Resilience, Determination, and the Power of a WGU Texas Degree
By the time he’d reached his late 20s, Jason Franklin had owned an IT company, taught Information Technology classes for a local computer training school, acquired various IT certifications, and had several enviable positions in network security and information technology. He appeared to be on a clear cut, fast track to a stellar career with the Department of Defense when doors starting closing. Opportunities were suddenly passing him by. Jason realized he had taken his career as far as he could without earning a degree.
“I liked taking courses I took several at the community college level, then at different universities over the years," he explains. "I didn’t see the need for a degree. I understood the need for education. I would learn a technology, pass an exam, and gain an industry recognized credential," he says. He was applying for one job he really wanted when it hit home. "I interviewed. I passed the written test with a perfect score. I took a grueling obstacle course and an integrated decision-making test and also scored really well," he recalls. "I sat down for the final part of the interview confident I was about to accept the job offer when the person interviewing me looked at my application and said: 'You’ve taken courses here and there, but you never committed to anything. You’ve never finished anything. You need a degree.”
Jason didn’t get the offer and continued to resist entering a formal degree program. He was able to take the Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) course through his position with the U.S. Navy and earned his MCSE in Security and Messaging, adding more certificates to his growing repertoire of credentials. Jason worked in classified computing environments. “I was running the whole network front to back and trying to prove I was someone they wanted to invest in. Absolutely everyone in the secured computing environment had a degree and my boss said I should consider one, too.”
So he started what he describes as an exhaustive search, comparing online options from across the country, and decided WGU was his best bet because of its competency-based model, and the certificates that he could earn as part of his degree program in the College of Information Technology. After he enrolled, Jason moved from the Navy to the Army, then transferred to Lackland Air Force Base, and WGU moved with him each step of the way.
"It’s one thing to take courses. It’s another to sustain the work for a bachelor’s degree,” he says “The most valuable lesson I learned during all of this was this: I CAN… I can do this work, I can transform myself.” Before long, he completed his B.S. in Information Technology Network Design and Management. Ever resilient and determined, Jason didn’t stop there. “It’s interesting…I got a promotion almost immediately. Then I found myself with the extra time I had spent studying while I was working on my degree, so I decided to reinvest in myself and went back and earned my M.S. Information Security and Assurance.”
With each degree came promotions and advanced job opportunities. Jason’s roles at Lackland AFB have included Information Assurance Officer, Trusted Agent Security Manager, VDI Desktop Manager, Wireless Spectrum Manager, Unit Software Licensing Manager, and Primary Server Administrator. "With the IT programs at WGU Texas you have the opportunity to earn certifications all along the way. It’s a lot less expensive than if I took each exam outside of the degree program,” he explains. “And through it all I moved, I changed jobs, life happened, and as long as I had an Internet connection I had WGU with me."
Today, Jason has bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as 22 relevant IT certifications. Jason knew he could do the work. The degrees prove it to his employers, and continue to put him in line for expanded opportunities. He’s currently vetting for another promotion with expanded duties and increased pay the extremely competitive U.S. Naval Reserve Officer Direct Commission Program (DCO). And beginning in May, Jason will be one of the first students to enroll in WGU Texas’ newest online master’s degree: the MS Information Technology Network Management.
Jason’s long-term plans are to earn a Ph.D. with a dissertation focused on cyber warfare. Not bad for a guy who didn’t want to take more than a class here, a class there a few years ago.
Jason shared his story during the launch ceremonies for WGU Texas last fall. You can watch his speech here.