Interesting work, good earning potential and talent shortages all make tech a great career option. Yet the sheer number of roles makes for a dizzying choice when deciding on how to progress.
As one of the leading IT support companies in Manchester, we know what it takes to carve out a successful career in tech. In this blog, we share our insights.
Get Familiar with Roles, Responsibilities and Rewards
If you’re yet to start out in the tech industry, it’s worth reading a few job descriptions to figure out where you might like to start and what you’re getting into.
A great place to begin is the Totaljobs role profile library. Each description gives a good feel for the day-to-day activities you’d be expected to undertake and they also give you an idea of earnings too.
Alternatively, try getting in touch with a specialist IT recruitment agency to discuss your skills, experience and options.
Jack of All Trades or Master of One?
Do you like to know a little bit about a lot of things? Or do you prefer to know everything there is to know about one subject?
If you answered yes to the first then a generalist role could be the one for you. If option two floats your boat, specialising could be the way to go.
Typically, people start out in a generalist role and then choose to specialise later on as they understand where their strengths lie. However, if a particular niche catches your eye from the outset, and there are entry-level roles available, there’s no reason you can’t choose that area from the get-go.
Just be aware that this isn’t possible with all roles and that some specialisms will require you to gain specific experience beforehand.
The benefit of specialising is that you will often be paid more – look at the difference in pay between an IT architect and IT support – £80,000 plays £47,000. However, the risk is that you put all your eggs in one basket: if your specialist skill set becomes redundant, so could you.
Don’t forget to follow your passion if you find you have one. Work needs to be interesting as well as paying the bills.
Many IT job descriptions ask for a degree in a relevant subject like computer science. However, if this level of qualification is out of reach, all is not lost because there are plenty of pathways into tech:
Look for apprenticeships – as a Manchester IT support company we like to give back to our local area. That’s why we took on two members of staff through our apprenticeship scheme. With a lot of training and hands-on experience, both are now key members of the team and have progressed on to more senior roles.
- Find online courses – short courses, like the Makers Academy boot camp, offer flexible syllabuses that are more able to respond quickly to changes in technology than any university degree. You might pay around £8,000 for a full-time 12 week course, but you can be sure you’re gaining up-to-date, relevant, practical skills. It’s also much cheaper than £9,000 per year for a three or four-year degree and you can expect to start on the same salary as a recent graduate.
Courses and certificates are just the start. If you’ve already got your foot in the door then you’ll know how important it is to keep up-to-date with this constantly changing industry.
While a few great companies offer time for training and are prepared to help with technical exams, not all companies do this.
That means you need to be prepared to do your own reading and gain a broader understanding of technical theories. A good example right now is looking at Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain concepts.
There are plenty of ways to do this including taking on project work outside your usual role, joining local tech groups and taking online courses. We recommend:
Be prepared to fund or part-fund yourself and then it’s a pleasant surprise if your company helps out.
Alternatively, ask a few people in different technical roles if you can shadow them for the day so you can learn what you might like (and not like) about their job and which skills you might be lacking.
Code, code, code
One area that deserves its own section is coding as many tech roles are now expected to have good coding skills.
The sheer number of coding languages can make it difficult to decide which to pursue first and the constantly-changing nature of technology doesn’t make it any easier. Start by finding out which languages are most commonly used in the kinds of work you’ll be doing or in roles you’re likely to work closely with.
Be Customer Focussed
It can be all-too-easy to get lost in the cloud and lose sight of what’s really important: keeping your customers happy.
Remind yourself that technology isn’t the end in itself. It exists to solve problems and give customers great experiences which means people are as much a part of your career as technology.
Asking for customer feedback is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse. Once you understand what you’re doing well, what needs improvement and what customers want more of you’ll be able to fine tune the service you provide. Which will keep your customers coming back and maintain your standing as a well-rounded IT professional.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Learning something new is often uncomfortable. Remember having growing pains as a teenager? You’ll go through the same thing throughout your career as you expand your mind and experience.
If you’ve not felt uncomfortable or even a bit stupid over the past six months then you might not be pushing yourself enough. Good IT support companies will give you interesting and challenging work that keeps you on your toes and your CV up-to-date.