View Full Version : Computing folks - what's the best way to get a foot in the industry?
12-08-2000, 09:49 AM
Someone I know is trying to get into computing. What's the best way, cos they've got a mortgage, and if they give up their job to do it, it's got to work, cos they won't be able to go back into the line of work they're in at the moment.
I reckon he should learn a language (probably Visual Basic or PL/SQL are the easiest to pick up) at home before applying to training places where he could train up and they help you find a contract as well. Does anyone know any recommended training places? He wants a permanent job rather than contracting (moving place to place etc) cos he has a kid, and doesn't want to keep moving. He's willing to move to where a job is, but only the once.
Any advice would be really appreciated (best way in, best languages to do, etc) cos I only know the way I got into doing it, and it isn't necessarily the best way.
12-08-2000, 10:08 AM
1. know buzzwords for whatever job they're trying to get
2. look good
3. bullshit. if ya can't bullshit, you need a degree.
I do wireless networking, and got the job on the three things above ;)
12-08-2000, 10:24 AM
I second broccoli!. Is your friend trying to just be a programmer, or does he want to be a network admin or DBA, or what? I got a degree (in accounting), but I was familiar enough with C++/Java, NT administration, and database design that I got a job at a small organization doing all of the above (except accounting). The organization has agreed to pay for my continued technical training, so they will get some use out of it and it will make me more valuable to future employers when the time comes for me to change jobs. I believe that databases are where its at, so my advice is to learn SQL, be familiar with PERL, and at least learn VBA, to use with programs like MS Access.
It may be beneficial to at least learn the fundamentals of Object Oriented Programming (helps with the buzzwords angle)
Being a jack of most trades has worked for me so far, but your mileage may vary.
12-08-2000, 10:32 AM
Another angle to try is to apply for QA or Test positions. If you are at the level of a "Power User" that's often all you need to get into software testing. It's rather boring work - for example, our testers are currently testing the install process, which means they spend all day installing and uninstalling the same piece of software. But it's great for getting a foot in the door on your way to more lofty goals such as DBA, Network Admin, or Programmer.
12-08-2000, 10:34 AM
Oh, and BTW, tell your friend to apply for ANY and ALL jobs he thinks he can do. I know the ad says "3 years Software QA experience required" but in this economy there's a good chance they get NO applicants with the "required" skills, so they hire the next best. That may be your friend. Plus, an interview could lead to being recommended to other positions in the company.
12-08-2000, 10:37 AM
Know someone! I was hired at CompuServe at 19 with no experience.
Actually, I would suggest taking a Microsoft Certification course. Having that on a resume help a lot. A friend of mine with no computer skills at all wanted to break into the tech industry. I suggested he get a certification and start applying. Within a year he got a job as an sys admin at a big company. I felt so proud. :)
12-08-2000, 10:48 AM
Originally posted by Athena
It's rather boring work - for example, our testers are currently testing the install process, which means they spend all day installing and uninstalling the same piece of software. But it's great for getting a foot in the door
Tsk tsk tsk! I've been in QA for about 8 years. Some folks do make a career out of it!
You are correct, however. Many folks do use QA as a stepping stone towards "higer" positions. However, QA is a necessary and exciting field that is growing every day. I have been writing automated test suites for about 5 years. This requires programming skills and creativity...just like software development.
I think that the general idea of QA being "boring" or "repetitious" is simply a mindset. Check out this article by Bret Petticord.
Sorry for the rant...just sticking up for my "peeps" :)
12-08-2000, 10:53 AM
Biffer Spice, IIRC, you're from England. So my personal experiences may not work out as well for your friend, but...
I finished college with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science, but decided afterwards to go into the IT field. Even though I had a fair amount of self-taught knowledge about computers and several languages, noone was willing to consider me for a job.
I found that many companies were more interested in a certification than my actually being able to do something with a computer. So I took a course in Programming concepts (how to flow chart, basic logic, etc.) along with courses in the fundamentals of a few languages (VB,C++,COBOL,ASP), and it became much easier for me to get an interview. There are alot of private institutions around here (east coast, u.s.a.) that offer such courses.
Another easy way to get into the field is to learn HTML. It is a pretty easy "language" to learn, and is often good enough to get you an entry-level job. Once you get a job, most companies are more than willing to have you learn new languages (and will even pay for you to take the courses).
Finally, as far as Microsoft Certification goes, I think it is something that alot of companies look for (the consulting company I work for now has been able to get alot of new work by being able to tout the number of certified employees it has)...however, once you actually get the job, Microsoft Certification doesn't do a whole lot for you, IMO. Alot of the situations that you are tested on in the Microsoft Certs are very product-specific, and aren't always that useful in real life situations.
12-08-2000, 11:46 AM
Think about LAN/WAN training. The courses are short (mine was only 4 months) and the technology is easy- certainly easier than programming, IMHO. Telcos are hiring off the street right now (my company expects huge growth over the next two years as internet backbones get bigger & DSL demand increases) and there is a serious shortage of people skilled in layers 1 through 3 of the OSI reference model (http://www.cisco.com/univercd/cc/td/doc/cisintwk/ita/itao.htm), q.v. (there are 7 layers, meaning you wouldn't even need to know all of them to work in WAN/fast packet division of telco).
If you have any kind of technical background (fixing CD players was what I did before this), you'll probably be hired at the top salary bracket.
12-08-2000, 01:32 PM
What Attrayant said.
Having done both, I'm not so sure about it being easier than programming, though - but the entry level requirements are certainly lower.
Lots of good networkers start in technical support - it's good for getting at least some technical background, and lots of companies will help out with training if they think an employee can make it.
The theoretical background is relatively easy to learn, but when you get down to different suppliers' implementation of this or that theoretical concept, things certainly get hairy enough.
With some technical background, one can branch out into sales (networking salespeople need all the help they can get), "general" network engineering (planning, designing, implementing, troubleshooting - what I do ;)), security (lots of work there) or operations. To say nothing of the entire server side of the equation: Accounting, authorization, nameservers, newsservers etc.
I guess it shows I like my profession ? Well, I do.
12-08-2000, 01:41 PM
You can't just jump into programming. It takes lots of training. Just learning to write a "hello world" program in whatever language isn't enough. You need to know object oriented design (and be good at it), and it takes a certain way of thinking to be good at it. I'm tired of these technical school people thinking they're "programmers" when they can't even write a simple multi-threaded application that has a decent looking (and functioning) GUI. We've even had people that never learned how variables are stored in memory. (What's a pointer?) Needless to say they didn't last long.
If you want to get into web programming and networking stuff, go ahead, that's easy to learn, and rather well-paying much to my dismay. Stay away from programming, especially c++ without going through a four-year program at a real technical college.
I realize that you're not the one looking for a job, but take this as advice towards your friend instead.
12-08-2000, 02:40 PM
If your friend wants to be a programmer, then the advice given elsewhere in this thread is fairly sound. If they just want to get involved in technology at the ground level, then the suggestions to look into network administration, technical support, and QA positions is sound. With no technical training at all, tech support is probably the easiest to break into, provided the customer service skills and mindset are there; I've managed support departments, and the right demeanor goes a long way in selling me on a candidate, since I'm probably going to have to invest a lot of time in training for the specifics of our products even with experienced candidates.
For network administration jobs, I'd suggest taking some introductory training courses (but not a full certification program) and looking for opportunities to get some hands-on experience, even if it's not for pay (community or religious organizations, non-profits, etc. might welcome help from someone who knows just a little more than they do and has the inclination to learn more). Certification programs serve a few purposes: they provide the aura of professionalism and some sort of nominal objective credentials, they generate revenue for the developers of the training materials and the organizations that provide the training (often the same company that developed the products being trained for), and they help strengthen the market share of dominant companies (once you've shelled out $5000 for MCSE certification, aren't you going to have a vested interest in ensuring that your employer uses Microsoft products?). They do not adequately prepare someone for working in the real world. I've found no correlation whatever between the success or failure of an individual in the workplace and the presence or absence of any certification by that individual.
For QA jobs, there's a range of abilities that might be expected for an entry level position. As manager of a small QA department myself, I can say that I'd hire someone with no programming or prior testing experience for an entry level tester position if they could convince me that they have sufficient computer experience to accurately follow and execute the steps of a detailed test plan, to notice when something well outside the ordinary or expected occurs, to be thorough and meticulous in their work, learn on their own quickly, and communicate effectively. Indeed, I intend a full frontal assault on the non-technical departments of the local liberal arts colleges this spring to shake out the smartest, best people I can find who don't want to go to grad school but who're being ignored by most of the other technology companies around. In both QA and support, my best employees have uniformly had non-technical, liberal arts educations, to which they'd added considerable technical expertise.
12-10-2000, 08:17 PM
This is a great thread- Too bad more of the poster's in this field haven't responded to it.
But I've been following it with interest. So much so that I went to the local computer store this afternoon and rummaged around their book section looking for titles that matched some of your suggestions.
Imagine my surprise at finding about eighty books on the topic of LAN's alone. Not to mention the endless books on certification, HTML, etc. etc. Needless to say, I wound up buying a game instead.
So, to hopefully add to this thread and not take away from it, do the people who have responded here so far have any suggestions on books that best describe and introduce newbies to your field? I'm more intersted in learning the basics at this point and trying to gather as much info as I can before I make a major commitment to any one field.
To put it another way, the feeling I had today in that store was almost like being a freshmen at college and trying to buy textbooks for 1000 level course and not having a syllabus- completely lost and not wanting to make a financial mistake.
12-10-2000, 09:07 PM
Ooh, that's a hard one to answer without knowing what your current skill set is.
The thing that helped me most was that I was already in highly technical jobs before this one. I repaired consumer electronics at the component level for 9 years & taught advanced circuit design & troubleshooting (along with the relevant math) for twelve years before that. Moving into telecom/WAN was not hard for me- I just took a short 4 month NT certification course so I could have the word networking on my resume when I applied for my current job. I also made sure I passed at least one of the NT certification tests (workstation) so I could wave that stupid MCP card at them if they wanted to see proof.
I would not say that my previous jobs were necessary in my getting the one I have now, but they certainly helped. I work next to housewives & other very non-technical people who don't seem to have any kind of idea about ohm's law or the difference between IP datagrams & ATM cells but they do the same job I do.
If it's networking that you're after, first make sure you're PC literate. About six years ago, I started with the PCs for Dummies books, and moved quickly to more advanced books soon after. If you're already above the Dummies level, then get an A+ book to get familliar with the more intimate naughty bits of the PC. Then you can start networking them together. Now you're at the LAN level.
From the LAN level, it's only a few more steps to the WAN level and most companies will be more than happy to train you if at their expense if they think you're technically capable.
As for what specific books I'd suggest, that's a toughie. A basic WAN/LAN/Telecom dictionary is a must. I'd also start a subscription to a magazine that caters to the field you're interested in, so you can become skilled at knowing & using the latest buzz words.
Another would be the 1st book in the NT certification series (usually available only when you buy the whole set) is Networking Essentials, and in many parts it's not Microsoft specific becuase LANs & WANs also exist outside of the MS universe. Since NT4.X is in its way out as far as certification goes, you can probably find this book fairly cheap. I got the whole set at The Library of Computer & Info Science for $10.00 for joining as a member. In fact I just took a peak at their web site (http://lcis.booksonline.com/cgi-bin/ndCGI.exe/Develop/pagAnnCardNoMain) & they're offering the Windows2000 set for $9.99 (an alleged $125.00 value) for joining up [click on Library of computer & Info Sciences, then select The MCSE Windows 2000 Exam Cram Library].
12-10-2000, 11:05 PM
Ooooo, naughty bitsÖ.. Tell me about the naughty bitsÖ. I love hearing about[I]that[I].
To answer your main questions, I would consider myself in the same league as the O.P.ís friend. I know enough to use and utilize a computer. I consider myself a user who knows more than others. But, and hereís the hard part, the Ďothersí say I know a lot. Hell, I donít know.
I think I donít much about it. I think thereís and endless amount of information to learn and understand. Put it this way- I look at it like I know a car. I know the basics. The car can go from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, has this and it has that, this makes it better, this makes it worse, on and onÖ.. but what I donít know anything about is how the engine works. Do I want to be a mechanic or a new car salesman? Sell new or used? Do I work at a body shop or a filling station? I really donít know yet.
Maybe Iím not being confident in what I know and donít know, Iím not sure. Iíd like to know about the details and see if itís something I could do and be interested in or whether I should look into something else.
This might be confusing to otherís, it might not. Itís one of those nights for me. I guess Iím just trying to figure out which avenue would be the best fit for me now.
The suggestions you mentioned I do recall seeing today. Iíll be back there Tuesday and check them out.
Have an idea?
12-10-2000, 11:06 PM
I guess I can scratch programming from the list of things I think I know....
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