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Working for a Small business- am I missing out?

By camis05 ·
I'm a recent graduate and am working for a small business - I am the IT dept. My daily tasks are combination of Level 1 Helpdesk and report generation for management. I'm also responsible for introducting new technology to the company. I'm concerned that because I'm working with a small company that I'm missing out on huge learnings in an enterprise environment. My main concern is when I'm looking for another job that my skills won't meet the standard skillset of an IT worker. Any thoughts on how to make sure I stay competitive IT worker?

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Small Business means more room to innovate

by schwana In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

Working for a small company usually means that as an IT Admin you have to look harder for smarter innovation to keep your company in stride with the big boys. Sure you may have a smaller budget, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot that can be done. Particularly when it comes to security measures - everyone has to do it, big and small, to protect their business assets and reputation. Your challenge - find the perfect security fit for your company size. They're out there. Good example for email and access control software, Essential Taceo, priced especially for the small business:

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The People make a Small company

by stephenmoriarty In reply to Small Business means more ...

I found working for small companys rewarding in terms of long time friendships and over the years lots of good contacts when its time to move on. You might have a friend from the small company who can sing your praises at a larger company. Other things that irked me was sometimes you were left out of the loop on IT decisions mainly because you could not be everywhere at once, and saometimes systems would show up without your input and you were told to support it. You may never get rich in the small company IT department but for longitivity in a job it cannot be beat. I also found it very valuable in the world of IT consulting because you may see more different things and know what works and what does not in your the real world. I also found small companys would pay more for training but you had to really work the case for training to get trained.

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Large vs. Small

by In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

I was recruited out of college to a large company with a couple of huge IT departments. I was pigeon-holed into supporting an in-house application that was soon replaced. That, and the office politics, were the main drawbacks to the corporate IT environment. I did have a good mentor the last year I was there. If I had been at a small company, I would have known more and been more confident about trying things outside my area. BTW, I'd still be there, if they hadn't closed the plant. Patti was a great mentor.

I've worked for small companies, where they actually say Thank You, and your recommendations carry more weight and can effect the whole company.

Two bits of unsolicited advice (okay, 3):

1) I know 5 obsolete languages, so I recommend learning something that is evolving, not just because it is the "latest and greatest". For example, my husband started with Pasqual out of school, switched to C, then C+, C++ and now C#.

2) Max out contributions to your 401k (especially if they match - FREE money!) or max your ROTH IRA (until you qualify for the 401k) each year. Social Security ain't gonna be there for me, much less you! This is the best thing I ever did.

3) This year you can now can set up a 529 account, and you can pay for your own (not just your kid's) education and books with pre-tax dollars. Even better - tuition and books reimbursement. Never stop learning...

Hooking into these guys is a great resource. They are helpful and really know their stuff. Wish I had something like this when I was starting out. Networking isn't just IT.

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Think of all the fun you would be excluded from

by JamesBrown In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

I too am in my first year in IT and am with a small company. There are some drawbacks such as lack of technical mentoring and less access to some of the fancier "toys" found in Enterprise environments. However, nowhere else would you have as much freedom and independence. At a larger company, your tasks and methods would be dictated to you and you would rarely, if ever, get to influence purchasing and implementation decisions until later in your career. Use this time to sample everything and learn as much as you can. You just can't beat the broad range of experience you get at a smaller company.

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Best thing to do...

by rgun2515 In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

Best thing to do would be to work for a consulting company. It's the best way to get experience. When working for any company, large or small, you will not have the confidence as you would if you had worked for a consultant. Someone who has configured 1000 firewalls can do it better and faster than someone who has only worked on one or two. I personally would never hire someone that didn't have this high pressure high volume experience. I just find someone that has done consulting knows more.

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by Victoree In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

Before you leap off the jetty into "Ocean Looking For The Next Rung Up" consider. Consider that you are young. Feel the freedom of this, the springtime of your life and look CAREFULLY at the job you have now with eyes that discern the deep learning; the gaining of global perspective where you are now. Before you specialize in a great big company where you will be walled off to do what you do without knowing how what you do fits into the larger scheme of things, EMBRACE this opportunity you have of being THE competent authority in the building. Love this moment because you may have only one chance like it in the world.

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There is a danger in larger companies.

by jgmsys In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

It has been alluded to in a recent "Communications of The ACM," that large enterprises often act behind the scenes to deskill their technical employees, thereby making them useless to any organization but their own. I find myself in just such a situation at the moment. You at least will have the opportunity to have a diversified skills base, albeit perhaps one where imperfect knowledge of any particular area may be the result ("jack of all trades, master of none" effect). But in your case, complete retraining won't be necessary. It is in mine, and is now far too expensive to undertake (I now find that I require a Computer Science bachelor's degree to get anywhere in IT anymore - I don't currently possess such a degree), thus I am considering leaving the field, much to my chagrin.

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take charge of your own career

by gnbonney In reply to There is a danger in larg ...

I've never heard that terminology ("deskill") before. I don't think that large organizations really try to make their people less valuable, but it is true that often they don't want to spend money training a person if that means they will lose them because they can now go elsewhere for more money. Basically, though, they just don't care about your career as much as their deadlines. Also, due to budget cuts, they may just not like spending the extra money on training.

Anyway, I will say that I am now working for a smaller company, and they actually have a policy that everybody has to have a certain amount of training each year.

However, I think regardless of company size, if you are getting marketable experience where you are, you shouldn't be too quick to switch, but if you're not enjoying your job don't wait too long to make a change. Life is too short, and you don't want to get stuck in a rut. I've been pidgeon-holed too many times in my career, so I know how frustrating it can be. As somebody else in this thread said, you have to look out for number one.

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It's all about the spin

by mberner_learner In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

You have a very valid concern. One of the things you need to be diligent about is networking with others outside of your company and building your contacts. If you can find a more experienced tech who is willing to act as a mentor, that can be a big advantage. Also it would be a good idea to work toward industry certifications, A+, MCSE, CCNA, etc. and find something in your job that you can become an expert at, whether it's with Exchange Server, or IIS, or more network related a a one man show you are responsible for becoming jack of all trades, you decide which one to become a master of. You might also want to set up a small network at home with a server and at least one PC or laptop, and a wireless network. Use this to play and to learn. Finally, I would use your current position as a stepping stone to a job in a larger company.

One thing that has serverd me when I was coming up the ranks was to develop relationships with a few technical recruiters in your area and keep in touch. If they are any good they will want to stay in contact as your develop, so they can place you when you are ready. Please feel free to contact me at if you have any other questions. BTW, what part of the country are located in? Good luck.


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Great place to start and continue...

by Matthew Moran In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

A small company is an excellent place to start an IT career. You work more closely with management and owners, your work can make a tremendous impact on the business, you can move more easily between projects and disciplines and touch more technologies. Additionally, you will probably have the opportunity to train and present to users, managers and owners.

I advocated this year ago - before I wrote, The IT Career Builder's Toolkit, I expanded upon the idea in the book, and continue to write about it.

Small business does not mean 3 people - in the US, a small business can have as many as 200 people - even more in some industries.

The reasons I hear why you would not want to are a little silly to me. Things like your mistakes are easier to notice, or you have to take on more responsibility.

I would never determine my career path based on the safest, least reward-driven environment - the large company. I will always want my work to be in the spot-light. If I continuously make mistakes, I suppose that is a problem. If I occassionally make mistakes but I much more often provide great solutions, the small business is by far the best place to rapidly grow your career.

And don't believe that a large company won't look at you if your first 10 years of experience is at smaller companies. That is just not true. Moving between large or small companies is far easier that some people want to make it sound.

If you have a tangible and visible set of skills, large companies will gladly hire you from a small business background.

On the flip side, if you work in a large IT department to start out, you are often segmented into x technology or y technology. Kingdom type control often exist and makes moving between departments difficult.

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