So, You Want a Career in IT?
Bryan Cobb, IT Director, NKADD
According to University.com, "Big Data is the term used to describe the enormous amounts of data that companies are accumulating thanks to advanced computer technology". With all of this information being collected, doors are opening for professionals who have a background in data mining, database programming, web programming, data center operations, storage and more. How do you become a "professional who has a background" in these technologies? This is the part that takes the most work. The old adage nothing is easy comes to mind…but with a little hard work and some strategic connections, you can position yourself to land one of these high paying, lucrative jobs.
Like most careers, it starts with laying a foundation in education. Obtaining the education doesn't automatically grant you a high paying tech job. Can you afford to take a pay-cut to start out in a new field? Do you have the time to complete your educational goals? Make sure you think through every step of the process, because I've seen individuals spend $20k on an IT education only to fall back into low paying or non-technical jobs.
If you decide this is the right career path, a 4 year degree from a university is the best option; however community colleges and 2-year technical schools offer alternatives. But make sure your classes will transfer to a 4-year university. Also, check with the school for intern opportunities that can help you get the experience you need while you are attending school. Northern Kentucky University has a co-op program as well as the Center for Applied Informatics "virtual co-op" program. This program allows students to work with NKU faculty and perform real world work for companies all over the globe, thus gaining them the experience they need in a college setting.
"Northern Kentucky University's Center for Applied Informatics Virtual Co-op Program was honored for its success in adapting the traditional co-op education model, offering paid internships to students, into an initiative that provides almost all services virtually. The program now serves more than 120 students per year, and students develop mobile apps, websites, and similar products for more than 200 companies and non-profits, as well as providing services to 50 start-ups."
The next step is gaining experience and networking. If you're smart about where you chose to go to school, you already have a head start and hopefully an "in" with the company you've interned with. This is a critical stage of your career; you will need to keep your foot on the gas while attempting to gain experience as well as networking with other IT professionals. Join local IT networking groups in your area.
Another way to do this is to use LinkedIn.com effectively (which is a whole other write-up). LinkedIn is the world's largest professional networking site and offers many professional groups which in-turn, offer networking events. Some organizations are really good about using LinkedIn to post job ads as well, so make sure you are receiving regular updates.
Here are a few Networking sites to check out.
Finally the biggest challenge to starting your career will be getting your foot in the door. No one will hire you without experience, so how do you get the experience you need? This is why interning is so important while going to school. If you don't intern with a company, you may have to get creative. Talk to the organization you work with now to see if you can spend a little time with their IT department. Offer to do this on your own time. Volunteer your time with another organization that might benefit from your IT skills and use these efforts to build your resume. No one said this would be easy, but the hard work will pay off. In the end, you could end up with one of those high-paying lucrative jobs in Big Data.
Bryan Cobb is the IT Director for the Northern KY Area Development District (NKADD) and has over 20 years' experience in the IT industry. Bryan started his career at Northern KY University where he interned for American Linen Supply in Florence, KY. His first real job was doing data entry and reporting for a radio research company before moving on to a programming position at a marketing firm in Cincinnati. Bryan climbed the ladder to Networking Services and was promoted to Senior Network Engineer before becoming the IT Director at the NKADD.