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Long time MCT and technical trainer. Windows wonder and CompTIA capable. I freelance for clients big and small, Military and Civvy street. Consulting and teaching my way round the world, you can browse my CV / Resume here

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Sunday
Oct272013

Why IT?

Hello everyone,

It has been a while since I have been blogging on my website. Too log infact. Life has been a bit busy for me at the moment. As a freelance IT trainer and consultant when work picks up your feet rarely touch the ground, and I mean that in the most literal sense of the term. Since the last time I posted back in April my star alliance account shows 24 flights around the continent. Birmingham and Frankfurt airports become more like home than anywhere else. You know you fly too much when you start to get on first name terms with the people who work at the airport. Its time to take stock and focus for a moment while not fighting with security in Brussels airport when they confiscate your Swiss wine on a connection back from Geneva.

Exams,

It has most definitely become the season of exams, MCSA+MCSE 2012 fully passed along with Exchange 2013, VDI/Hyper-V and soon to be private cloud with System Center 2012. My first teach of the Exchange 2013 configuring course seemed to run without much of a hitch a few weeks ago at EZE Training in the Midlands. My delegates both loved and hated some of the new features of Exchange 2013, what seemed to get the best response was the new auto-translation features in MailTips. Exams never stop within IT, moreso when you have to teach the qualifications afterwards. Amazon have had more than a pretty penny from me for a new collection of future doorstops. What do you do with your old IT books? I find it hard to throw them out since they cost me so much in the first place. Maybe one day I will combine them all together to make some sort of furniture, maybe a coffee table.

Why IT?

So, the title. Well this is a work in progress title for a small side project I have been working on in the last few months. 'Why IT?' is hopefully going to evolve into something of an ebook for people who are looking to move into IT. I have questions regularly from people looking to get into this industry and how to go about doing it. Many a time this has come up in base level courses like the A+ and the Windows 7/8 courses. There is much to learn when approaching the subject, from exams and study to how to deal with recruiters. This is a lecture that is built into my head and has evolved over a number of years to become a talk of maybe about 3 hours with many a whiteboard scribble while students franticly try to keep up with notes. So I decided to distill it into a book. So far there are about 40ish A4 pages on the subject and probably is about 70% complete in terms of content. This need a lot of proofing, grammer and spellchecking before being at a level for general release.

Because I have been away for so long from the site I think it is about time to include the first sample. CTRL+C CTRL+V below. Please excuse all formatting errors and grammer errors, I am aware there is alot more editing to be done, this is just a taste. 

 

Why IT?

So you want to work in IT? Have you asked yourself why? Successful people in this industry come not from those that see a technical career path as a series of jobs that may lead to a better quality of life or more money in the bank, a more secure future for your family or a better car on the drive. The most successful technical people I have met over the years are the people who would be doing what they are doing for a salary, even if there was not one there. This is more of a lifestyle choice than a job. Unlike working 9-5 in the coffee shop or behind the counter at the bank your life will be affected outside of work. The best eat live and breath technology on a day to day basis, they have the drive not for work money or power but for a driving interest into how things work and how to deconstruct and analyze problems to work towards a solution.

            The path of some IT learning centers / academies (more on these later) will show an employee unhappy in the day to day grind and paint a picture of IT as a magical land full of opportunities  and promise where anyone can forge out a path as long as they are willing to put their mind to it, push themselves, gain the needed qualifications and employers will rain down money and job offers from a great height. This is not the real world but a fantasy painted by highly paid marketing and sales teams looking to sign you up for the first available course. Why would you take their advice on this matter? They are not IT people themselves and normally have no vested interest in technology or what you want to become or why. You wouldn’t ask a Pilot how to make the perfect cup of coffee, why look for career advice on a technical path from a marketing team or a sales team? (if you are looking for the perfect cup of coffee at home you are looking for and areopress)

 This is not all doom and gloom though, there is truth in the information peddled to you.  Demand for IT workers is on the rise in the UK / Europe / USA and most other first world economy’s as we move toward a service based economy and away from traditional man power. More so with the increased remote working community, working like I am from a small coffee shop in Birmingham City Centre.

 (data for it job demand graph)

Wages are not on the small side either, starting out will be hard and if you may even be forced to take a pay cut for 12 months to get your foot in the door (time in the trenches) A new hire 1st line technical support / service desk role can realisitcly (outside major population centres i.e. London / NY / Paris ) be looking at pulling down not much more above the minimum wage and having abuse thrown at you on a daily basis for good measure.

            This will not last long though, I promise, if you put your mind to it and really live this way of working a ladder will be placed in front of you climbed by many before you and well tested will be your route to wherever you want to go in life.

Lets have a look at a breakdown of some of the advantages of joining the growing ranks of technical people in the world.

This industry is not going to flounder…. Ever

{wiki link} The miners strikes and closure of main coal mines in the UK caused in a very short time massive amounts of disruption both on a business to business level and socioeconomic level for many towns that were built upon these pits for Jobs and security for the surrounding communities causing devastation for not just a few families but for 10’000’s of families across the country. Bringing up this subject for many blue collar worker from working class towns in the UK will raise a lot of sore memories that they would prefer not to repeat. Yet it serves as a good, if sweeping example of market forces and government intervention to increase profitability of a country in a capitalist model.

            To use {wiki} Joyce Applebys definition of capitalism; An economic system that relies on investment in machines and technology that are used to increase production of marketable goods. If we take this as a core aspect of the modern global economy (unless for some reason you are reading this book in the DPRK) IT and technology is built right into the economic development of the economic system we live by day to day. Technology drives profitability and evolution of products and services. It raises people from poverty by allowing certain actions to be cost effective in the execution. Demand for skilled people in technology will only rise either as the economy rises and increased production levels for a marketable product grows. Or will maintain a higher rate of momentum during downturns as technological answers are sought to increase efficiency within a company.

            Just as the steam engine was the core of the industrial revolution, your laptop and the software that runs on it is the engine of the modern world. Capitalism needs IT, IT needs capitalism. TLDR, you are pretty secure in your line of work unless the Soviet Union with government controlled and directed economy suddenly makes a revival.

Mobility

Where do you want to work? It may be a fantasy to think that you could forge a career working from home or working from a beach with a laptop and an ice cold G&T. Yet with IT it is perfectly possible, depending on what path you choose later on that is.  Want and office job with a commute and a 9-5? Not a problem either, you are not tied to one location or even one employer. Freelancing and contracting is not for everyone and is most definitely not something to be looking at for a first role in IT yet if you are looking to move around a bit, see some of the world or work in a different country then there is going to be nothing much stopping you. Thanks to the global companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle, IBM, HP (this list could take up ½ this chapter so I will stop here but you get the point) wherever you go you will encounter the same systems in the same configurations with the same skill sets in demand, you will be an essential worker with knowledge that every industry requires from foundries to lawyers to racing teams. Go forth, travel and move around there is nothing stopping you now.

Money in your pocket

I already mentioned that starting out with your time in the trenches on the lower end of the IT jobs ladder will not pay much more above the guy with the job of making your morning Starbucks. (Not that working in Starbucks is a bad career, take a look at this list  http://www.cnbc.com/id/43896634 ) Wages in IT are not all the bad and the sky really is the limit, take a look around on http://www.cwjobs.co.uk for contract roles in London for skilled IT guys with 5-10 years of experience under their belts. At time of writing this is around £400-600 per day. Not bad if you can fight your way to the top. Get grounded in a company like Google with generous stock options and retire in 10 years is not a far off dream.

Challenge

IT does not sit still, and this could be a down point for many people wanting to forge a career in technology. This is not ‘pick up bolt, add nut, turn and tighten, repeat’ Its more ‘pick up bolt, add nut, turn and tighten, repeat, pick up….. what do you mean the marketing team removed the bolt? Legal says they want to have the nut square now and are wondering how to replace the word nut with spiral tightening device in 1000 documents??? Oh, and you want me to explain what tighten means to the CEO because he built the company before the time of the nut and bolt meaning he refuses to use them….. Right, let me yet get my coffee fix and ill be right on it’  IT changes and evolves on a daily basis, not just via advancement of technologies but the changing business needs of the company you are working with. You will never have 2 days that will be exactly the same. The more complex something becomes the more things can go wrong. Prime example the Saturn V {wikilink} was expected to have over 6500 components fail on every launch yet still get to the moon and back, now that is a redundant and complex system.

Its not all roses though, there are the downsides

Disrespect, Insulted, Bottom of the pile, and just general abuse

You will have all of the above thrown at you on a daily basis when you first start, you are the IT guy everything is your fault. If the user has mad a mistake or cost the company money and they can blame it on IT they will. If something has gone wrong through no fault of your own you will be shouted and screamed at. You are the IT guy and is your fault that they cannot work out how to use Excel to a level that would add an efficiency advantage to the business. To give you an example of a time I would not care to repeat my first Job in IT at the age of 17 was 2nd line technical support for a well known manufacturer of Home and Enterprise networking equipment. 2nd line because the 1st line support was based in India so the average customer was already spitting fire by the time they got to the team in the UK. (they had called from the UK, been directed to India, spent a minimum of 1hour on the phone with an Indian support agent only to be transferred to the UK with an English accent enough to anger the most passive of home users). Add to this a quota for 2nd line agents of 36 calls a day if you are not careful it can have a serious effect on your mental health and is not for everyone.

You take your work home with you

This is more of the way of life than anything else, you will take your work home with you, and you will be thinking about how to extract the information you need from an Oracle Db to get it to cross reference with the companies internal bespoke solution coded by a 3rd party who no longer exists way in to the early hours of the morning. There is also too much going to keep up with in the office, podcasts, news streams, twitter interactions, forums and wikis will all become normal evening for you when you need to add to the internal toolbox that you are building.

The Study

Because of the changing nature of IT and the constant evolutions of both certifications and software you will find yourself with a small mountain of books to read on a regular basis. If you don’t like to read and evolve your skillsets then this is not the path for you. Books don’t come cheap either, £30-40 for a single technical manual that you will skim read for just the points that are relevant to your role are more the norm than the exception. You can be looking at spending £300+ on books every 12 months. If you have a forgiving and understanding employer they may cover this cost for you if you can prove a business case for the knowledge acquisition.

Still want to join us?

Time to read on then, pick your path and work your way in. Grab it with both hands and build yourself a career path that has as much future and potential that you put into it. The road will be long and hard, this is not an easy task. Changing into something new never is. IT is just as hard as any other professional qualification maybe even more so. Remember, that just because you can take apart your computer at home, overclock your CPU, install a new PSU and add a couple of flashy lights this does not give you the title IT technician. In the same way that driving your car into town does not give you the skills to drive the Le Mans 24hr.

 

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