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How do you build a secure career in IT?

By samson06 ·
I'm 28, been in the field for 8 1/2 years. I have a Bachelor's degree in CIS. Although I have certifications, I've managed to do alright in this field. The pay isn't extraordinary (far from what they said in the late 90s) but I make enough to pay my bills and then some. Anyway, how does one build a secure career in IT? Are certifications necessary? A masters degree in computers? MBA? A dual degree with another field? Or is it better to be a jack of all trades? I'm mainly talking about making a decent living in this field for decades.

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Survival Rules

by NickNielsen In reply to How do you build a secure ...

It really depends on where you want to go. If you want to move up the corporate ladder to CIO, then the MBA is probably a necessity. If you want to move into system design or engineering, then an advanced IS or engineering degree may be more appropriate. If you want to stay on the front lines as a supervisor, then certifications may be what you need. Determine where you want to go, then check with your employer to see what their requirements are. Ask friends and acquaintances what their employers' requirements are for these positions. Determine your educational course from there.

Some other comments:

1. Never stop learning. In IT, if you stop learning, you die.

2. Never be afraid to learn from anybody. One trainer at my first military assignment was an "old" civilian tech (I was 22 then) with the personality of a sharp rock. He was impossible to get along with, but he knew the system as well as if he had designed it himself. If you could put up with his crap, you learned a heckuva lot about the equipment.

3. Be flexible. If it counts ones & zeroes, learn a little bit about it, even if all you know is the name and basic function.

4. Remember, most advice is worth what you paid for it. I'm an electronics service tech with no aspirations above the senior tech level. Actual managers may have better advice. :)

Edit: clarity

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Keep learning

by Koerper In reply to Survival Rules

"Never stop learning. In IT, if you stop learning, you die."

Amen to that. Keep your certs updated. Get some new ones. Read books. Join some discussion groups.

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Constant work, a willingness to learn

by Tig2 In reply to How do you build a secure ...

As Nick has pointed out, the willingness to keep learning is essential.

I am a bridge between IT and Business. My desire id to determine what business needs and provide IT solutions that fall within both the tactical and strategic views of IT. As such, I am an IT generalist with background in OS, network, and development with some heavy emphasis on security and business.

If I were to go back to school, with the caveat that I want to continue to do what I do, I would be looking at an MBA programme with a focus on information business systems.

At the end of the day, what you know about the inter-relationship between business in general and IT specifically will keep you fresh.

Decide what your goals are. The path to them will be clearer.

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Don't tie your career

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to How do you build a secure ...

to a particular employer or vendor's fortunes. If If you get a chance to do do something new or even something old that you haven't done before ,do it. Do not become an expert, if the thing you are expert in goes, so do you.

The big one though is learn to communicate with the business types, if you use the right langauge and concepts you can always sell what you are.
I've no certifications and no degree, just a twenty years long list of accomplishments that I can 'show' benefitted the places where I was working. Concentrate on that, all else is gravy.

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I concur

by bdmore In reply to Don't tie your career

A secure career nowadays it?s all about how many people like you, how well you fit and the ?quality of your rolodex?. All this comes with good soft skills, something that most techies typically overlook. Hard skills are still important but don?t overemphasize it in exchange of soft skills.

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I design software, contrary to popular

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to I concur

belief, well over 50% of the skills to do that successfully are soft.

If you can find out what people want their software to do, as a designer you are finding out what they want you to do. They don't give a toss what your 'hard skills' are, in fact they are immaterial until you can apply them.

Dealing with a potential employer is no different to dealing with a client, You don't talk to them in Fortran or C either.

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Soft skills are key

Ever wonder why the "grinning idiots" seem to make as much or more than you (not "you" meaning "Tony", but in general), while having no ability to actually do the work? That's soft skills at work. My soft skills have saved my butt on countless occassions, and a lack of them (or temporary forgetfulness) has sunk my ship a few times.


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Job Security

by mashford In reply to I concur

After being laid-off twice (once dotcom & once telecom), I feel the only job security is your ability to get another job...
-Look to monster, dice... often
--What are they looking for?
---Certify if need be...
---Educate if need be...
---Move to hot spots...
-Keep your interview skills up
--Go on practice interviews at least once a year
--Interview a wide range of businesses from consulting firms to big firms to city/state...
-Always be trying new ideas and technology... even if it just on your PC
IT is about solving problems ... demonstrate this ability above all else

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Spot On Advice

by Justin James Contributor In reply to Don't tie your career

Tony is right on the money here. Specialists make the big bucks, but have problems if their specialty falls out of favor. Likewise, commiting yourself 100% to a particular employer may significantly help your career within that company, you are in trouble if that company is not doing well or if there is someone above you who just does not like you for whatever reason.


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Hah, I worked at one

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Spot On Advice

place for 19 years, I was very successful. They got bought out and we were about a century ahead of the new owner technology wise. Standardisation meant I was surplus to requirememts.

They switched me to Fortran 78 in 1998! Picking that up didn't hurt, staying with it would have crippled me ,so I left, to have a career as opposed to simply a job.

I actually got a job with the Fortran a few years later, coupled with VMS and VB of all things, which I'd also picked up en passant somewhere else. While I was doing that I added linux, mysql and php to my skillset.

Specialisation is for insects.

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