Andrew Sonon was sure of two things: He wanted to work with computers and he wasn't interested in earning a four-year degree to get there. He landed a job in IT support and about three years ago, the 31-year-old started his own business, HonIsT Solutions in Reading, Pennsylvania.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I started off as an IT support specialist and have worked my way up to being a systems engineer in the 11 years that I have been in the field. I founded a managed service provider business called HonIsT Solutions (pronounced: Honest Solutions) three years ago that provides IT support to small- and medium-sized businesses.
Why did you get into IT support?
I always had an interest in computers from a very young age. I attended Berks Career and Technology Center in high school for computer programming. I tried to pursue programming in college, but I realized that programming wasn’t for me. It was not a fit for my personality. I decided I wanted to stick with computers but get into the computer networking side of the IT world. That led me to enrolling at Berks Technical Institute (BTI) in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, where I studied internet/network engineering for two years. I earned my associate degree and completed a couple of industry certifications while I was there. I landed my first IT job before I even graduated. At BTI, I discovered that computer networking fit my personality better because of the direct interaction with people. That’s more fulfilling to me than being a programmer and only interacting with a computer all day. Helping people and making them happy brings a lot of joy and satisfaction to my job.
And did you always want to do this?
I always wanted to work with computers. But I never wanted to pursue a four-year college degree because I did not want to spend time in classes studying subjects that did not apply to my career. I went on a journey, tried different things and finally found a career that’s right for me. Berks Technical Institute is what launched my career. It completely set up my life. The Career Services Department at BTI actually helped me find my first job by sharing my resume with local businesses.
What does a typical day look like for an IT support specialist?
I’m up at 6 a.m. and I check my emails to see if there are any network or server alerts. If not, I connect with my team around 8 a.m. We usually start about 9 a.m. executing the day’s assignments, usually project work or help requests from clients. We normally work the same business hours as our clients, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sometimes, there is after-hours work, such as server maintenance, that we can’t do during our clients’ business hours.
What do you like most about being an IT support specialist?
I like that I was able to go to school for two years at a reasonable rate, learn skills that made me highly sought after and now have the opportunity to work wherever I want. Nearly everyone in the world works with computers and needs expertise because IT is constantly changing. It’s an exciting field. What we do enables businesses to work. If we don't do our job, our clients can’t do their jobs.
It’s frustrating sometimes when clients hire us for our expertise and don’t take our recommendations until there is a problem. Don’t learn the hard way!
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
People generally do not understand the depth or scope of what we do. To try and tie this to something recently relevant, IT enabled the world to continue working during the health crisis. We helped businesses continue to operate remotely and employees to work safely and securely from home. We are the frontline workers of the business world.
What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?
I didn’t fully understand how many things in business relied on IT. It’s not just servers and computers. There are specific policies and regulations that apply to certain businesses that you must know about. For instance, when working with a medical client, you have to understand the regulations about keeping patient data secure. IT is not cookie-cutter. You have to study up and understand your clients’ businesses to serve them best.
What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for being an IT support specialist?
You have to be able to relate to other people and have empathy for what someone is going through. You have to be a good listener and ask deeper questions because a person may not know how to explain the problem. I always try to keep the 3 P’s in mind: Perseverance, to continue through an issue; Passion, to have the will and joy of solving problems; and Patience – because nothing happens quickly.
Is there a time where you felt your job made a real impact on someone’s life?
Owning a business and giving my employees job fulfillment and peace of mind. By creating a culture and workplace where people are valued, where their ideas are considered and often implemented and a place where they can grow and learn. All of this creates an atmosphere that is fulfilling and engaging. This in turn then leads to an enriched personal life and as a whole a much happier human being in and out of work.
Can you describe one particular moment or day on the job that gave you real satisfaction?
I love it when small- and medium-sized business owners/operators take me on a tour of their plants or offices. It’s like I’m living a “how-it’s-made” TV show. I love seeing what goes on behind the scenes, how they operate their business and do what they do. I get to really dive into what they do, what pain they are facing and then can recommend custom solutions to help them and their team work more efficiently.