ITPA awarded its first Certified Practising Member (CPM) status late last year just weeks after launching the sanctioned skills verification system which will serve to encourage ongoing professional development and improve career advancement for members.

Jonathan Crust, a 42-year-old Senior Service Desk Analyst at Bendigo TAFE in Central Victoria earned the distinction of being the first ITPA member to be awarded CPM status under the new program.

Early adopter

Jon said that he has been a techno freak since when, as a six-year-old, he was given a Dick Smith Wizard gaming console for Christmas in the early 1980s.

“I spent more time with the basic programming cartridge in the machine than I did gaming,” Crust said. “I ended up saving some of the stuff that I’d written to an audio tape drive and that all started a life-long fascination with computers.

“I was fortunate enough to go to a private school where they were just starting to introduce computers … I remember using BBC Micro Bee computers when I was in the 4th grade. By the time I reached year 10, we had a computer lab where I was introduced to Apple Macs and I did computer science in year 11 as an HSC subject in NSW.

“I have never looked back from there.”

Crust said that about the same time he got his first IBM compatible PC at home and he fondly remembers the progress (and limitations) of computers through that era where he had owned and used a Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Amiga 500 and an Amiga 2000 which had an expansion card in it to run IBM software.

“I can remember that I put a ‘hard card’ into that system which had a whopping 20MB hard drive in it,” he said. “I partitioned it down the middle so it was 10MB for the IBM side and 10MB for the Amiga side.

“When I went to the Amiga user group that I belonged to at the time, some of my fellow members scoffed that it was overkill and that I’d never fill it up.”

Converting passion into a career

Crust says he was always going to convert that passion for computers into a career and that started when he started learning more from a friend who was into repairing computers.

“In those days, it was cheaper to de-solder components and replace them than it was to replace the whole mother-board so I spent a lot of time with him getting to understand the internals of computers,” Crust said. “I was also fiddling with basic software coding at the same time but I was most interested in the how the hardware components worked, what they did and how they integrated with other components

“I gained great satisfaction from understanding where things were breaking down and then knowing how to fix them.”

About the same time, he started building computers and ‘hot-rodding’ systems so that they could run faster, jump further and do more which eventually led to solving problems for friends and family and then friends and family of friends and family.

There’s gold in them thar hills

So, as the proliferation of PCs grew in business and the home, Jon realised that he could earn a little money lending a hand to those less literate in the workings of computers so he started charging people.

Before he knew it he was flat out doing just that and almost earning a good living. However, he also had in the back of his mind that this was too much fun and that he had better get 'a real job'.

“I then decided to learn a trade in the Australian Army and signed up as a carpenter and joiner apprentice before being assigned to an engineering unit,” he said. “I was trained as a combat and field construction engineer but computers were always my passion and I was always there whenever there was a problem with the computers.

“It was pretty cool because Defence personnel always had access to the latest technologies and they would often grab me to help them out because I knew what I was doing.

When I was posted to remote bases or on long detachments, I was invariably the one that helped them set up the computers, ensure that they could keep them working and that all of the communication systems were in order.”

At about the same time he started doing regular work for a couple of businesses on the side but, as he was still enlisted, it was on an ad-hoc basis.

When he was medically discharged after suffering a serious knee injury in Timor, part of his resettlement training included enrolling for some formal computer training which ended up landing him with Microsoft Certified Engineer status.

Taking it to the next level

When one of his ad-hoc past clients said that business was booming and he needed IT services on a more regular, contract basis he immediately registered his business name, got an ABN and started his own business.

JonTek IT was born and he spent the next 11 years delivering IT services to “Mum and Dad” home and small business customers building, maintaining and repairing their networks and systems.

In 2010 he got married and a lifestyle decision was made to move to Bendigo where he and his wife wanted to raise a family.

“I was over the rat-race of Sydney and my wife’s family was from central Victoria so it made sense to move,” Crust said. “I thought about starting my business again in Bendigo but there was already a well-entrenched IT services community in place and, in the end, I didn’t want to take on the competition and start all over again.”

Jon then hooked up with a local IT guy for six months before getting a casual job with Data#3 on a help desk. It was the foot in the door that has led to the career path he is now on. A full-time job with Campaspe Asset Management Services who did IT support and service management for the local water authority and then when that client took its IT back in-house he found himself working for the utility.

Purifying the stagnant water

After a few years with the Water Authority, Jon realised that his career trajectory had stagnated somewhat and his workloads were soaring so he left for a different role as a Telecommunications Support Officer for the Loddon Mallee Rural Health Alliance in Bendigo for six months. Jon then found a new role with the Bendigo TAFE as their Senior Service Desk Analyst.

He also began extending his knowledge by studying online through IT Masters and racked up several short courses before starting to pursue a Masters Degree with Charles Sturt University (CSU).

Light bulb moment: I am an IT professional

Jon then heard about ITPA through CSU communication channels and decided to join straight away. He is actually one of the first new financial members of the organisation that was not transitioned from SAGE-AU.

“I joined the online launch and webinar and within five minutes of that finishing, I had signed up as a member,” he said. “I was impressed with their direction and it looked like a good thing to be involved with.

“After reading about the CPM program, I saw there was a possibility of qualifying as a certified practising member based on the IT Masters/CSU studies I had completed this year in business analytics and digital forensics, so I signed up for the ITPA VMWare Master class.”

This meant that he had met all of the criteria and which, upon application to ITPA, subsequently led to him being granted the first ITPA CPM status.

“I joined ITPA as a financial member as soon as I heard about it last year because I thought the CPM program was a great way to advance my career and move up the corporate ladder,” Crust said.

“What it does is prove to my current employer and any future prospective employers that I am committed to ongoing professional development through learning new skills that are in demand from the industry.

“Being the first to qualify is a bonus and I genuinely believe that this certification scheme will grow dramatically over the coming years. I see it as a long-term benefit to my career development and I will be keeping up the certification.

“By the time I am able to take the next step in my career - after completing the Masters degree in a couple of years’ time - I expect that the ITPA will have a lot more traction and that status will be useful to have next to my name.

“As an IT professional, the value will be in being able to demonstrate to employers that I have made a long-term commitment to skills development year-on-year. It will show that I have kept up with evolving industry standards, best practice and new technologies which will help when employers are short-listing candidates for more senior roles.

“I think it is a no-brainer. All members should consider becoming CPMs.”

See the CPM section of the ITPA website for more details about the CPM program including a list of upcoming courses.