Graduate Profile: Jay Patel

Jay Patel

MS Information Security and Assurance
WGU Texas Course Mentor

Though his early career path had him working as a land surveyor in California and Arizona, these days Jay surveys the career landscape of the IT sector and finds it a fitting place for someone with motivation and aspirations to learn and earn. The business owner and former system administrator earned his master’s degree in IT with WGU, and has joined the WGU Texas team as a course mentor.

Originally from India, Jay came to the states when he was 15 and grew up in Monterey, California, where extended family owned most of the hotels in the coastal resort. Jay decided early he didn’t want to move into the family business, and found his first profession in surveying, practicing under several surveyors before earning his land surveyors license with the board of engineers in California and Arizona. “It was a great salary for a 21-year-old, and the work was interesting.” Yet, while surveying was his profession, information technology and networking were his passion. In 2004 a friend of a friend called and asked Jay if he could revamp the entire network system at their private school. “At first I was hesitant, I had a lot of book knowledge but not much work experience,” he says. He had taken the core Microsoft exams and earned his MCSE the year prior, and had been working on servers whenever the opportunity arose. The school project gave him the experience and exposure he needed, and in 2005 he opened (with WGU alumnus Jason Franklin) Enterprise Admins. The company provides small and midsize businesses with outsourced and supplemental solutions for complex IT projects or a complete IT solution. Clientele quickly grew.

Realizing he needed additional education credentials Jay took courses at Hartnell Community College and Cal State Hayward, and ultimately enrolled in a bachelor’s program with a for-profit online provider. “I wanted to stay in Monterey and there weren’t any choices there for state universities. The concern with the for-profit was the debt a student acquires at about $3,000 a course,” Jay said. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree and was accepted into an MBA program at Pepperdine. The inability to work remotely had him leave Pepperdine when he moved to Texas in 2006.

Though he and Jason still owned Enterprise Admins, they managed it remotely, and hired key personnel to tend to the day-to-day operations in the field. This freed Jay up to work full time in Austin’s robust IT sector. Increasingly adept and versatile, Jay served as system administrator for a local company keeping their Window’s domain, numerous servers, and web applications up and running smoothly while also managing the company’s workstations, software licenses, the corporate wiki, and issue tracker.

“My partner Jason was visiting me from San Antonio one day and showing me the list of online colleges he was researching for a bachelor’s degree program. I told him to pay attention to accreditation, program content, certifications — are they relevant, and of course after the debt I acquired with my undergraduate degree, cost,” explained Jay. “We looked at WGU and thought, that’s a good fit.”

“I thought about it a lot as Jason did his undergraduate coursework. I know education is important, and in my field it’s critical. As a network person I have to have the certifications in addition to the degree credential. WGU is made for working adults — it’s made for self motivated people who have the drive and want to further their careers.” He applied to WGU and began work on a master’s degree in IT. He speaks about the profile of a working adult in the IT sector. “We have to be able to accelerate the studies. We don’t want to hear about attendance policies, and we don’t want to sit in class listening to something we could be teaching,” he explains. He defines his student experience as ‘very fluid’ and commends both his student mentor who stayed with him each step of the way, as well as the course mentors who served as subject matter experts in the courses.

“With WGU, the student is in the driver’s seat. They let me prove I can do this, and then let me move forward. That’s what attracted me — I could get it done.” And that he did, for about $12,000. Jay earned his Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance in July 2011. He also has the following certifications: Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), Disaster Recovery Professionals (EDRP), Project Management Professional (PMP), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Cisco, Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) Microsoft Corporation, CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Network+. While at commencement ceremonies he visited with the president of WGU and the director for faculty mentors. His ambition, intellect, and drive sparked their interest. “They visited with me for more than an hour, then told me they wanted me on the WGU team.” They offered him a position in the College of Information Technology.

Jay hadn’t planned on crossing the stage from student to teacher, but the notion appealed to him. “The experience I had as a student helps me as a course mentor — it’s one of the positives I can bring to the table. I’m happy at WGU Texas. I’m working with students who, like me, want to accelerate through the material they know, but have someone with expertise there to help if they hit a topic they haven’t mastered. I like helping students succeed.” His goal is to progress within the university. “I want to take on special projects, gain insights, develop my skills and continue to move up,” he says. “I’m very excited about WGU Texas. The potential is great.”

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