If you're reading this, chances are you're pretty involved with the IT industry. It's sometimes easy to forget why we got into this business or why we stay in it, particularly when the scope is creeping, the customers are demanding customization to the product, and the boss' hair is pointy. Well, time to remind ourselves why we keep suiting up and showing up. Here's my list of 10 things I love about IT.
#1: The people
The people in IT are an amazing group. IT is a diverse industry, and the people who work in it tend to have a high level of passion for the job. Sure, there are a few mercenaries who are in it just for the money, but they are thankfully relatively rare. Overall, I cannot say enough good things about the people in this industry, and I love working with, around, and for them.
#2: The energy
The only industry with nearly as much raw energy as IT is marketing, and I don't find branded pens terribly interesting. IT people are excited about their jobs and excited about the work they are doing. IT as an industry offers enough variety and choices of employers and projects so that there's no reason for those who love IT to be doing work they hate, once they get past entry level in their career. And it shows in the passion that IT workers bring to the office. Accountants don't argue about "EBIDTA vs. pro forma" in quite the same way that programmers get worked up over "Java vs. VB.NET."
#3: The education requirement
A minority of people in IT have degrees in an IT-related major (computer science, computer engineering, etc.). In fact, a significant portion of people in IT do not have degrees at all. Like the dress code, there is an unwritten assumption throughout much of IT: Experience counts for an awful lot. Sure, there are a few niches in IT where that science and math background is needed. But for average business-level usage, it is not necessary. Add in the fact that the technology becomes obsolete so quickly and the fact that the industry is obviously working just fine without the requirement of a degree, and you have a field that is very welcoming. I challenge you to find another job where people with a high school diploma, some self-taught knowledge, and a good attitude have such a good chance to do well for themselves.
#4: The dress code
One of the great things about IT is that it grew up in the corporate basement. Way back when, the business folks liked to lock us up in the dungeon and occasionally throw down a bowl of gruel for the nerds. As a result, they didn't care if we had long hair or beards or pizza stains on our ratty, hardware-vendor T-shirts. Granted, this has changed significantly at most shops. There are now some dress code standards for IT workers. But they don't seem to be as strictly enforced as they are for the rest of the company. There is an underground, unspoken conspiracy among IT managers that a loosened dress code is practically part of the standard compensation. Sure, if programmers or system administrators really want to come in dressed to the nines, they are welcome to, and no one will knock them for being too GQ. But if your idea of style is less refined, IT as an industry doesn't mind.
#5: The environment
Much like the dress code, the environment in most IT shops is fairly informal compared to the typical office. Posters for anime films, books all over the place, whiteboards with goofy cartoon drawings, Nerf ball fights... only when you put a dozen nerds together in the same room with a geek boss (or a boss who "gets" geeks) could this be called a work environment. Yet despite all of that, IT workers tend to put in just as many hours, if not more, than most office employees. We just have a lot more fun with it.
#6: The adaptable learning curve
In the IT industry, you can do the same tasks day after day if you want to, or you can take a job that is constantly evolving. It is really up to you! Some programmers are still using COBOL after 10 years, and others have used 10 languages in 10 years. Unlike most industries, some areas of IT move slowly enough for those who are not comfortable with regular upheavals, while much of the industry moves quickly enough for those who like a more rapid pace. When you are in IT, you can find a job that fits your style.
#7: Flexible work conditions
IT is amenable to "flextime" workers and telecommuting. It's also relaxed about the working hours. IT pros may work a few more hours than the average worker, but that extra time is traded off with some flexibility in when they put in those hours. Indeed, much of IT work occurs after business hours, and there is an unwritten rule in most shops that the workers who do a lot of nighttime/weekend work get some slack on clock-in, clock-out, and lunch times. Most other professions seem to be stuck on 8:00 to 5:00, with a one-hour lunch. If you like a flexible schedule, or prefer to not be in the office on a periodic (or even ad hoc) basis, IT is a great industry to be in. In fact, IT is so flexible, it's quite possible to run a business you're your home, dorm room, or garage. Just look at Apple and Dell!
#8: Variety in pacing
Most IT work jobs are cyclical. They all have a different rhythm, but it is there. They go from being insane, 60-hour-a-week jobs for two months at the end of the project to "in-the-office vacations" at other times in the project cycle. Some IT pros get the constant rush like in any other profession, but most of us get a pace that swings between insanely busy and snoozefest. This keeps the job from getting boring. The caveat here is that some employees are stuck in high gear with few pauses, which leads to burnout. But I would rather fight being overworked than struggle with having nothing to do.
IT is not an industry dominated by a particular city, region, or country. The U.S. IT market has a lot of workers from other countries. On the flip side, if you want to see the world, IT can be your ticket. Even if you are domestically minded, IT has a strong presence in many hip, cool towns like New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, and Atlanta. If you're looking to move off the farm and into the Big City, IT can do that for you. But the demand is widespread enough so that if you want to work in a less urban area, there is plenty of opportunity to do so as well.
#10: Pay day
Hey, let's be real. Despite the grumbling, IT pros are well compensated, especially after taking into account the high percentage of them without college degrees or even certifications. Would I work in IT if it paid like other professions? I sure would. Nevertheless, it is awesome to be paid pretty well to do work you love surrounded by great people.
What do you love most about working in IT? Can you add any items to this list?
Justin James is an OutSystems MVP, architect, and developer with expertise in SaaS applications and enterprise applications.