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It’s always interesting (to me, anyway) when a young person asks me, “Should I get into the IT field?”  Even my own kids have asked me that question.  Every time, I do the same thing:  pause, stare off into the distance, take a long inhale, and rub my chin.  Then slowly bring it back to Earth and exhale, and respond:

“It depends.”

My next step, if they don’t cut me off mid-sentence, is to ask what things they’re interested in.  That helps me associate their personae to areas of the “IT field” which might be a “best fit” for them.  For example, creative with an art perspective, or creative from a mechanical/process/formulaic aspect?

One might be better suited for applications development or UI/UX work, or possibly CAD/CAM/3D-printing/gaming, or maybe more in the infrastructure/network/infosec side.  I often generalize like that, because I’ve seen it demonstrated hundreds of times in my 30+ years in this field.  There are exceptions, of course.

Some are happier in large corporate jungles, buried in a nest of cubicals and employee handbooks.  Some are happier in a roach-infested studio in a cool part of town, near the best pizza joints and pubs.  Some are happier working from home.  Some happier being on travel most of the time.  Like any career aspect: it’s heavily influenced by personality types.

My chin-rubbing gives me time to compare, contrast and evaluate the relative pros/cons of “today vs. yesterday” characteristics.   The industry is always moving in different directions.  The place to be investing your time and energy now, won’t be the same as it will be in a year from now. Entire career paths exist today which didn’t even have a name ten years ago.

What’s Better?

Some things are much better off today than 10 or 20 years ago.  Not just the technology either.

  • IT and Business processes have matured – even if they’re still miles apart in most environments.
  • Training is more easily obtained: videos, blogs, free courses, trialware, personal virtualization, cheaper hardware, etc.  Public schools offer more as well.
  • The IT job market is more spread out than it once was.
  • There’s room for more niches within the “IT field” as well

What’s Worse?

  • IT role compression is accelerating, which has devastating impact on proactive efforts in IT.
  • The certification market is more profit focused than it once was
  • The opportunity window for learning/mastering and leveraging a new technology (from a job opportunity aspect) is becoming shorter each year
  • The “work/life balance” phrase is complete bullshit – IF – you intend to make a high income.

In general, it’s easier to obtain the tools and knowledge than it was 20 years ago.  However, business management has also used that time to impose ever-greater micro-management metrics mojo on the whole operation.  Even the app-devs (the last hold-outs from metrics-hell) are slowly being assimilated.

That said, the range of job skills will vary by geographic location and industry, which is odd that in 2016 we’re supposed to be (essentially) virtual creatures in a social media macrocosm.  Yet, the gaming and VR jobs are easier to find in the Bay area than in Kentucky, but there’s always the mobile app option.  There are other niche directions like research (medical, environmental, industrial, defense), non-profit (good for the soul, sometimes), and so on.

Is it a good idea to jump into the IT field after high school?

It depends.

(am I full of shit?  let me know – post a comment)

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