Howdy folks, I&#39;m considering a change of career from my current medicinal line of work and stepping into the great grand world of IT. My current plan is starting in helpdesk work and moving up through network admin jobs (i.e. a junior position and working upwards). Most of my current IT skills are self taught; it&# …
This topic was created by Thomas 4.
Customer Service Skills
I moved into IT in 2001 with no qualifications inc GSCE's and from a catering background (would you like fries with your password reset?) and have built a successful career over the last 10 years and have recently moved into a senior Business IT demand role from a Service Delivery Role with just a foundation v2 ITIL qually to my name.
So I would say to begin with all you need is good customer Service Skills the rest you learn on the job and keep the knowledge with you.....If you need to do functional qualifications for your chosen career path as you progress, then this cannot hurt.
just my two pennies worth
The networking track...
There are so many routes you can take in IT (or IS) it's like a mine field. Like so many others who have posted before me, I too work in IT and I love my job (career)!
My first IT cert was A+. Don't bother, waste of time / money. Look at MCP (microsoft Certified Professional) exams. They cost £100 a pop which is quite cheap compared to many other exams (CCNA I think around £250, Redhat sys admin £400) and you can build on them (one for MCP, 3 MCSA, 5 MCSE). They are 'current' as well. If you want to go down the linux track look at Comptia Linux+ / LPI 1. Quite a broad range and you will learn about linux but it probably won't make your CV stand out.
You say your more interested in hardware and in particular, networking. Then, my friend, Cisco is the only path you should really consider here. Don't think though, just because you studied for and passed your CCNA you will get a job, it doesn't work that way. You need to be able to show you can apply your skills in the 'real world'. Get on a CCNA course - look at commsupport.co.uk and ask the trainer to endorse you at the end, it's the small things on a CV that can make the difference.
I myself am a network / security engineer but it didn't happen for me over night and I was very lucky too. I started out on a help desk many moons ago and built up my skills and qualifications over time. Experience counts for a lot. Certs at a junior level may get you a interview but your personality and experience will get you the job. As someone has already said, I wouldn't look at technical competency when employing a help desk tech, I'd look for potential...
Current IT Engineering Trends are
Virtualisation - VMWare, Hyper-V and KVM
Server tech - WIndows Serevr 2k8 / 2012 and Redhat
Security - Cisco CCNA Sec, Cisco ASA, Checkpoint and to a lesser extent Juniper
VoIP / IPT / collaborative comms - CCNA Voice, Microsft Lync
Current IT Mgmt Trends:
Security Auditing - CISSP, ISO 27001,
Service Mgmt - ITIL
Re: The networking track...
My CCNA exam was 100 quid or so, though that was a few years ago.
Picked up the training material myself (online flashcards / second hand book and the dynamips emulator).
Made little difference in terms of career progression or pay, as a large blue corporation soon took over and judged career progress by how many emails you send.
I now work in healthcare IT, where the CCNA is useless, but the issues are interesting enough.
1. Be Interested to learn something you don't understand.
2. Be patient enough to understand it.
3. Be able to sell that interest at an interview by displaying your knowledge in an enthusiastic manner.
The Nix Route - Decent wages.
- Throw a few VM's together (read up on distribution differences)
- Start by installing servs or pick up a decent red hat book and work through it. Learn the basics, then how to host services, then things like load balancing and multi pathing.
- Take a shot at recompiling a linux kernel with your own chosen modules built in.
- Finally try to install gentoo linux (took me a few days but it teaches you a lot)
- Go get a Linux support role job and work your way up the ladder from there.
The MS Route - Not so decent wages.
- Throw a few VM's together with Windows Server and Windows 7 Clients
- Play around with setting up services, domains, active directory, dhcp etc etc. (good Windows book would help here)
- Go get a 1st line support role and work your way up from there.
The Database Route - Pretty Damn Good Wages
- If it's oracle you're after, prepare to end your life for the next three years, you'll need a lot of money and time and you should aim for an OCP Cert.
- Anything else, learn SQL first, try to combine knowledge from windows and linux and setup your own little java application from sourceforge, whether it be a workflow server or a CMS. Write custom SQL scripts to add backend functionality. Configure it all to run on a LAMP setup and even add load balancing to complicate matters.
- Go ahead from here and learn database admin skills, again buy the book, but most importantly you should understand the general architecture of a DBMS.
Finally, to backup your knowledge in these areas you will need networking experience (go for CCNA books), understanding of backups and DR situations (CompTIA A+ Stuff, again buy the books) and security (patched on at the end, I know, but CCNA will introduce this, follow it up with Cisco Security and best practises).
But yes, whilst you're working on all of that, try to get on to a 1st line role somewhere. Gets your foot in the door and pays bills while you spend your free time learning.
VMware is good but it's not so great unless you can work with multiple platforms and applications.
Experience in things like security, big data, HPC clusters, cloud-related-gash and other stuff should come in time.
Expect a lot of competition, what sets you out is presentation, interest and the ability to seriously oversell everything.
ITIL qualifications are an easy starter - especially for a Helpdesk job. Relatively cheap to do, easy to pass and set you above any other non-technical people applying for a Service Desk role. I'd recommend ITIL Service Management Foundation and ITIL Intermediate Service Operations. Develop your technical skills once you get into an organization.
You don't have to give up work to take a degree
People are right - you don't need qualifications to get on in IT. I don't have any and the only problem I have as a contractor is that I am over 60...
If you really feel the need for a degree my son is following this path (he has a full time job):
And he intends to follow it up with this:
All via distance learning.
Ok answer the question correctly. What's the easy answer to this client....
Q) Why is my computer so slow?
1) You are a cheap skate retard who thought buying something from PC World/Comet at you thought was a bargain was a good idea. I don't want f**king anything else to do with you or anyone you know, you are an idiot.
2) Ok, lets try and download all the service releases, hotfix's to the operating system, updates to the 'preloaded' anti-virus software and see where we go. Ok this is going to take a bit of time. Nope I don't know because of the limited bandwidth your ADSL product is giving me. No I don't mind sitting here most of the night for the little automated bar to move across the screen.
In one of these scenarios you get to have a life. The other you get to have really bad coffee and people standing over you saying 'what's it doing?'
I guess as another voice, the only opinion I havent seen here is one which asks what are you willing to do? Where would you work? What kind of thing do you love doing? How much money do you want to earn?
I am looking for a new role at the moment, in my area, project management, most of the the big money is in Financial services (for example FX trading, derivatives), in the centre of London, or in software development. If I was you and money/location was no object I wouldn't look at helpdesk roles, I have seen a number of apprentice type roles around at the moment doing networks or hardware. Try and get into those rather than helpdesk, the best helpdesk professionals I know were not techies, they had enough IT savvy to clear the idiot questions, and knew their limits.
I only know one person who converted from helldesk to technical, and to be honest he was already running the site IT when he moved into proper IT, he quickly got picked up to work in networking when a role became available.
Fundamentally try and get the lowest paid/most menial technical job, actually doing something. If you are willing to work anywhere in the country all the better (note if it is away from your home, work out if you could afford to live in B&B, etc). You may need to sacrifice for a couple of years to get the experience you need.
I would also say that as an IT person nowadays you need to be right on the forefront of whatever is in vogue, or you need to have legacy skills. Anything in the middle is now considered to be "off the shelf" and will have either been outsourced (for example Win Server/DB) to India/Asia/South Africa, or will be about to be in any medium sized company. You cannot compete with a tecchie in India who earns 1/7 th of what you do (in fact project mgt is going that way, where it is cheaper to employ 5 crap PMs, and hope one gets it right, than one in the UK).
Be prepared for a life of working long hours, with no recognition, where your skills and experience need to be kept up to date. BE willing to move around for your first 5-10 years, and get experience in lots of places. However it can be a rewarding career with lots of great people, and you wlaways feel llike youre in it together (a sense of embattlement is usual in IT).
Lost in a field of chaff
Hope you can read through all the chaff, and find the wheat that you're after!
Anyway....My 2 pence!
Around 5 years ago, I found myself disallusioned with the work I was doing. So, after chatting to someone in IT, they advised doing the A+. I took an online course WHILST I worked and found this to be really straight-forward. I had been like you and had built home systems. I thought this would stand me in good stead! When I moved house, I tried to move job. I got VERY lucky and was offered a 3 month temp contract at a local college. They weren't actually interested in my qual, they just saw the enthusiasm.
That contract got extended, and then extended, and then made permanent! 5 years on, and I have moved again. I'm not IT manager for a small company. From little acorns....
Don't let the doommongers and cynical old gits put you off. If you have a passion for IT, then go for it.
Re: Lost in a field of chaff
That should, of course, read "I'm NOW IT manager!"
Also, building home systems has little relevance to either public or private sector....in my experience.
One thing I would suggest, is that if this is an area you want to go into.....Bone up on Deployment services, as this is where all the system builds come in. There is no REAL hardware building....but OS deployment is critical, and understanding it could be enough to get your foot through a door.
Word of advice...
... Before taking the leap, find someone you know who's worked in IT that enjoys it.
If you manage to succeed in this impossible task, you'll at least have a rose-tinted view of the pitfalls of working in IT (job satisfaction and pay aren't that high).
Another tip, don't stay in one place ... Rinse everything you can experience-wise out of a place and move on, it's the only real way of moving forward in an IT career.
I started off 15 years ago on a Helpdesk, before moving to front-line support, to second-line, to Sys-Admin, then self-employed for a couple of years before moving into an IT Architect role.
I know people I worked with 5-10 years ago who haven't moved on or received a pay-rise since I left them there ...
I hate my job, but at least it pays well enough now ... I'm one of the lucky few!
Anon ... Because my boss probably reads this.
Re: Word of advice...
Oh yes, I have an unrelated degree and zero IT qualifications ...
I'm assuming (possibly incorrectly) that you work for the NHS. It's a bit organisation.
Is the IT outsourced? Even if it is, the outsourcing contract will suck and there'll be a man who does all your local IT on the side.
Talk to your manager, tell him your aspiration and see if you can get a secondment. See if you can make it a end-of-year deliverable.
Even if you can only get a day a week shadowing the local techie. It won't cost him anything (not his personnel budget) and he'll appreciate the help.
It'll all add up and you'll get plenty of experience working with users working in a high pressure environment.
Best foot on the ladder there is. After all a year, one day a week, is still a year. After that, you can blag it.
don't do it
Keep it as a hobby. It will drain the good out of you. Working in IT is a bit like chocolate, great once in a while, but if you’re doing it all day every day you’ll end up in some state.
If you must, get a degree if you don’t have one already, doesn't matter in what, then get an IT postgrad dip. If you want to start out at the help desk just get a job in a call centre, you’ll only be reading from a script so it’s all the same. Without the degree though you’ll be setting a point whereby you won’t be able to get past, unless you’re a stellar performer. No offence, but your probably not. If you were you’d know better than to get into IT.
Unless the UK IT industry is completely different from here in the U.S., my advice is don't go into IT. There are countless people who are "good with computers" always trying to get into the industry, resulting in entry-level, non-degreed employees being treated as disposable, cheap labor. Sorry, labour.
On the personal, non-economic side of things, I would say the same as respondents would if you posted this on slashdot. "My advice, after over a decade of experience in the industry: Run. As fast as you can. And don't look back." Making an enjoyable hobby into your career often doesn't work out the way people anticipate it will. E.g., I have a Core i7, 16GB RAM beast of a PC at home. I haven't fired it up in six months. The LAST thing I want to do when I get home is touch a computer.
Also, on the more personal side, you have to understand the visceral loathing that many IT pros have for n00bs. And that loathing is rarely pure arrogance. Many IT pros do NOT hate working with n00bs because of all the things that they don't know. IT people hate it because n00bs don't even know how much they don't know, which makes n00bs incredibly dangerous and indescribably irritating.
Not what you want to hear, I'm sure, but that's how I see it.
Do your own work?
Look at jobs, someplace like 'indeed'. Make up a list of requirements certs & skills to match. Seems easy enough.
An alternative suggestion
Think small business. The IT sector serves us quite badly. Vendors don't love us, because we're not rich, and don't buy in bulk. But we've got all the IT problems of bigger firms, so you can learn lots of skills at once.
Do you know a plumber? He's probably out all day, needs email on the go nowadays, may even do proper invoices, his books and pay his taxes. If so, he needs a laptop, accounting software, backups and to get his email on his mobile. You can do all this in a few hours, recommend iPhone/Android, set him up with Gmail/Office 365/Outlook.com whatever. Then configure the phone, and laptop, set him up with one of the online accounting packages, set up a backup scheme and get paid. You can do this all in the evenings after work, and get paid for on the job training. If you don't fancy working for someone else there's good money for working for us small companies. You could easily set up on your own and just do that, or use it as training. If you've enough clients to sell some MS software, then you can get on their re-seller program really easily (so I'm told) and get all the free MS stuff for yourself to learn on, use for the company.
We've got 2 broken laptops that need fixing (beyond me - and I'm all we've got for IT), we need to look at moving our Exchange server from our current vendor to our own office (or the cloud), also beyond me. Get a junk-mail scanner set up (I've no time at the moment), get some new phones and configure them (I'll do that - but would pay someone if we had someone). Nothing huge, but there'd be something from us every few months if we used someone regularly, and I've been asked by 3 companies recently to recommend someone. If you're good you'll get recommended, and remember the customers pay you because they don't understand it, so working = good.
One of those was the company we rent the office from. I wish I could recommend someone decent to them, as then I wouldn't have to keep fixing their network for them...
Most work can be done in the evenings, so you can start while doing your current job, then either use it as experience to learn and prove you can do it, or set up on your own. That's a way to get paid reasonably for helpdesk. Could work if you've got a varied circle of friends/acquaintances. My brother joined a rugby club when he ran his own printing company, because he got so much work from the cricket club and people saying 'a mate from cricket can help you...'
First get qualified in what you are currently working in unless you think its highly specialised and don't want to stay in that area.
Then you a choice between getting qualified in what you would like to work with in the future and getting qualified in what might get you promoted in your current position (they may be different). Do you want to be be programmer or work with infrastructure
Qualifications do count, they don't prove you actually know anything but generally you won't get a foot through the door no matter how much of a guru you are in real life
Microsoft qualifications are useful and relatively cheap (as in £90 per exam + books)
ESX is very nice too but thats a £1500 course + exams
Cisco stuff is good but its somewhat of a speciality
Do things that show initiative
IMHO candidates who can talk knowledgeably about their subject and show a willingness to learn are better than those who have the qualifications and no passion for the job. You have taught yourself some useful stuff so use that to demonstrate your competence in an interview.
Look at where you want to work and figure out what you need to get a job there. Different company's will require different levels of qualification.
Look at MOOC's (openlearning.com, coursera.org and so on) and see what you can find in the field of computing. Read books to extend your knowledge. Build a network at home (not just a Windows one, either).
I'd be less worried about getting courses under your belt and more about working somewhere that you can claim real life experience.
Choose your pathway
If you are not interested in development then you are really looking at network or server. Sysadmins need to have a pretty wide versing in the basics of networking plus all the higher level stuff like DNS, DHCP, SMTP and the vendor specific stuff like the contents of MS or Linux courses.
If you plan to do any sort of management you'll want to look at ITIL although not if you want to work for an international company, it's a UK thing and a lot of yanks have never heard of it.
If you want to take the network route then you really need to nut up and get a CCNA to start with as it teaches you enough to know your way around most of the other vendors and know what words to look for in their GUI to achieve what you would with a few commands via SSH on a cisco box. There is a big leap from the 'gamer's toolkit' to working with enterprise systems but if you start out in a reseller they'll never know the difference and you should be able to blag your way to getting some good experience and then it's up to you if you manage to learn from your mistakes.
I started life in a reseller and now work in the enterprise network engineering team at a company you have definitely heard of.
Here are my views to add/support/counter the above.
First degrees. I would love to say they are not needed, but I have worked at two places where they were required even for entry level, however on both occasions the type of degree did not matter.
Second CompTIA. It's a good job I've not had to look at CVs for about 6 years now as I had never heard of scheme/company. The reality is most qualifications are now worth little. Don't do any you have to pay for because chances are they are of no value - what does not help is the fact that a lot of techies are coming out of the Indian sub-continent having just done courses and got their certifications without any work experience. Even before this very few were considered of note. now less.
ITIL - if you want 3 days of boredom for the foundation and can do it for free, then maybe, but very few jobs need it and most that do are management level.
Experience - one thing already covered by many is self builds. This you can detail on your CV to show experience. These days linux is probably the way to go, plus cheap, but don't knock a windows server farm. Build a box, do something interesting with it, maybe try three or four different linux distributions then go back to one - allowing you to mention it on your CV though you need to think of a reason behind your final choice - note most Linux servers I've seen have been Redhat, so if you decide to go the linux route you're better mastering that one something like SUSE or Debian.
Job situation in the UK is not good, actually it stinks. Too many companies either have or are going off-shore for their IT as it's a lot cheaper - we're talking in the realm of 70-80% cheaper per person. Support jobs also can be mind numbing and spirit breaking, you really want to get in another way. For the ability to move across areas you're really looking at a bigger company or and out-sourcer/consultancy as they often have internal movement mechanisms in place, the theory being that it's cheaper to move someone across and retrain to a new tech than bring some one fresh in and teach them the company ways (aside from the cost of hiring as well, which is not cheap). Note internal transfers does not guarantee salary levels, these can go down if you move to a more junior role. Still one friend of mine has now done four separate roles at the bank where he works (UNIX, Desktop, Mainframe, Project Management).
Now the down side and the reason I'm posting this anonymously.
Would I advise someone to work in the IT industry in the UK. Back in the halcyon days before the dot-com crash I would have said yes. in the last 10 years I would say no. Many jobs are going, if not gone. Pay is poor unless you've already got to the more senior levels. Red tape is ever increasing, leading to more and more frustration. Personally I'd have left the industry 5 years ago if I could have afforded the pay cut and not been in a senior enough position to part protect myself from off-shoring (or to get a suitable role if I do get caught).
The main issue is IT is seen as an unavoidable cost by the bean counters, so any cheaper alternative is considered, the main one being off-shore. The quality of many Indians IT worked may be poor (there are some very very good ones as well), but it does not matter if they take twice as long if they are under quarter the cost.
Having said all that, if you're not put off by what myself and others have said, then you're actually probably best looking for small companies looking for low end IT workers - use self build experience on your CV to get yoru foot in the door. Pay tends to be less, but they are more likely to help you out in your carear. You also may be able to pick up lots of side techie skills by helping colelagues, and this can all count later on when you're looking for your second or third post.
Good luck which ever way you go.
Do a BSc at night
I'm currently doing a BSc in IS & IT - management, project management, databases, coding along with the usual sciencey bits. Even though I have another degree, and many multiples of industry certs, I have found what I have learned so far to be of great help is my job - in IT.
One year to go for the finals and then I'll likely do an MSc in something, or another degree in yet another field (for a laugh). Sure it gets me out of the house!
If you want to advance in IT then it is a great start. Plus employers will take you more seriously.
I don't have any IT qualifications, and have never felt any need to get them.
I was hired by a bank when I was 20 on the basis of an aptitude test - they were having trouble finding the right people, so they widened the net. Since then I've worked freelance for governments, merchant banks, power companies, Microsoft Corporation - none of them even asked about my qualifications.
I currently build phone apps for a living, working from home. Give it a try - its much more fun than being a suit.
I think the important thing to realize is that IT is now very much a profession. The number one thing you need is experience, but relevant technical qualifications are also important and will become more so as you progress in whatever route you take through it (certainly if you want to maximize earnings). No IT is not the pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow, not sure it ever really was, there have been brief moments of opportunity over the years where money has been thrown about but on the whole what you will get paid will reflect how good and rare your skills are versus the demand for them - what is in demand this year may not be next year. Change is the one constant in IT, if you cannot handle change then stay well clear of IT. Most IT knowledge has a short shelf-life, to work in IT you need a commitment to lifelong learning and self-development. These days companies will rarely pay for any serious IT training, preferring to bring in consultants or contractors with the qualifications already. At some point in your career in IT you will probably want to be a contractor or consultant, it's how you will pay for all those expensive technical qualifications you've earned. But all this is longer term. Actually getting into IT is going to be very difficult. As Network Administrator I had a regular supply of volunteers ready and willing to work free of charge just to gain experience, even then I had to turn most of them down because showing someone else how to do a job takes you away from your own work and as with most teams in IT these days we were a small team managing a large infrastructure. I think the advice given by some to go for an ITIL qualification is sound, as is taking a non technical approach to getting your foot into the IT department. Frankly a geek who plays with computers in his bedroom and cannot communicate well is of little use in todays IT world, enthusiasm is good of course. There's not much point in shouting about coding/programming skills for a helpdesk job. And on the subject of helpdesks its important to realize there is not necessarily a natural path of progression from helpdesk to a technical career in IT, its a different skill set and only very few will ever make the cross over. A degree is pretty much useless in IT. If you feel uncomfortable about not having a degree on your CV then enrol on an Open University course, once your foot is in the door its entirely up to you if you follow through on that course of study. Initially you will not want to try and specialize too soon, you need to be flexible and simply seize any opportunities, later it will pay to carve out more specialist skills so you can reep better financial rewards, and find interesting work! Unfortunately aside from the latest in vogue technical skills the jobs which pay the most in IT are the ones no one else wants to do because they are so damn boring! Above all Good luck!
Re: My thoughts....
James, have a look at your keyboard, right-hand edge, about half way up there is an enter key. You can use this to create something called a paragraph.
It's useful when you wish to be legible.
Hobby to Career
Building PCs may be an interesting hobby, but as a career IT can be mindnumbing. As others have said, the equipment is usually bulk bought with a service contract, so most of your work will be software.
To paraphrase Frankie Boyle:
"I got into IT because I enjoyed building PCs. I later learnt that this is like enjoying burgers and deciding to become a cow."
Support is the wrong place to start
If you start at entry level support you're a receptionist. The reason the bar to entry is so low is you're not expected to know any IT and you won't have any chance to learn any either.
Agreed with much of the above - if the reason you want to get into IT is for the pay etc. then you've picked the wrong career. That ship has sailed.. I earn only 60% of what I did 5 years ago and my job is harder. And that's normal. The days of 20%+ annual pay rises are long gone.
OTOH if you're doing it because you like working with computers then it may be worth doing, but start at entry level programming not support... and you're going to have to get whatever qualifications are 'trendy' at the moment to get your foot in the door* (haven't heard of any of the ones mentioned above.. when I did it it was HND at a minimum), then be treated like shit for at least 5 years before you have the experience to work your way up the ladder. That much hasn't changed.
* The qualifications won't actually tell you anything - if you've got any interest in computing at all you already know everything (and more, probably) they're likely to teach - but without them your CV will be straight in the bin.
** Thinking about it, we have no formal qualification - it's all experience, and we don't read CVs until late in the recruitment process, if at all.. but as a small company we can get away with that. Larger companies often use recruitment companies - who basically strip your CV for keywords then match with requirements and send everyone to interview who appears to match. Hence having a CV with lots of relevant qualifications/buzzwords on it is essential.
To make it in the IT industry you have to know a number of technologies.
J2EE/Oracle - Large Corporations.
ASP.NET.SQL Server - Small/Mid Size Businesses
PHP/MySQL - Very Cheap Visualized (Shared) Internet Hosting
You could learn SQL from a database neutral point. This would allow your DB code to run with little change across all the Database Management Systems. To improve speed you would then have to rewrite a little with DB specific code. Knowing what is ANSI SQL and DB specific code is huge advantage. Eg Oracle has many functions which help with manipulating dates/times which the other DB's require more lines of SQL to achieve.
Of the Web server technologies Visual ASP.NET is the easiest to learn. This does mean you dont fully know what is happening underneath but you could later top up skills by learning more about asp.net code. Furthermore asp.net is used by businesses and shared virtualized internet hosting. With J2EE you would mainly be restricted to working for large corporations and with PHP mainly cheap internet hosting providers.
Having said all the above I used to work for a IT consultancy and development staff are not regard highly. You are constantly reminded that there are armies of Indian software developers and how you are easily dispensable. It is these organizations that pay nearly 50% more to non computer science educated employees who do noting more than produce worthless specification documents in English. If they at least knew UML and described business processes using Use Cases, Activity Diagrams and State Charts then the programmers life would be much simplified.
So to answer your original question Which Qualifications are worthwhile? - You could be more successful with just your University degree in Geography.
couple of things
" If you think your manager/company is going to offer you an automatic pay-rise every year, forget it" - true, you need to be a politician for that.
"** Thinking about it, we have no formal qualification - it's all experience, and we don't read CVs until late in the recruitment process, if at all.. but as a small company we can get away with that. Larger companies often use recruitment companies - who basically strip your CV for keywords then match with requirements and send everyone to interview who appears to match. Hence having a CV with lots of relevant qualifications/buzzwords on it is essential."
Also true - if the recruitment company is no more than a box shifter (most are, and some employers recognise that and just don't use those recruiters).
Worst interview i ever had - also turned out to be the most instructive:
"Here's a PC, connected to a switch that uplinks to network. PC won't go online. Fix it, whatever it takes. Wipe them if you have to, just get it online. I'll be back in an hour".
No more clues.
Having said that, today I've been exchanging emails with a "colleague" (I use the term extremely loosely) who has a reasonably well paying job as an "Specialist" but can't even get sound playing (i have a strong suspicion he couldn't find the mute checkbox that was checked), and was hired on the basis of a CV that said he could do IT support. No network skills, no non-Windows skills, and according to some co-workers not so hot on the people skills thing either.
A: if you do go the support route, everyone's problem is important - to them, even if not to you. Don't make that muppet's mistake and treat people as if they are inconveniencing him when they ask for help. Even if it's amazingly easy and trivial, make them feel "looked after", as if it was something easily overlooked. Laugh in private - or share on here :)
B: if you go the developer route, -formal- business analysis skills are over-rated - again, making people feel as if you're taking problem away from them just works (this by the way is how the muppet got his support job) - but don't take the p*ss, otherwise you'll be hired back to run NHS IT. Although no-one could accuse that 'nice' Mr Granger* of having people skills (yes that's based on face-to-face experience). Once you do the people thing, the business analysis should just become obvious - because people will tell you, and you'll see straight away that not everyone has the same idea of what you're there to do. Trick is to find the right person. Then convince her/his boss. :)
C: if you don't have any hands-on skills, but know the jargon (although not a clue what it means), go into recruitment
Good luck, hope things work out - but seriously, don't waste time on an IT-specific degree if you already have a degree-level hard science or engineering qualification, and don't spend money on vendor-specific courses until you've got hands-on experience. E.g. for Linux, an earlier poster said build yourself a media box - good plan. For Windows, make Vista efficient. Ok, forget that second idea, never going to happen.
Oh, and read BOFH. Religiously. :)
* who, by the way, started an IT degree but actually graduated in something else instead. Earned a fortune making people believe he understood IT. When i was a (very) junior on one of his project teams, he wanted to know why he had to use approved antivirus software before being allowed to plug a personal laptop into company network.
Why say a degree is impossible?
You don't have to quit your job and be a full time student to get a degree.
...is worth a lot at entry level.
Took someone on who I felt was a better fit on the team in terms of personality, but other than tinkering at home he'd only ever worked as a shelf stacker. (He's 20 mind!)
I asked a few questions about current tech to gague his interest in it. If candidates know what a SAN is (just what it stands for, or what it's used for. Even "Storage" is a valid answer) then it suggest they at least try to keep up on development with enterprise tech. Someone who WANTS to learn is beter than someone who doesn't in my opinion.
A couple of years on a helldesk, hinting that you want to learn, do a self-taught A+ and Network+ and go in with the attitude that you're not experienced, but you're determined, want to learn and LOVE troubleshooting and customer service. That's what most people, IMHO would look for when getting a traniee / PFY in. If it's an entry level position a clean slate and desire to learn is the best I could ask for. The paperwork is just a useful deciding tool if stuck between a couple of candidates.
- PLAY! OSS is great, but I most companies don't want trainee staff around Linux boxes, and I'd wager there's less in use out in corporate world. Enjoy playing with every platform, but become a god on desktop Windows.
- A+ / Network+ are good, entry level bits of paper. But they show you know fundementals - nothing more. Self-study is cheap and will boost your credentials
- ESXi and Hyper-V are good freebie places to look at. Create a VM host and use the host to create test VM's for your learning machines!
- MS do free online virtual machines with training guides. They're actuall quite good. Imagine others provide something similar too.
- Enterprise versions of most software can be obtained via trial licences / eval copies from most big vendors.
- If you have a pro or ent version of Windows fire up gpedit.msc and play. I'd suggest in a VM if possible. Same with Windows firewall (advanced though).
- Keep ontop of industry news. El Reg, Neowin, The Inq and BBC Tech News are some of my favourites.
- Everyone needs platforms, web servers, databases, mail servers and directory services. Platforms are the starting point. Unless you want to be a DBA I suggest knowing different vendors, editions and maybe a play installing, but otherwise don't go in to deep. DBA is a job in itself and sits in IS rather than Infrastructure.
Most of all - enjoy it. Being enthuastic is your best bet. WIthout qualifications or experience behind you, you're going to need to sell yourself on your personality. I'd suggest going in as willing to learn and be shaped as possible, whilst showing your love for IT, customer service and desire to get into enterprise IT.
How long are you prepared to wait
I started in IT just over 10 years ago, failed my A levels, too much dossing.
Eventually got a job as an Office Junior in a printers. Small companies like that often have very few IT staff, so I managed to integrate my normal day of job adding stuff to excel spreadsheets and helping the 2 IT people out, usually just trying to fix someones connection to a printer or the network, then after 6 months managed to get a job in IT as a nightshift operator, doing backups, checking schedules ect. 3rd job was a Desktop Support role, very interesting but i soon got bored of it. Now I am with one of the biggest IT solutions suppliers in the country, yes a lot of people hate the company I work for, but I enjoy my job and am a Lead Technical Analyst now, in charge of various virtualised infrastructures.
Point is, I have no qualifications in IT at all, not a single letter to put to my name, my experience first off was just home build PC, pretty much like you. I have worked my way up and dont regret it at all.
My advice is to get yourself vmware player, download windows 2008 evaluation and install that, play around with it, install IIS and get some .NET web applications setup, you can get loads from hotscripts.com. Also setup and install AD is pretty easy to be honest.
When comfortable with that, try installing a few linux distros and setup a few web services on that. Also to note, Citrix is a big player too, and you can sign up on the site and download a 365 day trial of their full Xenapp software, took me about a day to install with no knowledge of it beforehand.
You will likely pick up networking/firewall skills as you go on. If your employer offers to get you a qualificiation then jump at the chance, never a bad thing for free training. Make sure you read the small print though, they sometimes put in if you leave within 3 years, you have to pay for the training.
Virtualisation is pretty big at the moment in my experience, so do atleast have a play at home with vmware and citrix virtualisation. If you are enthusiastic about it, then you really do pick things up fast.
This one appears to have been missed.
You could try the following:
Install a mainframe emulator on you PC.
Buy a COBOL training course/book from ebay
Add JCL & SQL to the above training.
Earn a fortune from large businesses that haven't upgraded their systems for many, many years and all their old COBOL programmers have retired/died/stopped caring.
Businesses are acquiring data at blinding speeds yet have no idea what they're going to do with it.
Sorry but without a school diploma of some kind, or some kind of certification from some morganization... no manager will even look twice at your CV...
At the moment... you are still just a user... sorry.
My son got ME when 15 years old, spent 5 years in bed. Computers and the internet were his only outlet.
No GCse, A Levels. He started on a Helpdesk for Microsoft Office products mainly Excel and Word.
He started doind MCSE qualification with Microsoft on line, and Now has 18 including MCTP s. Having donea lot of network work, he got on the BP team. running their worldwide VPN. From there he took Citrix and Cisco exams. He now is a valued techie with majors on commercial contracts with Major worldwide banks.
He says that IT graduates, tend to be generally out of date when they leave university, and they have to learn the same sort of stuff as he has, so why end up with a £40K millstone round their neck?
Re: Whick qualifications
the only thing a degree adds is that it shows you have commited to something for 3+ years. If your one of those types that goes to uni to get a 2:1 and liver damage then yeah nothing to add but you can do some great research that yoou won't be given such free reign to do in a job.
Kudos to you son though sounds like despite illness he bootstrapped himself into the area (finance/gas/oil) where the higher paid IT jobs are.
Re: Whick qualifications
No. A degree shows you have done more than just commit to something for 3+ years. It sounds like your[sic] the type that goes to uni[sic] to get a 2:1 and liver damage.
Re: Whick qualifications
I went the same way (anon for obvious reasons!). Did my GCSEs and A-Level's. Got consistant IT grades there and continued doing IT as a hobby also. Even learnt how to use a Amstrad Commodore at 5/6 years old! Said no to university and learnt my craft at a private school who by chance were looking for an apprentice and were growing from an all-girl school to a mixed-school. My manager was employed a year previous and had visions to grow the IT (which was 4/5 years out of date in 2006). Once my manager weeded out the other rubbish in our team, we managed to go through two server upgrade cycles and learnt building servers, managing AD/DNS/DHCP, routers, switches and the value of good customer service. People always come back to you if you're nice and will back you up if the stinking attitude (that I saw with the previous tech's) is not there. Got promoted twice and ended up the 2nd in command and looked after the general helpdesk/support guys.
In my time since then, I've learnt Cisco CCNA (still not passed due to personal reasons) but gone on to manage kit in data centre's and manage web environments/troubleshoot web tech in a smalll business, medium business and now starting a new job earning 40k+ at a top web firm in their industry at the age of 26. Will be working as a top sys admin in their operations team. I've only got here by hard work, continous curiousity in IT, honesty, learning from mistakes and becoming confident in what I know from bottom to top in IT.
Degrees will get people in high-level programming/project/managerial roles for top co's. But if you want to be the best sysadmin / techie; work hard to want to understand everything about IT (desktop to server to general networking) and then specialise in what you enjoy most. For me, that's web/networking technologies. Also, learning to be proactive is key as well as spotting weak points in systems or bugs in software causing regular crashes will get you brownie points with your bosses.
Re: Whick qualifications
I am just interested to know the ages (approximate) of the techs that your team needed to ''weed out'' at the school you worked at?
Re: Whick qualifications
One was late 20s when I started (at 19) and the other late 50s. The guy who was in his late 20s was a degree educated guy. Very bright, but very lazy. Could of taken the manager's job, but didnt. Then got arsey with the manager for not doing things way (although he was responsible for the awfully built Asus P4 barebone machines he ordered before my manager appeared that were dirty cheap and horrible maintain - we replaced them very quickly!). This guy went on to become an IT Manager at a local law firm on a bucket full of money and then moved to the states with his new girlfriend.
The guy who was in his late 50s had a very interesting story. Basically worked for the school for 15+ years. Was the only tech there being managed by the head of science at the time. Did what he wanted and that's probably why the IT suffered. Not discounting his work though as he was very clever and could script VB until the cows came home! Made some very clever stuff. But his efforts were distorted by his horrid personal life and didn't move up the chain as a manager that should of been his. I suspected he was autistic (from his extreme values and literal understanding on things). Weeding out was the wrong word looking back what I said, but these guys werent being productive. I was a shy guy coming in, but luckily my manager put the time into making me grow as a competitent sysadmin who took decisions proactively. Having come from another public school, my manager wanted to set the bar high for good customer service/reliability and we both pushed for that.
The finance server (that also did the whole school e-mail too) stuck in a bottom cupboard near the door with easy access and one of the finance administrators having an admin password to the whole system sums up the attitude of the previous gen technicians there. And they were even nice enough to punch a whole in the wall in the cupboard for ventilation. Charming security.
Re: Whick qualifications
Thanks anonymous - that's a great run down on those guys and their story. I think there are lessons for us there. What I see guys seeking progression in their career but can't - for whatever reasons. Maybe they needed to take a jump into the unknown. Instead a gentle push was probably the best thing that could ever happen for them.
Re: Whick qualifications
I'd love to go further with the stories, but want to keep it short and sweet for anonymity. I'm still learning a lot myself having been in IT only 7 years. All 3 jobs (excluding the new job I'm moving into next week) have been very different. All different industries, different attitudes and different levels of competency in IT.
Everyone should be brave enough to step into the unknown and push themselves. Isn't that what life is about? The two guys I left running the IT with my manager will probably end staying there for many years because they're only moving when pushed (by redundancy or the nature of short term contracts). That's fair enough and if they're happy, so be it. But I'd be unhappy to sit so comfortably in a job that it becomes repetitive and that my skills aren't being stretched. I'm hoping to become someone who can sell their skills on a independent basis and go into consultancy eventually after turning 30 (as long as circumstances don't suddenly change).
There's room/opportunity for everyone in the IT industry as long as they are engaged and want to learn more with every step they take. From what I'm finding at the moment, companies want engaged employees who have a very consistent experience track record. I'm surprised my lack of a degree or major qualifications hasn't stopped me moving up the chain. Maybe that's just the nature of the beast at the moment.
Unless you were born with an interest - seek happiness, fortune and fulfillment elsewhere
You sound very enthuastic. I have done nothing but It quals since graduating 15 years ago (ok a brief break doing OU). My advice...similar to the others, forget about competing with the third world and automated tools, build your career in the medical industry and find rare/niche area where you can channel all that enthusiasm for tech into some new amd exciting field. Write software drivers for medical stuff, become a whizz in excel for medical computations, build cheap commodity medical devices from old PC bits, but do not undersell yourself as an IT support chap, no offence to IT support chaps...but their under loved by the finance department and staying that way.
I have been an IT consultant for 19 years. In that time, I have been an IT salesman, an engineer, a web developer, and a database builder / admin. Currently I run an IT company in London where myself and two other engineers support a wide range of clients. I try to spend some of my time building database / web projects - which we do in 3 - 6 months per project, and sell to our clients for up to £25k (and then reuse for other new clients). My company is happily ticking over, and produces about £300,000 - 400,000 turnover per year. If I had my time over, I would have dived more fully into the database / web part of the whole thing. As it is, I get to spend little time programming because I have to be a manager and engineer.
My recommendation is to try to drop straight into web / database programming rather than eventually ending up there. Leave the hardware to the hardware monkeys because if you get involved, you'll find it hard to break out (after all, I'm not going to stop going to see clients to plug their network cable back in for £100.00 per hour because I'd rather be programming). Programming may seem a daunting wall to climb, but there are ways in that lend themselves to anyone who is prepared to spend a bit of time looking at examples, and working stuff out. If you are in the medical industry now, building database software for your already familiar industry will be easier than for someone not in that sphere, and if you're successful over a couple of years, will provide you a very good income for the rest of your life.
Do a general IT course
Do a general IT course with a range of subjects. Try to cover programming, app development, networking, systems (server maintenance), HTML, scripting.
That way you would get to try different areas and get to find the one you like.
Another point - probably best to avoid Microsoft. A few reasons:
* They have a tendency to drop technologies; ASP, .NET, Silverlight, etc and so the time you spent learning them will be mostly wasted.
* Many applications are now web based and the vast majority of these are developed in non-MS languages.
* The is a huge demand for app development which is mainly Android and iOS which will likely remain the main players.
* Most of the web runs on non-MS stuff.
But the main reason is that their stuff doesn't work properly and it's incredibly frustrating. Although the MS manual may say do x,y,z when you do that it won't work. You end up having to find loads of work-arounds which may not always work the same.
I once had to work with .NET for about eight months and that was the closest I came to actually giving up IT cos nothing was consistent and trying to deploy apps was a nightmare - and when you're setting up the data entry systems for a call centre and need to deliver to a timescale it was incredibly stressfull.
Get Indian nationality and living costs of £200 per month. That is the number one prerequisite for a job in IT.
Choose a field
You say you're into building PCs and mucking around with networks, but these are two very distinct fields in the real world. You'll have to pick one of them, or you'll never really be good at either of them.
While its more than possible to be a jack of all trades without any kind of specialisation, these two fields are vast enough that trying to be a jack of all trades in both of them will really leave you as a master of nothing - IMO.
Speaking from experience, I followed the networking route (excuse the pun) and chose not to specialise in any particular portion of it - I'm not a switching expert, I don't know BGP inside out, and I can only just fumble my way through troubleshooting SDH circuits. But, I've done enough of everything to have even a faint clue about them all if someone asks me a question or starts talking to me about it.
And this is without really having paid much attention to computer hardware and software development over the past 8-10 years - networking and telecomms are just as fast paced as the computer side that one of them is going to end up consuming more, or too much of your time to get good enough at the other to make yourself useful at it.
Figure out which one it is that tickles your fancy more, and throw yourself at it with all your might. The last thing the industry needs is more people who, although they have the right intentions, just have no clue because they are trying to do too much (sorry if that sounds harsh.)
FWIW I have worked in technical roles at several ISPs in Australia since 2004, and am now based in Europe. I have a lab at home consisting of several Cisco and Juniper routers and a server running ESXi, enough to set up a small ISP in my bedroom (and I have done so, to get a better understanding of how it all works.) That's what I mean by throwing yourself at your chosen field. You're going to have to get "geeky" and spend time and money outside of work to play around with stuff to really understand it. My job may be 9-5, but learning is perpetual.
I don't want to state the obvious BUT
Look at Job Adverts. Read the Job Description. What skills and qualifications are employers looking for in jobs you are interested in? Which are essential and which are desirable? What kind of experience is needed? What sort of person are they looking for? What could you realistically work towards now, and what would you work towards once you get your first job in IT? Find out!
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned...
Becoming a proper BOFH. Of course one may need to start being a proper PFY first, but usually you get that job by knowing the boss anyway. For many of us, the BOFH stories are biographical (if not actually, but the intent is there). Go read just how Simon solves the problems of the day. Remember, he calls the lonley people at the "helldesk" low lifes and has much distain for them since they rarely solve problems, and end up creating more for him.
Yes, go read several installments of the tales of BOFH, and his assistant PFY, and you shall become "enlightened!".
Then again, I've been programming since the 60's (and being paid for it) so what do I know. But there are those BOFH moments!
- IT bloke publishes comprehensive maps of CALL CENTRE menu HELL
- Nine-year-old Opportunity Mars rover sets NASA distance record
- Analysis Who is the mystery sixth member of LulzSec?
- Prankster 'Superhero' takes on robot traffic warden AND WINS
- Comment Congress: It's not the Glass that's scary - It's the GOOGLE