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10 things you gotta have to succeed in IT

Everyone seems to agree that IT is a tough field. But what does it take to overcome the adversities and become a successful IT pro? These qualities may be the key.

I recently wrote a string of articles discussing various reasons to leave IT -- and various alternative careers for dissatisfied IT workers. I received an amazing amount of feedback from readers who have always wanted to express similar sentiments. But that leaves out a huge swath of people: those who desperately want a career in IT, as well as those who are caught somewhere in Limbo, trying to answer questions regarding their ability to remain in their chosen field.

So I thought I would go about this topic from another angle to help those people decide whether they're made up of the stuff necessary for a career in IT. I'm fairly confident everyone agrees it's a tough field. What everyone may not agree on is what it takes to be a successful IT worker. Let's see if this list of 10 things fits your qualifications.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Thick skin

Let's face it. Workers in the IT industry get hit hard, from every direction. If you're not getting your chops busted by someone insisting you get a job done yesterday, you're getting torn apart because the client's QuickBooks data file can't be recovered. It doesn't seem to matter how much skill you have. If you can't take the biting comments and accusations of clients, you won't make it. Thick skin also helps you get through those periods when you, or your boss, doubts those skills you have. You don't want to have to leave at the end of the day thinking you have failed at every job you've done, just because someone had it in for you that day.

2: Persistence

The IT industry is an ever-changing landscape, and every day a new problem makes itself known. In some cases, those problems don't ever seem to want to go away. Without the ability to grapple with an issue for extended periods of time, you might find this industry more of a challenge than you care to take on. Viruses will always be an issue. Updates that tank systems will happen with more consistency than you want to deal with. End users will never really understand how computers work. If you don't have the persistent, stubborn nature necessary to meet these challenges, get out now or you will be beat down daily.

3: Youth

Although I like to think IT is a field not affected by age discrimination, it really is best suited for the younger professionals. There are numerous reasons for this. First, there are the hours. IT often requires far more hours than the usual 9-t0-5 job. When a company goes down, the administrator must respond -- and this could easily mean any time of day, night, or week. Those hours add up and (generally speaking) only the younger workers can keep those types of hours up week after week. Add to that the energy required to keep systems and networks up, and it should be obvious the best IT workers tend to fall into that 25 to 45 age range. The good news? Even if you start at the age of 25, there's a 20-year career waiting for you.

4: Patience

Users and clients are endlessly frustrating. If you have little or no patience, those people will quickly drive you out of the field. And if they don't completely drive you away, they will at least drive away your joy for the human race. Without patience, you won't stand a chance in the IT field. But it's not only because of the people. Systems will test your patience as well. We've all seen the video of the IT admin going ballistic on a PC. It happens. A persistent problem arises and it makes you want to ram your fist down the throat of the PC you're working on. With enough patience, you will save both your knuckles and your sanity.

5: Skills

This one should go without saying -- but I must mention it. Too many times, you see people hop into the field because they managed to get through the MSCE training. But those certified workers quickly realize their classes only prepared them how to walk through a GUI. In the real world, problems arise that require numerous skills to resolve. The skills necessary to work in the IT field don't end with the ability to properly configure a domain or Exchange server, they tend to be all inclusive. You never know what you're going to be required to do on a given day. Think about it this way. When you are seen as an IT administrator, you are not only a specialist in DB administration, you are also a walking help desk who will be asked any and all questions related to work and home computers. And if you don't have the answers for the right person (at the right time), you might find yourself at the back of the line watching someone else with the answers.

6: The ability to improvise

I mean this on many levels. Not only do you need to know how to improvise a conversation. Admit it -- there will be times when you'll have to convince someone that you know exactly what you are doing, even when you don't. But you will also run into situations where you have to improvise a solution. I have witnessed (and experienced) situations where the prescribed solution simply did not work. When that happens, the only way out is to come up with a solution on your own.

7: A good sense of PR

If you're a consultant, you have to be your own marketing firm. Most solo consultants do not have the budget to hire out their PR work, so they wind up doing it all on their own. This means social networking, building a Web site, writing and submitting advertisements, old-school networking, and much more. If you can't do this, your business will flounder. When you go into business for yourself, you must know the best routes for marketing in your area. Whether this is TV, radio, social networks, or flyers, you have to have the motivation and skills to handle that aspect of the business. Although word of mouth is the best PR you can get, it still has to begin somewhere.

8: Connections

This might seem a bit strange, but as a member of the IT field (especially if you're a solo consultant), you have to have connections in many related and nonrelated industries. For example, you will have customers who need rooms cabled, so you might need someone who can do drywall finishing. You might need to have an electrician in your back pocket. If you don't have specific skills, you need to know those in the industry who do. The last thing you want to tell a client is that you can't do something. Instead, you can tell them you will get it done and then subcontract that job. So long as the job gets done and the customer is happy, you will still look good. But if you can't job something out, and you have to tell the client no, the possibility of that client returning to you grows slimmer and slimmer.

9: The desire to learn

As I mentioned earlier, IT is an ever-changing industry. The minute a technology is released, it is out of date. So anyone wanting to tackle a career in IT must have a strong desire to learn. You will be challenged on a daily basis to learn something new. If you don't like learning (be it on your own, with another person, or in a classroom), you should forget about IT. Without the desire to learn, you will quickly fall behind the competition. And believe me, it's a competitive world out there, especially so with the economy still attempting to recover.

10: Passion

Passion for IT is an intrinsic need for every IT worker. If you don't love technology and solving problems, IT is not the right field for you. That passion is the intangible thing that will often get you through the day when everything else on this list fails. And a strong passion for IT will also drive most of the other points here far beyond what sheer intelligence and business savvy can manage. After years of working in the field, passion will also help you get up every morning excited for the workday ahead. Without passion, the IT field can quickly become an empty, soulless place.

When it's right

I've been pretty hard on the IT industry over the past few months. But ultimately, it is an exciting field to work in. Where else can you play with technology all day, solve problems, and make sure businesses continue to exchange product for currency on a daily basis? But just because you know how to resolve Problem A with Solution X doesn't mean you are suited for the IT industry. It requires much more than what your local computer science program will teach you. On top of all those Windows, Linux, and Mac skills, you need life, business, and marketing skills (with the added benefit of youth). With all those qualities intact, you are sure to enjoy a long, successful career in the IT field.

Additional reading

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

188 comments
nat18466
nat18466

That was a Horribly blatant age discrimination comment. I work on average 10 extra hours per week and my co- worker whos past retirement age is on call 24x7. Here's why your just plain wrong on that comment. Besides being experienced and having the time to be available to the company by contrast many younger people prefer to be living their lives rather than being on call or doing ot. The older more experienced IT worker is saving / accelerating their 401k and savings to help support themselves and their younger family member most likely IT worker to gain a better education in IT. Staying in IT is also a crap shoot since most company's offshore 80% of their IT workforce and layoff their American workforce to avoid paying higher benefits. A few companies keep their American workforce to continue that local feeling for now. IT is more of a hobby for most Americans today. If you are good at what you do the company will hire you or keep you and age is only relevant to the stereotype you hold.

D.Lee
D.Lee

Yikes! At 44 I guess I fall into the category of "older" person that you think shouldn't bother with an IT career. I've been an enthusiastic superuser, tinkerer, and general computing enthusiast for years (first computer was a Commodore 64) but decided to take the plunge and get my M.S.I.T and certifications this year and am halfway done. I also have a steady work history consisting of both military and federal operations (logistics & communications) work which required many long hours in many austere climates and divers conditions around the world, many times while being shot at, mortared, or other types of dangerous, life-threatening situations. Most of what I know I learned on my own either out of pure interest or as a result of on-the-job necessity in situations where there were no I.T. personnel readily available but I knew what to do and did it or otherwise improvised a workable solution. It is with that all in mind that I read your article and laughed out loud at your comment implying that us "older" workers could not hack the I.T. lifestyle. Do you think that everyone over 45 has had SUCH an easy life that I.T. would be SO difficult? Perhaps you experienced working with I.T. personnel in that age range and were dissappointed with their work/attitude but don't judge all by the actions of a few. Right now I'm wondering if anyone else in their 40's who didn't know better may have read your article and been discouraged from pursuing I.T. as a career. If so, here's hoping they were able to scroll down and read the many comments here discrediting your rather erroneous and biased statements.

mike-022
mike-022

Now a days age of most of the professional IT are around 25 and above and it seem that even in that age they are making impossible stuff.

tgreene5
tgreene5

Yes - I'm almost 58, and I have been a Network Admin (MCSE) for the last 15 or so years. I started as a PC Tech, and have worked my way up. The company I currently work at, the IT team are all over 55. We do just fine thank you. I have seen far more discrimination as far as being a "female" network admin (that does both hardware and software) than I have seen in age discrimination. But to both, my motto is "just work harder and smarter." I can always outwork a younger person, and/or a man!! LOL Thanks for the entertainment. Heaven help you when you get to my age!! Theresa

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I disagree with it too, but it's just a comment, who the hell cares? It's not AGE DISCRIMINATION! He's not refusing to hire anyone because of age, he just screwed up in thinking younger people are better candidates. SO WHAT?!?!? All these posts about discrimination, losing credibility etc. What a lot of horse........ "I CANNOT believe in this day and age someone would actually practice AGE DISCRIMINATION so openly and flagrantly!!!" @ron rocket.... He's NOT "practicing age discrimination", get over yourself. Did he not hire you because you were too old? No, so have a seat. You want an apology, for a comment in an article, on a private website? You are what's wrong with modern society, what a crotchety, bitter old dog! @trichardson "Jack Wallen is an age discriminate moron " Learn what discrimination means before you spew you BS, Seriously, the first thing you need in ANY role is a thick skin. Clearly, people are more focused on a single comment in a list of relevant observations than having a thick skin. I could see it from kids if the comment was that you had to be older to be experienced and valued for such, which isn't too off base anyway, but this is just ridiculous. No wonder you live in such a PC society now where any comment results in a lawsuit from an easily offended and very think skinned loser. Get a grip people, it's just a 'kin article. It's not a new law being passed, nobody is suggesting changing the Constitution, nobody has lost an eye, it was words and a personal opinion/comment, WHO CARES WHAT'S SAID? Disagree, offer your rebuttals but to take offense and start flaming the OP is just pathetic.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Besides YOUTH, which I completely disagree with anyway, even though I see the point being made, the rest of the SPECIAL TIPS are common to any role in almost any company. Whether MacDonalds or CEO of a billion dollar mining company, these rules all apply. Anyone who is employed builds these abilities over time, if not, they are constantly seeking employment. I don't want to say the original article was pointless but it was...well.....yeah.

ashepard
ashepard

I'm 45+ and still play with my new android, Vsauce and Twitter. When a system is *really* broke who gets called? the old guys who have been around or where around when the system was installed. There are lessons learned from taking backups, naming convention, testing backups with restore, keeping notes, organizing backups so they can be found and keeping a second set of installation media (disk or download) PR to the non IT world can be hard. There is more to IT than "Insert CD, click accept, next, next and finish" though that is what friends and family see me do most often. Smile.

itbob99
itbob99

I agree with skris88 about age discrimination. I am also an over 50 engineer that keeps getting turned down. I have worked corporate IT for over 15 years in such companies as Lockheed Martin and did everything on my own (in my 40s) when sister divisions had 4 people (in their 20s) to do the same job(s). I have also been in consulting role and have done some on location server upgrades for various companies. Lately I have beat out a company of 20 and 30 year old IT people to set up networks and have done their support and I feel darn good about doing that.

bonadventure
bonadventure

There is age discrimination but it isn't the young doing the discriminating it is the older people in the position to hire. Many of the commenters say that they have great IT jobs and they are over 40 but no mention of how many over 40's they have hired into IT positions.

Jackober
Jackober

Just to rekindle the age one- i have gotten quite a number of old-timers on the internet lately-all working from home and doing just super. No fear of IT and loneliness? well what's that?

Professor8
Professor8

I once taught several 70+ year old engineers SQL and they picked it up right away; they were productive in well under an hour. So, the reality is that ability to do STEM work does not evaporate at age 35. The problem is that the employment opportunities evaporate noticeably starting at age 35. http://www.aea.org/News/nsf_numbers.htm "[During] the early 1970s... between 60K and 100K engineers and scientists were unemployed... Remember the early 1980s when the universities were lobbying for money to expand our engineering schools, turning away domestic students and at the same time were recruiting over-seas for students?... High school students were enticed to enroll in engineering only to find they were unable to get jobs upon graduation, older engineers were laid off and salaries failed to keep up with inflation." Edith Holleman "When I came to the Science Committee in July of 1991 as an investigator, by the end of my first week, I had heard that the much-repeated statement from the National Science Foundation [NSF] about a pending shortage of scientists and engineers was false. When I started to ask more questions, the first people I heard from were engineers telling me it certainly wasn't true for them. Older engineers were being off-loaded into contract positions [bodyshopped], losing their benefits and their careers as quickly as the new ones were graduated. Young engineers were doing work that in years past was done by drafts-people." "'The industry says it wants the most recent skills, the hot skills, Java, for example.', said Bard-Alan Finlan, 43, who works as a temporary senior technician. 'But I could learn Java within a month. I've sent out 200 resumes over the past 15 months, but I can't find a full-time job.'... His annual salary? $36K." "'I'd love to have somebody with 20 years of experience, but unfortunately I'm only paying for 3 or 4.', says the IT director at a large law firm on the West Coast." "Career coaches acknowledge that looking younger -- or looking less old -- can shorten a job search..." Well, there are a lot more out there, including articles which mention people who did re-tool in the latest publicized buzz-words, did well in the classes, had related experience, but still can't get the time of day from recruiters. Simply being savvy and knowledgeable isn't enough... because there is a ready supply of cheap, pliant labor from over-seas, with flexible ethics such that they are willing to do basically anything. When one is young and starting out, of course, you don't necessarily know how you measure up in professional environment, so you tend to be willing to work very hard in hopes that the quality and amount of your productivity will eventually be rewarded. After you get a few attaboys, maybe a transfer/promotion of two and things are looking up; you start thinking about maybe being able to afford to start buying a home and maybe a family. And right about then the rug gets pulled you. You may still be learning, may continue to build up your personal knowledge-base, and may frequently be consulted within the firm and by customers for your expertise, but you're considered too old, not flexible/pliant enough, possibly a threat to management, and/or potentially too expensive, and the work is let out to the bodyshoppers. This is the pattern I read in other people's personal stories and in the published articles.

warpdog21
warpdog21

About Jack Wallen Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for Techrepublic and Linux.com. As an avid promoter of age discrimination Jack tries to convert as many corporate hiring decision makers as possible to continue to foster the idea of Obsolescence of older I.T. professionals..... When Jack isn't writing about Linux he is hard at work on his other writing career -- destroying careers and by manipulating perceived reality of mis-infromed hiring zombies career killers, assorted zero's, and just about everything else he can manipulate between the folds of reality. You can find Jack.....Jack?......Jack?.... Ooops! Your over 40 and nobody wants to hear from you anymore......

Insuranceman2
Insuranceman2

I thought this was going to be another article extolling this platform and that gadget, so I was pleasantly surprised to find an astute, insightful breakdown of the immaterial side of the business. Unfortunately, connections are a big deal in IT, and even more unfortunately, it means improvements and promotions are based on who you know fairly often. I would have ranked Connections #1.

jack6666
jack6666

... thread for me to read - the comments more so than the post, which itself was extraordinarily well-reasoned. Outside Flood Lights | Outdoor Party Lights

Deadat45
Deadat45

I agree with Jack that people over 45 are simply too old to handle the stress of network administration, and particularly work related to Linux, Android, and writing articles for TechRepublic. Not many people know this, but Barack H. Obama used to be a network administrator. However, on his 46th birthday, he quit to seek less stressful work. Well done, Mr President; and well done to you, Jack, for turning an otherwise lackluster article into something worth commenting on.

jck
jck

Just for starters: I'm 42, B.S. in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics, and a programmer of almost 20 years in IT, as well as having fulfilled 3rd-party software and hardware implementation roles of all sorts of types over the years. I think that in regards to IT being better suited for younger people: That all depends on the environment...and the person. In the environment that I work in, I am the youngest full-time staff programmer. The other (hardware) staff ages go all the way from 25 to 53. Why? Well, we have a mix of systems here. The financial systems are all on an old HP mainframe. And, you can hardly get programmers that write COBOL still from universities. Most BS/BA programs have focused either on Windows development, web design, or Unix systems with language programming in C/C++. The local university does still teach COBOL, but the reason is not us: it is that the world's largest retailer recruits every year most of the graduates to go work in their programming group. Basically, all the good programmers go for the money. But, IT is not necessarily better suited for the young. Some environments make it that way, due to technology used or pace that some lifestyles prohibit. But, IT itself is not the discriminating factor. The work situation is.

Animosity4U
Animosity4U

My company had been trying to fill positions that are critical to support our IT operations and despite offering excellent pay and benefits we were not able to consistently find young people who were willing to be called in during off hours. The ones who did do the job for a while complained incessantly or wanted ridiculous sums of money and moved on as soon as they found an "easier" or better paid position. The company has now recruited older employees who were retired but still skilled and we have had superior results. Your assertion about age is idiotic and incorrect. Young people, as a whole, have no work ethic whatsoever!

ddmattison
ddmattison

I'm 56, been in IT for over 30 years and have no problem "keeping up" with today's youth. while they're busy "tweeting" or checking Facebook at work, I'm busting my ass developing multi-threaded real value solutions for my company. While they're busy trying to implement "Agile, Scrum, or whatever else is the lastest fad", I'm eating their lunch and developing robust, user loved systems that just plain work and are done on time, under budget. Sorry to see you 've fallen into the "younger is better" mindtrap... you should know better.

acsavage
acsavage

At thirty, my work in IT was conflicting with children's activities and other folks' demands on my time. At sixty, I'm in control of my own schedule. The years of experience have given me time to develop the other excellent qualities you mention, including the maturity to focus on the work that will deliver the most benefit to the business rather than the most technically fun.

pcunite
pcunite

To be in IT today I think you should also care about what the business goals for the brand it. Don't just try to use tech to keep your job, find ways to improve employee working situations. After all, that is what IT does, help people (and machines) to get real work done.

lk_bellsouth.net
lk_bellsouth.net

Jack, while I have the greatest respect for your professional knowledge, abilities, and contributions to the industry via TechRepublic and other venues as well, I must tell you that on a personal level you disappointment me with your comments which I consider a blatant endorsement for others to discriminate in regard to age. In a time which you and all other professionals should embrace the industry-wide talent that is available you are advocating throwing an uncomfortable percentage of talent and experience under the bus. I truly hope that somewhere down the road that no one posts comments that would make you feel unwanted, unneeded, and useless. As I said, truly disappointing.

joshua_keefer
joshua_keefer

I'm a 21 year old and Age defiantly is an added benefit for the field of IT for the very reasons you've mentioned. But as I am about to begin a new very serious, very deep route in the world of IT this article made me feel good about what I've decided to do with my life.

thranowsky
thranowsky

Your assertion that youth is best suited for the IT Industry is woefully misinformed. It has always been my experience that it is the older workers, who are the ones willing to sacrifice, and put in the long hours neccessary to solve a production problem, to complete a successful rollout, or to come in the weekend when it can't be avoided. I'm north of 55, had 3 back surgeries, and I am in constant chronic pain, yet I find the wherewithall to put in the extra hours at night after returning home from a full day's work, to put in the requisite weekend hours, or to ride a production problem to it's conclusion - even if it means putting in 30+ hours at a clip. The only workers in my company that put in equal, or any where near the same effort, are those in the 50+ age bracket. Then again, maybe you need years of experience to recognise the gravitas of a given situation, and realize the effort needed to accomplish a task, fix a problem, or implement a new feature.. You are doing we older workers a grave disservice by making such lame assertions.

dlarsen
dlarsen

Youth need to grow up. Mature / Smart people of all ages get along well in all professions. The creative ones do better here. We figure out how to solve everyone else's problems with technology.

hauskins
hauskins

I just want to point out that it is illegal to use age as a factor in hiring employees. Yes I understand the real world and the way employers can get around it. At 59, I have hired many people for IT positions and the ones that are the most useful to me tend to be over 40. I have hired several 20 somethings and they were good at their jobs but lacked a solid background. In some cases for what I need, I find younger employees to be somewhat of a burden because of the constant learning curve.

rick1960
rick1960

Wow. Who the hell are you? What qualifies you to make such statements? I am fifty-one. I worked in a NOC for several years, before being released along with three others, all of us over fifty. During my tenure, the "youth" at this organization, constantly called in sick, came in late, left early , and essentially showed no respect to anyone. They were terrible at math and spelling, and are easily baffled by any vocabulary that goes beyond Adult Swim. Here's the kicker. I am 5'11', 160 lbs. I take care of my body, and my mind, I read, study anything I can get my hands on, am open minded, and have tons of energy because I take care of myself. Out of twenty-three "youths" in that organization, 18 are morbidly obese, they are sluggish and lazy. None have any post K12 education and what they do know about I.T. is only applicable in their current environment, where they learned the "system", which is so unstable the network goes down daily. If they haven't been through a situation a dozen times, they don't know how to react. I had never encountered an environment like that until I worked at that NOC. I do not allow that experience to sour me to all youth. It sounds to me like this author thinks he's been around, I was like that once, it was called "the arrogance of youth".

jscogin
jscogin

Its not age, it is health that matters. Keep yourself up. Contrary to many beliefs, the IT industry is just as demanding physically as it is mentally. If you do not keep up to date in your knowledge, and in great physical condition, one of two things WILL give. Your job, or your health. Stay active, take care of your self, and know your limits, and you will strive in both areas. I commend everyone in the industry for doing their best, Remember, we all fall short of perfection, but it is the pursuit that makes us proud of who we are.

ghastf0a
ghastf0a

Good points on everything, except I'll join in the age discrimination chorus. By your logic, age should also apply to doctors, nurses, airplane pilots, police men, fire fighters, and 100s of professions that require odd hours. I'm 32, started IT at 25, been using computers and wrote my first BASIC program in Commodore 64 since I was 9, and if anything I always look at older workers with respect and as mentors, provided they stay current in their field.

mccor005
mccor005

As an older worker, it's heartening to hear such a chorus of affirmation re: our skills and glorious intelligence, etc. However, isn't the real issue what kind of a workplace and what kind of a working world we want for the future? The whole concept of burning out or utilizing people till they drop seems really old-fashioned and inefficient. I would like to be thinking about how we can utilize more people in ways that are more efficient AND cover the needs of the organization or enterprise. Why aren't we talking about changing such out-moded models?

mgibbs
mgibbs

Jack Wallen is simply giving his perspective. Since our soldiers give daily to this same cause, Freedom of Speech, we should be open minded enough to listen, even if we don't agree. I have been in IT for 20 Years, 10 Years of which in Medical IT. I'm degreed, Ceritified and experienced in Networking. However, every day it seems I'm teaching the NEW guys, NEW skills. At this time I'm unemployed. How can a Degreed, Certified, and Experienced person like myself be unemployed ? Bottom Line, Money and Corporate Profit. We have become a nation that blames each other for our issues. Let us reflect on why we got into IT and retrain ourselves with better and more up-to-date skill sets. Now that is repulsive Logic isn't it. Retrain, Rethink, and Reflect, Many Blessings to all, Young and Older alike.

TIMWIRELESS
TIMWIRELESS

from where I come from for the youth to get to IT in an established company, it might take you like a decade to be hired, they talk of expirience even if you got all that takes, all because they are scared of the young ones and bieng out dated as you wrote, and that's killing the industry and creativity among the youth

ccie5000
ccie5000

The best IT workers are those with expertise and judgment, both of which are highly correlated with experience. They are people who long ago drained the swamp, and quietly and calmly maintain and improve the sewage system so the alligators never come back. Sure, sometimes people work and study hard, get the right experience, and begin to get really good at an IT field by their early 30s. But more often than not, when an IT professional needs expert help, they don't seek the advice of a 25-year-old. They usually sidle up to a grizzled graybeard and strike up a conversation. The Internet and Unix are both 42 years old. The first decent Windows operating system (IMO) is only 17 years old. By and large, it's a young but graying profession, filled mostly by people who grew up in a PC world. The best of the best are those with the most experience, and - sorry, youngsters! - most of you have a lot to learn before you even meet the "best IT workers" entrance criteria.

kktm
kktm

I don't think so!!! I am an engineer in my 30s but i know a lot great engineers over 50 and beyond. The wisdom and knowledge they bring to the field is important and I would say essential for stability in our field. I have called on them from time to time to help me out of a jam, big time. I guess when you(JW) turn 46 you might want to get a job cleaning toilets.....

kevin
kevin

When the network for 5000 employess goes down at 2 am or on the weekends, my manager calls me to go in and fix it, because my work cell phone is on. And I will answer his call, instead of not picking up when I see it's him calling. And yes even scheduled maintenance can run way over the expected timeframe. But I do it. At 59 I'm the oldest network tech on the staff and the one who gets the call to fix problems. I won't complain about my younger coworkers, I'll take the work. It beats being unemployed.

gforsythe7
gforsythe7

Dude, age!?!??! I'm 40 and I know more about tech stuff now than ever, including the "new fangled stuff" Is young, fresh blood needed.. yeah, but I've got about 15 years in the biz and if i didn't have those guys with 20-30 to ask questions of, I'd spend all my time googling to find out that what I need to know ain't searchable on the web! No one knows the company network like guy who initially built it, migrated from old to new 3 times already, and has the desk it they WAY back behind all the bookshelves.

geonath
geonath

i think we as IT professionals should age discrimation bcos with taht i don't think we all are making it.

jim.carlson
jim.carlson

Put veteran leadership in charge and you won't need so much reactive overtime. Too much youth in charge in too many places has lead to this mess. It takes years of experience to know how to do IT right, and mostly it is done wrong, by those same youth who then have the energy to fix it. And furthermore, with the kids out of the house and a stable lifestyle, I have more time and energy, and vastly more knowledge than all of the youth that I work with, and I am desperately needed to keep the ship from sinking. You couldn't be more wrong about the youth factor. No wonder IT is so screwed up when someone prints this garbage.

stringmusic
stringmusic

If it only took ten things to become a successful IT worker then everyone who can say "would you like fries with that" would be in IT. Everything you got and more is what it takes, sure the late nights are the dues you pay when the system crashes - only because you ineffectively planned for the situation that WILL occur. The age argument is indefensible - for experience, knowledge, planning and organization does overcome any of your arguments. Having been in the IT business for over 30 years I have seen it, done it, got the T-shirt, got the golf shirt, went to the cool trade shows, been part of the revolution and my best quality is still my ability to relate to the customer and to the vendors and the further ability to express those findings in a business manner to my bosses, and their bosses. From Board Room to boiler room, from the head of the healthcare system's office to the morgue the ability to be able to speak without a technological arogance to others that may have less, equal or more intelligence is key to the success that you can find in this field. While I know that I am not the smartest engineer even in my 500,000 person population area - I do know that I bring to my customers a peace of mind when dealing with technology that surpasses others. If you are super smart with gadgets and can't talk to people...go and build the next great gadget but if you can combine the passion for making someone's day better along with some well practiced technical know how - the you are on the right road in IT Support.

kevin51
kevin51

You are so wrong about the age thing. Us older guys are going to work the longer hours without complaint while the younger ones want to leave and go party, dude. We have the mature skills to overcome a long day. The young ones are clueless.

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

The age comments going around do seem a bit loaded. Perhaps experience would be a better trait than age specifically. Sure if you are older you may have had more opportunities to experience things, but those that really like a certain technology might dig in and break/fix things just to learn the product(s) - giving them a good amount of real world or useful experiences.

nyteshades
nyteshades

I've been a Sys Admin for 12 years and at the "old" age of 35 I'm enrolled in my Masters working towards a degree in Enterprise Software Architecture to switch careers to development, and frankly...I'm not worried about the age thing. I have years of experience troubleshooting and dealing with the business suits, that moves me right past the youngins.

jstribling
jstribling

As Mr. Wallen has so skillfully pointed out, the intense demands of the IT world may be too much for us doddering old 50+ guys. As my mental and physical abilities continue to erode, perhaps I may find more suitable employment as a tech blogger, where I can simply spew off-the-cuff drivel without consideration, accountability, or apology. But then again, how could I hope to compete with the likes of Wallen, with his "shear" [sic] talent?

mdbizzarri
mdbizzarri

For starters people, remember rule #1, thick skin, so if you feel age is an issue, move on to the next comment. I will say that if you are young, you probably won't have thick skin or patience. I don't think most IT people have "connections". I think most of us people who fix things are very right brained people, and can hyper focus on things, which means that we stay on target, and not look at other people. If we had connections, then we would be in sales. I am not saying that we don't know people, but if you look at someone's connections in LinkdIn, it appears that production IT people have far fewer connections than other business types. I think this list could be used for the perfect employeee for any field. There are some that would fit this mold, I don't think many could, or would.

vanz27
vanz27

...It really helps bro.. I'm an aspiring IT student.. I really want to be successful in my career.. hope to see you write more articles about it.. ^_^

hermeszdata
hermeszdata

Absolutely amazing!!!!! As of my contribution Jack, justifiably, has been "ripped a new place to sit!" I will not belabor the already expressed age issue except to add the following regarding the age/energy equation ... at least my take on the subject. At age 56 minus 2 months, I begin my mornings at a pace far above most of those half my age and as the day progresses my energy builds on itself until I have completed everything I needed to complete that day. During major national rollouts, it is more the norm than the exception to work 18 to 22 hour days, 7 days a week of 3 to 6 months. Part of those long days entail processing paperwork, uploading site documentation photos and detailing on-site work. I have had many days on projects lit this where I drove 2+ hours to get to the first site, leaving at 5AM to get to a 7AM call, working 15 to 30 sites and returning to the hotel at 11PM and needing to scan signoff docs, upload images, and provide detailed site reports only to get to bed at 2 AM and be on the road again at 5AM! The attrition rate for the 20 to 35 age range is greater than 85%. There is and always will be an age discrimination factor in employment and it cuts both ways! In a recent conversation with an occupational therapist who specializes in high profile, high intellectual demand career profiles, I discussed this issue. What they disclosed was that for every 5 entry/mid-level hires, the trend is now to hire two experienced (50+) candidates. Why? Because they have come to realize that the experienced (50+) ITs have more than twice combined knowledge of the entry/mid-level hires. There is a meticulous nature with this class of employee, developed through the many years of work/life experience that affords them the ability to resolve a problem (not just come up with a band-aid fix) 3 to 5 times more quickly than their younger counterparts. Jack appears to promote the idea that the 40+ person's ability to process information slows with age. On the surface, this may appear accurate except ... he does not factor in two very important aspects. 1. At this stage in one's career, the interest is in "in gauging the brain before the mouth." Time is a valuable commodity and they want to make sure they are understood the first time. This means carefully evaluating the original question, looking at the possible follow-up questions to the prospective original response and formulation an answer that will answer the original question and deal with the follow-up questions before they are asked. On the surface, this may appear as a slowing of mental ability but in actuality they are processing information at speeds rivaling super computers! This ability comes from years of experience and that experience is their second most valuable asset. 2. The greatest single asset the 40+ IT (Technology Professional in general) has is a lifetime of dedicated effort to keep up with new and evolving technologies. They have trained themselves to constantly learn. Statistically speaking, those who have spent a lifetime dedicated to learning have minds that stay razor sharp well into their 90's (if they live that long)! Over all, aside from the age issue, I agree with much of what Jack had to offer observationally. Although possibly alluded to but not specifically addressed there are three additional tips I might offer. I will leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusion. 1. Presence: Establishing Customer confidence in one's abilities to accomplish the assigned task! a. When dealing with a customer, on-site or remote, how quickly are you able to establish in the customer's mind that you know what you are doing and will make sure they are back to normal operations quickly so as to reduce the impact on their business? b. Although a customer may not know you by name, they greet you with "I am so glad to see you here to take care of XYZ instead of the last guy that was here!" 2. Ownership: I know you have been having a problem, but that problem is now mine to deal with and correct! a. When you go to a site to perform service, who is in charge? i. The site's Manager? ii. Some remote voice over the telephone? iii. You as the on-site IT support person? b. Do you proactively listen to the customer's complaints/rants and i. assure them that the problems are now yours? ii. set boundaries, expressed or implied, that provides you with the unfettered ability to perform your service without the constant 30 second interruptions that only slow down your service efforts? iii. assure them that you will keep them appropriately updated about progress and/or delays? 3. DEPLOMACY ! Both of the above actually depend a great deal on this ability. But how is it defined? a. Diplomacy is "the Art of Letting Someone Else Have Your Own Way!" b. Very few on-site contacts understand what is actually necessary to accomplish effective IT service. Many want to try to micro-manage your time on site and this impairs one's ability to work efficiently. c. What they do understand is the longer their system is down impacts their ability to do their own work efficiently and more important is the longer it takes for the on-site IT to finish the greater the bill for services rendered. As far as I am concerned, the above are by far the most important attributes needed for a successful career, IT or otherwise. Now, a response to Jack! I would enjoin you to step back and honestly evaluate your stance and attitude regarding the IT profession. If you are so disenfranchised due to your experience then maybe it is time for you to change careers. The IT field is as cut-throat as any other business and is definitely not without its ups and downs (whether working as a full time employee or as a consultant). An individual's success depends on their commitment and the effort they are willing to put into the development of their career. In closing, while teaching electronics at a trade school in 1985, I had a student ask me "What do you think I should do as a career path?" I responded "Give up electronics and go into accounting! You will definitely make a better income!" Those of us who have made the choice to pursue a technology related career and stay with it for many years do so because we absolutely love the challenges we meet. We love learning and growing with technology. The fact that we are paid, sometimes very well, is in fact secondary. We are solution finders and thrive on the daily challenges we face. Unfortunately, the younger generation of ITs will not be able to understand this "Cantankerous Old Fart's" attitude until they too are at an age to be considered a "Cantankerous Old Fart!"

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

"There is more to IT than "Insert CD,...." Sure there is, that's just something IT guys say so people think they know a lot more, whether needed or not. Same as, "well I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you" or Explaining the inexplicable with "God has his ways" or "Because I'm your mother and I TOLD YOU SO!" Now that IT has become such a mainstream task, prices and value has evened out etc. IT guys have to make out like they have some secret society knowledge that only Certs can grant access to. Then they all congregate here and ask each other for help. :D TR is today's Tabula Rasa.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Nothing more to say really, just well done and good for you!

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I'm not sure how far back the saying goes, 'it's not what you know but WHO you know', but I'm positive it predates IT. "Unfortunately, connections are a big deal in IT" Why is being social and being able to network with peers an unfortunate requirement, unless of course you are a hermit looking to enter the workforce and have a little 9-5 cave with separate entrance from your underground parking stall? [i]"and even more unfortunately, it means improvements and promotions are based on who you know "[/i] Are you brand new to the workforce? Even labour jobs with unions are filled by people who knew someone that got them a job, has been that way for centuries. Why is this new and unfortunate to you and yet so common for anyone else who has ever had a job? If you think it's a new development that's IT specific, you have a lot to learn still. I just don't understand why having social skills and networking skills would be seen as an unfortunate precursor to employment. How else would you expect to get a job?

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

If you were based in Canada it could be an issue due to over time. Without a written wage averaging agreement, they would have to pay overtime for any calls or work you did from home (yes, even in a salaried role). In ANY role, if you work outside of work hours or have an averaging agreement and work more than 40 hours in a week, you ARE entitled to overtime, the ONLY exclusions are self employment or real estate (because you are deemed self employed anyway). Chances are, they found out your company doesn't pay fairly compared to either labour relations standards or industry standards. I've seen it from even the biggest and, supposedly, best employers too.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

That's only because they rise slowly, with wood, due to a great night dreaming of the future and hot young women. They get up and shower, take a quick pee and get off to work. In contrast, you wake up like a shot at 4AM because you can't hold your bladder, it takes 40 minutes as you strain yourself to pee through teary eyes, take your Metamucil and off to work. Reality, we all face it one day.

TX74Vette
TX74Vette

@aidemzo_adanac "IT has become such a mainstream task...."  Seriously?  You obviously don't work in IT.  Turning your computer on and surfing the web is mainstream.  Allowing USERS like you to do that in a business environment WITHOUT bringing the entire network down while you attempt to install malware and crash your computer, that's what IT does EVERY hour of EVERY day.


As far as certs granting us access to "secret society knowledge" goes... ABSOLUTELY!!!  Because it's that "secret society knowledge" that allows us to EARN those certs and fix the mistakes you USERS make because you THINK you know more than those of us who decided to make our lives more difficult because we have to deal with people like you who ASSUME a business computer is the same as your POS $250 Walmart special laptop.