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Enda Goodwin

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Field Agent

Field Agent

IT is becoming less focused on building and delivering services and more focused on integrating and managing them. Big companies increasingly want to hire smart, tech-savvy, business professionals for multifaceted careers - not simply for careers in information technology. They want folks who can hit the ground running and already are trained to do the job.

This is a fast-paced, dynamic industry – not unlike what so many other industries have become. One big difference with information technology, however, is that this rapidly evolving industry is subject to unpredictable shifts and quick technological obsolescence.

We see a number of possible trends over the next ten years such as globalization, increased specialization, and more demand for certifications. The future of IT shows the most in-demand skills will be data-mining, security, and IT risk management.

IT spending and growth is on the upswing. IT trends indicate that the global demand for IT driven products and services is growing daily. Information technology is still providing career opportunities in virtually all sectors. But some areas will be hotter than others.

The Information Technology Association of America defines an information technology worker by using the eight career clusters developed by the National Workforce Center for Emerging Technologies.
Those career clusters include:

  • technical support
  • programming and software engineering 
  • enterprise systems 
  • database development and administration
  • web development and administration
  • network design and administration 
  • digital media
  • technical writing

Companies are looking for developers who don’t just sling code but solve business problems. The three skills in most demand are:

  • Data Mining/Machine Learning/AI/Natural Language Processing: All of these fields help us sift through and organize huge amounts of information or data.
  • Business Intelligence/Competitive Intelligence:  The ability to see trends, make sense of data to a business audience and help to understand your customers requires a special person. These IT folks help increase any employer’s bottom line and be able to provide organized data that is extremely valuable to any business. They can help drive business decisions and help internal audiences understand what the data is telling or showing.
  • Analytics/Statistics – specifically Web Analytics, A/B Testing and Statistical Analysis: All of these subjects are offshoots of traditional degrees in computer science and mathematics. They all apply to the online world we live in and will also be in great demand as we continue to monetize the Web.

The impressive pay scale – especially in certain markets such as the Silicon Valley - is also a draw for job seekers. Already, tech wages are 87% higher, on average, than in the rest of the private-sector job market. Tech wages also are growing faster, by an average of 4% a year — double that reported for private industry as a whole.

Interestingly, the highest-paying IT market also includes the most IT workers. The Silicon Valley has the highest concentration of IT workers – 286 for every 1,000 in the private sector. Odds are that relocating to a city such as this would make finding a job in IT easier. Besides that, you’d find yourself living amongst similar minds as your own.

Don’t overlook the numerous IT jobs available in the Federal government at www.usajobs.gov either. The benefits are quite impressive, as are the salaries - often going into the six-figure range.

While researching potential jobs in IT, it is important to remember that there are IT jobs outside of the IT industry. Almost every medium to large non-IT company has an IT department as part of its operational infrastructure. If you add all the positions involving work outside of IT departments in corporate departments and business lines doing strategic work, then the number of IT positions available in the U.S. jumps dramatically even from the government’s estimates.    

Studies show that 60% of information technology workers will need a bachelors or higher degree, although the number who had some college but no degree is rapidly increasing. In the long term, this segment will account for only 32%.  

A computer-related degree might be the easiest and most direct route, but by no means the only one. There are numerous ways in which workers can demonstrate the computer knowledge and skills necessary to get a job in one of the several-related occupations.

Offshore outsourcing is a global trend, which will take away some jobs. The latest statistics show that over 8% of IT jobs in the U.S. have been outsourced, but this figure is expected to grow.  Some reverse trends do exist, however, such as sending managers to the U.S.

Some primarily tech companies, when outsourcing, suggest their employees look at opportunities in other countries. One risk is the potential loss of intellectual property and business-process secrets.

Also, the IT world is not immune to the effects of a recession. In fact, some of the industries hit the hardest include technology, retail, manufacturing and finance. The reason is that most of these industries rely on consumers to purchase their goods.


Finding an IT job

Searching for an IT job is not unlike searching for any other job. It includes the standard components of research, personal branding, networking, interviewing and negotiating. An effective approach to an IT job search will be to use the Milestones here on the CRN, with a special emphasis on these areas:

  1. Understanding the IT Market: The rapidly evolving industry is subject to unpredictable shifts. It is ironically fitting that the Silicon Valley is geographically situated at the heart of earthquake country with its tectonic shifts. So, don’t count on longevity in any one IT company.  Remember to keep your network alive so that time between jobs will be reduced. Listen to the podcast, Beginning an IT Job Search.
  2. Skills Transfer: You will want to conduct a more thorough personal skills inventory and assessment to determine how to transfer and apply current non-IT skills to the IT industry language and usage. If you do not have IT credentials, you must figure out how to leverage your current background to make yourself attractive. Review Milestone 2, Determine Your Professional Objective - especially the material on Skills, Accomplishments and Transferrable Skills Inventory.
  3. Interview Skills: Getting an IT job may require that you sharpen and focus your interview skills in areas important to the targeted industry and company. Many IT job opportunities require not just IT knowledge, but the IT commitment. Do you have it? Can you demonstrate it? Review Milestone 2, Determine Your Professional Objective, especially the material on Skills, Interests and Values. Also review Milestone 9, Interview, Cultivate Offers and Negotiate.

Interviewing for an IT job

For IT professionals, preparation for an interview requires being ready for both the typical and technical questions.  When interviewing for an IT job, research is critical for differentiating yourself from your competition and increasing your ability to interview well.

You may be asked in the interview to solve an actual problem related to the job either by explaining your thought process, or by walking up to a whiteboard and showing how you would solve it. You definitely will be asked specific questions related to your IT job, questions that are technical in nature.

For example, a Software Engineer could be asked questions such as:

  • What has been your experience in developing applications?
  • What is your definition of good code?
  • How would you go about learning a new programming language under high pressure conditions?
  • Please go to the board and construct software code to solve the following problem.

In addition to the more typical interview questions, be ready to answer “brain teaser” questions.  A brain teaser is a form of puzzle that requires thought to solve. It often requires thinking in unconventional ways with given constraints in mind; sometimes it also involves lateral thinking. Large technical companies that hire for IT jobs like to use these types of questions in their interviews; some smaller companies have adopted “brain teasers” as part of their interview process. 

Here are some examples:

  • How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
  • How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
  • Explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew.
  • How many times a day does a clock’s hands overlap?

The key to answering brain teaser interview questions is to show how you would go about finding the answer to the questions.  Make sure you explain your own problem solving process as you give the answer. It’s the way you think that’s important!

You might want to put “Microsoft interview questions” or “Google interview questions” in your browser to look at the postings of typical “brain teaser” questions. 

Check out www.geekinterview.com for more than 21,000 possible questions and almost 62,000 possible answers in an IT interview. The range of topics goes from things as technical as ColdFusion, Python and Ruby - to basic personal motivations.

IT jobs resources

You may already be thoroughly knowledgeable about the economy and the career opportunities out there in IT. If not, the information is readily available with minimal digging.

Industry Size and General Trends

  • The United State Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Career Guide to Industries, 2010-2011 Edition, provides information on the 1.5 million wage and salary jobs in the computer systems design and related services industry. Compared with the rest of the economy, there are significantly fewer workers 45 years of age and older. For a detailed look at the current trends in IT jobs, check out Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • For women interested in the IT field, the National Center of Women & Information Technology offers support to a field still dominated by men. NCWIT was created to identify the reasons why there aren’t more women in IT and identify what research and interventions can best attract and retain women to IT.

Information on Employers

Gathering information about employers is an essential part of job search, including IT job search, as the more you know about potential employers, the shorter your search, as you’ll be able to demonstrate to the interviewer that you’ve done your homework. Start by checking out the websites of employers you are interested in - but don’t stop there.

  • You can get an inside look at companies and salaries through glassdoor.com. The site provides awards, ratings and even salaries of the varying levels of employees. You can even see photos from inside some companies - such as Microsoft and Apple - which might tell you immediately if you want to work there or not.  At least, it might ease your anxiety when you walk in for an interview. 
  • Do you want a company with great perks?  Look at the 2015 list of FORTUNE Magazine’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For.
  • Check out Inc's articles about "Top Companies" and gain knowledge of the latest trends, top companies and news makers.

Information on IT issues

There are hundreds of excellent IT industry news sources both online and otherwise. They can help you find out who is hiring and to learn the language to speak intelligently with others in the field. So when ‘cloud computing’ – or whatever the latest hot topic comes up – you’ll be able to jump right into the conversation.

Other IT information sources:

IT Niche Job Boards

Take a look at the IT job board listings here on the CRN, as you may wish to investigate a few of them. Even if you decide not to post your resume, they’ll help you reflect the “IT language” in your resumes, letters, e-mails and on interviews.

A few of the many tech specific job boards:

IT Blogs

As fast as technology changes, keeping up with what’s going on in the IT world can be a never-ending challenge. But it is especially important to talk the talk when you’re interviewing for an IT job. When an interviewer asks you what you think of the latest gizmo, even if it’s just small talk, you’d better know. There are lots of blogs out there to keep you informed. Among the most popular are:

IT Degrees

If you’ve had no training in IT, schools offering degrees in the field are easy to find. The programs usually provide a strong foundation in which you are at least ready for an entry level IT position. Online programs for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees also are available. Check out  ITT if you want a school that totally focuses on IT.

Other sites focusing on computer careers:

IT Certifications

To check out the multitude of IT Certifcations available in the US, visit our IT Certifications page to learn more.

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