Call to IT professionals

justonemore

Active Member
OK. Where to begin.

I'm ready for a drastic career change. I'm tired of the line of work I'm in right now. Manufacturing Management. The $$ is good, but I'm unhappy as [email protected]!

Sat back and thought about what really makes me happy. That was almost a no-brainer once it hit me. What makes us ALL happy that visit this board? Computers! I have always entertained the idea of moving into the IT field. Now I even have the wife behind me on it.

Now on to the reason for this post:

I have looked into a school called computertraining.com . The will certify me in MCP, MCSA, and MCSE. 24 week course, 2 nights a week, 4 hours a night. Attended orientation. They help with resumes, career assist, etc. The catch is the course runs 24K. OUCH!!!!!!

So now looking at local community college.

What certs do you guys have?

College degrees?

Positions?

Would love to ask about salaries, but that is pretty personal........
(would just be looking for what I might expect if that sounds better)

Happy, Hate it?

Man....I don't know. Anything you might think of that could ease my decision making on how to go about this. I definately want to move in this direction, just not absolutely sure how.

Guys...Thanks a million in advance.
I respect opinions of all of you, which is why I'm posting here!
 

Mark S.

Active Member
I am also in Manufacturing management. And I feel your pain, especially in this age of "let's make it in China".

But my wife started, and will soon end, her career in IT. I can speak for her, because I have heard every detail of her work life for at least the past 15 years.

She began as an entry level programmer (Liberal Arts major ;) ). Loved learning and applying the technology at first, but it was tough to keep up with new languages and technologies - and fierce competition with entry-level youngsters who had specialized skills. She said it was initially fun and stress was manageable. But because she couldn't keep up with the technology race, she moved up into IT Management. Hours got longer, but pay is excellent (low six figures is not that unusual). As she moved up through IT management, the pressure, the demands, the hours and the politics kept ratcheting up. As an upper level manager, there is no time to really understand the technology anymore - it's something "your people" do - it's all about cranking out the product on-time and on-budget. Recently, her company began to outsource the technology end. Along the way, she's been with about 4 or 5 companies, mostly through mergers and aquisitions. She's at the breaking point on stress.

Anyway, I think you will find more similarities than differences with Manufacturing. It is not my intent to discourage you. I'm simply pointing out the "grass is always greener" trap. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who have had wonderful experiences and will tell you that an IT career is the best thing they ever did.

Ultimately, I think that job satisfaction comes down to finding an environment (that magic combination of 3 things - the people, the stress, the tasks) that fits your personality - kinda like finding a wife. Good luck.

Mark
 

justonemore

Active Member
Mark. Thanks for your reply. These are things to really consider. Damn that grass ;) .

Funny you mention China too. We are now starting to get our aluminum from there. Probably around 60,000 punds a week. It's a total pain trying to unload those container trailers too. Man I miss the flatbed unloads.

Again Mark, thanks.
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
I am not sure if you want an IT management job, or you want to do the actual 'grunt' work. If you are going for management, forget it, it is as frustrating, if not more, than any other management job.

I am a Network Security Engineer, have a CCSE certification, but I do everything from writing software to network management since I am the only real IT person in the company. IT can be VERY frustrating, mostly because you usually don't get the tools you need to do the job due to budget reasons (companies don't realize how important IT until it is too late).

To be honest, those certifications will get you into some entry level positions, only because you lack the experience on paper, and entry level positions in IT don't pay much. As for education, that shouldn't be a problem, I never graduated High School (I finished it, but long story ...), and I had no problems getting several offers, due my experience with many aspects. I guess maybe I got lucky, but I know I am not the only one who got into a nice job without going to college.

I am not sure if going back to school will help, as most of these IT type schools just teach you the basics, and in most cases companies don't think much of them since there are plenty of people out there who have a CS degree and are having trouble finding a job.

The entry level jobs can be rather frustrating after a few months (and very stressful), but if you are willing to deal with that, I guess you could give it a shot (just don't expect much money, IT people are known to be underpaid ;)) Your most important task will be redoing your entire resume, include all experiences you have had, from programming to PC maintenance to networking.
 

Stinger

Active Member
I would say that the IT field is fairly difficult to get started in nowadays as we are well past the booming days of naming your own salary.

I've been in the field officially since I was 19, and found that the best benefit to building your skills is to work for a consulting company. Trial by fire worked very well for me. At my current company that I have been with for close to 10 years I have worked up from being a local office support tech (Desktop/Server/Network) to being in a position that oversees field technology on a national basis. The company has 25,000 employees and over 70 locations in the US.

I'm a Technology Project manager in the company, and build out data centers for new internal sites, which includes everything from working with the architects, and general contractors, to configuring the network gear and managing the technology staff involved. In addition, the group I am in is responsible for defining national standards for the server/switch infrastructure and the direction of technology in the field offices. Basically anything that goes on in the field level, we get involved with. I even still get my hands dirty with what some might consider grunt work with new OS rollouts. I've been through the Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 to Windows 2000 projects and the upcoming XP upgrade.

I enjoy my position because it is never static. Projects come up that are new and challenging very frequently and I require this. For the past year I worked on a project that separated a consulting wing of our company that went public a while ago away from our technology infrastructure. Lots of travel, but I also enjoy a change of scenery. As you are promoted through the company it's very easy to lose some of the techie skills that got you where you are, but I make an extreme effort to stay up to speed and also build my management skills at the same time.

I, like E, and many others in the field do not have a college degree. Fortunately, that has never been an issue for me, as my work and experience speaks for itself. Might it be a problem if I had to start over again or I lost my job and sought a comparable job in scope and salary? Most likely.

Certs are great, I've went on many binges and got my CNE, MCE, and such, but although I plan, build and configure our Cisco infrastructure in offices, I don't have a single cert yet from them. I burned out a bit on certs, as they all tend to require continuing training for maintaining it. Before it got busy again for me with projects I was looking at getting my CISSP. It's an excellent security certification, and fits nicely into my background with security. I've always been interested in that piece, coming from my days of learning by hacking mainframes when I was 14-16. Self based training on CBTs always tends to be the way I study for exams. It's cheap, and I fit it in when I can.

You need to figure out what piece of technology interests you. Getting a foot in the door is very difficult. My background has allowed me to overlook some of the automatic rejections that some people have when reviewing potential candidates. I tend to focus on experience and background more than certifications or schooling. Certifications mean very little to me when looking at candidates, so many of them are paper trained only and couldn't solve a problem related to their cert to save their life (or job).

Start calling some local computer repair / consulting companies. See if you have any skill sets that they are looking for. They won't pay you much, but you will build your skills and learn a lot with hands on work. You will also build your experience for your resume in the field. You could also try your hand at your own side business instead and place an ad in the classifieds with some computer skills that you would be able to offer someone. One popular item might be to advertise wireless network setups for a flat fee and include hardware.

Best of luck. It's a very tough field nowadays, many layoffs and changing landscapes. We just had 50 additional layoffs in IT about 2 weeks ago. Over the last year, we have lost about 120.
 

GadgetBoy

Active Member
justonemore said:
I'm ready for a drastic career change. I'm tired of the line of work I'm in right now. Manufacturing Management. The $$ is good, but I'm unhappy as [email protected]!
I hear you man. I am in Brokerage/Finance and I am ready to bust. I have been fortunate to have been able to introduce technology in my department to increase productivity, but the stress of legal issues and the ever changing regulatory environment (it is very easy to get a "mark" on your license that will follow you wherever you go) is starting to wear on me.

I went to college for computer science, but never graduated and left for a career on Wall Street in 1994. Since then, I have worked my way up the ladder on the management side, and get paid well for what I do. However, the stress is unlike any other career out there. Any foulups leaves me with a tarnished record, which is publically disclosable to any company wishing to hire me. Fortunately I have been lucky on that end (so far...)

I do some consulting work on the side, and have been told that I could make a very good career in expert witness testimony and work with brokerage arbitrations, as they continue to rise every year (it MUST be your broker's fault that you lost money in the Stock Market, right?!?! UGH), but I have always wanted to go back to computers. At 14 years old, I was running a bulletin board system on a Commodore 64 with a hacked 300 baud modem that I was able to get up to 450 bps - lol...

My wife is driving me crazy when she sees me come home at night, telling me I should look to change careers. The home automation side is pretty cool, but there aren't going to be alot of companies out there to search through...

I'm with ya justonemore...
 

deranged

Active Member
Well,

I was in IT Field Service for 10 years, and now an administrator of a small IT Dept ( 2 techs and myself ) for 11 offices 350 Users. And about 10 Home 24 hour VPN connections.

I used to love computers, Played with everything I could get my hands on before working in the field. Now I don't touch a computer at home, I read my E-mail and a couple of boards and thats it. I touch my HS installation on late fridays while watching SCIFI.

I tell my wife and my kids if they scramble thier pc's they better know how to fix em. ;)

At work, I am responsible for terabytes of data storage and maintaining that data at offsites. That in itself is stressful. The company has no "downtime", as a matter of fact I had to get up 6:00am this morning to go swap out a dead 10,000VA UPS because I was only allowed to take down the servers down from 7am to 9am on today (sunday). And they called every 15 minutes while the system was down. 1 partner actually made me stop in the middle and discuss his home wireless issues with him.

They give no time for proper planning before implementing projects, everything is an emergency. Even when the Partners forget how to turn on thier speakers.
And they don't upgrade anything until the existing equipment is completely dead.
Of course this results into an EMERGENCY.
Any advancement I am expected to pay for myself and on my time.

And the politics of the administration and partners make the reality TV shows looks like a barbie parade.

Okay, I am done ranting ;).

The only reason I stay is they pay well and it is 6 miles from my house.
And they are pretty flexible if I want to leave early or take time off for things that pop up.

And in my experience, Isn't every job like this. :(

StevenE
 

deranged

Active Member
OH,

I also forgot to mention one of the most difficult parts, All of the offices are 99 percent women who have never used a computer before they started at this company.

Whoooaaaaaa is me..

StevenE
 

justonemore

Active Member
Manufacturing is starting to not look so bad! Thanks guys for all the input. Maybe I'll just educate myself, for, MYSELF! ;)
 

tech-home

Active Member
I've been trying to break in to the IT world for about 3 years. I'm too close to graduating with a degree in Crim/Psyc then on to MBA to change it. I'm also planning to attend a Police Academy next spring. Every time a job opens up where I work I apply but end up catching it to late. Our IT only have around 10 people and most have been there a long time. The last job I tried to get the woman who was hired (No expirence) was married to someone who worked there a very long time. I hate politics in the work place but I guess you just have to play the game.
Seems they don't really care if you know much it's more who you know. ;)


I looked into certifications but those classes are pretty expensive especially if you already know the stuff. I've thought about just taking them online but haven't found any afforable certifications. Any suggestions on best/cheapest place for basics like A+ and other networking certs?
 

justonemore

Active Member
The research I've done so far has uncovered a little. The tests themselves are not that expensive, maybe 150 or so. It's the prep that can be costly. There are of course the cert mills ( big bucks ). I found a course for A+ at my local community college that runs about 1800, still pretty darn high. Then there's books, vids, and online prep courses. Don't know how much one would be able to get from that route though. No one there to actually explain the stuff and of course no hands on.

Maybe E could start a new section of the forum for cert assistance ;)
 

jlehnert

Active Member
Okay, let's try this post for the second time (sound of teeth grinding). ;)

As she moved up through IT management, the pressure, the demands, the hours and the politics kept ratcheting up. As an upper level manager, there is no time to really understand the technology anymore - it's something "your people" do - it's all about cranking out the product on-time and on-budget

Absolutely. More true words were never spoken.

I'm in pontification mode today, so I'll expand on a few points.

Pay. It can be all over the map. Reasons for variance go from location (I don't believe Levitown PA is an IT hotspot), to experience, to skillset, to employer, to overall job market. If you have the "latest & greatest" skill (anyone remember ADA?) you can command a higher salary. The comment on consulting is a good one, and he is right about the pay. The IT market is (really) down at the moment, so that also will reduce salaries and increase compitition for the jobs available. I'm willing to tell you that I started in 92 at $30k, and ended up right around the six figure mark in 01 when I got downsized. I could have earned more if I had been willing to change jobs a few times, but that is not my style. The average IT worker changes jobs every 2 years, but I only worked for two companies during the time frame mentioned. The IT market was hot during that time, and Wash DC was one of the hotspots, so the salaries were raised, but then I did not have a "hot" skillset. Finally (buffing fingernails on collar), I've been told that I'm somewhat out of the ordinary.

Stress. It depends on how you define stress. You can take for granted that you will not be working 40 hour weeks. I don't know of ANYONE in the IT field that does, with the exception of one person working for the government (and he quit because it was too boring). I averaged around 50 hours most of the time. At one point, I was doing 60 hours/week, but I was enjoying what I was doing so much that I didn't care. No stress at all. At another point, the entire project went to manditory 12 hour days, six days/week, running one shift 6AM - 6PM and another 2PM - 2AM. It started the Monday after Thanksgiving, and lasted until the middle of February. Because I was one of the two senior people in my group, I ended up working every day, getting only Christmas and New Years off. And yes, I was stressed! Not surprisingly, we lost half our people by that March. For a final example, back in 01 just before I got laid off, everyone was working 40 hour weeks, knew layoffs were coming and hated life. It was an ulcer a day environment. If you consider trying to do a project with half the staff and a third of the budget required to be stressful, then I'm not sure you will be happy anywere in corporate America. I expect IT will be more stable than your current field, but about the only place you can expect steady employment lately is behind the counter at Mickey D's.

I disagree with E on the education. Not disparaging E, but during the boom times in the 90's, pretty much the only entry requirement was the ability to breath. Now, I think it will be much tougher. Hell Atlantic (now Verizon) had a policy requiring a 4 year degree for any "management" (ie not union) position. It didn't matter WHAT the degree was in, just that you had one. To bring in even an experienced hire without the degree required VP signoff. The smaller the company, the less likely they will be anal like this, but you will find it someplaces.

To be continued....
 

jlehnert

Active Member
I see three problems with switching careers. The first is the most obvious one. Can you survive financially during the switch? When I was thirty, I switched from sales to IT, but I didn’t have a wife/kids/mortgage to worry about. Of course, if it looks like you will be switching because of a layoff, you are better off doing it on your schedule than on the companies. IMHO, the benefits of possible severance pay are offset by the need to compete with everyone else that got laid off for the few jobs available. The level of COBRA benefits might change the equation though, especially if you have young children.

The second problem is a catch-22. You need experience to get a job, but you can’t gain experience without a job. As E mentions, certification can be a way to make up for experience, up to a certain point. From the hiring manager point of view, if I had a choice between an experienced person and someone with just certification, I would hire the experienced person. You can see the drawbacks of certification without experience. When I got in back in 92, this area was in a recession and I had trouble getting in without experience, even though I had a double MS in IT & OR. I finally got a foot in the door by working as an intern for a couple of months.

The last is a sensitive one. IT is VERY biased toward the young, with the assumption that the newly graduated have the “latest & greatestâ€. I don’t know how old you are, but at 43, my age does cause me problems. I turned grey at 25, so I look older than I am, and thus use the good old “Just for Men†prior to interviewing. Yes, age discrimination is illegal, but if you don’t think it exists, you need to have your doctor cut back on the meds.

Someone else has addressed the “greener grass†factor, but I do see one fault in your analogy. Saying that you will enjoy IT because you like playing with computers is like saying you will like engineering because you like playing with an Erector set. Just like there are multiple flavors of engineering (mechanical, electrical, civic, aeronautical, etc.), there are different flavors of IT. The IT field is MUCH wider then most people realize, and different people will enjoy different jobs. The mythical pimple-faced geek hiding in a cubical coding is not really that mythical. I know of some people who prefer to just code all day (and night), with minimal interruptions. I prefer to do analysis and system design, so I prefer much more contact with other people, but now and then when I need to do some heavy thinking, I have to isolate myself. Some of my best design work has been done (literally) in the shower. I guess I’m saying that there are good and bad jobs in IT, and the definition of good/bad varies between people.

Now that I’ve gone and gotten you all depressed, I’ll say I think changing is a good idea. As I mentioned before, in the long run I think IT will be more stable than your current job, and just because both Gorden and myself got zapped, doesn’t mean that all IT jobs are unstable. I know how it is to work in a job you hate, which is why I got out of sales. There is no guarantee that you will like IT any more than your current job, but at least the different types of jobs are more numerous. The reason Dilbert is so popular among IT workers and engineers, is because it usually hits very close to home. The “do it sooner, with less resources, at a lower cost†syndrome is prevalent across any industry, so don’t let it discourage you.
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
jlehnert said:
All of the offices are 99 percent women

And you are complaining?!? Sounds like an excellent situation to me. But of course I'm single, so that's the way my mind operates. ;)
considering most of my end users are female as well, trust me, it isn't that great, but they do provide job security ;)

Btw, when I got hired, they also had the requirement of a 4year degree. But at every place I every applied, my lack of degree was never a show stopper. Then again, I know plenty of people with a CS degree who can't even find an entry job. I would say experience is the strongest 'degree' you can have (just as you mentioned in your last post, where you would rather select someone with more experience).
 
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