Posted tagged ‘career’

A blog worth reading – Calvin Sun

February 25, 2009

I don’t usually promote other blogs here, but I keep going back to this one.  Calvin Sun is one of my favorites – his wisdom in relating basic common sense to work situations is commendable.  A great example of his skill at teaching business and life principles in very accessible form can be found here

I discovered his work through his Tech Republic posts, but he has been published other places as well (such as ComputerWorld).  He hasn’t been posting much on his blog lately, but the collection of articles on there is still well worth your time.  The link to his site is on my blogroll, or you can simply click this link:

http://succeedingatwork.blogspot.com/

You can read his bio on his personal web site here:

http://www.calvinsun.com/biography.htm

So You Wanna Break Into IT? (Part 7 – Customer Service)

April 14, 2008

If you cringe when someone says “customer service,” IT may not be the thing for you. In my side work as a technical consultant, service is a large part of my position – I would say as much as 60%. And really, the goal of IT is to add value to the business. You can’t do this if you make the customer feel incompetent, if you appear incompetent to her, or if you stress him out just by being there. There are numerous frightening stories out there about bad CS, and I would suspect that many a business has been damaged or destroyed because they didn’t care about the customer.

And customer service doesn’t stop with the customer – direct reports (and perhaps supervisors too) are customers. My current supervisor is awesome – he feels that we need to provide incredible customer service and top-notch issue resolution. Beyond that, most things are very flexible and common-sense. He empowers us to make decisions about the issues we face, even in an entry-level position (which is especially important with me being some 2000 miles away). It’s so logical. I know not all managers are like that, but it makes for a great working environment here.

This is the last post in this series.  Thanks to all of you who came back and read the whole thing.  I will still be writing on tech topics, so keep coming back!  I’m always on the lookout for other tech blogs, so if you have a site of your own, let me know in a comment and I would love to check it out!  By the way, don’t put more than one or two links in your comment – WordPress automatically blocks comments with too many links.

Cheers!

Ben

So You Wanna Break Into IT? (Part 6 – The Money Myth)

April 11, 2008

OK, let’s just admit it. The pay is good, even at entry level. I understand some people in the industry feel they don’t make a lot, but if you have the skills, you can find another job that does pay well. I live in Podunk, Montana, but I still have a stable job with good pay and basically the best benefits package available to anyone in our small town. My wife, son, and I are able to live fairly comfortably off of my income. But one thing needs to be clear.

You have to be ready to work your tail off. You can’t except to waltz in with a couple of entry-level (or higher) certifications thinking you deserve 85K a year (or a job at all, for that matter). In general (and of course with some exceptions), your pay rate is directly proportional to your work ethic. This tends to be true in any field, and I wish my generation understood this. There are no free rides, and the quality of the ride you get depends largely on your determination, not on the cosmic lottery (see installment one regarding passion for work and number four regarding respectability).

Get some entry-level experience and move from there. Some of the most successful IT pros I know got there by climbing the stairs from the ground floor. In fact, probably pretty much all of them did. I started just over a year ago with no degree and a very basic certification (CIW Foundations) but lots of drive and a foot in the door. Now, I hold several more certifications and am in school pursuing my degree, but that means nothing if I had a reputation as a “loafer.”

The “cosmic lottery” people are few and far between. Yes, network – and use those connections. Yes, go to school and get your degree, even if you’re past typical college age (hey, I am…). Yes, call your cousin and ask him about that Unix guy he knows that needs a junior admin. But more than anything else, learn to enjoy work and you will succeed.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” (Edison)

So You Wanna Break Into IT? (Part 5 – Learn, Learn, Learn)

April 10, 2008

I can learn and get paid for it.  IT thrives on information (see Part 3 regarding the flux and change of the IT field), and you need information if you are going to be a good IT pro.

 

In a prior (non-IT) position I held, I was once told by a superior that “I hadn’t really tapped the knowledge available to me” (or something close to that).  The problem was, the knowledge she spoke of wasn’t actually available to me.  She wanted me to know, but didn’t give me time to learn on the clock, or opportunities to access well-organized information about my field.

 

I don’t dislike that supervisor – I have tremendous professional respect for her, and she was partially responsible for my current success.  But in contrast to that situation, when I am not working on trouble requests, I now spend quite a bit of time reading tech blogs, trade magazine articles, certification books, Wikipedia, and the like (in fact, I’m trying to get an appointment set up at a test center to take a certification exam this afternoon).  It’s a beautiful thing, because I love learning, and I need to keep up my skills (and learn new ones).

 

I really think that if you allow an employee reasonable freedom to learn about their job and opportunities to access the information, you will groom your employee for success.  And if you are self-motivated and would like a job where you had to dig up information and learn it quickly, IT might be a good fit for you.

So You Wanna Break Into IT? (Part 4 – Respect, or Respectability to be more accurate)

April 9, 2008

This is more of a general career issue, but I need to mention it because it’s sorely lacking in at least the American job pool.  There is a drastic shortage of respected (or respectable) workers.  In fact, if you are a skilled, analytical, customer-focused, hard-working, person of integrity, you are one of the most valuable (and potentially rare) assets your company has, regardless of your field.

 

It’s not about natural gifts – skills in your field are necessary.  A lot of work, mistakes, and severe annoyance went into my training over the years.  And I am working hard now to boost my skills into other areas of IT besides PC tech support.  Currently I am almost done with a 6-credit networks course and a 12-credit course in leadership and professionalism.  In approximately a year and a half I will graduate with my Bachelor’s of Science degree.  I read a lot of books, wikis, articles, and blogs to bolster my knowledge, and I recently got involved with Microsoft’s DreamSpark program to learn to manage Windows Server 2003.  But when it comes down to it, I do what I love, and I think it’s awesome that people respect me for it. 

 

One last example.  As I was beginning to come of age, I worked as a supervisor at a pizza restaurant.  I loved my job and I was good at it, and I had awesome coworkers (for the most part).  And somewhere along the line it clicked – if I work respectably, people will respect me.  I got addicted to that, and I suggest you do too.  Whether you sell widgets, manage employees, dig ditches, make pizzas, or write Web applications, you can’t afford not to be respectable.  It doesn’t mean that you will always get the respect you deserve, but at least you can respect yourself. 

So You Wanna Break Into IT? (Part 3 – Changing Times)

April 8, 2008

Let’s face it – IT changes every day.  If you can’t deal with this, you won’t do well in this field.  It’s a basic personality thing.  If you want variety and a job that always requires something new of you, IT may be the place for you.

 

I love that.  I need a job that will keep me on my toes and be different tomorrow than it was today.  For instance, today (a week or so before posting this entry) I came across a problem I had not previously faced regarding an Outlook 2003 form.  I used my foremost internal resource (my officemate, the network administrator) to find a solution (update: the solution wasn’t implemented correctly, but the original problem just disappeared… Go figure.  I love a challenge!).

 

Less recently, we had a difficult situation involving the (then) new Dell Optiplex 755.  We could not get it to work correctly with Ghost 8.0, our imaging program.  I spent about a week working on it on and off.  Finally I worked through a solution with the help of a newfound Internet colleague.  Shortly thereafter, I learned that our corporate office (which had just switched to using Dell) had worked through the same issue before I did.  I should have called them first, but I’m glad I learned from experience!  I learned a lot about editing DOS boot scenarios and creating Ghost TCP/IP boot disks.  So all this to say that new problems and new solutions arise daily. 

 

New techologies also arise daily.  Just ask a programmer.  I have learned a little about programming, and I find that it is a massive field with new languages constantly emerging, and new frameworks and techniques to write those languages also emerging.  Check out this quote from graduatecareers.com.au:

 

The range of tasks and streams within an IT career is huge. It is expected that in one’s working life three separate careers might be typical, and in IT one need not leave the sector at all in order to change careers!” (Source: Australian Computer Society, via www.graduatecareers.com.au) 

 

This is great in some ways – you will always find something to challenge you, and you can network across disciplines so as to ensure that you have another spot ready if yours gets cut.  The risk of that is this – your job WILL change, and MAY disappear as the technology changes.  Be prepared to learn a new aspect of the field, or a new field.  

So You Wanna Break Into IT? (Part 2 – Production vs. Quality)

April 7, 2008

This is part 2 of my series of posts for the IT newbie or the person considering a career shift to IT.  Also, for those of us in the business, it could be a look back at why we enjoy IT in the first place.

The second thought on the nature of IT also relates to my earlier career experience.  As I mentioned, I wrote Medicare appeal letters, attempting to convince Medicare to pay claims they had previously denied.  The problem with this is that I cannot work effectively under a never-ending workflow.  That field is totally production-oriented, and it burned me out fast.  I can’t handle knowing that I will never finish what I am doing. 

 

IT is not this way in most respects.  In IT, you typically have a project or a phase of a project, and when it’s done, you are finished with that phase of the project.  I love that.  I also worked in several construction trades in my early 20’s and loved that aspect of those jobs too. 

For instance, one of the projects I frequently have to complete is the creation of a new image for a PC.  No, not a makeover.  An image, if you aren’t familiar, is every bit of software required to deploy a PC to production.  I make a “test” PC, install all the software required for the standard setup, install our printers (see my post on printmig), and create a default profile which all users will start with when they first log on.  In about 4-6 hours, I get to see the results and test it out.  And within about a week of deployment, we can usually work out most of the bugs.  Then it’s done and I feel good about it.

 

If you like to see the results of your work immediately, IT is pretty consistently results-oriented.  On the other hand, I am sure there are some IT jobs in which you don’t quickly see the fruit of your labor.  None I know of come to mind, but if you have one, leave a comment and enlighten us all.