I decided to write this article today as many of my friends have asked me the best way to find a position in IT or how to get their foot in the door. I am by no means declaring myself an expert but I do have some real world experience on this topic and will share what I know to help those of you out there looking for a fulfilling career in IT.
First, I’ll give you a run down of my own experience. In 2005 I was on the tail end of a Security/Loss Prevention career that spanned 7 years. It was a stable job for me and towards the end of my tenure I had been elevated to a management level within the company I was working for and had several officers reporting to me on a shift basis. My heart and soul was not in this profession though and I had just recently married and wanted to build a better life for myself and for my family. Security is a honorable profession but there is a wage cap and a limit to what you can bring in. Based on this, at 24 I started looking into available jobs and had a interest in working with computers. The beginning of my search was frustrating as I had no friends who worked in IT, no network, and no real-world experience other than personal projects and helping non-profit organizations establish networks, upgrade computers, etc, and IT companies want experience and knowledge over background in most cases. So then I thought to myself “How can I convince a potential employer that I have what it takes to get the job done?” The answer was self marketing and proving the knowledge I had acquired.
Moving forward I established a plan that would not only prove what I knew but would also give give me that foot in door I needed so badly. My first step was to start a campaign of self marketing that began with establishing accounts on Monster.com, LinkedIn, and any other job search site I could find, and building a solid, clean, resume with references. I aggressively emphasized my skills in computer knowledge and the projects I had completed in the past I.e. Church wireless networking configurations, hardware repair, and Windows virus removal, etc. I also established this blog and began doing technical write ups and how-to’s that showed not only was I interested in IT but that I could learn, educate others, and provide documentation on how to fix real-world problems or configure new installations. I began reaching out to recruiters, applying for jobs that I wasn’t sure I was qualified for, and volunteering my help to friends in established business to network and get feedback on the areas I was lacking in technically. I would then apply that knowledge, close gaps I encountered, and then adjust accordingly.
My big break came in late 2005 when I received a call from Bravotech which was a recruiting agency. They had a position open for a basic Window support position and they thought that the experience that I had was a perfect fit and asked me to come in for some testing. That was just what I needed! Not only was I getting a face to face interview I was also getting to prove what I learned on a test administered by the recruiting agency. I subsequently passed the test and got that foot in the door I had been seeking for several months. My first position was in a company called Calyx Software which is a leader in Loan Origination software that allows loan officers to communicate to major lenders and acquire loans for those seeking a new house. My position was part time and actually paid less than my security position but I figured this would be exactly what I needed for the long term. This turned out to be 100% true.
Within a few months I was brought on Full-Time and my skills were continuing to grow however after several months I was starting to outgrow the position (I also wanted out of contract work) and wanted to look for a step into a new position in IT. After some searching, I found that The Planet Internet Services (Acquired by SoftLayer) was hiring Noc Datacenter Technicians. What fascinated me about this opportunity was that I was getting to work not only with Windows but Linux and FreeBSD also. Better yet, I was getting to work with servers which is a step into a more advanced role above and beyond standard desktop support. Once again I was technically tested via a interview and gaps were found but they allowed me to start because they believed I had a firm enough foundation from my previous company to learn ( That foot in the door I spoke about earlier ). I promptly started and my brain began to explode with Knowledge! I was learning all about hosting technologies, server platforms, networking, firewalls, data centers, co-location, virtualization, you name it. I spent roughly a year at the Planet but I was again wanting to take my skills to the next level and that is when my first step into a new position occurred due to professional networking.
In Late 2007, several of my friends I had worked with had already left the Planet for a new company called SoftLayer Technologies ( Now acquired by IBM ). This company had even higher requirements than my last position and I honestly was not up to par with their entry level requirements because the level of work they were performing was something I had not yet experienced. I applied anyway, had several references, and they gave me a chance. Next thing I know, I am working on even more advanced products, deeper level support, became a product SME, and was responsible as a dedicated engineer for some of the companies top accounts. SoftLayer had many great individuals working for it and a great business but as the company grew I was becoming a little distant from it. Not the fault of the company, just the nature of growth and I was ready to look at other companies out there and new opportunities. Self marketing and networking again had a key component in my next step. One thing I will say is that I left SoftLayer on the best of terms and did not want to burn bridges with a company that helped forge me and also wanted to ensure I kept on good terms with those who supported me along the way. It’s important to keep that mentality because IT is a tight knit community and reputation and professionalism is a must if you wish to forge solid network connections.
In mid 2010, I was actively out there fishing the waters for a new role and had contact with FireHost via linked in. They were a small company in the Startup phase and I decided to make the jump and see what it was like to join a smaller, growing, company. This was a very aggressive decision on my part because I took a cut in pay to join the company and my wife had just had a baby. I truly believed in the company leadership and felt that this was the absolute right decision to make. I was so very right! The wage gaps being closed was not a problem and once again I professionally progressed in technical knowledge, hosting business knowledge, project management knowledge, and even had stints in pure Sales and Management. The wealth of knowledge was overwhelming and something that is professionally priceless! I served as generalist for several years during the growth phases and have just recently settled into a Senior Sales Engineering role which seemed to be the natural progression of my career. That’s my story and how things came to be for me in the IT world.
Key takeaways from this for those who are searching should be the following:
Self-marketing – Let everyone know you’re out there and make yourself high profile. Start a blog, join job search sites, and make a blog ( keep it professional). This helps with your portfolio, your visibility to recruiters, and your professional profile.
Networking – Forge friendships with those you have had professional contact with, connect with them on Linked-In, and make contact from time to time I.e. have a lunch, attend social events, etc.
Don’t burn bridges – You never know when a peer of yours today will be your manager in a new company or if a company you worked for in the past will acquire yours, Maintain professionalism, be respectful, and be a team player.
Passion – If you have no passion for your position you may not be in the right field. The perfect career should be one that is fulfilling, your enjoy, and makes you proud at the end of the day.
Persistence – Don’t give up if you trip along the way or things are moving slowly. Pick yourself up and keep trying. Opportunities will come knocking when you least expect it.
Be a Mentor – Help those around you professionally progress and teach them what you know. Not only do you get to feel accomplished for doing so, but you’re investing in professional relationships that can last a lifetime.
Attitude – This is the most important factor! Maintain a positive attitude, know you can do it, and have a positive influence on your peers. You will have a lot of success with a positive mentality.
Questions? Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or visit me on Linked-In!