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The tortuous road to a career in IT.

By jardinier ·
This is not the title I wanted for this thread, but the full title wouldn't fit.

So here is the question: "Do IT people in general take longer to find their vocation than people in other professions?"

Quite some time ago I started a discussion asking what different jobs members had done before settling into IT. The variety of work was quite staggering.

In various discussions a peer will make reference to jobs prior to IT.

In other professions such as medical, dental, legal and pharmaceutical, a person will go straight from high school to university and from there into their chosen vocation in which they will remain for the rest of their lives.

I realise there is a time factor involved as IT is a relatively new profession.

However I would be interested to hear your opinions on the question as stated above.

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I've often said that. . . . .

by maxwell edison In reply to The tortuous road to a ca ...

.
....IT is not the end itself, but rather the means to an end. That sentiment has received, at best, a very cool reception. But let me explain.

The stereotypical IT job is one of a programmer for Microsoft, Oracle, or some other software company, of perhaps a chip designer for Intel or something like that, or maybe a technician for an ISP or a help-desk jockey. However, without an unlimited number of industries to utilize that technology, the technology itself would have no reason to exist. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, school districts, governments, auto parts stores, restaurant chains, real estate offices, insurance companies, widget factories, etc. ALL utilize Information Technology. If I could put it another way, probably 10 percent of the "IT jobs" are really in the IT industry, per se; the other 90 percent are in ALL other industries that aren't really called the IT industry.

In my opinion, the best option for being in the "IT industry" is to be in another industry at the same time. You have the best of both worlds. My passion is not really Information Technology, but rather architecture, architectural engineering, the building design industry, etc. and that was really my path into IT. Without that particular end product to be a part of creating, managing Information Technology for its own sake is like kissing your sister -- not much of a point and no excitement at all. Or perhaps another analogy might be the race car industry. You might build a great car, but without a track to run it on, and a race industry to compete in, what good is it?

I will always approach IT as a means to an end, not the end itself, especially as it pertains to being gainfully employed. And if people would approach it that way, the job possibilities are unlimited. All a person has to do is to show a potential employer how he can use Information Technology to improve the desired end product, whatever that may be. And if you can show a passion for that product, and an ability with IT to help create that product, a person can have his choice of jobs -- and the best of both worlds.

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Well my road

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to The tortuous road to a ca ...

was torture (shift data entry clerk) but not tortuous. My second job was IT (support and development) and everyone since then. Never went to college or university. It wasn't my confusion over a career path or lack of relavent 'education' that stopped me getting my start. It was the politics of depression, left school during the winter of discontent, floated around welfare during de-nationalisation (hence massive job-cuts), took my start as a YTS. (Welfare job placement), 35 hours a week, six months, extra 40 pence a week compared to welfare. Then I worked my *** off and dropped lucky, a vacancy occurred while I was there. But for that vacancy occurring they would not have taken me on. In terms of luck , official unemployment at the time was three million, in real terms almost double that.
Not many people give up their job to gamble on a new opportunity in conditions like that.

As to Max's point I have to agree. Out of 18 years I've only spent 1 in a software house. Predominately IT is a service industry, in fact I don't see Software houses as IT but as manufacturers. They usually have their own IT department after all.

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Direct road

by beads In reply to The tortuous road to a ca ...

The only thing tortuous about my path into IT has been the constant rate of change in the industry.

Having been an "IT practioner" since the late 70's I can clearly say its the one and only place I have ever wanted to have a career. Yes, I was a teen-aged geek. Outside of IT I've only had two jobs: A very specialized grunt in the Army (mostly part time but I did my 20 year bit) and that as a COO for a modest sized company after the gruelling burn-out of the 'Y2k' nonsense. Now, back in IT/Engineering. About 20 years of which was spent on building networks, disaster recovery, ISPs and security. So, yes. Being an outsider to much of the detail of the actual business I was a pure IT person. Never caring what it was that the client did to make money just there to be a high-tech wrench as it were.

In college we called people of a second career: 'Retreads' - much like tires. Nope, IT is my one and primary career choice. I could have kept soldering full time but I don't think my wife could have handled a fourth war. Three wars was enough and a purple heart for each of the three. IT seems like a much safer bet in the long run.

- beads

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Is there a relationship between IT and the military?

by jardinier In reply to The tortuous road to a ca ...

Throughout my three-year participation in miscellaneous forums, I have been surprised at the number of TR members who have served in the military.

For sure American is often engaged in conflicts in one country or another. But do TR members reflect a true cross section of military participation?

I have also noted that many peers entered the world of IT while serving in the military.

Would I find the same correlation amongst, say, doctors, dentists, lawyers, businessmen, academics or engineers?

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Probably not

by amcol In reply to Is there a relationship b ...

The trend you're noticing is part of a continuing evolution of IT as a general industry and career destination, which I think is the overall point of this thread and in large part what you and Max are talking about.

While colleges and universities still turn out a large number of IT professionals, the military has become the initial destination of choice for a lot of high school graduates who use it, to an extent, as a trade school. Considering the "technologization", to coin a word, of the military it's no mystery why so many folks receive this kind of training while in service and turn that into a post-service career.

Back in the day the military either provided no training at all, or only that required to kill or be killed, or was used by some as a stepping stone to college under the GI Bill and from there to all sorts of careers, not necessarily technology.

The other professions you mention, with the exception of business (more on that below), are more "pure" in that folks who go into those are called upon to exercise those skills almost to the exclusion of all else. Being an IT professional in today's environment is less of a specialty and more of a general practice.

Which is all to say that IT is an ever changing landscape. When I was in college back in the late 60's and early 70's, one of the first kids on my block to go for a computer science degree, IT was a more classical profession in the sense that whatever you did and for whomever you did it you were a professional practitioner creating something where before nothing existed.

Today, it's more what Max says...the "classical" IT career is one that can really only be performed by working for pure technology companies. Not necessarily just Intel or Microsoft, but the wide panoply of consulting firms that are still engaged in creating new systems and applications rather than simply buying off the shelf components and plugging them together like so many tinkertoys.

There's another major difference as well, which is a lot more positive in my opinion. Those of us who've chosen to make our IT careers in organizations other than pure technology must also be adept business people, speaking both languages with equal ease. As an IT professional I'm also a business professional, and I try not to label myself as either because frankly they're equally important. Twenty or thirty years ago I don't think that was so much the case, but today it's required for survival.

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Food and shelter

by beads In reply to Is there a relationship b ...

You bet. My enterance into first the Army Reserves/ROTC with a scholarship probably made the difference between getting an education and not getting an education. I was close to being selected for West Point but thats often a matter of politics not individual qualifications.

Of course, when you 17 you have all kinds of naiive thoughts about "doing the right thing" and serving your country and all that. Sounds quite romantic when the biggest trip of your life has been to the next county or two. So yes, there were reasons behind my personal interest in serving the government.

Did I do anything remotely close to IT in the service? No. Not really. I started out as a forward observer (artillery observer). Later a Imagry Analyst then an Infantry Officer and ended in Special Forces. In the meantime I stayed fairly close to pure IT in my civilian job. I just got 'called up' for 6 months at a time fairly often or as often as the government was allowed under 'peacetime'.

So if you really want to thank a Vet for your freedom heres some simply advice: A.) WWII Vets defended this country. The rest of us were fighting proxy wars - please don't confuse the two. B.) Thank our recruiters, first. As in the old expression: 'Don't thank me! Thank my recruiter!!'

Don't confuse my words here or try to make something that isn't there. I have been proud to serve where others couldn't or wouldn't. I choose a very difficult path and survived. I'm also partially disable and in pain every day. But better that I did what I did so someone less able to handle it didn't have too. Hopefully that makes sense. Its my very touchy subject so I rarely go into much in the way of detail.

To answer Jardinier's other correlation: I saw an awefull lot of aspiring: Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, Businessmen, Academics and Engineers in the service. As always I wish them the greatest of successes in their post military careers, no matter what they choose to do. Likewise, all the garage mechanics, shop workers and future janitors. Some folks were just a bit better off staying in the military as a career.

If the kids in the military were as smart as they considered themselves to be - most weren't or they'd have gotten scholarships in the first place. They would have taken advantage of any number of educational offerings. I practically begged privates to do CLEP tests and take a college course at 75% paid. Thats a good deal! Take your Freshman English and first year of math and pay $50.00 for the course! Get all that out of the way and save yourself a year of college. The military always has some reputable school willing to teach courses on base. Often the University of Maryland, etc. The Army also paid for my MBA from Boston University. So there is an upside to the military as well.

It was always an uphill battle. But I suspect many went on to college and post graduate work just the same.

Hope that helps, Jardinier.

- beads

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Bravo - Beads

by OKNightOwl In reply to Food and shelter

Well said Beads! "Don't confuse my words here or try to make something that isn't there. I have been proud to serve where others couldn't or wouldn't. I choose a very difficult path and survived. I'm also partially disable and in pain every day. But better that I did what I did so someone less able to handle it didn't have too."

Folks look at a "retired" veteran as some weird species. But if it weren't for these "warriors" the freedoms to chose our professions would be severely limited, and the rewards a vanishing thought.

My first tour was at the military's convenience, the next ones were with my plan in place. I chose Advanced Electronics, and some fun assignments too. But it opened a path into the Computer Industry, and IT was an outgrowth from that udesire to learn. BTW I also have an AA Degree more to validate my experience than anything else.

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Other good ways in

by DC Guy In reply to The tortuous road to a ca ...

Many people transfer into the IT organization after working in one of the departments that uses IT heavily. They become experts at business analysis or network administration or IT training or something like that and at some point they and IT decide they're perfect for each other.

As for me, when I graduated (1967) there was almost no such thing as a degree in IT. Very few people had them and the demand for programmers was astronomical. They would take anybody with a degree in anything and give them the training. Many places (like mine) made you take an aptitude test that looked suspiciously like excerpts from an IQ test, to see if you were good at reasoning and structural decomposition.

There were also a lot of people with degrees who were burned out in their careers of choice, notably teachers and social workers, and IT was happy to snap them up too and train them to write Cobol.

My degree is in accounting. I never worked a day in it. I saw the announcement for "EDP Trainee", whatever that was, on the bulletin board in the placement office, noticed that the starting salary was 50% higher than for an accountant, and I went straight there.

I'm not sorry I didn't become an accountant but I wish I'd tried being a musician first. My degree would have gotten me into IT just as easily ten years later.

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I knew from the start

by tedpgh In reply to The tortuous road to a ca ...

When I was in the navy in the late 70's, I worked with Cobol developers and was interested in programming from that point. After my exit from the navy, I got a job as a computer operator while going to school. I was able to do some programming in addition to my regular duties.

My second IT job was as a Tandem Cobol programmer in 1984. There was a lot of work for Tandem Cobol prorammers until Y2K. Right now I'm coding in java and C++.

I knew from the begining that I wanted to code, the only question for the future is which language will put food on the table.

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