By Kevin M
It?s no secret that careers related to information technology are one of the surest paths to success in the 21st Century economy. If you?re fresh out of college with a degree in information technology, or if you obtained your degree years ago and are now a seasoned professional, you?re probably looking at solid employment prospects, even with a weak economy. But what if you couldn?t afford college, or if you?re working in an unrelated field and wish you could get into IT?are you simply out of luck? Well, maybe not!
Tyson Woods is an IT contractor, well traveled, working for some of the biggest name firms in the country and?as the title of this essay reveals?he has no college degree. Not in IT, not in anything. His previous career experience: mall photo shop manager.
IT contracting is a broad field, and the term can mean different things to different people, and in different industries. Over the years he?s taken part in a wide variety of projects, working with a broad range of programs and software systems. What he does more specifically involves work with different components of IT, including process and workflow design, system support, training, system security, and web design and administration. More recently he?s been working as a Share Point Administrator, designing custom portals and managing rights and permissions.
It?s important to recognize that IT contracting is a fluid career, so what you?re doing does change frequently.
Before you get discouraged with the long list of technical sounding functions, Tyson advises, ?Let me stop to tell you that I learned nearly all of these skills on the job?I don?t even have a college degree, certainly not in computer science! In fact, my career beginnings weren?t anything you?d normally associate with a future in IT. And I?m a young guy; if I can do it, you certainly can.?
So what raw skills do you need to bring to an IT career?
?Most of it?s pretty basic: a logical thought process, ability to understand workflows, ability to work with people in different capacities, willingness to do things differently, affinity for and the ability to embrace technology, and a large degree of creativity. It can be confusing if you?re looking to enter the field since IT is so diverse. What it really takes is mastering a niche, then building upon it, one niche at a time. There?s more to that niche thing than space permits here, but I can provide just about as much information on that topic as you can stand if you?re serious about pursuing a career in the field.?
There are a large number of reasons why he loves this career, why anyone would love it.
?For starters, there are always new opportunities, which include not only new technologies, but also new industries. Nearly all businesses need IT professionals, which means I have a chance to work in a virtually unlimited number of different businesses. It?s hard to get bored! ?
?Something I like personally is being on the cutting edge in a technology driven world. As long as you learn and grow with the technology, there?s always a job for you somewhere.?
While we typically think of IT as being mostly a technology application, there?s also a strong element of creativity involved. If you have that creative streak in you, as Tyson does, IT is an excellent career field to work in. So much is new, or can be modified, that creative opportunities abound.
The money isn?t hard to take either! Incomes in excess of $100,000 are not uncommon with a decent amount of experience and a willingness to take on more challenging assignments. But even apart from earning six figures, the number of job- and business opportunities are so abundant that just making a living is more secure in IT than in most other fields.
The secret, according Tyson, is to continuously acquire more skills. No one can know all that is involved with computers?which is actually a big advantage to a new entrant to the field?but the more you know about more systems and components, the greater your value in the marketplace. As Tyson is quoted above, it all starts with a niche?one area of the big picture that you can focus on and build upon. Become an expert in that niche and you have the foundation of a new career. Where you go from there will be limited only by your willingness to learn and master more niches. Adding formal training along the way can only speed your progress.
Some of the qualities that make for a good IT person are less related to technology than you might think. An IT person must be able to work with a wide variety of people, making people skills a high priority. He needs to be able to understand workflows and be capable of integrating the various tools and systems. In addition, he needs a sense of functionality?that is the ability to make a system workable for non-computer types, and how to make it look good in the process. These are skills that are required in many jobs outside technology as well.
Tyson offers this bit of advice, which should be of great comfort to a new entrant in the field:
?Not many people in the field are real experts; they don?t know the flow, how to troubleshoot or how the end product should look.? That should give rookies plenty of reason to hope!
A detailed career program will be available in this space in the very near future. Stay tuned.