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View Full Version : Best way to start in the IT industry?



VeeDubb
May 4th, 2013, 09:37 AM
I'm 32 years old, and like a lot of people, not in a job I care about. Pays the bills, but that's pretty much it. It's your basic "Oh God, it's Monday.... ....Thank God, it's Friday" kind of job (currently in the hotel side of a casino/hotel).

I love computers, have a very high level of skill, am the guy that everyone goes to before they call IT, because our IT staff kind of sucks. I would LOVE to be IT staff; fixing computers, setting up networks, maintaining servers and databases. These are things I enjoy and have a passion for.

However, I'm 32, getting ready to start a family, and not in an awesome position to spend the next 2-4 years getting a CS degree. I have an AAOT (utterly useless Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree), a year worth of university credit hours in mathematics and physics that have all expired and are now only useful as junk elective credits, 8 years experience doing very computer-centric jobs, and more practical skill than a lot of the guys in entry level positions in our IT department making $42k to my $33k. However, I have absolutely 0 actual IT experience, and the sum of my formal IT education is 6 credit hours of CS classes as part of my AAOT.

I'd like to get into the IT field without spending 2-4 years and tens of thousands of dollars, and in a perfect world, I'd like to do it this year.

Where would you go? I've been trying to do research online about certifications (I could probably pass a CompTIA A+ with no more than a couple days of brushing up, and could do the CompTIA network+ within a couple months), but it seems like every place I look, I find wildly different opinions and feedback about it. Some people insist a degree is the only option, others insist that certs are frequently more desirable. Plus, the ones that say certs are the way to go can't even seem to agree which certs are best for the exact same career path. It's also hard to find clear information on the different certification programs because every google search turns up a million sites that are nothing more than ads for over-price online schools. (Why pay a few hundred bucks for all the study materials you need direct from coptia when you could pay us $8000 for six months of incredibly boring classes you don't need?)

Anyway, I would just really like to get any feedback I can from anybody who has something useful to add, especially if you made the same kind of career switch.

snowpine
May 4th, 2013, 01:56 PM
I recently made the switch myself (from a completely non-technical career in publishing, to IT help desk at the local university). No degree or certification was required; the job interview consisted of sitting down in front of a broken computer with multiple hardware/software problems, and fixing them. During the interview, be sure to focus the conversation on what you DO know, rather than what you don't know, and emphasize your willingness to learn new skills. But, a reality check: prepare yourself that many of the entry-level jobs available right now (at least in the USA where I live) are unbenefited contract/temp positions, which may or may not be compatible with your survival needs as you start your new family. :)

aysiu
May 4th, 2013, 02:47 PM
It can be done, but I don't know that there's a prescribed "do these steps, and it will definitely happen" singular approach.

As some old-timers here know, I started off as a tech-challenged English teacher, who knew next to nothing about computers or troubleshooting them. When I got burnt out of teaching, I took an office job, and suddenly I was in front of a computer all day, and it didn't make sense for me to know nothing about a tool I'd be using all day, five days a week. And not having to do lesson plans freed me up to explore Linux a bit.

The office job I had very little to do with tech, but I also ended up being the person people went to for tech support before bothering the official IT department. Same deal in my next job. There, I worked for several years at a school doing all sorts of stuff not directly related to my official job description, including tech support. I made good friends with the tech director and the head of school. Eventually I was able to negotiate working for the tech director.

Then I applied for an official tech support job, and I got it.

I have absolutely zero official... anything. I do not have a computer science degree. I am not a programmer. I have no certifications. And yet I do help desk now. I manage servers and networks. I deploy and manage workstations. I know Exchange and Active Directory. There's a steep learning curve when you don't come from that background, but you may be able to finagle your way in.

Best of luck!

hattpa
May 4th, 2013, 02:59 PM
I'm very similar to you aysiu.
Started as the guy that everyone went to, the 'real' IT guys were hopeless, usually two weeks to respond to a simple query.
After I got laid off from that, I got a job which was only supposed to last two weeks, sticking numbered tags on anything that didn't move in the building and recording (on paper) what it was and where.
At the end of the two weeks the IT manager asked if I'd like to stay on for a while until they recruited someone for his department, as he put it "you know a bit about computers". Anyway, eight years later and moving from answering the phone and fixing what amounted to simple problems and then building servers, workstations, and all of the other good stuff, I was again laid off, taught IT for 2 years (not much fun) then moved house, and got a new job again building servers and all the other fun stuff around IT, also this company sent me on a few courses and paid for me to get a MCDST.
Like many others though, hard times and now out of work.....too experienced...lol
Go for it VeeDub, 32 isn't too old... keep trying and a company will take you on for what you know, and then you keep on learning. That's the great thing about the job.
Good luck mate :)

tgalati4
May 4th, 2013, 03:27 PM
Use your gaming experience and start an on-line gaming service.

VeeDubb
May 4th, 2013, 06:13 PM
It can be done, but I don't know that there's a prescribed "do these steps, and it will definitely happen" singular approach.

I didn't expect one, but wouldn't be nice if there was? lol


Use your gaming experience and start an on-line gaming service.

I truly appreciate all the advice, encouragement, and feedback, but serious or not, this one made me laugh (which I needed this morning). Of my 8 years (in fact my 8 year anniversary at my company is next week) I spent six and a half years working at the slot players club desk, and the last year and a half at the hotel. All the stuff about having a passion for IT is the reason for my specific direction. The reason for wanting to make a change in the first place is largely to get the heck away from the gaming industry.

saneearth
May 6th, 2013, 12:27 AM
I have a Degree in Geology, but have now been working Field Tech Support in a school system for going on a six years. Worked for Dell for a couple of years also in Manufacturing and Quality Control, which I guess helped as prior experience. Passing the A+ exam and possibly Net+ is definitely a help and likely is what got me an interview. Typically, one of these certifications can be helpful at least to make you appear qualified to those looking at a resume. Without something it is hard to get your foot in a new door unless you are already inside doing something else and have a reputation for being "techie".

boogerama
May 6th, 2013, 01:27 AM
I think the best track is to get in at the ground level. Start at the help desk and work your way up. Unless you know someone in IT at your oganization who is familiar with your skill set and they bring you in as an entry level tech. But I would hazard to guess you don't have that contact due to you statement that “IT kind of sucks” in your company. Pay your dues in the trenches and before you know it you'll be doing what you love.

As an aside, I noticed a couple of the posts in this thread were negative towards the IT staff. It's easy to bash IT when your PC doesn't get fixed as quickly as you wanted. But I ask that you defer these types of statements until you've spent time in the shoes of IT.

While your broken PC, printer, keyboard, mouse, etc you have may be of utmost importance to you, in the scheme of things, it's not the most pressing thing on our plate at the moment.

Most of the time IT supports a myriad of hardware and software...and with limited resources. When your mouse breaks we'll get to it once we're done with the three or four dozen calls that came in before yours.

I don't mean to bash, all I ask is that non IT staff be cognizant of the fact that in many organizations IT is spread thin and doing the best they can with what they have. Besides, when you keep knocking IT time and again we have a tendency to make sure that your service call end up in the bottom of the pile (yes, that does happen) :)

Best of luck in your career search.

lykwydchykyn
May 6th, 2013, 02:24 AM
Definitely get at least an A+ and Network+ to start. There's always debate about college vs. certs, but either one is better than nothing and college, as you said, will take too long. It gets you past the HR screening, if nothing else.

These will prepare you for a basic entry-level technician job. After that, keep learning and getting more certs if you can. Don't get stuck in a rut and rest on your laurels.

VeeDubb
May 6th, 2013, 02:51 AM
Don't get stuck in a rut and rest on your laurels.

That's where I've been the last 8 years; a rut. It's definitely time to de-rut my laurels.

I've talked to my wife, and on payday I'm going to pay for 6 months access to comptia's online study materials, and then work on getting my A+ to start, and then net+. Hopefully that will get me in the door somewhere while I work on sec+ and linux.

smellyman
May 6th, 2013, 12:19 PM
The bashing of IT does get old....I work at a law firm so at least I know everybody hates attorneys. :) anywho....


Like others have said there often isn't a point A to B, but I have a degree in Biology and made the jump to IT. Rather than going the CS degree route I worked during the day and just went to a community/junior college and got an AA degree in Network systems while going to class nights and weekends. Pretty cheap route really. This was 1997 though and they gave out IT jobs out like candy.

Although the people I interview (entry level postitions), I really don't care about degrees etc. If I can relate well to them and they have some real world experience and exhibit proficiency then that's all I need. Learning on the job and picking up things quickly is more important.

Before spending any money send some Resumes out and see what happens. Often a responsible 32 year old is better than a 22 year old to many people.

Good Luck

sunfromhere
May 6th, 2013, 03:38 PM
I'm in a similar situation as the OP, 30 years old (and a woman) and wanting to make a career switch. I work as an office rat in a small firm, so the entire "IT" lies in my hands, but truth be told, there's not much it-ing in 3 computers in a LAN and 4 POSes. I have started college last year, and will get a cert or two, but so far, when looking for an IT job, the responses I got were "you have no experience, we need a formed person". But I won't give up!

Never give up! :D

aysiu
May 6th, 2013, 04:04 PM
Something you have to keep in mind is that job searching and hiring is really just a matter of supply and demand. Companies doing hires are going to hire whomever they think is the best. If someone can fit all the paper qualifications and knock their socks off in an interview, of course they'll hire that person. But oftentimes, all it takes to get hired is to be better than the other applicants.

I'm in kind of a niche field, but I went from working in schools to working in a company that places teachers in schools. Initially my company was more interested in candidates with degrees, certifications, and more years of experience, but they realized after interviewing those people that I had all the skills needed and I had the people skills and knowledge of their client schools that would make me a better candidate.

I would say (this will be difficult, of course, but) try to find weird niche industries or companies that won't just be flooded with résumés from people who are exactly like you... except with all the degrees and certifications you don't have.

VeeDubb
May 6th, 2013, 08:54 PM
Although the people I interview (entry level postitions), I really don't care about degrees etc. If I can relate well to them and they have some real world experience and exhibit proficiency then that's all I need. Learning on the job and picking up things quickly is more important.


If someone can fit all the paper qualifications and knock their socks off in an interview, of course they'll hire that person. But oftentimes, all it takes to get hired is to be better than the other applicants

I think one of the things I'm really going to need to work on is my resumé/application writing. Getting an interview (for anything) has always been my biggest weakness in job hunting, but I tend to interview extremely well. In my entire life, I've only interviewed for one job that I didn't get, and that was because I after I'd interviewed and been given a conditional job offer, it turned out that my credit was too bad to get a bond (not true any more)

Irihapeti
May 6th, 2013, 10:58 PM
I think one of the things I'm really going to need to work on is my resumé/application writing. Getting an interview (for anything) has always been my biggest weakness in job hunting, but I tend to interview extremely well. In my entire life, I've only interviewed for one job that I didn't get, and that was because I after I'd interviewed and been given a conditional job offer, it turned out that my credit was too bad to get a bond (not true any more)

It could be worth your while taking an alternative route to finding a job, i.e. networking. Which is about cultivating worthwhile contacts in the industry, not attending those horrible "networking" meetings. Good resources are the book What Color is your Parachute? by Richard Bolles (it's been around for over 40 years now) and the website http://corcodilos.com/blog (The website associated with the blog does leave a certain amount to be desired in the formatting department, but don't let that put you off.)

VeeDubb
May 7th, 2013, 01:06 AM
Thanks to all for the continued feedback. In addition to everything else, I've picked up a copy of What Color is your Parachute? 2013 (I guess it gets a major rewrite every year) and Joh Acuff's new book Start, since I'm a big Dave Ramsey fan.

It's funny how succeeding in one or two areas of your life really makes you see/feel/understand all the areas where you need to do better. I got remarried almost 2 years ago to a wonderful woman, and together we've been cleaning up our finances and saving for a house. Suddenly, my more or less respectable but unmotivating job is completely intolerable without some sort of plan or goal to do better with that area of my life.