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Old 02-24-2014, 07:03 PM
 
76 posts, read 194,817 times
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I have a question regarding getting a job in IT for a beginner.

First off, I'm not a newbie to computers. I'm a child of the 80's and computers, both Windows and Mac, have always been a huge part of my life. It's hard for me to put a label on myself on what my skill level is for computers but I definitely know the basics and have helped several people set up some simple stuff. I am by no means an engineer or a programmer but I am thinking about switching careers and moving into IT. Yes, that's incredibly broad but my question is this:

What career path or paths should I explore for someone thinking about getting into IT? Is there a specific field within IT that seems to lend itself well to folks like me?

Any information would be extremely helpful. Thanks very much!
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Old 02-24-2014, 07:25 PM
 
Location: Tyler, TX
15,209 posts, read 18,486,202 times
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Pick a specialty early, and learn everything you can about it. You can no longer be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type in the current IT environment.

If you want to write software, start with whatever language fits you best. If you want to do hardware, pick a niche (networking/security, high end servers, etc) and get your certs. Software, same thing - pick your specialty and run with it.

My suggestion - DBAs are getting big bucks, and who knows - maybe you'll end up with a sweet gig at the NSA!
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Old 02-28-2014, 12:02 PM
 
Location: Reno
843 posts, read 1,875,807 times
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I.T. is HUGE realm. I would recommend you start taking courses in a wide range of things, find something you are good at and dig in. HOWEVER, a lot of this type of work isn't for everyone.. no matter what ITT/Devry and even many universities (which are becoming paper mills) tells you not everyone can be a competent programmer/engineer/system administrator..etc..

If you find something you like, then dig in. For example If you're interested in programming, find an open source project that interests you and learn to contribute to it. That type of experience (IF the project is managed well) will teach you a lot about working in teams as well as (hopefully) good coding style/practices. For programming that's probably the best crucible to hone your skills and prove you've got what it takes. If you can't hack it, you'll be pushed out pretty quick and perhaps it's time to look elsewhere.

IMO you have to love the work. I have very little in the way of certs, and only an A.S. (which I got while teaching at the college). I've fired many people with fancy degrees (several with Masters) because they were incompetent.
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Old 02-28-2014, 01:50 PM
 
Location: 10110001010110100
6,385 posts, read 10,839,849 times
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Imho, IT field, as vast as it is, divides mainly into 4 core groups:
1- Service/Support
2- Design/Development
3- Sales
4- Management

Assuming you are not interested in sales or management, you have 2 options to pick from:

Service/Support

1a- Help Desk/Tech Support: Mainly phone support which, sometimes includes remotely connecting to client's/user's machines to do the work yourself. You will be working out of an office cubicle.
1b- PC Tech/Installation Tech: Typically all hands-on and you interfaced the client/customer. PC Techs typically work on PCs/Mac and in some cases even servers. This is also a stationary job, main focus is on hardware repairs/upgrades/builds and also OS/3rd party app installs and problem troubleshooting.

Installation Techs are typically the ones going to the client's/customer's home or business to install the equipment and/or wiring. Install Techs generally would be traveling all or most of the time. Could be installing network wiring, POS systems, PCs/Servers or even related peripherals.

1c- Desktop/System Admin: Back in the day, the line between a Desktop Support and a System Administrator was a lot more visible, nowadays, not so much as most companies would hire you as a Desktop Admin (typically lower salary range) but have you do a little or a lot of system admin work as well.
You will deal with clients, computers and servers in person, on the phone or remotely. You will have to be a jack of all trades because it can require all of the above skills as well as coding/scripting skill.
Bigger the company, the better the chance that these 3 positions will be segregated, in some cases into sub positions like Exchange admin, Network admin, Database admin, etc.

Small mom n pop shops will have one "IT guy" that does all of the above. This could be the most rewarding for someone new-ish in the field but most who have decent amount of skill and competence would want to move up to bigger environments, especially if the pay is not great or it is not a good place to work at.

Desktop Admin/Support - You deal with users' technology issues, network connectivity, hardware/software issues and occasionally their personal issues. You may also be providing phone/remote support.
System Admin: The guy who deals mainly with the servers (installation, upgrades, user/machine/resource configuration and management, etc. He may or may not interface users.
Network Admin: The guy who deals with network connectivity issues, equipment installations and upgrades, wiring, etc.
In bigger enterprise level environments, you will even see Server admin(s), Exchange admin(s), Backup Operators, etc. Even database admins will get divides into their specialized platform like Oracle admin or Lotus Notes Admin, etc.
IT/Network Security would typically be handled by Desktop/System Admins but in bigger environments, it can be passed onto Network Admins or even a Security Admins. One healthcare provider I worked for had all of the above and the Network Admins didn't even have local admin rights, so to install stuff on their computers or upgrade existing apps, Desktop Admins was contacted. Server admins didn't do any network management nor security stuff. To me, that is lame, I like positions where I am jack of all trades.


Design/Development

This involves everything from graphic design (PhotoShop, AutoCAD, etc.), web site design to programming/coding/application development (most boring, unsocial and geekiest positions imho). I won't go into detail on these positions but even this core section has many sub divisions and would require many paragraphs to cover.

As Braindead mentioned, you have to have some idea of what you want to do and also you have to make sure you will enjoy doing that as a full-time work. If you think programming is your cup of tea, then get a book on one of the open source programming languages or at least do your online search and find dedicated sites where you could go through ton of freely available helpful info and code samples. Pick up a personal project and create it using whatever programming language you decided on and see if you enjoyed it or not.

The title of a position doesn't always clearly display what you will be doing at that position. Almost all companies list positions with higher requirements and duties than that job really entails but there will also be some not-so-glamorous tasks that will also not be disclosed in the job description!

Not sure what your education and skill level is and what your expectations or salary requirements are but until you have obtained those required skills, be prepared to work for less. Go for small mom-n-pop shops if you have little experience so you can build some basic computer skills. Don't just get certification randomly, have a solid idea on what path you are interested in then seek the related certifications if you think they will help you get a job easier or a better job. Certs are good to have but from what I have seen in the last 15 years, hands-on almost always wins over just-certs.

Good luck.

Last edited by TurcoLoco; 02-28-2014 at 02:45 PM.. Reason: typos...
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:07 PM
 
Location: Reno
843 posts, read 1,875,807 times
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Well put, and much more detailed than my post...

Our company has moved people from Support into other positions, our current network admins all started in support. Most of our installer started in support, and one programmer as well (although he's doing coding for support, mostly basic DBMS stuff). Phone support is often a terrible job though, depends on the company of course however turnover rates can be very high. Might be the easiest place to start though.
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:58 PM
 
Location: 10110001010110100
6,385 posts, read 10,839,849 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by braindead0 View Post
Well put, and much more detailed than my post...

Our company has moved people from Support into other positions, our current network admins all started in support. Most of our installer started in support, and one programmer as well (although he's doing coding for support, mostly basic DBMS stuff). Phone support is often a terrible job though, depends on the company of course however turnover rates can be very high. Might be the easiest place to start though.
Exactly, as much as I disliked phone support it is a very common starting point that many who is in the Service/Support field had to go through. If you are young, ambitious and most importantly, competent, you will want to move on after 2-3 years tops. Usually older guys or those who got into the field later in life, may be more inclined to stay in this position. There could be other reasons too but too hard to know. I have know techs who were awesome on the phone but in person, yikes. So phone (voice/remote) support is what suited them. I do everything, could easily move on to doing just Network or System administration type position and would most definitely get a good bump in my salary but you have to weigh the pros and cons for each opportunity and be honest with yourself when deciding if you want to take on the new challenge or not. I like working with people, 98% of the time. System/Network admin positions hardly ever interface end users, or anyone at all in some cases. I feel that would be too unsocial, and as a natural outcome o it, would get boring for me. This is how I felt when I was younger, when I was also a lot more energetic and enjoyed working with people. Lately, I am consider a shift in the near future to more higher level, technical positions. So, that is another thing you will have to remember, what you start with or do now may and could be different than what you will end up doing down the line.

Also, $$ should not be your top priority or main concern. I have chosen lesser paying jobs because they had better benefits, or meant lesser commute times or more pleasant work environment (less stress) or type of job I much rather be doing on a daily basis.

Worry about now. Focus on what you can get right now and go from there.
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Old 02-28-2014, 03:21 PM
 
Location: Reno
843 posts, read 1,875,807 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TurcoLoco View Post
..
Also, $$ should not be your top priority or main concern. I have chosen lesser paying jobs because they had better benefits, or meant lesser commute times or more pleasant work environment (less stress) or type of job I much rather be doing on a daily basis.
That's an excellent point, and be prepared in the beginning to accept a lot of jobs that may not be the best fit or what you want to do. I was 30 before I got into my dream job...probably lucky at that.
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Old 02-28-2014, 11:49 PM
 
2,620 posts, read 3,012,957 times
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Though the jobs are low-paying, you can usually get your foot in the door in a technical support, helpdesk or some sort of IT support role at a non-IT company. Once you gain the experience there, you can build up and move on. TurcoLoco posted really good details.
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