Justin Durrant would seem to have life figured out. He’s 35, lives in the Minneapolis area, and has a high-powered job with Best Buy, leading that company’s migration from legacy Microsoft Windows 2003 servers to Windows Server 2012. In his spare time he enjoys playing Forza 5 on Xbox.

But by Justin’s own admission, his life could have turned out very differently. “I just didn’t have a real stable childhood,” he says. “I was causing a lot of trouble in my teenage years – a lot more than most people.” He liked to learn, and was a good student. But his penchant for getting into trouble took him off track. Two months into eighth grade, he quit school.

Justin DurrantLooking back, Justin thinks that could have led to serious trouble. Fortunately, he was able to turn things around. It took a while, as he bounced between homes of friends and family members. At 16, though, he met a young woman whom he later would marry. He realized that if he was to create a stable life for the two of them, he had to develop a career.

In 1997 he and his wife were living in Reno, Nev. with her grandparents. One day, the two made a trip to a local big-box store, where they came across a Hewlett-Packard desktop PC running Microsoft Windows 95. They bought it.

“I was just enthralled with it,” Justin recalls. “I remember taking it out of the box – I think it had a 200-megabyte hard drive – and then I spent hours and days tinkering with it. I got it online, which back then happened with an AOL disk. Pretty soon I ran out of free hours and had to subscribe.”

Inspired by his new PC, Justin decided a career in technology was for him. He moved back to Minneapolis and enrolled in Globe College, where he earned a two-year degree in networking. During that time he also found his first tech-related job: A work-study gig at a community college, providing students with support for printing, email, access to floppy disks and more.

At about the same time Justin also earned his first Microsoft certification, an MCSA certification for Windows 2000 Server. And he soon had moved up the tech ladder to bigger things, in 2002 landing a position with Adaptec, where he maintained several Windows NT/2000 based servers and designed and maintained disaster recovery and backup strategies.

Since then, Justin has been a certification machine, keeping up with Windows Server through 2003 and 2008, and now on the cloud-based 2012 version. He’s also earned certificates in areas such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook, and others.

In his current role as infrastructure engineer for Best Buy, he is handling tasks such as providing operational support for Windows 2003/2008/2012 servers, and managing a migration from Exchange 2007 to Microsoft Office 365.

“The springboard for my entire career has been that first Windows Server certification,” he says. “I’ve found more value in certifications than anything from college.”

Justin especially likes taking the free online training from Microsoft Virtual Academy. “A lot of those classes are self-paced, which is how I learn best,” he says. “You can dig deeper than in instructor-based courses, which usually are more structured.”

One thing Justin hopes to see is more emphasis on simulation-based exams, in which participants are asked to actually build a sample product or demonstration.

Writing for the “Success Stories” page of Microsoft Learning, Justin is clear on the role tech and Microsoft Certifications have played in his life. “I look back on how my path could have had a very different outcome. I am thankful to be doing what I love and keeping myself marketable with Microsoft Certifications.”

Thanks for letting us tell your story, Justin. We know there are more great stories out there about the power of training and certification. What’s yours? Go to our Born To Learn Success Stories page and tell us!

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