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Starting a Career in Information Technology – A Roadmap to Success

June 2018 - by Evan Pate, IT Contractor Advocate & Tech Trends Consultant

Career Roadmap

“How do you launch a career in technology?” This is a question many are pondering, especially as the demand for Information Technology professionals continues to skyrocket!

To get a better understanding, I researched trends and the important stepping stones in an IT professional’s career. I expected to see a large difference between starting a career in infrastructure/technology support versus software development/programming. However, the main difference was the content and topics to learn. The path to take towards either IT focus are very similar.

Here are some key steps to take to set yourself up to launch a career in Information Technology.

Step 1 - Education - The first step into an IT career is gaining relevant education.

  • College Degree – While this is not always needed, a degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, or another related discipline would give you some of the fundamentals, including hands on coding, hardware, and support training to help set you up for success.

  • Certifications – There are various certification providers, such as Microsoft, Cisco, PMI, IIBA, and CompTIA. Certifications are more highly regarded in some roles (i.e. Project Coordinators/Managers, Tech Support, Information Security) than others (i.e. Programming). The CompTIA Career Roadmap shows the certifications they offer and how they relate to different fields. For example, the A+ certification is the most often requested certification for entry level infrastructure/tech support roles. Getting an A+ will instantly demonstrate your knowledge and show employers that technology is more than just a hobby for you. For a lot of people, this A+ is the difference between landing an IT job or missing an opportunity.

  • Self-Education/Learning – This can be extremely important to grasping the basics of all aspects of technologies. Read our Top Technical Development Resources for IT Professionals blog for information about the best education tools available. Focusing on professional development? Look into tools like PluralSight and Lynda. Want to be a developer? Start with the core web development languages of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Then expand to the most in-demand programming languages, such as Python, Java, .NET Core, .NET MVC, and JavaScript frameworks like Angular and React. Remember to invest time in learning fundamentals like machine learning, data science, and artificial intelligence (including RPA, robotics process automation).

  • Webinars – Look for programs like Apex’s Toolbox Talks where subject matter experts share their knowledge about in demand skills and technologies. These can come in easy to absorb short webinars that require only an hour or two of your time. It will give you another opportunity to stay informed about current tech needs and what’s expected in the future. (Visit the Apex Systems Virtual Events site for information about upcoming events and links to previous webinars. Some are even worth CEUs!)

Step 2 - Get hands on exposure

  • Development Workshops – One of the key differences between workshops and self-education is that workshops facilitate more hands on experience. Places like Freecodecamp.org, codeacademy.com, html.com, and others have systems in place to take what you’ve learned, code with it, and see the results (i.e. at Freecodecamp, the focus is on hands-on coding).

  • Demonstrate your hands on skills – There are several virtual communities to get more practice/experience, build your portfolio, and demonstrate your knowledge/skills. For developers, GitHub and GitLab are platforms where you can start your own open source projects and/or contribute to others, expanding your knowledge. GitHub was recently acquired by Microsoft, which signals that the tech giant is investing more into open source technologies. These projects are great additions to show in your resume or portfolio. You can also tailor your out of office activities to support where you want to go in your career. For example, you can demonstrate your infrastructure knowledge and skill level through volunteering for IT projects at non-profits, internships, or getting certifications like A+ and Security+.

Step 3 – Networking

  • Get involved in Tech User Groups and Meetups – Joining local tech user groups can help your career and professional development in variety of ways, including access to additional learning opportunities, organic networking and mentorship, and free educational programs and channels. They can also help you connect with companies and managers who may be hiring. Meetup groups have multiple avenues to help connect you with local IT professionals. The options are varied – you can find groups focusing on everything from new technology and tech entrepreneurship to general IT/infrastructure and supporting charitable causes.

  • Social development – Many platforms, including GitHub, GitLab, are social in nature and developed with group collaboration. Use these platforms to take part in as many projects as you can, increase your exposure, and build your network with other professionals.

  • LinkedIn – Building your network on LinkedIn is invaluable. This is a gateway to connecting with recruiters and hiring managers in a more direct way, and enables you to upload examples of your work and share your tech community involvement. In addition, recommendations from colleagues, coworkers, and industry members can be a great way to highlight your knowledge, reinforce your skills, and set you a leg up against other candidates.

Getting your foot in the door can be a hard thing to do, especially when almost every entry level position seems to require you to have IT experience. My hope is that laying out the above avenues and strategies will help you go from thinking about a career in IT to actually helping you move into a successful IT career.

Apex has many resources to help you throughout your career – from your initial job search to ongoing professional development. We track hiring trends and work with our clients to understand the future needs of their companies and their industries. We use that information to build our Apex strategy of how we can connect them with the right resources to meet those needs. To support those efforts, we developed our free career resources and career coaching programs to help tech professionals at all levels as they go through their career journey. Contact our Technology Trends Coach for more information about these services and how you can leverage them at at Trends@apexsystems.com.


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