As a member of the Executive Advisory Board who has worked as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) since before the 2003 overhaul of the CompTIA A+ certification, Ryan Frillman has influenced almost every important exam current certification holders have taken. But if you were to ask him, Ryan would put his work in a more humble perspective: he’s just fulfilling his lifelong love of computers and community service. When not lending his experience to CompTIA, Frillman works at St. Louis-based Laclede Group as the director of information security and compliance. With previous work experience in the Department of Defense, it’s safe to say that Frillman has made security his business. Having worked in that high-pressure environment, Ryan knows how important it is for any new employee to have the best training available.
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After earning his undergraduate degree in computer science, Ryan got his first post-college IT job as a networking technician at a nearby community college. When the opportunity to start teaching courses at that college opened up, Ryan took it – even if he was younger than a typical professor.
As a 24-year-old instructor, Ryan struggled to earn credibility with his students, who were sometimes decades his senior. He recalls students affectionately referring to him as a “young pup.” But by the end of the course, Ryan’s personalized practical approach to IT instruction resulted in many people advancing their careers. Even today, years removed from his teaching days, Ryan’s leadership has resulted in colleagues rising above even him in the ranks. While some would consider that a shot to the ego, Ryan loves playing such a role in others’ success stories.
“I always want to see an employee reach above me and do what they want to do,” Ryan said. “It’s a great experience to have someone bypass you.”
Ryan looked into becoming a development SME after taking a CompTIA certification exam and seeing room for improvement. Not content to just accept his certification and move on with his career, he sought a more hands-on solution. He reached out to CompTIA with his suggestions and was soon brought on to turn those ideas into reality—in the form of new and improved certification exams.
As a SME, Ryan lends more than basic technical direction to certification exams. He adds his own job experiences to the knowledge pool. During his time as a volunteer, the tests have advanced beyond what he considered outdated and out-of-touch to a more well-rounded assessment that covers the needs of an ever-evolving industry. One of his goals when shaping new industry standards: an emphasis on customer service.
“Even if you’re self-employed or working in a corporation, if [customers] don’t exist, [IT professionals] technically wouldn’t exist.” Ryan compares the stereotype of the surly technical support representative to Nick Burns, the impatient Saturday Night Live character who would bark “MOVE!” to coworkers who report computer problems. His hope is that real-life coworkers and bosses stop thinking of the stereotype and start seeing tech support staff as friends and colleagues who are always happy to help. So, even in cases when CompTIA certification exams can’t cover communication and other soft skills, Ryan wants to make them points of emphasis for anybody looking to enter the business.
Learning from Others
Ryan welcomes any and all professionals who would like to lend their time to become a CompTIA SME. He believes a larger volunteer pool can only help the industry. To get the most out of the experience, though, Ryan advices prospective SMEs to be willing to take in as much information as they give.
“When you participate in these events, treat it like a learning experience,” he said. “That’s what we’re all here for.” Ryan enjoys seeing SMEs bounce ideas off each other, considering it a chance for everyone in the room to grow together.
Ryan has become a valued SME by approaching his volunteer work the same way he approaches everything in IT; with an active zeal for learning and teaching where there’s no room for arrogance or complacency. With that attitude, Ryan can see nothing but great things for the next wave of exams.