Back in the middle years of the 20th century, hobbyists that had taught themselves about electronics were in short supply. These autodidacts had been the folks who built crystal radios before the transistor was invented.
Later they taught themselves how to build real radios using vacuum tubes (essentially a single transistor that ranged in size from a cigar tube to a can of tomato paste). Eventually companies like Heath™ began to sell packages with all the needed components to build something in particular. They became known as Heathkits.
Heathkits allowed hobbyists to build all sorts of electronic test equipment such as Ohmmeters and oscilloscopes; it allowed them to build decent quality audio equipment, shortwave radio equipment, televisions, robots, and eventually the famous H-8, H-11, and the H-89 computers.
Those people became the "experts"; the ones you called when you had a problem you couldn't solve. They were the ones that opened the first TV stores; they had a television-repair business and would bring tube testers, spare parts, and other test equipment to your house to fix your TV, since many TVs were essentially "furniture" enclosed in large cabinets and too large to move. They were Tech Support.
IT staffing companies in Dallas will be among the first to tell you that IT jobs are alive and well in the state of Texas. Demand is high and the supply is low. This is just about the best time to be in IT. These are the typical jobs and the salaries which they are currently drawing. It is such a good time to be a nerd or geek!
Ok, it has probably been said before, but I'm going to say it again because a lot of information technology (IT) job seekers just don't seem to get it. Don't specialize when you're just getting started. You don't have the experience, or for that matter, the ability to specialize yet.
Imagine that you have become a Ruby on Rails guru. Everybody in the IT department knows that you are the go-to expert for anything Ruby-related. One day your boss walks up to you and says "I've just hired four new web-app programmers for your department, and I need you to get them up-to-speed. Whip up a PowerPoint presentation for them, would you?"
"Ummm..." you say.
"Prepare a seminar for Monday. You'll have Conference Room B for an hour before lunch, and an hour after lunch. That should be enough time, right? Get back to me by Friday and report your progress. Thanks".
The problem is that you're a UNIX guy… You have no idea how PowerPoint works. Heck, you barely managed to create a satisfactory résumé in Microsoft WORD to get this job…
There's an old adage that exemplifies specialization. It points out that contemporary experts are getting to know more-and-more about less-and-less, and that one day soon we're going to be faced with people that know absolutely everything about next-to-nothing.
You don't want to be that person. All it will do is end up crippling your IT career.
All generalizations are useless…except this one
Be a Generalist. Of course you have interests in specific IT skills and jobs, and you can focus on those areas, but not to the exclusion of other knowledge.
The most successful people in the information technology business are generalists because not only can they work in multiple areas, but their diversified knowledge allows them to see relationships that elude specialists. We're talking about versatility, one of the most useful items you will ever have in your tool kit of skills.
Finding an IT job
IT jobs are geographically diverse. You can find them just about anywhere you can find people and electrical power. Unless you have some very specific requirements, such as "I want to live in Dallas and work for the Department of Defense" then you can find employment just about anywhere.
And the Race is On…
What are we going to see in 2016? More companies (and more recruiters) fighting for fewer and fewer highly-skilled people in IT. That doesn't mean just in the conventional technology sector; it also includes the healthcare sector, the finance sector, and everything else. It means manufacturing, marketing, produce farming, cattle breeding, chicken ranching, import/export, and anything that is touched in any way by a computer.
Back in the olden days (11 years ago) of businesses seriously beginning to use Information Services (IT) Services, the Harvard Business Review had this to say:
Despite the fact that corporate information assets can account for more than 50% of capital spending, most boards [of Directors] fall into the default mode of applying a set of tacit or explicit rules cobbled together from the best practices of other firms. Few understand the full degree of their operational dependence on computer systems or the extent to which IT plays a role in shaping their firms’ strategies.
Because there has been no comparable body of knowledge and best practice, IT governance doesn’t exist per se. Indeed, board members frequently lack the fundamental knowledge needed to ask intelligent questions about not only IT risk and expense but also competitive risk. (Oct /2005)
Since then IT staffing decision makers embraced the concept of delegating tasks outside of our organizations to people who are better equipped to deal with them. Aside from secure customer information, the whole concept of keeping everything "safely within the company" has pretty well disappeared.
Are you the "IT-girl" or "IT-boy"?
Typical salaries in the IT-related professions range from $24,000 per year to $160,000 per year, as long as we stay out of the C-suite. Of course there is no practical upper limit, since that is entirely dependent on skill, insight, leadership qualities, and personal brilliance.
Whereas someone is likely to ask you "What interests you about this position?" and the answer may be highly technical, I think we can safely disregard that because that question is asked in virtually every interview, irrespective of occupation.
More importantly, I can't give you the answers to most of the questions. The answers are going to be highly dependent on the situation and different for every single person. Some will be highly relevant and others, not so much. There are some guidelines however…
You're preparing for a performance review. Step one is...
Trust me—they are not as bad as you have built them up to be in your head. It's not about your manager trying to figure out some way to not give you more money, or approve some additional outside training, or allowing you to telecommute.
In truth, it's all about discovering how you have progressed. If it is your very first review there should be no big surprises. After all, in any intelligent, well-managed company the review process begins the day you were hired.
It is quite likely that you interact with your reviewer on a daily basis. Every time you speak with him he is giving you feedback, suggesting tactics or methodologies to improve your results. He has even probably told you about areas where you have exceeded his expectations.
Don't give an IT?
Your IT department is probably a very diverse team, with a broad array of skills. You may have rack-guys (or gals), and within that group probably some sub-genres that specialize in application servers, fax & print servers, file servers, game servers, mail servers, web servers, or even proxy servers.
Your team will certainly have some people that are focused exclusively on security. And, of course, you probably have a team running your help desk, whether for internal or external.
Depending on your business model, you may even have IT sales people. They might even be further divided into software and hardware.
How are you supposed to bring such a heterogeneous and motley crew together and inspire them to work as an effective unit?