My MOS Certification: External Achievements, Internal Growth

Ryan Catalfu is no stranger to certification. Over the course of his high school career, Ryan was able to earn 20 industry certifications, in both Microsoft and Adobe technologies. It should come as no surprise that Ryan has excelled in technology; he is now a junior at North Carolina State University, studying computer science, with a minor in environmental science. But for Ryan, it’s not just about another skill listed on his resume; it’s about the internal growth. Read below to find out more about Ryan’s life-changing journey with certification.

Certiport: Ryan, we are so thrilled to be able to catch-up with you. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen you at the MOS World Championship. So much has changed!

Ryan: It has been a long time, and I’m so happy you reached out.

Certiport: Now, let’s start from the beginning, for those who don’t know your story.

Ryan: Absolutely! I first became involved in certifications in high school. I was taking a Microsoft class where I had the opportunity to become certified. I had also been spending a lot of time with a teacher who was teaching one of the other Microsoft classes, and she suggested I try taking a test. I took my first certification in Outlook. After my first certification, I was hooked! I loved the tests, and thought it was great to be able to earn industry-recognized credentials! I quickly made it a goal to earn as many certifications as possible! Certifications also led me to the MOS Championship, and as they say, the rest is history!

Certiport: History indeed. How many years did you compete in the MOS Championship?

Ryan: I competed in the MOS U.S. National Championship for three years (2015, 2016, and 2017), and was able to make it to the MOS World Championship to represent the United States for two years (2015 and 2016). On my third year, although I didn’t attend as a competitor, I was invited to come as a Certiport student ambassador, which was an amazing experience.

Certiport: What was your favorite memory from the competitions?

Ryan: It’s hard for me to pick just one favorite memory from the competitions! I had so many amazing experiences! Overall, the feelings of excitement, acceptance, and supportiveness were what I took away the most. My interactions with competitors from around the world, how kind everyone was to each other, and how much we wanted to learn about one another, were all incredible.

Some of my favorite moments were hearing my name called for first place at the 2015 MOS US National Championship, bonding with Team USA at the 2016 MOS World Championship, and delivering my speech at the 2017 MOS World Championship. Being a student ambassador was the highlight of my involvement with the competitions. Hearing all the ways people could relate to what I had to say was so empowering for me.

Ryan Speaking at the MOS World Championship

Certiport: And empowering for other students as well! We know other students who mentioned just how much they were touched by what you shared. We’re so grateful that you had the opportunity to share your story.

Ryan: Me too! I cannot express how much I was able to grow throughout my three-year involvement.

I interacted with people from all over the world. This alone was life-changing for me. I started as a reserved 15-year-old who was not comfortable in social settings, and three years later I was on stage speaking in front of hundreds of competitors and Certiport partners from all over the world. I am not diminishing the impact certifications have had on my educational and career path, but I will always be most appreciative of the internal growth that began with my first exam.

Certiport: The confidence that comes with certification is beyond valuable, and we’re so glad you’ve grown in confidence through the years. Do you feel that this confidence has helped you in your professional pursuits?

Ryan: Definitely. Both socially and professionally I have become more confident and have a better sense of just how much I can achieve when I set a goal for myself. Overall, certifications and the competitions have helped me to achieve many goals. I believe that they helped me to stand out and were a deciding factor in my acceptance into the NC State College of Engineering.

Listing certifications on my resume has also drawn attention from recruiters and HR representatives. The certifications represent skills and knowledge that I possess, and the competitions show my work ethic and drive. Having them on my resume is a great ice breaker in interviews.

Certiport: You actually landed an internship recently, correct?

Ryan: Yes! This past summer I spent three months as a Software Testing Technical Intern at SAS, a major analytics and technology company headquartered in Cary, North Carolina.

As part of my internship, I created UI automated tests and keywords for the SAS Viya Applications. I also wrote a Groovy post-build script for Jenkins which converted and combined XML files and HTML pages, generating a unique HTML report summarizing test results.

In addition to working with my team, I was able to participate in numerous intern events, meet and become friends with new people, and learn valuable skills! I volunteered at a food bank, learned SAS Programming, participated in a beta lab to test a new version of SAS Studio, and took part in the first Data for Good Hackathon at SAS, where I worked with a team to analyze and present on United Nations Sustainable Development Goal data. I even had the opportunity to meet and speak with Dr. Goodnight! I participated in the 2019 SAS Intern Expo, where I showcased the work I completed in my time at SAS.

It was such an amazing experience, and I know it wouldn’t have been possible without the confidence I gained through certification.

Certiport: That’s quite a busy summer! Do you plan to pursue a similar field after you graduate?

Ryan: Since I have so many interests, I am still unsure of my exact career path once I graduate college. I definitely plan to work in the field of technology in some form. I am very passionate about the environment, along with the importance of education, so I feel that I will try to combine many of my interests into my career. My next job will be with Microsoft! A recruiter from Microsoft reached out to me about a summer internship, and after a phone interview, I was invited to Microsoft Headquarters for in-person interviews! After four hours of technical interviews, I was offered the position! I will be working in the Cloud and AI organization. I’m really excited for such an awesome opportunity.

Certiport: Wow! Congratulations! You’ll be such a fantastic addition to the Microsoft team.

Ryan: Thank you so much. I’m crossing my fingers that it all goes well. I am really excited - I have always wanted to see Microsoft headquarters in Redmond.

Certiport: Taking over from east to west coast! Ryan, your story is so inspiring. Do you have any advice to share with other students?

Ryan: I would encourage students to take the opportunity to get as many certifications as they can. Also, to not let obstacles get in the way of accomplishing their goals. If they put their mind to it and believe in themselves, anything is possible.

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