You’ve started your IT career. Now what?

So you started your IT career and you landed in a help desk position.   What now?   We wrote an article,  “It takes time in the trenches of help desk”   that tells you to do your time.   But what about those amazing salaries on Computerworld or over at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupational Handbook?   How do you get there?  It takes time, experience and skill.

In IT you have to do one of two things.   You can be a master at everything or you have to find a focus on one area.   In IT, you can attend school and get ready for an entry level position.   You can also become an expert in one area.   This is one of the most career killing things you can do.  Why?   I’ve seen programming languages come and go and I’ve seen technology change at the drop of a hat.

But where does your advanced education come from?   OJT (On the job training) and self-study.   Without the ability to grow, you’re job can become stagnant.   Attend seminars,  attend classes, go to college and experiment.   Most of all, network with others and watch and listen to others in the field.  Have an open mind and be prepared to continually grow in the field of IT.

Here’s our article on  “It takes time in the trenches of help desk” from  March 10, 2012

That’s right, you’ve earned your way through technical school or college only to land at a help desk job.   Take a second and look at the logic behind this. IT professionals over the years have landed at help desk and the successful ones deliver quality service to the end users.   IT Managers, Directors or CIOs just can’t put someone in their server room without adequate experience troubleshooting computers.  An understanding of the operations of your organization starts by being exposed to all of the software and inner workings of the company.     Can you land that job in the server room or as a network admin?  Sure.   Reality is that it is rare.    It takes time, trust and experience.

When surveyed, IT professionals have a deeper respect for that manager that has done their time at help desk.   Many professionals do their time in this role and elect it as a career.   If you do your time and continue your education by getting more certifications, going to seminars and electe to attend a higher educational institution, you can work your way up the IT ladder.

The stress of help desk is different than any other stress.    While you have to put on your happy face and deliver quality service to your clients, it all starts at this level.    The redundancy of calls,  end-users who are frequent callers and the general grind of problems coming at you that appears to never end causes this stress.

IT managers and upper management in this field take notice of the people who excel at customer service.   IT is a service based career and help desk is your starting point for your career.    Ironically problems in this field go up to the higher level IT professional and solutions have to be pushed down in order to keep everyone happy.

Being positive and upbeat while you do your time in the trenches will bring that recognition to you.   It also allows you to place this experience on a resume for future jobs and positions in your organization or with different companies.

After decades in this career, I can point out hundreds of students who kept this attitude and later in their careers became more successful in IT.   There seems to be a sense of entitlement going through the IT field.   See help desk as a starting point to move up.     What about an example of someone who worked their way up?

One such example is Eric Canneer.   Eric started his career in IT as level I help desk and performed well while keeping a positive outlook.   During his career he never stopped learning and later was hired by one of the world’s largest logistics company and now manages their wireless globally.    While Eric is one example, hundreds of more examples come to mind.    I’ve had students who 95% of the time start help desk and over a period of one or two years worked their way to higher level positions in some of the country’s Fortune 500 companies and in every type of business and industry you can think of.

Are you truly ever out of a help desk position?   No.   You may not have that grind of answering phones daily but you are trying to please the end user and the problems never go away.   With a society that thrives on technology, you have to accept that innovation and  new technology brings on new problems and headaches.

Handling the stress of help desk and continuing your career in IT-

  • Accept the fact that you are in customer service regardless of your position
  • Obtain higher level certifications
  • Continue your education with a higher-ed institution
  • Realize that the customer is venting at the situation and not you
  • Help other IT personnel and work as a team
  • Ignore any negative personnel who bring you down
  • IT is in the top ten growing industries and the opportunities are greater than any other career
  • Find ways after hours to relax and get away

Information Technology will continue to grow and positions will continually be added in this field.   Less than three years ago, we didn’t truly have mobile computing experts that took care of a field that is growing at an unprecedented rate.   Become an expert in several fields and prove yourself not only to your managers and company but prove yourself to to you.

Here’s a great comment from this original post.

“IT is a service based career” … “There seems to be a sense of entitlement going through the IT field.”

These are the two most important statements in the entire article. Too many of my IT coworkers look down on the users and don’t treat them respectfully, which in turn soils the reputation of IT people. We are not an elite field of nothing but Bletchley Park code breakers, even if we think we are, and even if the end users think we are just because we were able to reset a password or tell them how to setup an email signature.

Consider yourself a mechanic instead. Some of use are working at Jiffy Lube, doing oil changes and routine maintenance. Some of us are rebuilding engines at Pete’s Auto. Some of us are helping design new transmissions at TransConn Int’l. But that’s it, so get over yourself, get another cup of tea, and answer the phone politely.

I’d also add, “Acknowledge the fact that you don’t know everything about everything”.    Mike

Phrases you may hear in IT

Years ago we made a list of phrases we’ve heard in IT.   These are phrases you may hear in the server room or when someone is on the phone with end-users.

“Try it and see…”

“Who knows?”

“Reboot it”      “It’s working now.”

“Ok, let me get this straight… “

“It worked yesterday”

“This computer hates me.”

“It received 5 stars? Really?”

“I paid $1000 and the manual is online?”

“Doing updates is like changing the oil in a moving car.”

“They’re still using a serial interface to program it?”

“Where’s the serial cable?”

“I don’t feel good about this update.”

“It stop working after the update.”

“It was backing up yesterday.”

“That’s weird.”

“That’s strange.”

“Did that patch just break this machine?”

“Email is up…email is down.”

“Add paper.”

“Is Google dumb today?”

“Why does every forum say check for a virus?”

“Did that hard drive just click?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Are we busy? Nah.”

“It worked yesterday.”

“How did they do that?”

“Try it again.”

“Try it now.”

“I don’t have a clue.”

“What do you think?”

“It should work now.”

“I don’t get it.”

“What the…”

“Really, did that just happen?”

“Is your caps-lock on?”

“Don’t tell me that.”

“I hope that just broke.”

“Did you see that?”

“Watch this.”

“That ain’t good.”

“That’s just great.”

“Did you see that?”

“How did that happen?”

“Don’t touch it until we can send someone.”

“Don’t let them touch anything.”

“They could break a steel block with a feather.”

“Did the lights just blink?”

“I don’t know.”

“You got me.”

“Let me think.” This is the time a manager will walk by when you are just sitting there.

“It’s a mystery.”

“We’re doing what?”

“Have you seen the DVD for _______?”      Fill in the blank, this is the DVD you need…now.

“They need what?” This is always followed by “When?” Which in turn is followed by an answer
with the shortest possible deadline.

“Slow down. Now say that again.”     This is an indicator of not listening even though you are
trying your best to not focus on the other 3000 things you have on your mind.

“Put paper in it.”

“How many times did they push print?”

“Do you hear that?”

“Where does this cable go?”

“Why does stuff always break on Monday?”

“Why does stuff always break on Friday?”

“What is that noise?”

“Hit it on the side.”

“Do you smell smoke?”

“Get your book off of the keyboard.”

“They need a what?”

“Who let them touch it?”

“They have a virus but they never get on the web?”

“You ever seen this?”    This is almost always met with a “Nope.”

“When did you first notice this?”     “Last month?”    “Why didn’t  you say something?”

“You dropped it behind the rack?”    This is usually met with a matter-of-fact look and the
response – “It will stay there until the end of time.”    or    “It’ll be just fine.”

“Where did this come from?”

“I’m scared to reboot, it’s running fine now.”

“It was running fine until we rebooted.”

“That software is 10 years old and they want it installed?

“Don’t touch that!”

“Where’s a pen?”

“We’ll get that tomorrow?”

“Where did we put that memo?”

“What did we do with ________?”

“Where’s that adapter?”

“Who wrote these instructions?”

“You figure that out yet?”

“It’s ip was…”

Actions you will see -

IT personnel with eyes closed and their head when rebooting some servers.

Looking away during a reboot.

Looking down during a reboot.

Eyes looking at ceiling when thinking.

Leg shaking when sitting.

Pen tapping.

Pen clicking.

Pen wiggling.

Mouse shaking.

Hitting the spacebar really fast to wake a computer.

Mouse moving in slow circles during software installation.

Grabbing the installation window of software and moving it in slow circles during an install of

Three or more IT personnel crowded around a monitor.

Heard a phrase in IT?  Send us a comment.

Computer Jobs Outlook

According  to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the computer industry is growing at an all time high.    With hands-on skills, experience, certifications and continuing education, a majority of companies will hire skilled employees without a B.S. degree.   We have around a 90+% employment rate.   Remember this is Median Pay – Starting pay without experience will be lower and more than 5 years will be higher.   Support personnel regardless of the job must be analytical*, have a good worker ethic, must adapt to change and continue your education with certifications and seek higher education (excellent credits are given by WGU and other colleges)

Computer Support Specialists   Median Pay $46,260 per year $22.24 per hour

Computer Systems Analysts  Median Pay     $77,740 per year $37.38 per hour

Information Security Analyst  Median Pay $75,660 per year $36.37 per hour

Computer Network Architects  Median Pay $75,660 per year $36.37 per hour

Note:  True Computer skills should never be lower than $14.00 per hour for basic tasks in IT.

*”Analytical skill is the ability to visualize, articulate, and solve both complex and uncomplicated problems and concepts and make decisions that are sensical based on available information. Such skills include demonstration of the ability to apply logical thinking to gathering and analyzing information, designing and testing solutions to problems, and formulating plans…Wikipedia

IE emulation in Chrome

Do you have devices such as a NAS, Firewall or other device on your network that will only work in IE?   Josh gave me a reminder of just how powerful Chrome can be if you load the IE Tab extension.   Also with programs that only work in IE, Carleton (an alumni and now IS manager) is often fighting programs that work only in IE and he often has to use the compatibility button in Internet Explorer to get programs to run.    With the popularity of IE falling, and with Chrome shooting to the top, Josh’s solution is an excellent extension that brings the power of Chrome into the world of Internet Explorer.

If your company is moving over to Chrome, use the IE tab to talk to physical devices or to work with programs once designed only for Internet Explorer.


Reengineering IT in Higher Education

“Somewhere in our pasts, however dormant, however dulled that ember now is, there is a belief that IT can actually make things better through change,” McCartney said. “That’s the Tantalus theory: that’s the opportunity held before us.”

McCartney has done a lot with that opportunity at Purdue. He’s widely known as one of the nation’s leading technology innovators in higher education…read more at Campus Technology

The challenge of teaching information technology

Several years ago I wrote an article titled the same as this article.  I love teaching information technology.  But there are days I wonder if I can keep up.   Help desk personnel and junior administrators have to be well rounded and are truly as knowledgeable as IT managers of yesterday.

Regardless if you are an Apple, Linux or Microsoft fan, the amount of data coming at you today is overwhelming.   The viral growth of technology is immeasurable.  Less than ten years ago, you could teach computer basics, computer repair and upgrade, basic networking, basic security and cover laptops and you would cover the information needed to start an IT career.

In this day and age, you have to teach mobile devices, all of the above in great detail, accept that there is the growth of new devices and technology that cannot be measured – and you must cover the fact that there is no true convergence of technology.   Being a technical school, it is our job to turn out IT professionals with the maximum amount of knowledge in information technology in a balanced amount of time.

So what does a typical help desk employee need to know how to repair in today’s professional environment?

  • Mobile Computing (Phones, tablets, netbooks, laptops and other devices) -Not just mobile computing – a well rounded knowledge of Windows Phones, Basic Phones, Android and iPhones.  How to configure these devices, secure, recover these devices, backup, deploy, track, maintain, sync with cloud computing, local computing and how to select secure apps that meet enterprise level needs.    With the hundreds of thousands of apps, IT personnel have to help evaluate and make sure they are secure and meet the needs of end users.
  • Desktop Support – Desktop support includes the maintenance of all operating systems, awareness of Linux, Apple, and Windows.   Although these computers may be decreasing in sales, help desk personnel need to be aware of how to support these devices.   Support for PCs is not the generic support of two years ago.  Techs will have to support OpenSource, main stream, and cross platform applications.   With the thousands of configurations available for computers today and the society of mobile workers we are creating; security is more important than ever.   The amount of accessories and configurations is endless.
  • Server Support –  Today the basic file server is a tiny portion of what your help desk support team needs to have a working knowledge of.   With data servers, application servers, DHCP, DNS, NAP, Firewall, and the plethora of other servers that are available, your server administrators have their work cut out for them and your help desk staff have to be well educated with the correlation and importance of these servers and how these servers are meshed into the complex networking makeup of enterprise systems today.
  • Networking and Wireless Technology – It’s not just about making wireless available today for laptops but it merges into bandwidth and the needs of mobile computing.  Today the needs assessment falls into the mobile devices and the extreme need for tons of bandwidth.  If your company has several hundred employees, you may need to look at the need (bandwidth) for three or more devices per employee.   By adding these devices (mobile) to your network, your needs could triple or quadruple because of the need for collaboration with other users and to the cloud.   Wireless today covers TVs, DVDs, projectors, mobile devices, netbooks, laptops, desktops,  NAS systems and hundreds of other devices.   Networking is more complex than ever.  With virtualization used in industry, even the new IT professional needs an understanding of this technology and how it integrates into their organization.
  • Security – Typical help desk personnel today don’t just reset passwords.  They have to understand the need to protect mobile devices, understand encryption, remote computing, hardware firewalls, policies, laws, disposal of equipment, websites, viruses, malware and hundreds of other devices, services and topics.
  • Cloud Computing – Here’s a mystery.  As the cloud forms, the storms brew on how the cloud will be used and which type of cloud is right for your company.   With the dozens of options available, security, use and controlling the cloud are becoming the problems and solutions IT personnel need to be able aware of.
While the above topics only represent a tiny fraction of what needs to be covered today, the basic understanding of technology needed for entry level into the IT industry is becoming astronomical.
So how do you teach all of this?   Classrooms need to have access to every type of device and service available.  Not all devices or services – but a common ground that is general enough to cover the topic yet broad enough to help students have an understanding of how to configure, use, and  resolve issues with technologies of today.
Curriculum in the classroom has to be dynamic and meet standards with competencies.   Advisory committees must be diverse and willing to work with staff and personnel that train young IT professionals.  Motivation, Drive and experience is needed in the classroom along with live projects and not just labs.
Companies will need to accept the fact that finding IT support is as good as the education the student receives and that many skills are learned in the work place.Students today need to be trained in an 18 month period or less before their skills expire and need to continue their education and training as their careers advance.

The challenge of teaching information technology

Links of Interest:

Establishing a Career Path in Information Security

Establishing a Career Path in Information Security – Certification Magazine.

Question: I have completed my degree in IT. I want to pursue a career in information security. Which path should I follow? I have done Java. Should I go for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or directly for a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) course? Is there any other better option? Read more.