Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Breaking Into IT

Being the go-to geek in my family and, for the most part, my circle of friends puts me at the center of a few common questions. Usually, people are seeking advice on what hardware to purchase, my take on one piece of software, and even if I can assist in fixing some point-of-sale components (yes, you know who you are).

Recently I was asked a couple of solid questions by a friend regarding how to best break into IT when you are past primary rounds of education, willing to participate in adult education, and the thought of staying in your current position and/or industry just grosses you out. Our back-and-forth discussion, when read in whole afterwards, seemed like a great response to all of those that have asked or will ask again and with that in mind, I give you my take on this recurring theme.

So, what to study to get a job in IT; this is a tough one. Let me ask you this: are you sure that you want a career in IT? If so, what images are conjured up when you think about it? For instance, are you tearing down machines, running network cables through ceilings, furiously tapping away at a keyboard at 2 AM, or resizing images and playing with color palettes, or maybe overseeing the projects and maintaining schedules and specifications without getting your hands dirty?

IT, as you know, is such a diverse grouping of mini-occupations, much like healthcare, that it requires a little "getting to know me" time to figure out where the fit works or doesn't. Some of the subcategories include multimedia design, web development, web design, project management, software development, mobile development, network administration, systems administration, and the list goes on. Feeling a little excited about one or more subcategories can provide some hints and help you to try out some things you think you might like. Joining a local chapter of a developer association or professional group can get you networked with the right kind of individuals that are passionate about your desired path.

Remember that working in IT doesn't always seem so tech-heavy. For instance, this industry thrives by having people that translate concepts, both technical and organizational, into working models and holds people accountable to achieve their goals. Maybe this sounds like a good fit to you. If so, check into a local Project Management Institute (PMI) chapter and consider studying to become a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). These certifications provide great value to nearly any industry.

Look into local/community colleges; I strongly believe that most have solid programs that will get you there. They also tend to have great placement programs once you graduate or are ready to move on. That being said, you really will want to discover the thing(s) that you want to do before you get too far in or you will find yourself bored, frustrated, or - at a minimum - wasting your time and money.

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