I have benefitted my entire career from mentoring. I have also helped young men and women looking to get started in the career of Information Technology by mentoring them. When I have had the pleasure of that opportunity I like to explain that I believe that IT today is broken down into four categories.
Back when I was getting my Information Technology undergraduate degree people expected that computer people knew everything about everything. Today’s IT people are more specialized. I wrote an article recently about being a specialist versus a generalist. It’s hard to know everything as IT has expanded dramatically and changed the way we live and do business.
I’ve been fortunate to have my advice sought after from interns and other college students seeking advice about how to get into IT and what opportunities there are within our profession. When I’ve had that chance I’ve broken down IT into the following four categories:
1) Development – Writing programs to build new systems or maintain existing ones. I think school focuses a lot on instructing students in the programming languages of application development.
2) Infrastructure – Managing the network of servers and how they interconnect securely. I hear that some schools are offering Microsoft certifications or teaching Cisco security classes. That is great if you can get college credit for it; otherwise, you have to take those classes to get certified after graduation
3) Administration – Management. Leading the technology efforts for your company, division or department. Solving business problems through the use of technology. Only learned with years of experience in any of the other categories.
4) Consulting – Working for the client to solve their business problems with technology. Instead of maintaining the network or writing programs for your employer, you get to work with a variety of customers in a variety of industries with various technologies.
Recognize that these are broad categories, and that this is my own opinion, I’m sure there will be readers who think that what they do falls outside of these broad brush stroke definitions that I’ve provided. That is fine. For the purposes of this article I’ve helped undergraduate students give some thought towards what they want to do when they graduate and what types of classes they should take while in school or after to help them on that path.
I met one young man that thought he wanted to manage networks that went into consulting. I also met another young man that confirmed that he wanted to develop software. It’s gratifying to help mentor young folks that are looking for some direction in their future career. Only a few lucky young people know what they want to be when they grow up and chart a course to get there. For the rest I hope they ask lots of good questions and participate in internships and seek mentors.
Your comments at the bottom of the page are always welcome. You can also write to me at my email address below and I’ll get back to you. Best of luck to you on your search!
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