Venezuelan consultant uses free time to study and volunteer

When it comes to staying on top of your game, studying for certification exams can be a hard-fought but rewarding battle. TechRepublic member Hernan Aviles shares his experiences.

Hernán Avilés calls his home of Caracas, Venezuela, a “crazy and lovely city.” Though he was born and educated in Chile, he is a Venezuelan citizen and has lived there for 27 years.

In Caracas, he works as an independent IT consultant and has used his technical skills in the past to help his fellow citizens in times of misfortune.

And after passing the Windows NT Workstation and NT Server exams, he developed a new hobby: studying to get certified. “My environment does not offer too much contact with the certification subjects (Windows NT, SQL Server, and Windows 2000), so I have a small network at home,” he wrote. “I prefer self-paced study; it does not interfere with my job.”

We talked with Avilés recently about his certification goals and his most rewarding IT project.

Vital Statistics
Name: Hernán Avilés Title: Independent consultant Location: Caracas, Venezuela Years in IT: 35 Education and certification: Systems engineer, M.B.A. Favorite TechRepublic feature: Hard to choose. I read them all. Hobbies: Family, traveling, cooking

TechRepublic: You mentioned that certifications are important to you. What certifications are you currently working on?
Avilés: I started the Windows NT 4.0 track in May 2000, with five exams approved. The last one was SQL 7.0 Administration with a score of 940 out of 1,000. I’m planning to become an MCSE within a month, if everything goes well. The next step is to get an MCDBA (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator) certification and after that, Microsoft Certified Trainer.

TechRepublic: How do you combine practice and study to pass the exams?
Avilés: No doubt that practice and study go together like a horse and carriage. The question is which is more important. My vote is for study. To understand [the technology], I need to assimilate and organize in my mind the general concepts, the structure, the essence of the issue. I recognize that practice helps me to memorize details; the Microsoft certification exams I take are full of them. But the answers to many of the detail questions can be [determined by] deducting from concepts.

TechRepublic: You also said it's difficult to find classes and training in your country. What are some of the best resources you've found on the Internet?
Avilés: I’ve found lots of tips and experiences, some of them reliable. I have to thank TechRepublic and Cramsession.

TechRepublic: What are the other challenges of working in IT in Venezuela?
Avilés: We have two industries (in Venezuela)—oil and the rest. I worked a few years freelance for the oil industry, which was very challenging and demanding. I decided to leave that because I did not have the infrastructure to attack large projects. In general, we follow the evolution of technology. Three or four good universities provide a large number of qualified people; plus, the influence of oil companies gives the country a very competitive position in Latin America. But the economy is depressed, even with the high prices of oil. This stops projects, and there are few opportunities, but we expect some improvement by the end of the year.

TechRepublic: Which technologies interest you most right now? Why?
Avilés: Databases and data warehousing. I feel that my experience and my academic background give me a reasonable base to produce good results in these areas.

TechRepublic: Many IT professionals in the United States say they have difficulty finding work once they reach their late 40s and early 50s because most companies hire younger workers because they don't have to pay them as much. Is the same true in Venezuela?
Avilés: It’s no problem. Knowledge before age—this criterion applies to all areas around here. I have worked the last 15 years freelance.

TechRepublic: Please talk a little about your most interesting IT project.
Avilés: Last December, the country suffered its worst tragedy in history. Three days of heavy rain produced landslides that killed approximately 30,000 people. It was an unexpected phenomena, because the rainy season was over. Everybody tried to help. Local TV stations presented dramatic short interviews of people in shelters saying, “This is my name; I am here.” That gave me the idea to provide a sort of location service, where people could register the same information as on TV. If somebody was looking for a person, we could give the location or keep the record to call back if we had any news. I offered the idea to one of my clients who has a call center service. Within a day, we had an SQL Server 6.5 database application running with 16 stations to answer more than 12,000 calls during 10 days, 18 hours per day. The tragedy is that we were only able to locate 500 people, but as my client’s teenage daughter said, “Just one is worth the effort.”

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox