Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting a Career in IT in 2017

This is an article I had my IT buddy write in response to a surge of requests from Asshole Consulting about the IT industry, how to get into it, what to specialize in, and should you go to college, bootcamp, or a 2 year community college.  I am not an expert in the field, so I decided to outsource it to a professional to give us the low down on the industry and how to get into it in 2017 (and you can tell he's a professional IT genius because of his indifference for spelling and typos).  Because of the constantly changing nature of IT I am kicking around doing an "State of the IT Union Address" each January.  Regardless, you can find my IT friend here for all your IT and computer needs.

There is a cliche in consulting....the answer to any question is always: "IT depends".  That cliche fits rather nicely into this topic. 


College education will not land one a job, nor will it properly prepare one for a job in the IT field.  IT as a whole moves far to fast for the typical four year college to design a program that reflect the jobs available.  Two year and trade schools are far better in getting one prepared for entering the work force, however are often too focused and become out dated.  However what a bachlors degree does is allow one to move further up the ladder further and faster, potentially management one day.  It also puts you ahead of the next person(s) assuming the only difference is education.  Two big reasons for that is, A. by completing a degree, it  shows that the potential to learn is there.  And B. a certain about of dedication and work ethic is present.   Also as you may have already heard, a college degree is more of a passport.

Certifications are great.  However one is probally better off being more well rounded and if the employer wants you to focus on one area then they will send you there.  A couple of issues with doing certifications on your own, is that they are VERY specific.  Is there an actual real demand for people having that certificiation?  What happens in 24 months when things change and that certification is for the most part null and void?  For instance holding a certification in Windows 2008, doesn't hold much weight any more.  However if one achieves a multi-level certification say for instance: Microsoft Certified Server Engineer, VmWare Certified Professional, or Cisco Certified Internet Engineer; these certs. will always be a feather in your cap and will be an asset no matter how old they are.  Even if one had a MSCE in Windows Server 2003; that communications that you have a good foundation of how things work and adapting to the newer stuff will be easier than someone coming in fresh.


Server Administration:  Server Virtualization has been hot for the past 10 years, and will continue to stay at the very least warm.  In a nutshell Server Virtualizaiton is taking a single server, but making appear to the network as if there are ten servers on the network.  For instance a cluster of three servers physical servers can present well over a dozen virtual servers to the network; and be able act as fail over for each other.  All with out the end users or their computers knowing.  VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V (known as hyper-visors) are the biggest players in this space.

This area is starting to cool a bit since "the cloud" has come to the grasp of mere motors.  Now days any tech saavy person can setup their own servers using places like AWA (Amazon Web Services) .  Thus bypassing the need for much of in house IT.  Many smaller players also basically can provide a company all of their server needs as a subscrition service.  A smart play MAYBE to become skilled in manipulating these types of enviroments.

Companies are shrinking thier budgets, thus requiring IT professionals do more with less.  Thus anything that automates, scripts, or generally allows an IT person to get more stuff done in less time will be in demand.  A good place to start is technolgies like Puppet, Cheif, and PowerShell.
Security is super in demand now, and will be for the near future.  There are very few "industry standard" or commonally accpeted certifications in this area.  Well other that a Cisco Certified Security Expert.  To be good in this area one needs to know networking inside and out.  Get expirence playing with firewalls, routers, and switches.  Then go beyond that looking into white and black hack items.

Database/information Architechture has always been in demand and keeps grown at a slow and steady rate.  A quick search on the buzz words "big data" or "Hadoop" show just how in demand they are.  The basics of databases hasn't changed much in 20 years, however the implentation has.  If one gets to be comfortable with Microsoft SQL either as a data designer or the implentation engineer, there will always be work for them.

Docker will be very big for those looking to get into code.  Docker is essentially doing for applications what VMware did for servers.  Docker provides a frame work for applications without all the heavy Operating system.  It is a modular system.  One can simiply load a Data base docker or a CRM docker etc and not have to install a Windows server for each appliation.  One just sets up the Docker infrastructure then add and remove appliacation components. 

Coding: Programing languages are very much like real languages.  Learning the first one is real hard.  Switching or learning adtional ones is easier.  As your brain picks out methods and similarities.  IE If one knows German, and needs to learn Italian it will be much easier for that person vs. the person learning Italian who only knows English.  What am I saying?  It doesn't matter what computer language gets taught; once you know one it becomes easier to switch to another down the road.  The "hot" language changes about every 5~10 years anyways, however there will always be a demand for the "language of yesterday."  Apps written in the older languages will still need to be updated/changed or re-writen.

HelpDesk/user training/assistance: Applications are becoming for web driven, computers have gotten cheaper and less repairable.  This has lessened the need for the typical HelpDesk person on one aspect.  On the flip side there will always be a need for people to do the "hand holding", the guiding, and trouble shooting for the end users.  One just will not be doing nearly as much swapping out hardware components.


Do not take simply look at salary guides out there and make a career decision based mostly on that.  To be sucessfull in IT, in general demands one needs to have a natural interest in the area, a desire to learn, fast learning and a trouble shooting mind set.  If you are just chasing the money, you will fail or get an entry level job and stay at roughly that same position for life.  Education is great, the more the better, it will never hurt you.  Expirence is just as important.  This industry is flooded with people who have all sorts of acrynyms behind their name but yet can't think worth a darn, think outside the box, or trouble shoot.  Somethings just can't be taught in class.  Or to use another cliche, they can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk.

Start anywhere looking for expirence.  Start with getting a used PC and building/repairing it up.  Start helping others with their technical diffuculties.  Start playing around with networking gear.  Start dabbling in scripting and programing.  Often just having some expirence with a technology is all it take; mastery of the technology is often not needed to land a good job. 


Anonymous said...

TO piggyback on this. IF a degree is something you still want to pursue look at WGU. They are cheap, online, and you will come out with a degree and certifications. Decide on your general area of expertise, dB, Servers, Coding etc. And the courses are setup to go at your own pace, kind of. You can rock through it or take the minimum. It is the same price either way. You pay by semester, not courses. MOre colleges should be setup this way

Anonymous said...

This is great article and sound advice. Education doesn't hurt if you go in with the right expectations. If would be cautious though of the IT certification Mills especially ITT tech or New Horizons CLC. They're still working with an outdated and will do anything to get unqualified students in their schools.

They're very deceptive.

Anonymous said...

Here's another way to summarize this . . .

Hard coding skills are what are in demand at any given time, but the more this sector (and other sectors) of IT become normalized (i.e., many people can pick it up) and commoditized (i.e., it's plug-and-play, switch out, widely available), then clients will go for the cheapest nearly every time. And, that means offshoring to dumb-ass Indians, who tend to do shit work that has to be redone. But, as large companies are addicted to this kind of labor, you can't compete with such people.

You've been warned.

On the other hand, if you can speak very good English, have poise, and, most importantly, show how the IT helps the bottom line, this will put you ahead of the dumb-assed coders and network admins. In other words, you want to move into an advisory role instead of a coder role, but this will take experience and that college degree.

Finally, another way to protect yourself is to go into government IT, such as you'd find in the DoD or the intelligence communities. American citizens only, so no H1-B visas here The downside is that you have older technology that needs upgraded.

daniel_ream said...

Oh good Lord, reading this was painful.

There is a huge Dunning-Kruger problem in IT. Always has been. There are far too many auto-didacts whose sole training consists of duffing around with little things who go on to think they understand the whole ecosystem. Like that shade-tree mechanic who's never worked on anything but his grandpa's 73 Oldsmobile and now thinks he knows "cars".

Conventional "support" IT is on its way out. Automation, virtualization and remote SCM have reduced the job to something that can - and in many companies is - being done by 12 cent an hour second-world sweat shops. To get a job better than low-end wage slave, you're going to need the equivalent of a degree, be it in RDBMS management, computer programming, or Cisco certification (which at any level that anyone cares about will take you as much time and effort as an associates' degree, at least).

Pat Haney said...

OK. Time to interject some logic into the cappy's STEM lovefest. I've been in this business for nearly 30 years.

You either "GET" IT, or you don't. If don't get it, you can work with it, but you'll never get it. I'm that way with music. I have a little talent. I can work with it. But I have to WORK at it. Same with IT. As I told my kids, one of which is a CS major - you are competing with people that would do this stuff, and do this stuff on their own time. Like basketball players, or most sports. It's a talent. You either have the gift, or don't.

And if you plan on coding, you better have some sort of rounded education. For instance, in ERP, or accounting programming, you kind of have to know or be able to learn how things work. Otherwise, you'll be worthless.

I've seen the wreckage of lots of those who got into technology in the '97-2000 region that were blown out because the only value they had was they were a headcount that was needed. NO discernible talent.

And there are few certs that are worth it, unless you've made your bones in the industry. CCIE (Cisco) is worth something. It's a cert you cannot earn by book learning. CCNA is not. You can buy the answers and take it. MCSE, same thing. If I see a resume that has this or MCSA and no experience, I pass. Redhat is another valuable one, as is CISSP to some extent.

The rest? PAH! I've seen more doofus A+ and Net+ dudes than I can count that were worthless. I do training now. There's those that read the book, install the software, and work it. Then there's those that have to be shown every little detail, then still retain nothing.

So my suggestion is get a decent associates degree first. Most of those schools, like the community colleges, are cheap and teach a reasonable facsimile of the basics. If you are really good at logic and math, go CS. But realize, it's work.

Post Alley Crackpot said...

This all sounds great, but ...

You know who else gets to work inside in reasonably dry and comfortable conditions?


Have you seen the work needed for really big data centre installs?

And there are all sorts of interesting specialisations in that -- there are people who will weave loom your cable bundles into place instead of using plastic wire ties, all so they're kept under a controlled amount of stress and pressure without being pinched in several places, for instance.

You know who data centre managers don't like letting inside?


If you couldn't give a toss about feeding Big Ed, you might consider working toward amateur radio qualifications.

The software engineers who have an electrical engineering background will cut you a considerable amount of slack if you just happen to be an Extra Class ham radio operator.

If you really, really, really like computers and software, then sure, see if coding is your thing, but if you like working with your hands and doing moderate amounts of physical labour, there's plenty of interesting stuff to be done in the physical plant of data centres.

Just be sure not to let your new software engineering friends loose on the raised floor without an escort. :-)