Sana’a Qaiser had only been in Washington, D.C., for a week on her first visit to the U.S. and she had already begun to start to feel at home. A rising senior at Kuwait’s Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), where she studies information systems, she took advantage of the school’s summer semester abroad and attended classes at George Washington University, while availing herself of the myriad exciting new cultural experiences a major U.S. city has to offer. She arrived from Kuwait just in time for the Fourth of July.
Qaiser is an enthusiastic explorer, always happy to share a laugh with a stranger. She also has a keen sense of observation. She has noted some unexpected similarities between D.C. and places she has lived in the past – the city’s greenery and summer rain strike her as not all that far off from what she has seen in her familial home of Abottabad, Pakistan. She brings both her enthusiasm and her perceptiveness to everything she does, including her pursuit of IT – a pursuit in which CompTIA certification plays an important role.
When Qaiser began at GUST, she had no specific area of education in mind. She had intended to study medicine in Pakistan, but reconsidered. Returning to Kuwait, she was driven by one personal goal; to learn as much as possible, no matter what she studied. As she began her study of information systems at GUST, learn she did, and she felt an immediate attraction to the systematic sort of thinking that IT demands.
“One of the things I really like about information systems and the whole IT field is that people who work in this this field are supposed to operate with a very logical mindset,” Qaiser said. “I would like to have that logical mindset! For me that’s the main attraction right now.”
It is clear from Qaiser’s achievements that the rigorous thought process of an IT professional suits her very well. In 2014, Kuwait’s Skills Testing and Exams for Professionals and Students (STEPS) testing center held its Student’s ICT Challenge. The challenge allowed students from various Kuwaiti universities to both try their hands at a range of exams for IT credentials with international heft and to compete with each other on the basis of score. The instructors and administrators at GUST are no strangers to the importance of CompTIA certification, as the institution has received a Special Encouragement Award from CompTIA for its work promoting certs. While taking a class on databases, Qaiser’s professor suggested she enter the contest.
Qaiser, already aware of just how big an impact a CompTIA certification could have on a career, took on the challenge.
“One of the things I knew about the CompTIA certifications was that they were a stepping stone to taking other certification exams in the IT field, which all add up to your knowledge while making your resume look attractive,” Qaiser said. “This was the main appeal for me, and I know that many people [in Kuwait] actually opt for certifications such as CompTIA and others prior to entering the workforce so that they are better prepared to be working in the IT sector.”
Qaiser took the exams and won an award for CompTIA Network+. So as she continues her education in information systems, she already carries an important CompTIA certification.
While her course-load this summer at George Washington University isn’t IT-heavy, Qaiser has continued to build her skills in all areas of IT, from networks to databases and beyond. She has learned C++, Java and HTML 5, employing that rigorously logical mindset she enjoys so much. Her professors have even suggested a master’s degree in computer engineering as a potential next step. But for Qaiser it’s still the learning itself, not the specific topic, that she finds most important.
“I enjoy learning,” Qaiser said. “It’s all part of the process. I wouldn’t say I enjoy some things particularly over others – at the end of the day I’m learning something about myself.”
Qaiser finds that continuing to pursue CompTIA certifications dovetails not just with her professional goals, but with that love of learning.
“One of the good things about taking the CompTIA certifications is that it is a commitment to keep building up on your knowledge over time,” said Qaiser. “So, I would definitely be looking forward to updating my knowledge in the areas that I have already covered.”
But CompTIA certifications may also offer Qaiser an opportunity to further focus her interests in the IT field.
“After taking the certifications, I felt motivated to take more certifications in the IT field because they can be invaluable in proving your knowledge to other people, especially prospective employers,” Qaiser said. “I definitely felt like I wanted to work on choosing a particular area of concentration in which to get certified and then building on from there.”
Just as learning and logic are important to Qaiser, so are art and creativity. When she is not studying she is out and about, documenting things through images. She has conversations, serious and silly, as she learns professionally and personally. She has plenty to explore, observe, photograph and learn in D.C. As she continues her adventure, Qaiser has started to notice that it is more than just the weather that feels familiar. “I mean, it doesn’t seem foreign at all,” Qaiser said. “In a way I think it should be a bit concerning because come on, this is my first trip here – it should be a little bit foreign, right? But it’s not for some reason. It seems very natural.”
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.