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Experts Share Their Advice for a Successful Career in IT

20th December 2016

The tech sector is one of the most popular career choices today. There are hundreds of exciting new developments and business opportunities across the world every day, and the human demand for newer and more varied technology shows no signs of letting up. While a few years ago you could break into tech with little more than a computer science degree, competition has gotten fierce, and the amount of skills you're expected to have has gone through the roof. 



Neil Anderson is a Cloud and Data Centre systems engineer and founder of Flackbox, who recently appeared on the Packet Pushers podcast, discussing career advancement. In preparation for the interview, Anderson asked 111 top IT professionals, including Cpl's own Áine Brolly, for their best advice for someone entering the IT sector in 2017. There were seven key themes that stood out above the rest which we've summarised below. You can also find the full list of advice from all 111 experts here.

Update Your Skills

Scott Lowe, blog.scottlowe.org
“I’d say that you need to be prepared for change. The IT industry is never static: technology doesn’t stand still and so those who wish to work in the technology field must be prepared for constant change.

Second, I’d say you need to cultivate a passion for learning. Since the industry is always changing and always moving, you’re going to need to change and move with it, and that almost always involves learning.”

Follow Your Passion

Áine Brolly, CEO at Cpl Northern Ireland and Director at Ardlinn
“The first couple of years in any career can often determine how the following years of your career will develop so it’s crucial for candidates to think seriously about that first job opportunity and tease out what is really important to them whether it be in-house training opportunities, the culture, sector, company brand or location.

In terms of starting a career in IT specifically whether that be technical or commercial, the best advice I can give is to ensure you start off with either a well-established IT company or a start-up that has a sophisticated training programme in place for new starts.

The ability to see how those first critical years are mapped out in terms of learning and development is essential and the ability to gain a broad range of skills early will help you to determine what areas you enjoy and are competent in which helps you to make more focused choices as your career progresses.

It is also really important that you choose a work environment that is challenging and competitive and work within an area of technology that you personally find interesting or exciting.”

Develop Your Social Skills

Brad Hedlund, bradhedlund.com
“My main piece of advice would be to not underestimate the importance of social and emotional intelligence. After all, it’s what makes us human, and will become exceedingly more valuable in a world where AI replaces humans for any sort of technical and scientific endeavours.”

Challenge Yourself

Magnus Andersson, vcdx56.com
“Today’s technical focused IT jobs lean more and more to automation and orchestration. My best advice would be to focus on learning scripting and/or programming languages apart from the traditional network, compute and operating system basics.

Learn new things and challenge the way things have been done over the past 15-20 years.”

Develop a Full Stack of Skills

Ethan Banks, packetpushers.net
“Information technology is in a time of transition. Therefore, be prepared to be flexible in your potential roles and responsibilities. Being a generalist will map better to many organization’s needs than being a deep specialist.

Specific transitions include…
  • From IT stack separates to converged and hyperconverged stacks.
  • From localized “in office” workforces to increasingly mobile and remote workforces.
  • From wholly owned infrastructure to a mix of owned and rented infrastructure from the public cloud.
All of these transitions map well to the IT professional who is versed in multiple technologies. Therefore, be a literate generalist in cloud, automation, networking, virtualization, storage, and security, while choosing to have perhaps one of two areas of expert-level specialities that you especially enjoy.”

Network

Andy Chesters, Recruitment Director at Orchard
Network. Go to industry events. Talk about them with your tech friends on social media. Share your knowledge on platforms like Github or Codepen  If you’re feeling really courageous, have a go at the speaker circuit, there are loads of ‘lightning talks’ events that are open to people new to speaking. Giving back and showing the world you have a passion in this way brings you to the people who matter much better than slinging a CV.

In summary – Make connections, be visible in order to… make more connections, be more visible… and repeat.

Use a Business Perspective

David Loeser, SVP of World Wide Human Resources at Unisys
“Go to a company where you can get some ‘broad business perspective’. Working virtually on your first job will be career limiting. Decisions on people growth go to those that leaders get to interact with.

If you are growing and developing and work for a company with quality leadership do not jump at the opportunity for a few bucks. Be strategic about your career.”

Summary

While the tech sector continues to grow and change at a rapid pace, there is still a wealth of opportunities out there for those who are serious about a career in technology. The competition may be fierce, and there will be a lot of learning, but the advice above will help set you down the path to success. To see the full list of advice from all 111 industry experts, be sure to check out the full blog and podcast over on Flackbox.

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About the Author

Simon Griffin

Marketing Executive

Marketing Dept.

I have worked as a writer since I began attending university, and have been working in marketing ever since I graduated. I aim to provide well-researched, fact based, original work that people will find useful and interesting. I have written hundreds of articles as both a freelancer and a marketing executive, and look forward to writing for Cpl. 

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