What Anyone works in IT should remember every day

Dhammika from EuroCenter mailed this to me, a very interesting read:


The IT industry looks much different from the outside than it does from the inside. There are secrets and tricks about how it operates that nobody knows except those who are in the industry. Kind of like a weird cult. That is, until now. Here’s my list of what everyone who wants to enter the IT industry should know.

Once you’re pigeon-holed, it’s extremely hard to break out
Lots of graduates and IT hopefuls take the first job they are offered, thinking they can upgrade to the perfect job later. This can be a big mistake. Once you’re known to have experience in a particular area, it can be extremely difficult to break out of it. If you spend a year on the helpdesk, you will become known as the “helpdesk-girl”. A year spent on Oracle can will quickly convert you into “Mr Oracle”.

IT workers are terrible snobs. Java developers think nobody from the helpdesk will ever be able to do what they do, and network-monkeys see developers as nothing but prima-donnas. It’s quite a tribal industry.

Agencies, always looking for the easiest way to make a dollar, will only forward you for jobs where you have experience. Once you get used to the dollars rolling in, a job in the hand will seem better than the prospect of learning new skills with a pay-cut. Before you know it, you’ve spent the past five years working in a job you didn’t want.

My advice is hang out for the job that you want. If you want to move into J2EE development, insist on working at that.

Technical Skills are hard currency
It is possible to thrive in the IT industry with limited or out-of-date technical skills, but it’s more difficult. During a bust, middle-managers and project managers are often the first to go. Those with up-to-date technical skills can also struggle, but not to the same extent. It’s possible to build and maintain IT systems without management skills, but not without technical skills.

Vow to always keep your technical skills up to date. Even if you move into management and find your time being taken up by “soft-skills” keep training yourself in the important “hard-skills”.

Your whole career in IT will be spent updating your skills
This follows on from the last point. If your skills become out of date, you will become vulnerable to losing your career. Because of this, IT is a career where it is difficult to thrive without having a real passion for it. Your employer may send you on expensive training courses, but unless you read up and experiment in your own time, you’re going to fall behind.

Despite the vendor rhetoric, IT systems are becoming ever more complex. This requires IT workers to add a growing list of skills to their CVs. This trend looks like continuing with the introduction of web services, which require more complex skills than web development.

When I started my Lotus Notes development career, all you had to know to enter the field was basic Notes development. One year later you had to know LotusScript and ODBC to get a job. The year after that, Domino and HTML were added to that list. The year after that, every job wanted Javascript. Then they wanted Java. Now increasing numbers of jobs are asking for J2EE and XML. If I don’t continue to add new skills to my repertoire, I’m likely to be struggling to find work.

IT is a volatile industry
If you want a nice cushy gig working for the same company doing the same job for twenty years, then IT is not the industry for you. IT workplaces are in a constant state of flux; with workers being retrenched, then re-hired, then retrenched again. You have to be prepared to change jobs every two or three years, and sometimes watch your income go up and down like a yo-yo. Periods spent out of work are not unusual. I predict a big boom in IT in the coming years, likely sparked by something that most aren’t even anticipating. This boom will be followed by a bust and so on. I can’t see the pace of technical change slowing down anytime soon, and as long as that continues IT will remain volatile.

You should get experience by working at bargain-basement prices
If you want to move into J2EE development, don’t expect to go straight onto $80 hour. That is, unless you’re very lucky or in the middle of a boom. Offer your services at below-market rates when you first move into the industry. You will be much more attractive to employers and will have more choice of jobs. Commercial experience counts in IT and you want to get some as soon as you can. Once you’ve got a year’s experience under your belt, you can look to increase your income.

Get your vendor certifications
These aren’t entirely necessary, but can give you the edge when looking for a job. If you haven’t got much experience, vendor certifications can compensate to some extent. Look on the job boards to see which certifications employers are asking for in the area you want to move into.

Paul Knapp 

What Anyone works in IT should remember every day