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Take Charge of Your Career – Advice From Experienced IT Pros

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Working in a field that's full of opportunity for education and advancement is a reward in itself, but it's in taking advantage of those opportunities that IT professionals will find not only a good job, but the job they're best suited to, and the one they really want.

For many, working in technology is a dream job with significant growth potential. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that employment in computer and information technology professions will grow by 13% between 2016 and 2026. If that sounds like a lot, it is. It's faster than the average for all other occupations and is projected to add more than 557,000 new jobs! The new jobs, as it turns out, will largely come from increased demand in emerging and expanding areas of IT, such as cloud computing, big data and information security.

Working in a field that's full of opportunity for education and advancement is a reward in itself, but it's in taking advantage of those opportunities that IT professionals will find not only a good job, but the job they're best suited to, and the one they really want.

How to get there? We asked IT pros for some tips.

Take Risks

As I look back at my career, I've had a number of opportunities that have allowed me to take major steps in my career. Every one of them has something in common – there was some risk associated with the decision to seize the opportunity. When I accepted a job running Disney's online data warehouse and BI platform, I had to move my entire family to a city I'd never seen before. When I joined ThoughtSpot, it was an unproven startup with zero customers. In retrospect these look like good decisions, but at the time it took the ability to fairly evaluate risk, and then be comfortable with accepting it, in order to embrace the transition and move my career forward. This can be very uncomfortable for some people, but it's easily the most important factor in any success I've had. Learn to embrace the risk that propels you forward, or you'll wake up one day and realize that staying in a comfortable place your entire life is its own form of risk.

-Doug Bordonaro, Chief Data Evangelist, ThoughtSpot

If You Don't Love What You're Doing, Find Something Else

We work too much to do something we don’t like and it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. I have done this many times. I left the practice of law because I didn’t enjoy it and became a leader at a large technology company. Now, I am a principal at EY in cybersecurity. I always loved being in a corporate environment but had never thought this is what I would be doing.


-Shelley Westman, Principal and Partner, EY Cybersecurity

Get a Mentor

I signed up for my employer's pilot mentorship program as a mentee, which paired me with an experienced network engineer. I also volunteered to help out in the data center, which gave me hands-on experience shadowing and assisting engineers. I believe doing these two things (while I prepped for my Cisco certification) are what made me stand out from other internal and external candidates. At the time, it seemed like a long shot to go from a tech support position to network engineering, but I was determined to learn as much as possible while making it known that I was interested in being a network engineer.

-Seare Habte, Network Engineer, American University

Consider a Master's Degree

I didn’t just get a few certifications in IT, I earned my bachelor’s degree then reinforced it with a master’s. To receive a master’s degree requires an immense amount of work, and the degree demonstrates dedication to the field. Today, many developers start out as gamers, so they have experience in making PCs faster and stronger, but it takes more than just technical skills to be an exceptional IT pro. When I hire someone, I’m not just looking for someone who can work alone in a dark room. To work at a software company of Impartner’s size, they have to be able to work on a team, on a collaborative project, and stick with it until the job is completed.

-Kory Willis, Senior Director of IT, Impartner

Make a Commitment to Learning

After nine years of work, I can assure you that the best trick to get your dream job is to invest one hour every day to study something new. In this way you will always be increasing your capacity and your knowledge for tomorrow to be the MOST qualified person for the position you always dreamed of reaching.

This is what I have been doing for nine years and it is thanks to studying something new every day for one hour that I know work in a position in which I'm very happy.

-Cristian Renella, CTO, oMelhorTrato

Upgrade, Then Network

If you have been working in IT for a while but haven’t found your dream job yet, try this two-step approach:

  • If you can, it would be a good idea to take a course to gain higher-level skills. This combined with your industry experience will make you a prime candidate for a higher-level IT job.
  • Then it’s time to network. Few fields rely on networking as much as the tech field. Go to networking events, reach out to companies via LinkedIn, and even ask family and friends if their companies are hiring. Every company can use good IT people.

-Nate Masterson, IT Manager for Maple Holistics

Keep Investing in Yourself

One of the key things I did was to constantly invest in myself. That doesn't mean I read blogs or books. Literally, I found the top influencers and pioneers in certain key areas of my job and took courses from them to shorten the learning curve experience and make sure I'm at the top of my game. I then tweaked my CV such that it doesn't just speak about my skills, but specifically about my wins using these cutting-edge skills I had learned.

-David Attard, Founder and Product Manager, CollectiveRay

Be Honest

I was lucky enough to befriend the owner of Impartner before being hired, and he came to know me as an honest person. He told me that honesty was the most important trait he was looking for; it’s a crucial quality in any career, but it’s especially important in IT. IT is a field full of little crises, nearly all of them caused by small tweaks made by one employee. When people try to hide their mistakes, things go wrong. But if they’re honest about what was altered, the issues are fixed in no time.

-Kory Willis, Senior Director of IT, Impartner

Take Care of the Details

I carefully tailored my resume. Specifically, I showed my resume to dozens of people and received numerous critiques. I ultimately decided to remove a lot of my old projects and positions, even though I really liked to talk about them. Less is more when it comes to resumes.

I also highlighted my freelancing experience. While people might think that you should only talk about the positions that you've held, I found that my freelancing work was really interesting to interviewers. Side projects are a plus, too.

Finally, I practiced for coding interviews with a pen and paper, rather than on my laptop. I found that using a pen and paper forces me to think critically about every line of code that I write, which is often valuable during an interview.

-Neel Somani, Student at UC Berkeley, Summer Intern at Google and developer at Apptic

Have an Opinion

We're trained from a young age to fit in, and to learn from others who know more than we do. But in the workplace, just getting along will only get you so far. Have an opinion about everything that matters. Base that opinion on fact when you can, be friendly when you share it, and be willing to change your mind – but always have an opinion, even if you know it needs to be developed.

-Doug Bordonaro, Chief Data Evangelist, ThoughtSpot

Ask for Lots of Advice – but Don't Listen to All of It

You can never please everyone. If someone is giving you feedback or advice that doesn’t feel true to who you are, then maybe that advice isn’t a good fit for you. It’s important to listen to a wide variety of opinions, but you have to trust your gut as to whether you should take that advice.

-Shelley Westman, Principal and Partner, EY Cybersecurity

If you're still a student or are seeking to upgrade your IT skills to advance your career choices, consider an educational program designed with those goals in mind. The career opportunities in IT are growing every day, but landing the top jobs in the field will take a little something extra, and some combination of education, networking and savvy career decisions along the way.


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Techopedia Staff

At Techopedia, we aim to provide insight and inspiration to IT professionals, technology decision-makers and anyone else who is proud to be called a geek. From defining complex tech jargon in our dictionary, to exploring the latest trend in our articles or providing in-depth coverage of a topic in our tutorials, our goal is to help you better understand technology - and, we hope, make better decisions as a result.