I guess it depends upon your goals and where you want to end up. I don’t mean to be the Debbie Downer in this thread but… without a degree and starting as tier-1 help desk… you’re kinda a disposable resource to an employer. That’s a fairly high turn-over role and employees in those roles are generally not looked upon as resources for advancement into other IT fields where a degree and specific experience are usually the minimum entry requirements. I think it would be far more common that once you enter into a help desk type role, you’re more likely to be locked into that role.
I am that “computer guy” it never gets stale, always new problems and challenges. Its nothing like working in a large IT environment. It can be fairly lucrative if you hustle, but you will find the customers more difficult on average than the technical challenges.
I started lower than a ‘tape ape’, I was a tape librarian fetching the tapes for the apes. They said right out I was being hired because I looked like I would be good at moving heavy boxes and furniture. But you have to get into the game, help desk and technician are good starting points these days. Once you’re working you have the opportunity to see what the other jobs are about and what you need to know to get them.
You’ll need to do more than just noodling around, everything changes, every day. The most valuable skill in the IT field is keeping up, constantly learning new technology.
I would say your last paragraph sums up what would be attractive to me. Learning new things and problem solving are like candy for my brain. And that’s part of why I feel so stultified in my job–there’s nothing new to learn and nothing new coming down the pike.
I have to say that the technician track sounds way more appealing than help desk. So should I be looking at going to a tech school or community college and getting some sort of certificate to get a toe in the door there? Do employment agencies help place people in those jobs, or is it more of a who-you-know type thing?
That might have been useful in 1995. Unfortunately nowadays, everyone has an “aptitude with software” because everyone under the age of 30 has been using software since birth and software keeps getting more intuitive.
I would agree that current hiring systems are bullshit. OTOH, companies hiring technology employees typically want people who are highly skilled. You don’t find too many companies hiring accountants or lawyers without accounting degrees or JDs who passed the bar. Why do people think highly technical work in computers is any different?
Any kind of schooling that gets you a certificate can be helpful short term. Further schooling would depend on the area you want to go into. Some tech schools are very good with outplacement.
I don’t know about agencies, without experience they may not be much help to get a specific kind of entry level position, but it wouldn’t hurt to try them.
Who you know always helps, but there are plenty of jobs like this available. Schools are often advertising for them, but there are also private repair shops and they have technician positions at many chain stores.
Getting in any job like this is much easier if you can talk the talk. If you’re looking at the hardware end do you know the different CPUs available for Macs and PCs? Even in hardware you need to know your way around the operating systems. How many TLAs* do you know? Do you sound like you’ve been hanging around the manufacturers websites by knowing what all the latest problems are? Do you have an aluminum tool kit with a soldering iron? You may never use that soldering iron but you need to look like you know how. If you really have the stuff it takes you won’t have a problem once you get your foot in the door.
*TLA - Three Letter Acronym/Abbreviation
My experience in software development has been almost completely different. I’m sure plenty of employers want to see a degree, but I don’t know of any other relatively high paying white-collar career where it’s so easy to get a job by being talented and skilled in lieu of a formal education.
I don’t really know how common it is, but it happens routinely while it’s pretty much unheard of with any other career I can think of. I’ve never heard an accountant say, “Yeah, I just started dabbling with T-accounts in high school and eventually I became a CPA”.
You’ve been in the same field for 15 years. Presumably you have some expertise in it, and understand the day-to-day business problems and annoyances that go along with it. That could potentially be more valuable to the technology companies that service your field than the actual technology skills in the particular tools that run their platform.
Make a list of the top ten vendors that supply your current company with company-specific or industry-specific technology (I guarantee that there are at least ten of them.) Hang your chit out at those vendors for positions in relationship management, sales, sales engineering, or customer care. They’ll teach you all of the technology you’ll need to know - the business knowledge is far more valuable and hard to come by.
Seriously - starting in IT as a generalist from first principles when you’re already mid-career is a sucker’s game, unless you want to make peanuts and grow to hate your former hobby.
I’ll agree with this, since I’m an example of it. But if you want to go this route, you have to restrict yourself to certain kinds of companies – technology-focused software, services, hardware, telecoms, and startup companies. Non-technical companies looking to hire for IT or engineering positions are going to be credential-focused.
I agree with this 100%. Should have said it myself.
Get a piece of paper with your name that says you can and have shown proficiency to the satisfaction of another institution.
4 year degrees are standard equipment on most applicants.
A City College will have some direct programming classes - take two or three of different languages and databases.
Trying to find a job that requires a single language is not going to happen, and if you had trouble with one, you may have a problem with coding as a career.
Is your background even remotely varied and challenging? Those are the two biggest issues with IT - it is evolving faster than many other fields. Keep up or be swamped.
For entry, the Geek Squad idea is the best single idea so far - check it out.
And govt jobs often pay less than private and may be more flexible.
My shiny new AS in Computer Science (on top of a BA years before) got me a job hanging tape for the City/County Data Processing (as it was called then) Department.
They had high turnover in programming, and promoted Operators who wanted programming.
I stayed with them for 3 years - 1.5 as operator, 1.5 as programmer.
They were hard-up for database design, so I got exposure to it and the language that talked to terminals in the user areas.
In 1979, COBOL/CICS/IMS DB (aka DL/I*) was a great meal ticket.
- pronounced “Dee Ell One”. When headhunters called looking for “Dee Ell Eye”, you knew they were salespeople who decided the mark-up on techies beat even new cars and had no idea what the buzzwords meant.
I know two people who made this kind of move. My brother started as a medical ultrasound tech and is now a product manager at an ultrasound machine manufacturer, another was a design engineer that ended up at the CAD company that made the tools he used.
Start coding now.
It has never been easier to create software and share it with people. iOS App Store, Mac App Store, Google Play, Windows App Store … there’s a place for everywhere which will host the files for you.
Build up a portfolio, learn some new tech, via this. Then add it to your CV.