcement when I can. I can’t take credit for this, someone else recommended that I accept volunteers and I never thought about it before.

  • Implement a “beta” program. This was also not my idea, but it was suggested to me. The concept is that there will be a private forum here, that people chosen to be beta testers will have access to. They’ll be able to watch videos that aren’t technically done yet, and report bugs. I’ll still test everything myself first, but this will help prevent errors later.

  • Work on the training platform will pick back up after I finish writing and producing the Kubernetes series. Expect the training platform to also include ad-free content as well, so I’ll start uploading my content there in addition to YouTube.

I’m beginning to think that I need to create some sort of separate thread or maybe a private forum here for early adopters and enthusiasts to chat about things like this and have a sounding board.

TLDR: Unfortunately, I discovered that I’m human, and I’ll need to streamline my workflow and make adjustments to make the overall process better and less time-consuming, which will help me deliver these things faster.


I agree. In the past, before I ended up where I am today, I was perplexed how people higher in IT were able to do what they do. Especially software engineers. I literally didn’t understand how they could memorize so much. I had a conversation with a software engineer once, and I put it right out there - and asked him how he does it.

His answer shocked me. He told me that it’s just an illusion. That he doesn’t memorize as much as I might think. He felt he benefits from autocompletion in IDE’s, and a lot of tools and plugins that helped him get the job done. So on the outside, it looks like he’s a super-human with this amazingly strong brain that can absorb all this knowledge and make something complicated look easy. In actuality, that’s not the reality at all.

I keep a TON of notes, and I have to reflect back on them constantly. There are some things I do memorize, but only because I’ve done it thousands of times. But if I don’t do something every week, I’ll forget it quick. So, I came up with a system that works for me personally:

I literally have a repository of text files where I write down all the commands I don’t always use on a daily basis. Everyone will have their own system that will work for them, even if they haven’t discovered it yet.

I feel like being open and vulnerable about this, helps learners understand the REALITY of the job. Being open about these things helps people understand what it’s actually like in the real world, and will hopefully get rid of the superstitions people believe about higher-level IT people. We’re not smarter than you - we just have more practice and spent more time coming up with a system that works for us.


@Jay, your reply is right proper motivational. We’re all on the “Suffer Bus” in IT…

Way cool. That pic of your Git storage sends waves of excitement to my brain.

When I watch your vids, I make note files and store them in OneDrive.

Here’s notes taken from your OpenSSH vid - which is great by the way…