IT PROFESSIONS & CAREER PROFILES
The IT industry offers a wide range of positions that vary in their requirements and expectations. To start an IT career, you should have a reasonable idea of the requirements of the area you’re interested in.
What you should do first is to learn about the various career options. What does the job entail? What is your background? What are the skill needs? What are the personality requirements? Answers to these questions should indicate the area that suits you. It is unwise to invest in training or certification, unless you know it's the right program and career path for you.
What I have compiled are career summaries of high demand areas in IT. It is not possible in this report to cover all the details. However, the essence is to introduce these areas to you as a newcomer. You should also do more research on areas you are interested in.
The Engineering profession is one of the oldest in IT. Engineering specifically has to do with designing and supporting Computer Hardware. Computer hardware covers a wide range including: Computer Monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, Multimedia. Engineering is not limited to the PC world. Minicomputers and Mainframe computers are included too. Furthermore, in the IT environment, engineering equipment includes Power Protection equipment such as Stabilizers, Surge protectors and Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS).
The Engineer designs the different parts that make up the computer equipment. Design is the major function of the Engineer - design of microprocessors, integrated circuits and circuit boards used in computer equipment. Design is complex, challenging and definitely intellectually stimulating. It is for the creative minded. The creative ability must usually be complemented by research and study efforts. It is the design aspect of engineering along with research that accounts for most of the innovations and new products in Hardware technology. Design requires a solid intellectual background, logical thinking, attention to detail and the ability to focus for long periods.
Another important function of the Engineer is Technical Support. Common titles of Tech Support personnel include: Technical Support Representative, Systems Engineer, Customer Service Representative, Help Desk Support, PC Support Specialist, PC Maintenance Professional, Sales Support Technician, Maintenance Engineer.
Technical support involves the installation, configuration, maintenance and troubleshooting of computers and related equipment. To effectively carry out preventive and curative measures, logical skills and a real understanding of how the equipment works will come into play here.
It involves a fair amount of human interaction. Tech support therefore requires patience, as well as problem-solving and strong communication skills.
THE SOFTWARE PROFESSIONAL
Software professionals develop software that drives the hardware. Popular titles are Programmer, Systems analyst or System Developer. These individuals create, manage and maintain software programs. To create such programs you need to learn and master the art using programming languages (code). Popular programming languages are Visual Basic, C++ and Java. It involves gathering requirements, coding and testing.
Programmers create software products based on identified market needs, and or specific user requirements. This allows a lot of room for creative ability and innovative thinking while working to specifications and standards. In performing systems analysis, you interact with users, observe their workflow and attempt to create models that will satisfy the user. It means a certain degree of conceptualization is required. To give the user what the user wants, the analyst must know the working requirements of the user, sometimes to the minute details. You need to love paying attention to details.
Analysts in some organizations may not necessarily start out with a computing background. Often people bring their previous job experience to work with the programming team in understanding user requirements. A programmer may be involved in analysis, or may strictly focus on programming, or both. This depends entirely on the working environment.
Programming, just like engineering design requires logical thinking, attention to detail and the ability to focus for long periods. Although programming routines tend to be more predictable than jobs with a fair amount of troubleshooting, it can be quite intensive with regard to self-development. You must be ready to keep learning programming languages/tools/updates because of continuous enhancements in the way programs are written.
THE NETWORK SPECIALIST
With the growth of the Internet, driven primarily by the merging of Communications and Computers, there is a growing demand for individuals skilled in the technical aspects of this unique convergence. Networking is an area of IT that is developing rapidly, especially with new developments in wireless and mobile computing. No wonder the fastest growing sector in IT now is that of Wireless networking.
Networking encompasses Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN) and Internet. Networking facilitates communications and the sharing of resources using IT. Just like the Engineer, the Network Engineer is involved in the design, maintenance and troubleshooting of all aspects of the Network environment - Network equipment, the physical Network, Network connections, Network management and Network Software. Popular Networking names and products include Microsoft Windows, Novell Netware, Banyan, US Robotics, Appletalk, Cisco, Agere, Orinoco, 3COM and Linux.
The Network professional not only deploys networks but must also ensure reliability and consistency of the network by handling problems efficiently, and reducing the risk of network failure. You're also expected to keep abreast of the latest in computers and network technology. The job can therefore be quite demanding as you should not only be flexible enough to provide service at any time, but as a network professional you should be expect to work long hours, weekends inclusive. This is a good position for those with problem-solving and analytical thinking skills.
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT / ACADEMICS
Research and Development is about carrying out scientific and technological investigations that contribute to knowledge for the benefit of society. Design is closely related to Engineering design mentioned earlier. However, research here is not limited to the engineering aspect of IT. Discoveries based on research are useful in virtually all spheres of human endeavour. Research in IT could be useful for mass production of scarce drugs, assisting in finding cures for diseases, Telecommunications, business optimization, Oil, Sports, etc. Today’s modern tools, which are now valuable everywhere are the results of years of research.
Research can be extremely satisfying for those who want to “create” or contribute to, knowledge. But a researcher must be extremely dedicated and persistent. Research can be very challenging, as results don’t usually come fast. It isn’t for “rapid results” people. Research requires patience and focus. A researcher must always realize that research is not an end in itself. Research must be of value to the society. Research obviously requires a solid intellectual background.
Most researchers are also Academics. Academics are involved in teaching and assessing students in all fields of IT. The academic is usually the first expert, aspiring professionals will encounter as they begin their career. Research can be flexible, and could be combined with office, business or industrial work. Obviously, the Researcher must enjoy studying, learning, testing and experimentation.
In the digital world we all depend on databases for vital information. Popular database products are Oracle, Microsoft’s SQL Server, IBM’s DB2 and Sybase. Database experts make sure that these databases are secure, robust and functional for effective business performance.
The role a database administrator (DBA) plays is essential and can be quite complex. DBAs maintain the information the company needs to carry out its business and be successful. DBAs are responsible for setting up and maintaining corporate databases. It is the DBA’s duty to ensure availability, backup, security and efficiency of the database.
Common tasks of the DBA include report generation, backup management, security management, and performance monitoring and tuning. A Database administrator is more of a data facilitator – making sure data is secure, available and is used productively.
Do you love responsibility, planning and attention to detail? Maybe you should consider becoming a DBA. Database administration requires planning and organizational skills as well as a programming background.
INTERNET / WEB DESIGN
Web sites are coming up all the time all over the world. Web professionals develop and maintain web pages and web sites on the Internet. Internet design and development is a combination of two skill sets: Programming as well as art/graphic design. Web development can be regarded as a special form of programming. Web developers are involved in creating models, graphic designs, web page designs, testing and troubleshooting.
Popular Web development tools include HTML, Macromedia’s Dreamweaver and Microsoft’s Frontpage.
Web development requires creativity and attention to detail. Although programming skills are important, it is also vital that the Web developer has a flair for presentation and aesthetics. Web development in addition involves a fair amount of testing and problem solving.
What I have given is a general guide. There are no hard and fast rules. As a lot depends on opportunities at your disposal and your working environment. In small organizations, the job functions tend to overlap. While larger organizations are more compartmentalized. For example, in certain places, an individual can combine the tech support and networking functions. And in some other places, the function of the programmer, DBA and web designer may be all rolled into one.
As you can see, there really are wide varieties of positions available to you in the IT world. Now it's up to you to find a category of work that fits your background, personality and desires. You may also need to get a practical feel of the job. Also be resourceful in acquiring career information.
A popular and enlightening career forum is the free IT Career seminar series (http://www.jidaw.com/itcareer.html#seminars)
But note that choosing a career path is not all that you need to succeed in IT. Attitude, knowledge and experience are all key success factors.
While there are opportunities in all areas of IT, Technical support is usually regarded as the best area for a beginner to gain a good working knowledge of the basics of the IT profession. You may not make much to start with, but if you are serious you can enhance your value as a professional. Hands-on experience gained especially in the area of problem solving is invaluable for starting an IT Career. PCs can be seen in every sphere of life now. What this means is that it is easier for a newcomer in tech support to get experience and get a foot in the door, as opportunities are virtually limitless. This is quite unlike a newcomer with skills in more complex applications that are not commonplace.
I hope this has given you more information on important career options in the IT industry.
I wish you all the best in your IT Career,
Jide Awe is the Publisher of Jidaw.com.
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