from an IT dude to those seeking to enter the field

Discussion in 'General Mac Discussion' started by jefhatfield, Apr 20, 2002.

  1. jefhatfield Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    after an interesting hour long thread on the topic of education and real world experience with a couple other posters i want to make a new thread

    while computer education via degrees and certifications are important, they are not as important as real world IT experience

    as alphatech has mentioned, and i have seen, people with no experience but with a degree/cert get booted out of the IT field within two or three weeks (or out of IT depts or the IT business field)

    so here is my suggestion to IT students - learn your stuff, get good grades, but do not, not ever, take that "knowledge" to work into an IT department or into business because it is theory and the first thing you don't want to do with your theoretical education is blow up the network admin's server!

    unlearn your education, and keep your ears and eyes wide open

    (you may think that this is condescending older man **** from the hatman, but you will thank me when you see some smarty pants "educated" IT guy bite the dust on a daily basis)

    come on to silicon valley but realize that we are an industry here, not a textbook and keep your little pieces of paper at home where they belong
  2. jefhatfield thread starter Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    a couple of cs students i know go thru a dual education mode...on one end they memorize computer science theory for the tests in school but also work in a computer lab or volunteer somewhere with computers to get that hands on experience so they learn the "real" quirks of hardware and software in the setting of the real world

    the most ironic thing is that many cs students who do this find they actually don't like the unsanitary world of real computing for a boss and change majors and many liberal arts majors who graduate only see teaching jobs in the paper so they end up going into computers out of financial desparation and it is those who the IT departments hire

    those IT departments know that these liberal arts college grads have huge loans to pay back and have found no other way maybe these IT departments find a captive, loyal employee base they can push around

    whatever the reality is, i can't tell you how many non-computer college grads i see in the IT world and maybe these liberal arts IT people didn't have four years in college of computer science who one cs grad told me and that 4 years is all most people will ever want to see of computer hardware and software...she called it the burnout syndrome of computer science students

    being a computer science teacher, i strive to find a way to keep the field interesting while still trying to keep some theory there...if i toss out all theory, i might as well tell them all to leave class and go work for an IT department

    the catch 22 is something many young students have to deal with when they get out of college because employers are scared to go with someone without a track record
  3. Geert macrumors 6502a


    May 28, 2001
    I agree, IT departement from our company exists only of IT degreed people, but boy, they don't know jack s**t of the network, from time to time I have to put them back on the track:D , and I like that!!!
  4. jefhatfield thread starter Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    most IT college programs teach the software side like apps programming, C++, java, etc... and very few college programs actually have computer hardware degrees like networking or computer/component repair and design

    ...believe me, i have searched and all i have found are computer engineering degrees which only have "some" networking involved but mix it with circuit design, electronic engineering, or some other hardware technology which may or may not come in handy as a network admin

    it seems that the certification industry has taken over the training on the hardware side (like networking) while the colleges and universities have taken the software side

    but that is in the us, but i think if it is the same in belgium, it would make more sense for the IT department where you work to hire certified people for your networking section and have the degreed people on the software side of your IT department (assuming your company wants all certified and degreed people in your IT department)

    one major problem is that there is a big difference between the people who often have skill sets in computer hardware and people who have skill sets in computer software and programming...a person is usually good at hardware or software, but not both...there are some exceptions, but they are extraordinarily rare

    i used to tutor at college in computer hardware and many of the students were great programmers but could not plug a hairdryer into a socket...they also had horrible spatial relations skills...on the other hand, i am not good at programming and neither are many of my fellow hardware techies who often have engineering degrees ee/el/mechanical/civil engineering

    human resource people mostly think that a computer person is a computer person, but i split computer people into three basic groups (programmers, hardware techies, and apps experts like many here - photoshop, illustrator, final cut pro, maya, etc...)

    no one can know it all and anyone who says they are equally good at programming, hardware, and apps is full of it

    no one is equally good at everything otherwise michael jordan would have hit 74 homers in his short baseball career:p
  5. gbojim macrumors 6502

    Jan 30, 2002
    Working in the IT field and doing quite a bit of contract teaching in CS, I agree with virtually everything jefhatfield pointed out.

    Without getting off on a rant, I'd like to add one point to the CS students which is do not think that you know everything about the IT field and computers just because you have been playing with a PC since you were 10 years old.

    I'm never surprised when the freshman class arrives and the arguments rage around AMD vs Intel and Nvidia vs ATI. What I often find amazing though is in a fourth year project where a team has to develop the plan and costing to purchase and install a network based on a variety of requirements including 500 desktop computers, many still stand up to give their presentation and spend 15 of their available 20 minutes telling the rest of the class and me about how they agonized over Athlon or P4 and whether they should have purchased Geforce4 Ti or Radeon 8500. Meanwhile, they ran out of time to consider how to cable the building, what type of WAN technology to use, etc.

    Believe me, its not like they had not heard a 1000 times over their 4 years of university education what the important considerations are and the considerations that don't really matter.

    Oops - end of mini rant.
  6. Beej macrumors 68020


    Jan 6, 2002
    Buffy's bedroom
    Well I finish my cs degree at the end of the year. I have a job waiting for me when I finish (in networking). I have not been offered the job because I will have a degree, but because
    a) I am good with technology, and
    b) I can learn quickly.

    I'd just like to say, however, that everyone (well, almost) in my course knew that it was highly unlikely that they would walk out into a job and not need any extra training. We chose cs because it gives a good overview in a lot of areas (programming, hardware, networking etc - well, it does in Australia, but it sounds like it doesn't in the US.) We chose cs knowing that we would likely need much more specific training before we got a job.

    Where I am, cs is not about knowing everything, it's about getting a decent understanding of a lot.
  7. Choppaface macrumors 65816

    Jan 22, 2002
    so in other words, hang out with your system admin as much as your professor when you go to college?
  8. jefhatfield thread starter Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    exactly...that is, if networking and computer hardware technologies is your thing

    if you want to be a computer artist, hang out around artists in the field or get an intership in a graphics house/recording studio/etc

    or if you want to go software side, get an internship with a programming dept

    in many cases, your internship will be your first job and you will have the jump on cs grads who only have a piece of paper and no experience

    only the federal government, as far as i know, will often take a cs person with absolutely no experience and while you won't find the best IT people in the public sector, it will be a good baby step for the real world of IT

    ...i am thankful for my first real job after college working for uncle sam...they may give someone the title of a computer person and have you just stuff envolopes, but sometimes (rarely though), they may give you computer work but at a much more relaxed pace than the real world so if you are not up to working six days a week, 10 hours a day, try a government or educational job at first

    work ethics have unfortunately reverted back to the sweatshop mentality, but instead of being hunched over stitching garments in a factory just off the boat at ellis island, one will be fresh out of college hunched over a computer at least 50 hours a week, and in some companies, taking lunch outside of your desk could jeopordize your job

    the pay could be good, or even great in some areas, but don't just jump straight into the fire right out of school, ease into the hectic pace slowly and you will find it is not so bad that way

    if you are exceptionally talented, you can start your own IT business like dell and gates did, and there are some kids who take to it like a fish to water, but then again realize that if corporate hours average fifty a week, self employed techs could find themselves living and breathing computers 24/7 and some would not want it any other way ;)
  9. mac15 macrumors 68040


    Dec 29, 2001
    I am finding it hard to get into the field (I'm only 16)
    most people want atleast 2-3 years experience and its so hard to get
    its a one in a million thing
  10. gbojim macrumors 6502

    Jan 30, 2002
    Try getting into some volunteer work. If you stay at the same place, you will eventually be trusted enough to work on some good things. By the time you finish college, you will have some pretty good experience on your resume, not to mention references.
  11. mac15 macrumors 68040


    Dec 29, 2001
    Even thats hard to come by
    People just don't want you
    I went for one as a video editors assistant......
    but I was to young and they said no experience needed
    It was an easy job
    Backing up files ain't hard (thats all I had to do)
  12. AlphaTech macrumors 601


    Oct 4, 2001
    Natick, MA
    That is one of the points I was making earlier. Real world experience is valued more then just a degree. Mind you, a degree (just about any degree) is a huge help these days. Get at least a BFA or BS degree, Associates are almost useless when it comes to the computer field. Usually, they are just stop-gap measures until you can get a four year degree.

    One of the reasons I was hired where I am today, is that I have the art degree and I spent many years as a user of the applications and hardware that are on the floor at the company. My manager/superior wanted someone that could relate to the users and understand their pain. Besides, how many CS degree people understand how to trouble shoot Quark XPress problems??? Desktop support is harder to get into without real world experience/knowledge then server work. Companies looking for server admin's might take someone with either little or no experience, but desktop support is completely different. That gets amplified when you start talking about supporting Mac's. You could have m$ certs and peecee degree's out the whazoo but the person hiring for a Mac tech won't really care. You would have to be a great BS artist to get into that job, and have to learn incredibly fast to keep it. Those are the people that are usually gone within a few weeks to a month because they just don't have the knowledge to do the job.

    To get even better jobs, try to get experience with large corporations. Once you have that, even more doors get opened for you. Intern for at least a full summer (longer if you can) with at least a moderately large company (at least 50-100 users to support). That will give you a leg up over the thousands of other people competing for the few good jobs out there. Being in the IS/IT department of a small company won't do you much good when you go for the real good paying jobs in corporate America. When I say small, I mean anything under 25-35 systems that you need to support.

    Just to give you an idea of what corporate America desktop support entails... At the company I work at, we have an average of 125-150 users per tech. I support approx. 125 Mac systems, and 40 peecee systems at work. It used to be about 60 users per tech, but no longer. The other departments have grown, but we have either maintained or lost head count. You quickly learn to do perventative maintenance and how to quickly deploy applications and systems within the environment. There was one point where I averaged three to four system configurations and deliveries per day. That was as well as handling help calls. I am not talking about systems for editors or writers but designers and page production specialists (last step before the books hit the printer as in offset press). Since the last one, I have since obtained the tools to make an installer that contains most of the software that I need to install (on the Mac side). This is a huge help, since it has cut the install time from up to one to 1-1/2 hours to under 10 minutes (inclused updates for many of the applications). There are still 'tweaks' that need to be done, but those can be done in under 20-30 minutes. Then I can run the full set of utilities before the system rolls out of my office onto the user's desk.

    That is just a small taste of what I am involved in, or what my job entails.
  13. mac15 macrumors 68040


    Dec 29, 2001
    Most of your degrees make no sence
    I from australia and all of our degrees are different and I don't know what your mean
    But employers would rather look a piece of paper saying you can use a computer rather than what you can do on it
    is sucks
  14. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus


    Oct 5, 2001
    San Diego, CA
    Since most 4-year schools don't offer "Computer Technician" as a degree option, students have to choose between going to a trade school (ITT Tech, Devry, etc.) or going into CS (which really won't do much for them in the real world as a technician).

    I think that part of the problem is that technical work of this kind is seen as a trade. Yet, I would argue it's more of an art. Artists learn how to work with different mediums in school in hands-on settings. Techs learn how to troubleshoot different types of hardware and software by getting hands-on experience. Discerning between a hardware failure or software symptom can seem like black magic to some, but experience tells you which is which.

    Tech work is relegated to a kind of semi-skilled manual laborer in terms of the educational world. How many times have we seen those commercials with Sally Struthers (or whoever) talking about getting your degree through the mail? Guess repair is one of those degrees offered. It's not taken seriously as an educational path for young people to take.
  15. jefhatfield thread starter Retired


    Jul 9, 2000

    desktop technicians, server/network admins, router types, and telcomm techs are all considered tradesmen, even if they have college or graduate degrees...a big percentage of mcse techs have master's degrees

    the programmers, with or without a degree, are considered professionals...regardless

    however, in corporate america, these titles have little or nothing to do with pay since a person with a high end certification makes more than someone with a four year degree (visual basic magazine annual salary survery...check it out, it is very revealing)

    find what your niche is and don't worry what they call you...anybody who gets paid for computer work is a professional and anybody who works in IT is in the high tech trade as a tradesman

    here in silicon valley, high tech was once considered a "cottage industry" and many did not consider it a real job or career of any real significance

    when you are young, there could be prejudice against you and san jose, ca is unlike anywhere i imagine because many of the success stories i hear about teens like shawn fanning and the two kids who started "hard candy" young girl's cosmetics are stories tied into silicon valley

    mac work as a tech is different since you are not only a paid professional and a skilled tradesman, but like mentioned above, you are an artist

    my wife has her bfa degree and is the tech for her department, as well as many other things

    a pc tech like me could have the ease of only doing one thing and all i have to do is get experience, and a certification/degree and that's all...but as a mac tech, you have to have all that (degree/cert not necessary though but helpful) and know art and software programs

    mac techs usually have to know more and get paid less but where many pc techs are just hacks, mac techs are most often true experts and multi-dimensional

    btw...i am only a mac user and not anything close to being a mac tech, but if you want that,


    1) experience first and foremost
    2) get a mac certification
    3) get either a bfa degree, a cs degree, business degree, or any degree (probably in that order)

    rower cpu has the best qualifications a mac technician and engineer can possibly have...and someone like that would be the perfect candidate to own and operate an apple sponsored independent store (which is probably the ultimate zenith a mac person can achieve both educationally and monetarily)
  16. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus


    Oct 5, 2001
    San Diego, CA
    Thanks for the vote of confidence jef! :D

    That would be quite something to achieve all of that...who knows, it just might happen...:cool:
  17. jefhatfield thread starter Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    cool, maybe you can move up north a few hundred miles, hook up with mischief and his impressive skillset, and ambitiouslemon and his impressive skillset and buy out "elite computers, inc"


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