Need help determing career in IT - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 02-20-2013, 01:52 PM - Thread Starter
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So I didn't know where else to post this question as I didn't see an "off-topic" section on the forum. So Mods, feel free to move or delete if you must.

I pose the following questions here, because this is a forum of people who are into "tech" and my guess is I'm likely going to find some members who can answer my questions. I'll apologize up front for the massive amount of text, but I wanted to be thorough while keeping it as brief as possible.

Question:
I'm looking to advance in a new career path in the IT field, and/or create a position within my current organization that would be IT related and consequently have a pay scale that is appropriate to the position. I'm having a hard time coming up with a job title for this role.

Background:
I have my B.A. in Communication, emphasizing Advertising and a minor in marketing. I graduated college and went into Advertising sales (sold the ads on light rail and buses in our area). After the economy tanked and I was just finishing up my first year in the Ad sales world, I was laid off (along with a handful of others) and then spent the next six months looking for employment. After trying a couple gigs to basically pay the bills since my unemployment ran out, I finally took a position as a "Administrative Specialist" for a local non-profit that is a grant funded branch of the department of commerce. Essentially I'm a secretary. I answer phones, make photocopies etc.

I have plenty of skills with basically anything tech related, I'm a good problem solver, and can troubleshoot most issues. Lucky for me, my management picked up on all this early and has given me more and more tech related responsibilities and pay raises.

So when I initially took the job, it was a a means to pay the bills. Now, three years later, I really like where I work, who I work for / with and would love to build a career within this organization. My current pay is decent ($47k/yr) the benefits are great and I truly enjoy my management. The catch here is that I A) I don't want to do exactly what I'm doing for the rest of my life (ie Secretary) and B) I max out in pay within three years from now.

Our office employs only 15 people and we currently have an IT person who isn't going anywhere. However, since I've come on board, I can honestly say I take care of 99% of our user IT needs, ranging from quick troubleshooting / fixes, to complete system overhauls with loading new OS, software, upgrading hardware, migrating data from old to new machines, then wiping the old ones to re purpose etc. I also fix the copy machines (when I'm capable of doing so), configure and fix all the people with smart phones who want to tie into our e-mail and VPN systems, as well as set up projectors, and intranets for small local meetings where file sharing is needed but we don't want to give access to our server. Our IT person still manages our server, keeps our website up to date, does most the equipment ordering and documentation (although this past year they've started to delegate some of those tasks to me too) and she also works with other organizations we work with to keep up on sharing equipment.

Our staff literally comes to me first to ask any computer questions before approaching our IT person. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I can communicate easily with our staff vs. our IT person who is like your typical IT person (stereotype I know) that talks in too much tech lingo and has an awkward personality.

Bottom line here, I've found that I really have a passion for what has traditionally been my hobby of messing with tech, and with my wife and I buying our first house this past year and kids coming down the road, I need to position myself to make more money in the future to support my family and to ensure I have a career that I'm passionate about.

What can you all recommend I look into as far as classes for certification?
Also given the list of tasks I currently do, that certainly don't fall under the normal "secretary" title what job title could I present to my employer that would be more "help desk" associated so as to not threaten the current IT person's position, while still allowing me to present my case for a higher pay grade?

I thank you very much for taking the time to read through this, and I will very much enjoy reading any feedback I might get. Thanks again!
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post #2 of 10 Old 02-25-2013, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
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I've gotten a couple private messages from some users so far. Thank you very much for your input, it has been very helpful! Feel free to keep the info coming. Thanks again.
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-15-2013, 02:49 AM
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Can you share the input you have received so far?

I'm starting out in the IT field, although in more of a technical/development role. I majored in Info. Systems. A lot of fellow graduates went on to IT analyst, management and consulting roles.

It's always nice to hear from those with more experience.
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-19-2013, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
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There has only been a few replies, but the general consensus was not to waste my time & money going back to school (full time) but instead to start taking a certification class here and there, learn some coding skills, and due to the small size of my organization look elsewhere for a larger company to start low on the totem pole with, but a position that has the ability for me to grow within. Everyone said its much easier to get in the door somewhere and learn what you need on their time/dime than just going to take classes and hoping it'll pay off out the shoot.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-19-2013, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
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oops...double post
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post #6 of 10 Old 04-09-2013, 09:08 AM
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I see...

I realize my next move would have to be to get out of the university system and into private industry. There's really no room for job advancement where I am right now due to funding cuts in edu.

There does seem to be lots of time to learn on the job for many fields. Coding-wise, I didn't learn much in my program (undergrad. or grad.). It was mostly buying books and practicing with the university systems.

I need to have better branding. I'm surprised at what I receive through LinkedIn and on some coding sites where I help out. I've received job requests based on some light Drupal module development I did in the past.

So I think, going forward:

- Get/make a personal websites showcasing some projects, create some blog entries on current tech. or coding solutions
- Be active on Twitter with the tech. community
- Stay up-to-date on LinkedIn
- Be active in coding forums/try and provide solutions (this is where I've gotten some offers)
- Advertise services (this can be hit or miss depending on where; I've used bulletin boards on campus and had one job for a prof. for a different university)
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post #7 of 10 Old 05-11-2013, 09:28 AM
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Interesting.

First, from what little is written above,I pretty much agree with the comments. My advice would be to spend as little as possible on training or certification and plan to make that a priority once employed with someone with a training budget. I will say that if you don't already have a Security+ certification, or one of the similar ones from other providers; that might be a good place to spend your own money. You may hear many comments against this, but as far as government jobs or any private sector that follow government security recommendations like FISMA, a basic certification in security is something they like to see applicants have if they plan to give them any kind of elevated access like a system administrator would need.

Next, I'd recommend you evaluate what you really want in the way of a job. For example, I love working with people, but I absolutely hate to explain the same thing to the same people every day. For that reason, I don't look for service desk or programming jobs because the last thing I want is to be supporting something "prototyped" in basic, or Excel 10 years ago that has become a production "system". There are quite a few IT jobs where your work is primarily with other IT people; networking, backend database, infrastructure managements like VMWare or SAN administration, etc..

I like the way Ange1Rob0t has begun trolling groups and forums and trying to research and answer posts; a very good way to become "known" by people working where you want to work. Who knows, they may reach out the next time their place is looking for someone. I discount LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ and the like as I think you get far too much spam for what they are worth. However, I do search those to evaluate applicants. You can tell a lot about someone based on what they post on their pages.

Finally, to follow up my comments from above, I'll share what I mentioned when my niece asked this question. She has a decent job at CVS but is always complaining about dealing with the customers, i.e., the public. Her plan was to become a programmer. Her local community college had a great AS program built around industry certification courses; meaning when she graduated, she could have her CISCO certification if she wanted to focus on Networking, or a .NET certification if she wanted to stay with programming. If you have the time and money and want to prep yourself, I'd look for this type of program. Good, bad, or indifferent; many college courses will transfer if you have to put it on hold; can't say the same thing about technical programs.

About me and why I answered. I've been working in IT since firmware really was firm; around 1977. I've worked on a mixture of mini computer systems, desktop workstations, PC and MAC, and special purpose servers for graphics, parallel processing and artificial intelligence. I've developed applications using basic, C, C#, Lisp, Cobol and vendor specific languages. I'm currently the senior SQL DBA and deputy Oracle DBA for where I work and will likely retire in a few years and do part time consulting now and then to stay somewhat current.

Good luck with your search and don't be afraid to change your mind if you find something and aren't happy. Making money is good, but making a lot of money at a job you really hate can wear you down faster than you think.
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post #8 of 10 Old 05-19-2013, 11:51 AM
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This is old, wonder if you're still wondering what to do?

Get a CCNP/CCNA (Cisco Networking) there is a certification in telecommunications that I can't think of right now, but a lot of employers are seeking Cisco Certs. you do NOT need to take an expensive class, my friend did it and just ordered the textbooks online and took the test online at Cisco. The certs cost a couple hundred dollars- those classes charge a few thousand and are totally UN necessary. My friend studied at home online for a couple months in free time and aced the exams.

Are you still the unofficial IT person at that same company? MY advice is to approach your boss and address the fact that you are the go-to person in the office in regard to all IT issues. Since you're doing the IT persons job, YOU need to be the official IT person. OR- maybe you ARE the "official IT person" without the "official" paycheck and title! All of your duties you're doing that are not your official position need to be documented somehow- one way that I've done at my old job was verbalize what I was doing for instance:

"Say, RadioGirl, can you watch the nodes on ZR-1 and contact NOC when we're getting some backups in that area?" RadioGirl: "Oh, ok- sure I'll be happy to be on the NOC team temporarily, of course, that's not my official title, but I'd be happy to take this promotion!" something along those lines but not in any kind of snarky way. Act like you've "officially" gotten a promotion and act ecstatic that you've been "chosen"- does that make sense? Verbalize your task/ repeat out loud to the "delegator" what you've been asked to do:

"Oh I see, so you want me to set up the database for the entire email blasts for our clients?" you say your delegated task out loud- do NOT meekly murmur "ok so u want me to do this thing here" you following me?

If you're accepting IT position issues, you NEED to be an IT person- otherwise you're a sucker who thinks that by osmosis your extra work & enthusiam is going to be compensated. I'm sorry but warm fuzzies don't pay the rent. You've got to get it in writing. The CEO may not have any idea as to your little helps around the office entail nor CARE about you, or what you stand for. The office is coming to YOU for IT issues and NOT the IT person. YOU need to address that.

"Hi, Mr Boss Man? Instead of going to Betsy in IT dept, the office drone has been coming to me for assistance in solving this network issue in Sector 7G. I have an idea, why not set aside an hour or two where I may be of assistance in those areas where you may need a hand with those issues? You know, perhaps use little old me in the IT dept as a sort of "IT assistant" for Betsy"

that way Boss Man shall create a position for you officially, and you've solved that pesky go-to-guy issue considering you're doing her job and not paid IT wages .
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post #9 of 10 Old 05-20-2013, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your replies. A quick update.

I have signed up for a Cisco Networking training class, and once done will be taking the exam for that certification. I am currently re-working my resume, and writing up a new job description to present to my employer, and now that a huge National Conference that was taking up everyone's time and attention is over, my plan is to present my proposal for an all new position, title and pay increase to my superiors. I've also reached out to a friend who's company does managed services and am toying with the idea of interviewing there as well so if my organization doesn't respond the way I would like, I have a line in at a new company.

At a recent conference that our organization hosted, I was talking with my boss about my role with the company and my desire to take some more IT related courses. His response was asking me if I was looking for a new job? I told him no I was not actively looking but I would like to grow my career into an IT position and I'm merely trying to better prepare myself for that path. He responded by telling me that I am a very valuable member of the team and there is room for growth within our organization. He then went on to explain to me how our current IT person went from my position to her current position by presenting her desired job description a number of years ago, and look where she is now.

So I'm taking all of this as a very positive sign that if I play my cards right and present myself appropriately, that my chances of a promotion is good. I will keep the thread updated as things change, but until I finish re-working my resume and finish taking the Cisco networking course I won't be bringing it up to my superiors just yet.
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post #10 of 10 Old 05-20-2013, 12:29 PM - Thread Starter
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The next two things I'm trying to figure out is: What exactly will my job title be, and what a competitive salary is. I work in the Portland, OR area, if anyone has a good starting point for salary. As for job title, since we already have "IT Specialist," for our current IT person, I'm trying to come up with something else. Multimedia Specialist has come to mind since I setup a lot of our equipment, fix e-mail sync issues on tablets and smartphones, etc.
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