IT is a crazy industry. I learnt that during Day 1 at University studying my BSc in Computer Science & Business with E-Commerce. There are so many areas you can specialise in but how on earth are you supposed to know the area of IT you want to get into when you haven’t been exposed to the industry yet or have experience?
That is one of the biggest hurdles I have faced. An Undergraduate BSc and an MSc at Graduate School later, I can honestly say that it wasn’t until a good 3 years ago that I knew exactly what I wanted to do within the IT Industry.
While at University, I was lucky enough to have an internship with a huge worldwide Engineering company. In fact, I was the only one put forward for it by my University. It was during that time that I really started thinking about what direction I wanted to take. I did Software & Hardware IT Support for the entire site; slaved hard drives, replaced broken computer components, fixed software issues, helped with network ports, designed websites… I pretty much did it all. I loved it. However, at the end of the internship, I still had no clue what I *really* wanted to do.
After I graduated, I couldn’t find an IT job at all. Most companies wanted more work experience in IT rather than a fresh graduate. So I went in a completely different direction. I started working on Bids & Tenders for an Oil Company. Even though I loved my job, I was a Computer Geek at heart so I decided to do my Masters. I quit my job, moved cities and went back to school.
By this time I decided that I loved the mixture of IT & Business so I did my Masters in Information Management with the aim of eventually getting into IT Project Management or Consultancy after specialising in Desktop Support. Hard for someone with pretty much no hands on IT experience, but at least it was finally an aim!
Then I graduated…
The job market crumbled.
I applied for pretty much every IT job going even if I was under qualified for it. Money wasn’t important, I just wanted the experience. I did temporary agency work doing Audio Typing or basic Admin work just to get some work experience even though it wasn’t what I wanted to do. When I was applying for jobs, I was told I was either too over qualified education wise for the job or I was too under qualified work experience wise for the job. Now, how is a fresh University graduate supposed to get work experience if they are deemed too educated? It’s a Catch 22 situation which affects near enough everyone, no matter what degree they studied.
Over a year later, I finally got the golden phone call. I got my first proper IT job. It was nothing like I expected it to be. Everything I learnt at University doing my undergraduate and graduate courses was thrown out the window. Everything I had learnt was no longer relevant. It was all about experience, common sense & figuring it out for yourself. The job? Remote Accessing users machines to resolve software issues. I dealt with everything and anything you could think of, from users who didn’t know how to set up an email account to users with nasty viruses from visiting dodgy websites. It was then I finally realised what I loved about IT. Fixing things, problem solving & learning new things every single day.
After nearly 2 years of working at that company, I was headhunted by a huge IT company to work within a new department they were setting up here. Talking to the HR Team & a Technical IT interview later, I realised that this was my dream IT job. It was exactly what I wanted to do and the job was mine! It’s now been 7 months since working for the company & I love it. Once again, everything that I studied at University has never once been used. I was trained up for 2 months on the various systems, the ins & outs of the role then set loose. A lot of what I do is from my own knowledge of IT and fixing things, things I learnt in my old role but a good 60% is new things that I constantly discover & learn about.
Knowledge, Discovery & Constant Learning are key to working in IT. IT is extremely fast paced and as a now Infrastructure Systems Administrator, I have a constant need to keep up to date with all the latest trends in IT. I need to keep learning new skills, increase my knowledge on a variety of different aspects and of course, share the knowledge with my co-workers. That is one of the biggest elements of team work after all.
Was University a waste? Not at all. I doubt that if I hadn’t been as educated as I am, that I’d end up where I am today. I came to realise that even though I may have had less work experience than others in my old job, I was actually paid much more than my co-workers purely based on the fact of my education. Do I think being female in a male dominated field hinders me? No. Sure IT is pretty much male dominated but slowly but surely more women are getting into the industry. Salary differences between the sexes? I got paid much more than 90% of the men in my old job. I don’t think being female has put me at a disadvantage. I think it has actually helped break into the market, opened a lot of doors for me career wise, even if I still get odd looks from men when I tell them what I do for a living.
You need to keep yourself educated within IT & that is why I am hopefully going to eventually do some direct learning courses to get more Microsoft Certifications under my belt. Due to the fact IT is so competitive, it’s a must these days. The good thing about my current job is that we have an online learning portal where we can access pretty much every single IT certification study guide online, do mock tests and learn about different subjects for free. The only thing we’d need to pay for are the actual exams.
So those of you expecting to stop studying, learning & sitting exams when you leave school are sadly mistaken.
It’s a never ending battle! A battle to better yourself and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.