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IT seems to be an area that many people want to get into as a career. Hardly a day goes by without me hearing someone saying on TV or in public that they are thinking of, or are moving into IT. Much of the appeal I guess is to do with perceived rewards - IT Managers and personnel generally enjoy high rewards and benefits compared to many other careers. Additionally with a greater general awareness of computers (i.e. people having and using them at home, at work etc.) people feel that a career in IT could be achievable. The recent Dot-com boom (and bust) also no doubt has attracted many "get rich quick" fans to a career in IT with the hope of being millionaires in a few years time. Also the plethora of adverts promoting training in IT to achieve a new highly-paid IT career. However technology companies are having a harder time recently with all the oversold dot-coms going bust and this has affected many technology companies and the number of jobs out there. There are still opportunities in IT but companies are more selective and there is a lot more competition out there. As always experience is a key factor - and particularly relevant experience to the position in question. You may have years of experience on a BBC or Acorn computer (or Playstation!) but this will carry little weight in an industry which does not use these. If you are starting out for a career in IT some things to consider: a) Eductational Qualifications - whilst many people do move into IT from GCSE/O level directly, the majority of senior/better jobs will expect A levels or a degree. For Senior Management positions a postgraduate degree (e.g. MBA/PhD) will be beneficial or sometimes essential. Contrary to what you might expect a GCSE in technology or Computing won't set you up for a fast track career. Employers like to see these combined with good grades in core qualifications like English, M
aths, Physics etc. A degree in computer science is useful, and will probably lead you down a software development career track. However it is by no means essential and other "science/maths" type course are often regarded as highly. b) Interest and Track record - Employers will be looking for a long-standing interest or passion for technology. Even if you have no previous experience having spent years tinkering with and ideally building computers (Intel) at home will show an enthusiasm. Being up to date with what products are out there will also help. c) Climbing the ladder - Many people move into IT and become unrealistically frustrated with their lack of progress and progression and lack of high rewards in the earlier years. Bear in mind that an IT career is like many others and it takes time, effort, skill and work to achieve results and promotions. Typically with successful work and results it will take around 8 years to get to a Management role of some sort, although it can be quicker or slower than this depending on company, opportunities, effort, frequency of job changing, aptitude, personality etc. d) Moving around - In order to maximise progress and promotion you should be looking to change company/job every 3 years or so. Avoid job hopping however unless you are a contractor. e) Contracting - A historically lucrative option has been to be a contract IT person. Due to flexibility of employment and lack of security/benefits pay has been higher than for permanent staff. However bear in mind that you may be not working for a portion of the year, will probably need to be flexible in where you work, and need to pay for all your own benefits and training. With IR35 being introduced by the inland revenue a tax-effective mechanism using your own limited company has also been mostly closed resulting in lower earnings. Recent market moves have also reduced contract rates somewhat. Also wo
rth considering is that contract staff will rarely achieve a "promotion" and it is often difficult for them to move into permanent IT management/senior positions due to concerns over their career stability. f) Training - Technology skills are the lifeblood of IT staff. Training is essential to maintain and grow a career in IT, but is not just limited to formal/classroom training and qualifications. Hands-on experience and self-study/reading is equally valuable. g) Industry Qualifications - The "big badges" that many IT people aim for - alas many only to use as a salary influencer. Microsoft MCSE is a good one to aim for (as is Novell's CNE), and Cisco qualifications (especially CCIE ) are well regarded. However these need to be combined with real-world experience to make them useful to avoid academic unreality. Classroom exercises are typically set up to greatly simplify matters for understanding and in the real world there are a great deal more interactions and non-ideal situations. They should be regarded as a toolkit and not a badge of authority. h) Working hours - IT is somewhat notorious for it's long hours and overnight working. If you like a standard office working day and to disappear on the dot then I would advise against many careers in IT. The keyword is "doing what it takes" and that can mean a long working week. In some cases this can involve being on-call through the night which although this may be rewarded can be detrimental to health and family life. i) Travel - IT work can often involve travel. although this depends on company and role, but generally you should be prepared to travel somewhat to succeed in IT. Foreign languages can be a benefit here if studied at school. For those wanting a fast-track career taking a foreign placement with a company is often an excellent step. j) Is IT/IS Management for you? Bear in mind that
you do not need to become a manager to succeed. Many top technical people are paid as well or more and do not have the responsibility/paperwork side to deal with. The management aspect can mean:- * Lots of Paperwork * Financials and Budgets to process/manage * Less hands-on technical work * More politics and debate * Man-management, discipline, review * Conflict over staff pay and promotion * Lots of Meetings So what's it like? Well, interesting, exciting, challenging, hard work, often pressured, frustrating and satisfying. The rewards are good, but don't go into IT just for these. If you haven't an interest or passion for IT the money will come with a heavy price.