NACTEL Student Stories

After receiving his A.S. in Telecommunications from NACTEL/Pace University, Jay decided to keep going-he could easily roll his credits into NACTEL’s B.S. in Telecommunications and didn’t have to worry about transferring to another school. He earned his B.S. in May 2011.

“When I started working, I figured I could get my next job without a degree, but after that, I knew I probably wouldn’t be promoted very easily,” said Jay.

He said his current position at TDS Communications requires a pretty high level of skill and earning his degree helped him get there. “I think my degree helped a lot in terms of getting into a new job,” he said. “On a personal level, you’re much better in an interview when you know you have the credentials to back it up.”

“In a job where I do lots of testing of data and systems, learning how to go to school and work at the same time really helped me organize my time,” Jay added. “And technically, it’s been very useful. The classes were directly related to things I need to know in my job.”

He noted that when he first started doing online education, there seemed to be fewer than 100 or so students actively taking classes, but now he says it appears to be about two to three times that number. “It seems to be moving in a positive direction,” he said.

Recently, Jay also earned the distinct honor of placing second in IBM’s 2010 Master the Mainframe Contest, in which he competed against more than 3,500 other contestants from over 400 schools across the U.S. and Canada, making this contest IBM’s biggest ever.

IBM’s website describes the contest in this way: “Today's mainframes are growing in popularity and require a new generation of mainframe experts. This contest is designed to equip students with basic skills to make them more competitive for jobs in the enterprise computing industry.”

Jay entered the contest because he wanted a challenge. “I like the challenge of having a project to do, and it’s really hard professionally to do that outside your job unless you have a good reason,” he said. “Being able to access the mainframe was what really got me interested.”

The skills Jay learned on-the-job definitely helped him in the contest, he said. “Because my job at the time involved watching network devices and fixing them, it meant a lot of problem solving—it was very helpful.”

“I also got really good at reading manuals at work, which helped in reading the IBM manuals I had to study for the contest,” Jay added.

He said the biggest challenge of the contest for him was that there was no one to bounce ideas off of, unlike his experience with the Pace/NACTEL online program. “With the online community at Pace, there’s always someone there you can talk to, whether they were classmates or professors,” he said.
“And you work with peers who are fairly technical, so they’ll call you on things you may have glossed over.”

“A non-technical skill I learned from getting my degree online that helped me in the contest was the determination to hang in there and get things done,” said Jay. “If you have a bad day, you don’t give up—you just dive back in tomorrow.”

Jay plans to continue his education with Pace University’s Master's in Internet Technology, because he’s interested in learning more about computer security and management.

His advice to anyone interested in pursuing any NACTEL/Pace online degree program is to make it one of their top couple priorities. “This isn’t something you can do when it’s convenient for you, but if you have motivation, there are lots of advantages over traditional education, especially if you have a schedule that requires flexibility. Just make it a priority.”

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