Posted by: Crowe | July 16, 2008

Being a Tech in IT Today

It’s tough to be an “IT Guy” these days.

I got my first IT job in 1998, after 4 years as an F/A-18 mechanic in the Marine Corps (Ooh-Rah VMFA-134!). It was a field that interested me then, and has become a passion of mine since. I cut my teeth building white boxes, hundreds of them, as well as servers. I became proficient at troubleshooting hardware issues by the dozens and moved on to administer our Windows NT 4.0 network within a year. By early the next year, I was the Server Guy, the Network Guy, and the Webmaster for Continental Maritime of San Diego (later bought by Newport News Shipbuilding and currently owned by Northrup Grumman). In late 1999, I earned my MCSE+I certifications and thought I was set! What I learned though was that IT is an ever-evolving world and those without the passion for it fail to advance and spend eternity answering helpdesk calls.

Today’s IT world is fascinating to me because for the first time, I am seeing once separate technologies merging to form a whole new creature. I see mixes of Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and appliances of all kinds coming together to create heterogeneous environments that really challenges the IT Pros that have specialized in one area or product. MCSEs or “Active Directory” or “Exchange” guys are now challenged to learn OSX and command line Linux. Even Windows Server 2008’s major strength is the PowerShell, which is a whole new beast in itself.

Firewalls, SPAM filtering, Active Directory, content filtering, VPN, VLAN switch environments, a whole slew of specialized network appliances, server virtualization and consolidation, distributed TV, terminal services/ thin client computing, IP phone and paging systems, video conferencing setups…these are all assumed knowledge and responsibilities for the new  breed of IT Guy. Backup tapes have given way to SANs and entirely separate Disaster Recovery sites have become commonplace after events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. (I work for a mid-western non-profit agency and we employ all of these technologies. It’s not just for the Fortune 500 crowd!) Many of these technologies didn’t exist 6 or 7 years ago.

So who do I think has the advantage…the seasoned IT Professional or the new breed of admins fresh from school?

In my experience, a passion for technology and a strong background trumps a college degree (as long as you want to be a tech for life). There are a huge number of people in the industry chasing a paycheck. Those who do not understand that to be successful in IT means to to be an eternal student, will eventually become overwhelmed and burn out.

I have also learned though that a tech is no longer just expected to just fix issues, but to recommend alternative options and to continuously improve the infrastructure. “Thinking like a CIO” is probably the most accurate description of the latest skill set desired by employers.

I’m in it for the ride and have determined to continue developing myself both technically and scholastically as I will be returning to college this fall (@ 33 years old, I might add) to continue pursuing my degree. For those with the passion and perseverance, this is THE time to be in IT. For those without, I think you should do some serious thinking about an alternative path…

Just my $.02.



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