Student profile: Marc Newhard

Name: Marc Newhard
Location: Denver, CO, USA
Age: 33
Job title: Resident engineer level II

A college degree is expensive, and not everyone has the means to pay for one or the stomach to go into debt for one. That includes many individuals like Marc Newhard who are plenty smart and ambitious and deserve opportunities to build the careers they imagine for themselves too.

Marc started working as a janitor at a local computer shop when he was in his teens just so he could learn more about technology. He didn’t know much about the IT industry, but he definitely thought that’s where he’d spend his career. After high school, he took a few call center jobs and looked around to see what tech jobs were available to someone young and without a degree.

For most of his professional life, Marc worked as a contractor for a large nonprofit healthcare system managing audio-video equipment and doing phone and network cabling. It paid the bills, but it wasn’t the career he had in mind. He met a lot of people at work who did have computer science degrees and saw their skills were much more advanced than his. “I knew I’d either have to go to college at some point or advance myself,” Marc says. Those colleagues suggested he look into beefing up his resume with Cisco certifications, especially since Marc was already interested in networking.

Marc figured he’d study up for the certification exams using books, but that turned out to be “not the best way to learn. They put me to sleep after 10 minutes.” Marc went online for more resources, while he continued working toward his Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification, the next step along his certification path. On YouTube, Marc found Lazaro Diaz’s “Learn with Laz” channel and, from there, links to his Udemy courses.

Marc was really excited to see “a huge content library of technologies I always wanted to learn, not just networking.” And Udemy’s user experience was far superior to YouTube’s, where he couldn’t get responses to his questions and couldn’t tell where he should start or what to watch next. On Udemy, he signed up for more instruction from Laz (“Cisco CCNA (200-120): The Complete Course”) and other Cisco certification and networking courses, including “CCNP 2016 All-in-One Video Boot Camp” and “Learn ISIS for IPv4 and IPv6.”

Today, thanks to his networking certifications, Marc is a Resident Engineer Level 2 for a global telecommunications company. Though he’s just a contractor, he’s striving to get promoted within the organization while exploring other job opportunities, and he sees his Udemy work paying off. While it’s tempting to spend his free time catching up on his favorite shows on Netflix, Marc is watching lectures and working through the instructor challenges, and his boss has commended this commitment to continuing education.

One of Marc’s goals is to become a more well-rounded job candidate, with knowledge spanning software development and network engineering. Marc has also “dabbled” in mobile and web development to do small side projects, so lately he’s added relevant courses from that category to his Udemy queue, such as Tim Buchalka’s “The Complete Java Developer Course” and “Android 6 – Master Android Marshmallow Development With Java” and Rob Percival’s Android course. “I’m not just waiting for the phone to ring,” he says.

For Marc, “Udemy really hit the spot.” He loves that instructors are available to answer his questions and update their content at no additional charge (unlike subscription-based MOOCs where, in Marc’s experience, “there’s always a catch”). “I feel incredibly fortunate to be getting this quality of education at such a reasonable cost,” Marc says of Udemy.

Still, most employers are “old school” in wanting to see familiar academic degrees and specific real-world experience, so Marc is being very smart and strategic devising concrete ways to demonstrate his skills. For example, he’s developing a “proof of concept” website to showcase his networking and programming skills. He also started a personal blog where he documents and shares photos of his work, like how he built and demonstrated a lab for migrating a network from IPv4 to IPv6.

Going to college for a computer science degree isn’t off the table for Marc, but it’s frustrating to think that it’s a strict requirement for most jobs these days. It would be a massive investment of time and money, and he’d have to slog through a lot of courses not even related to technology — just to get that piece of paper saying he’d done it. Marc recently came across a Reddit forum debating the quickest and least expensive way to skill up for a career as a developer, so he knows his peers are asking the same questions about the value of college.

When it comes to a field like programming, online learning is “a cool new frontier. Udemy lets you choose the courses you want, and the cost isn’t astronomical,” Marc says. “I only see it getting bigger from here.” He hopes when his kids are ready to enter the workforce in 20-30 years, employers have become more open-minded about non-traditional education and recognize that what you can do is much more important than where or how you learned to do it.