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What can a career changer to IT expect?

By jakaiju1 ·
I am almost 40 and have been working for many years and it just so happens that I'm in a career transition and desiring to enter IT. Outside of my regular job as video/data/voice electrical apprentice, I occasionally accept some side work repairing and upgrading PC stuff (have my A+ and soon Net+ certs) - I have not yet become fully involved in the IT industry due to a "lack of practical experience" (but not for a lack of desire). I have a B.A. degree in something other than CIS. Also, short of cold calling companies, I have sent dozens of resumes to IT department managers and HRs that advertised jobs available, but to no avail.

I have seen a few threads started by established IT techs reporting dissatisfaction of IT department heads, working conditions and the corporate culture in general.

That in mind, am I just seeing the responses of too many disgruntled techs and engineers who don't seem to enjoy their careers (jobs) for what ever personal reasons, or are there other, more positive reasons to get into this IT gig?

I was actually considering getting involved in network security. Are there any CAREFULLY CONSIDERED opinions of experienced IT techs out there that can help steer me in the right career direction? Thank you.

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Do it for the right reasons

by amcol In reply to What can a career changer ...

Don't listen to the voices of doom and gloom. You'll find those in every profession, mostly because it's more human nature to complain than to compliment.

I can't tell you how many people I've heard say there's no such thing as a lawyer who likes what they're doing. Well, I know plenty of happy lawyers.

I can't help you figure out what part of IT to specialize in...that's your job. If you think you like network security then go for it. I'd just advise you to consider why...are you doing so because you've heard that's one of today's hot spots, or have you taken the courses and gotten a little experience and decided it's something you actually would like doing 50-60 hours a day, week after week. That's a long time to be doing something you don't like, so consider carefully.

Don't send resumes to department managers or HR departments. Don't respond to newspaper ads. You'll go nowhere fast, and end up feeling bad because it's a lot of effort for no return.

You'll encounter some age discrimination, so you'll need a strategy to overcome that. I've hired lots of "older" workers, purely on the basis of their credentials and their demonstrated ability to add value. Do a ton of research on targeted companies, find out who the hiring managers are, approach them directly, and have a well thought out pitch on why you should be hired. Talk about the business...what do you know about it, what are the pain points, how would hiring you be of tangible benefit to the company. Figure out how you can leverage your non-IT BA and your non-IT experience to your newly chosen career...you have 20 or so years under your belt doing something, don't let that go to waste. Everything can be connected somehow. Not as complicated as it sounds.

Consider going for a temp-to-perm position. I've hired a lot of folks in your age group under that umbrella. You hire on for a 6-8 month gig with the understanding that at the end of that time you'll either move on or be given a permanent position. It's basically a half year long job interview...you get money and experience, the company gets to see what you can do, and neither one of you is obligated. There are agencies that will do this for you or you can do it yourself.

Consider doing some free consulting for a month or two, or part time. Volunteer to do some IT related work for a charitable organization or, better yet, a professional society. You'll get experience and contacts.

For every cranky tech out there you'll find two or three more who, while they may not admit it, are actually very happy doing what they're doing. Tell the naysayers to go pound sand.

Best of luck.

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Good advice

by tconard In reply to Do it for the right reaso ...

That's probably the best advice you will get all day. Don't short change your past experience and what you accomplished.
The temp to hire is a great way to find that company to work for. Even if you don't get hired, that is six month's of actual experience. During your time there show them your willingness to tackle a job and your work ethnics.

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Love what you do - its all about attitude

by dougdoyle In reply to Do it for the right reaso ...

Hi, I worked as a desktop admin and system admin for a transport company which I started at as a truck driver. I was able to teach myself, gain the trust of the admin at the start, and later senior management by being available and seen to be fixing problems (with the blessing of the admin who was overworked). It took almost 10 years to get completely into the field. I spent 5 years with a split role.

I am no longer doing IT direct, but still keep my hand in by doing contract stuff when I want to. The important thing to remember is when someone calls with a problem - big or small - they are not an inconvenience. Rather, that is why you are there.

Set the network up, teach the users, be patient. It's all about good customer service.

If you are really that keen you will get your break.

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Back Door

by BigWanker In reply to Love what you do - its al ...

I suggest you try what I did. If you want to be a developer, that is. I have based much of my career on the premise that business knowledge + coding ability = a highly valuable skill.

I am basically an IT person, but don't work in an IT department and never have. I specialize in VBA and C++ but most of my jobs have required just Excel and Access VBA. I learned these on my own (though I have taught programming courses to CIS majors in the past, which fact I try to take advantage of when people might say that I have no IT credentials.)

Confusing, I know. I've been coding all my life and started as an engineer, building applications on the side for other engineers that needed them.

My strategy was that the applications were so technical and specific that we couldn't have IT do them, it was quicker and easier to just have me do them. No red tape, waiting for our project to get priority, and so on. Plus the real selling point - we would have complete control over the finished product. I can't stress that last one enough. I have built some very large applications, too. In every place I have been, there has been a need for customized applications to fit the specific needs of the business that off-the-shelf applcations just couldn't meet.

I have also done some of that PLC-type coding that Tony H. above refers to, which was very, very cool! I was writing code in HP-Basic to control glass-tempering furnaces. There has been no more exciting application than writing code and actually seeing some physical piece of equipment respond (for example, set furnace temperature to 700 degrees C, start rollers turning, open furnace door, load glass ...) I know that there is a huge need for this after spending some years in finance at a large factory. Developers that have specialized knowledge of this type of programming will be in high demand for years to come, and it seems that fewer and fewer people can do this.

Then I moved to finance, same story. I was kind of the "stealth" IT person, with one big customer - kind of like the mafia lawyer with just one big important client! The company, a huge Fortune 100 company, allowed me to do this since at that time our IT department was being outsourced and this was a highly critical application. My VBA skills were actually what got me hired in even though I was technically a cost accountant at that time. Plus when I needed help from IT, such as web page deployment and design ideas, they were there and really helpful.

After that I went to Wall Street where I again was technically a fixed income quant, but did a lot of coding for other people just like a real IT person would and worked to integrate the systems of the other parts of the business in Europe, just from the coding side as I know nothing about networks or hardware.

I am now at a mortgage company building large applications, same idea, my boss likes this since we don't have to deal with getting priority from IT so I have the best of both worlds (plus again he feels that he has complete control over the applications since I work for him, haha.) I get to code all day in the languages I feel are most appropriate for the application and to create new things of value to the company. People use my applications, which is very satisfying. My boss likes the fact that he can ask for something and it is done immediately, plus, with my finance background I can come up with my own ideas and understand what needs to be done without him even having to tell me what to do. It's great, and I don't have to do any other things that maybe a traditional IT person might have to do and wouldn't necessarily want to. The only downside to being a captive IT department is that 1) working for people that aren't developers means that what I do is not necessarily appreciated since they don't realize what goes into it - things appear as if by magic, so as someone else above said, you really have to find your reward yourself just through the sense of accomplishment and intellectual satisfaction and

2) being someone's captive IT department means that I have no resources to draw on for ideas or even staff, so spend many long hours and sometimes would love to be able to make my customers fill out project request forms stating the business needs so that my department (it's just me!) can better allocate it's limited resources, like a real IT department and

3) my boss is now very worried that I am the only one that knows what is going on but that's not necessarily a bad thing :)

So my advice is, try the back door, if you love to code, and good luck. I really think that I have the best possible job there is and you can do something like this too. Just start building appications wherever you are now and build up from there.

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The backdoor can really help

by mikestilesKY In reply to Back Door

As BigWanker stated above, the backdoor is a very good way to get into IT.

I started out in Electrical Maintenance with one of the worlds largest printing companies. We had some old mechanical chart recorders that were dying one-by-one each month (repair costs were starting to sky-rocket).

I took the concept of 'those' chart recorders and developed a VB app to take the same inputs via PLC and analog cards, producing daily printouts of press activity. Years later, we ported the data over to SQL Server and developed a web page for management.

Along the way, I studied Novell, took some NT courses, developed other cool apps for the various manufacturing departments and bidded my time for our IT person to 'find other opportunities'. After our IT person departed the company, my Maintenance Manager vouched for me with upper management. I did the 'split-role' for a couple of years. Now, I am lead tech in our IT department.

Small changes and patience.

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Yeah... back door

by C-3PO In reply to The backdoor can really h ...

I can testify to the back door also. When I was much younger, I finished a college diploma in Computer electronics - an area I was very interested in - but then followed a different path in which I was also interested - ministry with The Salvation Army (totally unrelated to IT). After 16 years there, it was time for a change and I had a desire to come back to IT. I had no current certification, and my diploma was now 16 years out of date (a long time in IT).

We made the move, and I found a company in transition with their IT (They had a part time consultant and a need to move to something more permanent but were not yet ready to pay for it).

I ended up working in the shipping department, packing boxes, constantly telling them I could help with IT. I got A+, NET+, MSP and MCSA along the way and gradually worked from no-time IT to part-time, to full-time, to the only one doing the job (with help of a few consultants :)

The back door is the only thing that worked for me - I had no other job offers in the mean time. I'm loving the job and believe my employer appreciates the job I am doing.

Stick with it! Hang in there! Find the back door if you can. If you're work ethic is good and you have the aptitude to get there, you will.

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Other alternatives

by horacio.cordero In reply to Yeah... back door

When I turned 36, I decided to make a career change. I took a 2 months course (360 hours in networking essentials and business). Within one month, with that certificate and my previous experience I got my first job in the IT field. Must confess I was the oldest guy among my collegues. I could?t complained. I paid breakfast, while the were teaching me tricks of this industry.

A year later, with savings and some certificattions under the belt, I decided to open my own small company specialized in Information Security.

I don?t know all, but I can do coding, networking, and help companies in security policy matters.

Now, my children keep telling me that they would love to be in charge one day.

So, my advise would be: take some certifications, get your foot in, and seize that chance to grow. Be decent, honest and don?t assume ever.

Good luck!

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So True

by NetGeek84 In reply to Love what you do - its al ...

That is so true, it is about loving what you do, if you don't enjoy your job you will be miserable as long as you have it. I absolutly love my job, I actually look forward to comming in, in the morning. Security is a great field to get into especially right now. You might even want to look into Security+ (which gives you a broad scope of security accross all platforms) or CCSP (Cisco Certified Security Professional) which will give you security over mainly cisco equipment.

Good Luck to you.

Mike

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Make the change

by Tantor In reply to Love what you do - its al ...

No matter what you do, you'll find people who don't like it or would rather complain than work. And I actually prefer to work around people who complain a lot. Makes me look better when I don't.

I came from an HR/Recruiting background and actually took a job as a Temp in a company I wanted to work for just to get my foot in the door. Worked out well for me becuase I was able to see if I liked the work and the company. Ten years on, and I couldn't be happier.

Some things I would offer as advice about a career change:

1) Don't believe the Computer Training Commercials when they talk about "average salaries". Keep in mind that the "average" salary includes people who are Internet Millionaires and does not take into account things like cost of living differences. There's some pretty insane salaries out in San Jose/San Fran area and those people are still scraping to get by at first. Don't expect to buy that BMW 7 series after two months on the job. But if you are good, and can prove yourself, the money will come.

2) Don't think you're gonna walk right in as a Security Analayst or whatever you find most interesting. You're probably going to have to pay your dues answering Help Desk calls or going to people's offices and replacing their Mice. Everyone in IT who is happy with it started out doing the grunt work. And when you DO move up, don't forget the guys who are down there now. They might just be your boss someday...

3) If you don't know, don't try and fake it. Nothing is worse than a Paper MCSE who tries to do something and makes it worse. If you can't figure something out, say so. Ask for help and pay attention to the answer. My motto at first was "You may have to show me things, but you won't have to show me twice".

4) Never forget the reason you are there. You can build the most complex and beautiful system on earth, but if the users can't understand it, it's worthless.

5) Learn to live without recognition for long hours. At times, not hearing about anything is the best compliment. You'll get thanks and all, but it will never be commensurate with the effort you put in. But there's no better feeling than stuff just working.

Good luck!

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by peter In reply to Do it for the right reaso ...

I'm in total agreement with all the posters. IT is a wonderful career/job but as always in anything, there is always a few moaning minnies.

Sometimes it's a thankless job but the majority of the time it's rewarding & there are some great fellow IT Pro's out there.

Do make sure you know which way you want to go in your career first though. So as has been already said, look around & do some part-time work for a few companies or go it alone for a while, to get the feel of things.

Good luck in your final decission

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