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This Is Not Your Father’s IT

October 3, 2018

I’m thinking of switching careers and getting into IT. Anyone got any advice?

The message was poste on a friend’s facebook page. I know this friend through a game we both enjoy, Star Trek Attack Wing (STAW.) Part of the attraction of STAW to me is that it specifically does not involve any computers.

I’m a decent player of Attack Wing, but I’m a certified IT expert. I have the experience and the certifications to prove it. My friend had asked which certifications were the best ones to focus on.

It depends on what you are interested in going into. The two biggest areas are security and the cloud. I would recommend the CompTIA certifications. Work toward Security+. You will probably need to get A+ and Network+. The other one to work on would be AWS, Amazon Web Services certifications.

I started in IT in the 1980s. I started at WordPerfect Corporation supporting their early email product, WordPerfect Office. I eventually became an acknowledged expert in my field. But, I didn’t start out as one.

Wordperfect provided their new support engineers two weeks worth of training. All of it on the company’s flagship product WordPerfect word processor. My first day they assigned me to the Office team. I was assigned to that team because they were shorthanded. I got about 15 minutes of training, and then was thrown on the phones.

Eventually, I got better. I didn’t have any certifications. There weren’t any in my particular area. Eventually I helped write them. First for WordPerfect and later for Microsoft.

The industry has grown up. At least when it comes to certifications, there are now certs for nearly every discipline. I’ve collected numerous ones over the years. Some, like the Project Manager Professional (PMP) I worked very hard to achieve and they provided me important skills to compete in my chosen field. Other’s like some of the CompTIA certs, I earned on my way to getting other skills.

I’ve thought about my friend just starting out. When I was starting out, just knowning how to type was enough. Now, it’s expected that not only do people starting in the industry know how to type, but that they have a fair to good understanding of the technology.

Also, when I started, the industry didn’t know how much to pay us. The pay was very different between different companies and different disciplines. And because everyone and every thing was new, there was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of money to be made.

The industry has grown up a lot. Salaries have stabalized, but much of the money has gone out of the industry. Not that you can’t make a good living. In fact, a very good living, but the crazy fortunes aren’t really possible anymore.

And the certifications are everywhere. It’s good, I suppose. We need a way to determine if people know what they are talking about. And certifications are one way of showing that. Sometimes it’s hard to separate knowledge gained through experience from knowledge gained in the classroom.

That’s the difference. In the early days we didn’t have either.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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