Path to IT job

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Jekyll, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. lawlercon

    lawlercon Senior member

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    I'm 23 and still sort of taking college. I'm mainly focusing on certifications. I got my A+ which landed my current job ($15 an hour) and I'm working towards my MCITP (and towards bachelors) which will quadruple my salary once I get that and the market gets better.

    IT isn't a bad job field, there are some downsides like it's easy to get out of shape, and you'll get sick of sitting on your ass all day. Get your A+ and maybe an internship for some experience. I hated my job for 3 years, but my supervisor just got fired and now I love it.

    The factors that make IT at an employee level stressful is shitty leadership and micromanagement.

    Good luck!
     


  2. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    Need some advice. Graduated high school a few years ago thinking I wanted to direct indie films. Since then I've pretty much just wasted my time dicking around, making a few short films, and taking community college classes. But...I think it's time to grow up. Odds are I'm not gonna be monetarily successful as a director. I'll probably finish my (worthless) associate's degree this fall, but I'm probably gonna put my bachelor's on hold for a few years.

    I'm thinking IT seems like a decent career, especially since a bachelor's doesn't seem to be required at the lower levels. I don't have any experience in the field beyond upgrading/troubleshooting my own PC, but I'm relatively smart and I learn fast.

    Here's my plan:

    1. Get A+
    2. Get repair tech or helpdesk job
    3. Get CCNA
    4. ?????
    5. Profit!

    Any suggestions? I've heard the A+ isn't worth much, but since I don't have any experience I'm hoping it'll at least get me in the door some place.


    IT, like any field, often sucks when you start out, but it's something you have to go through. Whether you're configuring ACLs on routers all day long or working at helpdesk, it's just no fun imo. Your goal is to get out of those positions as quickly as possible by distinguishing yourself, both with job performance and additional certification. If you are smart and a natural problem solver - and this is something a lot of people think they are, but actually aren't - and with a little bit of luck, you can advance pretty fast beyond the mundane. I'm at the point where I get to play with cool toys every day, have a big buffer between me and the end users, and have lots of autonomy, so my job satisfaction is really high now. It wasn't always so enjoyable.

    Figure out what you like as early as possible and start building skills in that area. Building a wide range of skills is good and has worked out well for me, but ultimately, you need to specialize if you want to make good money. Lots of IT generalists get stuck around 40-50k, even with some certs. Generalist jobs are rarely as good as the jobs you can get if you specialize. You will make half that in helpdesk. If you go to a univeristy, volunteer to do helpdesk and do your certs in your free time while you're there. If you're lucky, maybe the admins will give you experience on the network or servers and you will be way ahead when you graduate.

    Unless you work at a small company it will be hard to get experience in all areas. My advice is to invest some money into a couple switches, download dynamips and learn how to use it. Start doing your CCNA. You'll find out if you like it pretty fast. Even if you don't like it, finish it. The CCNA will be a big help landing that first job. So would an entry level MS certification. A+ on its own says you can repair a computer and know basic hardware stuff. You do need to learn the A+ stuff if you don't know it already otherwise you'll look like a moron down the road when someone expects you to know something and you don't. If you are more familiar with MS than linux, install linux at home and get used to it. Do as much from the command line as possible so that it's second nature. Install VMware server or ESXi (it's free) on your linux box. Make some windows server VMs and build a domain so that you can learn your MS stuff. You can virtualize almost everything. dynamips will emulate cisco routers but you need to buy a couple real switches off ebay to do labs in. almost everything else you can do in vmware.

    Security is a HUGE and demanding field in terms of the amount of knowledge you need to cram into your head and the amount of work it takes to keep up to date. You need to be solid on the network and server side, and understanding code won't hurt either. I started learning assembly because I want to start writing my own exploit code (and it's fun in a masochistic kinda way). If you want to do security and actually understand exploits, personally, I'd do a CS degree and not MIS (which is full of fluff courses and about as valuable as my classics degree imo). You'll actually learn a useful skill with a CS degree.

    As for compensation, it depends on your skillset and what kind of experience you get under your belt. There are network guys that make well over 100k/yr. The same is probably less true of MS guys unless they do SAN design or design work for really large corps. Routing & switching stuff is harder for most people. SAN experience, which you'd get by working as a systems admin (maybe), is worth lots of money because it's not a thing many people get experience in. Usually it's a senior guy that designs it and then nobody else touches it much. Point is, if you work hard, do your certs, and are really smart, you can earn six figs or at least high 5s. The average "IT guy" doesn't make that. Then again, neither does the average programmer or the average anything, really.
     


  3. tiecollector

    tiecollector Senior member

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    Focus on security and bleeding edge web technologies.
     


  4. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    Need some advice. Graduated high school a few years ago thinking I wanted to direct indie films. Since then I've pretty much just wasted my time dicking around, making a few short films, and taking community college classes. But...I think it's time to grow up. Odds are I'm not gonna be monetarily successful as a director. I'll probably finish my (worthless) associate's degree this fall, but I'm probably gonna put my bachelor's on hold for a few years.

    I'm thinking IT seems like a decent career, especially since a bachelor's doesn't seem to be required at the lower levels. I don't have any experience in the field beyond upgrading/troubleshooting my own PC, but I'm relatively smart and I learn fast.

    Here's my plan:

    1. Get A+
    2. Get repair tech or helpdesk job
    3. Get CCNA
    4. ?????
    5. Profit!

    Any suggestions? I've heard the A+ isn't worth much, but since I don't have any experience I'm hoping it'll at least get me in the door some place.


    IT, like any field, often sucks when you start out, but it's something you have to go through. Whether you're configuring ACLs on routers all day long or working at helpdesk, it's just no fun imo. Your goal is to get out of those positions as quickly as possible by distinguishing yourself, both with job performance and additional certification. If you are smart and a natural problem solver - and this is something a lot of people think they are, but actually aren't - and with a little bit of luck, you can advance pretty fast beyond the mundane. I'm at the point where I get to play with cool toys every day, have a big buffer between me and the end users, and have lots of autonomy, so my job satisfaction is really high now. It wasn't always so enjoyable.

    Figure out what you like as early as possible and start building skills in that area. Building a wide range of skills is good and has worked out well for me, but ultimately, you need to specialize if you want to make good money. Lots of IT generalists get stuck around 40-50k, even with some certs. Generalist jobs are rarely as good as the jobs you can get if you specialize. You will make half that in helpdesk. If you go to a univeristy, volunteer to do helpdesk and do your certs in your free time while you're there. If you're lucky, maybe the admins will give you experience on the network or servers and you will be way ahead when you graduate.

    Unless you work at a small company it will be hard to get experience in all areas. My advice is to invest some money into a couple switches, download dynamips and learn how to use it. Start doing your CCNA. You'll find out if you like it pretty fast. Even if you don't like it, finish it. The CCNA will be a big help landing that first job. So would an entry level MS certification. A+ on its own says you can repair a computer and know basic hardware stuff. You do need to learn the A+ stuff if you don't know it already otherwise you'll look like a moron down the road when someone expects you to know something and you don't. If you are more familiar with MS than linux, install linux at home and get used to it. Do as much from the command line as possible so that it's second nature. Install VMware server or ESXi (it's free) on your linux box. Make some windows server VMs and build a domain so that you can learn your MS stuff. You can virtualize almost everything. dynamips will emulate cisco routers but you need to buy a couple real switches off ebay to do labs in. almost everything else you can do in vmware.

    Security is a HUGE and demanding field in terms of the amount of knowledge you need to cram into your head and the amount of work it takes to keep up to date. You need to be solid on the network and server side, and understanding code won't hurt either. I started learning assembly because I want to start writing my own exploit code (and it's fun in a masochistic kinda way). If you want to do security and actually understand exploits, personally, I'd do a CS degree and not MIS (which is full of fluff courses and about as valuable as my classics degree imo). You'll actually learn a useful skill with a CS degree.

    As for compensation, it depends on your skillset and what kind of experience you get under your belt. Don't think you can complete your CCNA and start pulling down 75k just because a job survey says you can. There are network guys that make well over 100k/yr though. The same is probably less true of MS guys unless they do SAN design or design work for really large corps. Routing & switching stuff is harder for most people. SAN experience, which you'd get by working as a systems admin (maybe), is worth lots of money because it's not a thing many people get experience in. Usually it's a senior guy that designs it and then nobody else touches it much...

    Point is, if you work hard, do your certs, and are really smart, you can earn six figs or at least high 5s. The average "IT guy" doesn't make that though. Then again, neither does the average programmer or the average anything, really.
     


  5. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    Focus on security and bleeding edge web technologies.
    Most people probably lateral into security from either systems or network admin. As I said, you can't do that job without a solid grounding in both areas. If you want to fast-track here, join the air force (seriously).
     


  6. tiecollector

    tiecollector Senior member

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    Most people probably lateral into security from either systems or network admin. As I said, you can't do that job without a solid grounding in both areas. If you want to fast-track here, join the air force (seriously).

    Set your goal but focus on the path grasshopper. Yes, security is harder than it sounds.
     


  7. sho'nuff

    sho'nuff grrrrrrrr!!

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    IT, like any field, often sucks when you start out, but it's something you have to go through. Whether you're configuring ACLs on routers all day long or working at helpdesk, it's just no fun imo. Your goal is to get out of those positions as quickly as possible by distinguishing yourself, both with job performance and additional certification. If you are smart and a natural problem solver - and this is something a lot of people think they are, but actually aren't - and with a little bit of luck, you can advance pretty fast beyond the mundane. I'm at the point where I get to play with cool toys every day, have a big buffer between me and the end users, and have lots of autonomy, so my job satisfaction is really high now. It wasn't always so enjoyable.

    Figure out what you like as early as possible and start building skills in that area. Building a wide range of skills is good and has worked out well for me, but ultimately, you need to specialize if you want to make good money. Lots of IT generalists get stuck around 40-50k, even with some certs. Generalist jobs are rarely as good as the jobs you can get if you specialize. You will make half that in helpdesk. If you go to a univeristy, volunteer to do helpdesk and do your certs in your free time while you're there. If you're lucky, maybe the admins will give you experience on the network or servers and you will be way ahead when you graduate.

    Unless you work at a small company it will be hard to get experience in all areas. My advice is to invest some money into a couple switches, download dynamips and learn how to use it. Start doing your CCNA. You'll find out if you like it pretty fast. Even if you don't like it, finish it. The CCNA will be a big help landing that first job. So would an entry level MS certification. A+ on its own says you can repair a computer and know basic hardware stuff. You do need to learn the A+ stuff if you don't know it already otherwise you'll look like a moron down the road when someone expects you to know something and you don't. If you are more familiar with MS than linux, install linux at home and get used to it. Do as much from the command line as possible so that it's second nature. Install VMware server or ESXi (it's free) on your linux box. Make some windows server VMs and build a domain so that you can learn your MS stuff. You can virtualize almost everything. dynamips will emulate cisco routers but you need to buy a couple real switches off ebay to do labs in. almost everything else you can do in vmware.

    Security is a HUGE and demanding field in terms of the amount of knowledge you need to cram into your head and the amount of work it takes to keep up to date. You need to be solid on the network and server side, and understanding code won't hurt either. I started learning assembly because I want to start writing my own exploit code (and it's fun in a masochistic kinda way). If you want to do security and actually understand exploits, personally, I'd do a CS degree and not MIS (which is full of fluff courses and about as valuable as my classics degree imo). You'll actually learn a useful skill with a CS degree.

    As for compensation, it depends on your skillset and what kind of experience you get under your belt. Don't think you can complete your CCNA and start pulling down 75k just because a job survey says you can. There are network guys that make well over 100k/yr though. The same is probably less true of MS guys unless they do SAN design or design work for really large corps. Routing & switching stuff is harder for most people. SAN experience, which you'd get by working as a systems admin (maybe), is worth lots of money because it's not a thing many people get experience in. Usually it's a senior guy that designs it and then nobody else touches it much...

    Point is, if you work hard, do your certs, and are really smart, you can earn six figs or at least high 5s. The average "IT guy" doesn't make that though. Then again, neither does the average programmer or the average anything, really.


    GQGeek always puts the /thread to IT discussions.

    Twice.
     


  8. scientific

    scientific Senior member

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    do not put the school on hold better sooner than later
     


  9. Jekyll

    Jekyll Senior member

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    Thanks everybody, GQ especially.

    If you want to fast-track here, join the air force (seriously).

    Heh. I've actually been considering that.
     


  10. v0rtex

    v0rtex Senior member

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    Programming is saturated at the lower end, where you're basically a code-monkey. There's no real barrier to entry for programming - which means there's a lot of people who woke up one day and decided that they're programmers but 90% of them are terrible at it.

    There's also no best practices for the IT industry, so it's a case where you make whatever you can hustle. I know great IT guys getting paid $10 an hour because they're not business-savvy enough to negotiate more, and near-incompetents being paid $150 an hour because they form relationships with the right people, can present their proposals in the right way and have the balls to ask for it.

    I have friends in the industry who have specialized in particular database or web technologies who are pulling in 100k-150k in their mid-20s, even throughout the recession. I know a lucky one or two who did their own thing and sold out for small fortunes (and plenty more who tried and failed). Of course they work like dogs, but anything that pays that kind of money does - and if you asked them they'll tell you they don't really work, they're just doing what they love to do and getting paid for it.

    Computer repair is a dying field - we're shifting back to thin clients and the systems are essentially commodity black-boxes that can be thrown out and replaced when they break (like TV repair a few decades ago). Even networking is becoming something that is a commodity for larger and larger businesses (a few years ago, even a 2 or 3 person companies had a server/LAN. Now they can just plug into a broadband connection and do everything through Google Apps).

    The technologies I used 3 years ago are now mostly obsolete, and the ones I work on now will be obsolete in 3 years. However, most of the abstract concepts stay the same. Once you know how one programming language, network or operating system works you can pick up another very quickly.

    There will always be a demand for people who can select and implement technology where it can provide value to an organization.

    The tech requirements of a modern enterprise are only getting more complex and if you can be the guy who can understand and keep up with one aspect of it enough to describe it in plain English to a CEO, and then implement it so it provides value to your client's organization then you will have a very healthy career ahead of you.

    Like all fields, it demands passion to get anywhere. I was programming at the age of 9 and loved it. Every new project is a challenge and I love what I do. I work 80+ hours a week (but it rarely feels like work) and when I'm done I will play with new tech just because I enjoy the thrill of solving complex problems and being able to do it better than anyone else [​IMG]

    My own pathway from the age of 14 was working in a PC repair shop, intern at an ISP, running a UNIX shell provider for free to gain experience, doing compsci-related degree at university, worked at a few startups, freelance computer repair, freelance* developer, contracted at agencies, ran a small consulting* shop, got a full-time gig with my largest client for the health insurance and still consult.

    (Freelance = providing a technical skill to fill an immediate need, Consulting = building a relationship where you create value and solve problems before they occur. First is a commodity, latter is irreplacable.)
     


  11. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    I forget what it's called, but the air force runs a good tech school and you can get really good security training there. And if i'm not mistaken, they teach you offense too. And you'd get all your gov't security clearance out of the way. That's worth a lot of money in itself.

    I'm not sure what their selection criteria is but i imagine it's very competitive.
     


  12. MrMonkey

    MrMonkey Active Member

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    If you are set on joining IT, I would highly recommend steering away from programming unless (a) you're interested and (b) you have experience.

    It's a saturated market and guys from Asia would run laps around you for half the cost.


    I would suggest you getting into the IT Security side of things. To work your way there, you would probably have to start finding gigs related to "access provisioning" which is the area which grants/remove people's access to the network/applications.

    However, first line of matter is to get your Bachelor's degree. Don't listen to the fools who say it's worthless. They're not the people you want to emulate.


    I must protest against this comment... I was studying for a degree, and pretty much every interview I went for I was told 'degree - great, but it doesn't tell us what you can really do...'

    Now, 8 years on I am a senior consultant with a major international IT services provider (although have spend a good number of years as a free lancer), work on extremely key programmes and earn a fairly good wage, with great prospects. Obiously, earning less than freelancing, but your point about those who have out performed the education system is?
     


  13. deadly7

    deadly7 Senior member

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    I must protest against this comment... I was studying for a degree, and pretty much every interview I went for I was told 'degree - great, but it doesn't tell us what you can really do...'

    Now, 8 years on I am a senior consultant with a major international IT services provider (although have spend a good number of years as a free lancer), work on extremely key programmes and earn a fairly good wage, with great prospects. Obiously, earning less than freelancing, but your point about those who have out performed the education system is?


    His point is that you're lucky, not that you're the norm. Most kids that graduate with a CS degree can barely tell their ass from a line of C code, but are savvy enough to land decent jobs with good wages. Then you've got the smart people who made the most of their degree, know how to apply programming theory [or networking/sys-adming theory] and are making uber bank in a few years. But then you've also got the people that are both A: lazy/bad at CS and B: not driven to better their prospects.

    CS is very effort-based; if you slack off in school it can easily bite you in the ass if you have nothing to fall back on.
     


  14. bye4now122

    bye4now122 Senior member

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    Go to a college and join their IT program and take business courses with it, or do what I did and go for a Business degree with concentration in MIS (basically IT).
    Is there a solid job market for this? I'm going to school to do this exact thing, although I'm interested in web design and marketing I'm looking to start as a Business Analyst. I'm getting my B.S. in Informatics (newer-IT major, less programing and more applying technology) with a concentration/minor in Business (and a Spanish minor too) edit: And is there anything that I should learn on my own to help my chances or does the advice in this thread that seems to be more geared towards people looking into the security field still apply?
     


  15. deadly7

    deadly7 Senior member

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    Is there a solid job market for this? I'm going to school to do this exact thing, although I'm interested in web design and marketing I'm looking to start as a Business Analyst.

    I'm getting my B.S. in Informatics (newer-IT major, less programing and more applying technology) with a concentration/minor in Business (and a Spanish minor too)

    edit: And is there anything that I should learn on my own to help my chances or does the advice in this thread that seems to be more geared towards people looking into the security field still apply?


    Web design and marketing? Then why not pick a marketing/advertising major that suits your interest choice? If you want to be taken seriously, start building a portfolio. Look and see if your university hires/accepts students working on their websites. It looks killer coming out of college. Contact local small businesses and ask if they want to meet and discuss their website (free of charge, of course. never charge for the meeting when you're a no-name guy). Basically: get your hands dirty.
     


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