How to get started in Information Technology

Hello world! My name is Bryan, and I’m an Information Technology professional looking to empower people to get started in the field of IT. I have over 10 years of experience in different facets of IT. Whether it was volunteering at local events doing Audio/Video jobs when I was 13 years old or working my corporate IT Analyst job at age 23. I am young, however, I have a plethora of information I want to share with the world, for free! I will share insight from how to self-learn, interviewing, and of course, how to get the next job.

Why should I get into IT?

Whether you are in college or you are looking to make a career change, IT can be for you. As you may or may not know, Information technology is a very broad industry name. There is practically a job for everyone from Helpdesk, Programming, Management, Security Analyst, the list goes on and on. There are jobs for those that like to work alone and jobs that require a ton of human interaction. As the field grows and expands, companies are always hiring. However, many positions go unfilled. This is an amazing problem to have because the industry suffers from a lack of talent to pull from. With the lack of talent, companies are forced to promote their best workers to unfilled positions. This is how I was able to move up the chain at such a young age. Of course, this is contingent on your poise and ambition to learn on the fly and acquire new skills. So, if you like consistent advancement opportunities and job security, IT can be the right field for you.

Who is it for?

Over the course of my career, many customers and coworkers have asked me “how did you learn this stuff?”, “how can my son/daughter get into this field?”. To which I always say, “Anyone can get into IT as long as they have the aptitude to learn”. Most people I’ve worked with do not even have an IT related degree or any degree at all. Some people I’ve worked with were 50 and 60-year-old men and women that just wanted to try something new! This just goes to show that anyone can get into the IT field as long as they have the passion for it. Like with any career, you can take yourself as far as your passion will allow you to learn. Trust me, no one knows everything. For example, how many people know the bash command to reassign a File Vault 2 Encryption key off the top of their head? It is okay if you have to look this up because I can’t remember how to do it at the moment.

Employers are looking to hire folks that are willing to learn and research (let’s be honest, no one likes a know-it-all anyway). They want someone that can understand the concept of the problem, break it down, and come up with a solution. Essentially IT is problem solving in a timely manner. This can be the drive or failure for some people. Sometimes, you will only have a matter of minutes to solve a problem. Let’s say the Office you work for loses Internet connection. The VoIP phone system is down and Wi-Fi connection is gone. Clearly there is an outage, but where is the cause? As they say, time is money! The longer it takes you (and sometimes your team) to restore the internet, the more money your company loses. Same can apply if you are a web developer. Company website goes down and clients cannot access it. It is your responsibility to restore access without the company suffering a major loss of revenue. I did provide extreme scenarios, but these sorts of things happen. Just the thrill of the action can turn people on or off from IT.

How do I get started?

College Helpdesk

If you are a college student and are unsure if IT is right for you, I would work at your college’s helpdesk! This is such a great resume builder and here is why. The college helpdesk is usually a paying position, but most colleges will let you intern for free if they have no more paying positions. This position will actually teach you 1 piece of knowledge you cannot acquire from working elsewhere, and that is printers. Yes, I said printers. Most corporate office and business use Laser printers and guess what? They malfunction all of the time. Users have no idea how a printer works, thus cannot figure out why the printer is not working. Learning to service Laser printers is so beneficial to training your mind on how to troubleshoot. Between the consistent maintenance, constant part failure, and network connectivity issues, you will be replacing parts and clearing paper jams with your eyes closed. When the paper jams, people run to IT. Aside from printers you will learn how to reset passwords using some sort of directory system. You may even gain knowledge of Audio/Video systems such as projectors, speakers, VoIP phones, and tvs/displays. Being exposed to this allows you to build a repository of information and gain a troubleshooting mindset. The best part is, you can get your course work done while working the help desk. Essentially, you are getting paid to study and learn technology!

Retail

If you get tired of working the school Helpdesk and can spend 15-20 hours at a part-time job, I would suggest trying to get a job at an Apple Store or a Microsoft Store. Both of these companies purposely build stores near Colleges and Universities in order to attract potential talent. They key is, you need to put your brand loyalty aside. When it comes down to you trying to get ahead in life, throw your pride away. I worked for Apple Retail as a Genius for 4 years. The Apple Genius position is their highest level of technical support. Apple provided me with tuition reimbursement for my University studies, paid for customer service training, as well as paid for me to become an Apple Certified Mac Technician (ACMT). We will discuss the importance of certifications in a later blog. Microsoft has similar benefits. I have a few college friends who basically had the same deal as me. They worked less than 20 hours a week and were provided with tuition reimbursement, training, and had the ability to receive Microsoft certifications. Access to these resources is amazing and I encourage everyone to try take advantage of it.

Reality of Retail

The Good

The most important aspect of working a retail job is learning Soft skills. It is so essential for an IT professional to have strong soft skills because you will have to talk to people. Employers are looking for people who are not afraid to stir up a conversation as well as learn to listen and show empathy towards others. You may laugh, but most IT professionals are introverted (myself included). It took me a solid 3 years of working in customer service to finally develop a level of comfort around people and actively engage them in conversation. Strong soft skills translate enormously when you get a corporate job. Employers are more concerned about “culture” and how you are around the team rather than what technical expertise you possess. Almost more important than being a great communicator is knowing how to talk to your audience. Specifically, knowing what lingo/verbiage to use. If you are speaking with a non-technical business manager or customer, you may want to avoid using technical terms. The quicker you can convey what you are thinking in terms the other person will understand, the smarter you will look. This becomes a trickle affect because you will gain the respect of others, causing them to come back to you instead of someone else.

The Bad

There is a price to pay for all of these glorious benefits. Retail tears the heart and soul out of every employee. There is such turnover at these places because the average person can only tolerate so much verbal abuse from customers. However, this is your chance to learn two things, conflict resolution and empathy. Learning to combat conflict while developing empathy is the most invaluable asset and IT professional can acquire. Whether your job requires you to deal with clients or answer to a manager, diffusing conflict will help you advance in your career.