Although IT careers can be challenging at times, people who thrive on challenge will find that they can be richly rewarded if they are continually committed to objectivity and growth.
As an IT manager and a consultant, here are some things that I wish that I knew when I started my IT career:
Industry Groups Lead You To The Right Technology
When you are starting out, having experience and knowledge of key technologies will enhance your job prospects a lot. Choosing technologies that you will study or master as part of your professional toolkit becomes an important part of growing your career. Someone who mastered Blackberry Operating Systems when their career started in 2005, may not be as marketable as someone who chose to focus on writing applications for Android. One of the best ways of making decisions on the technologies that you decide to add to your educational base is to join professional IT and software development groups and get a feel for which technology appears to be one that will last longer.
Security Specialists are Security Specialists
Within the realm of IT, if you decide that you are going to focus on security, it is much better to go all in and become a network security specialist full-time than it is to be responsible for security in a hands-on fashion as a small part of your job. Simply put, it is a very broad job description — and if you do choose to focus on it, you will actually make a lot more money than you will as a generalist.
Business People Like Green Business Practices
A lot of IT people focus on the nuts and bolts of providing the best information systems that they can- which sometimes leads to business people grousing about the energy costs involved in things like implementing your own data center. Keeping an open mind about green, therefore, can score you points as someone who appreciates the bottom line. One example would be where both Facebook and Google have created blueprints for server hardware that will lower your energy costs. Did your company consider either effort as an alternative to servers that are purchased from major vendors?
Prepare to be a Life-Long Student
IT is a career field like teaching — where in addition to knowing how to choose the right technology to excel in, you also need to commit yourself to continually upgrade your skills so that what you do remains relevant. Part of that process is to learn how to be the best student that you can be. Another part of the process is to port your education into certificates and degrees so that you are eligible for promotion. One IT executive took an Introduction to Vmware course in 2001 and continued his education through 2007, achieving multiple certifications. His mastery of a relevant specialty and continued learning led directly to his promotion as an IT executive.
Be Vendor Agnostic
In Fortune 500 companies, they will occasionally hire an expert directly from a software vendor that competes to supply their company with a particular tool or application. Those employees usually get run through a process where the firm helps them to understand that they should remain a technical expert for that product, but not a purchasing champion. On the other hand, more than a few careers have been built by bringing in a powerful vendor and supporting them. On balance, however, if you are going to be involved with the purchase process, finding the best solution to fit your needs without showing any favoritism towards any particular vendor will build your reputation and enhance your career prospects.
IT is both a challenging and rewarding industry to work in. If you can combine strategic education on a continual basis with business skills and the appropriate amount of impartiality in the purchase process, it will go a long way towards augmenting your technical and design capabilities, putting you on a fast track to the top.