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By Cindi Miller

What is the first step in a career in Information Technology?

A recent interview with Sean Nihalani, CEO of HiTek Solutions, revealed an optimistic outlook for the future of the IT profession, as well as practical advice on how to get started and stay ahead. HiTek Solutions specializes in IT training and tech support, as well as web development and client servicing.

What types of skills are necessary for an IT career?

Analytical skills and technical aptitude are the most important skills. What does the customer require? Age is not a barrier, young or old, and you don't have to be good at math, and you don't need 4 years in college! You do need to be able to problem solve and enjoy new challenges.

Are jobs in IT team-oriented or individualistic?

Actually, both. You can work from home or you can be in an office providing technical support or maybe have a management position. There's great flexibility in IT.

What are the growth prospects of the IT industry?

The growth is exponential! There is a shortage of people, so companies recruit from classes and are even willing to train you. This is great for people making a career change.

What types of companies are looking for IT professionals?

All types - everybody uses computers. Small businesses need IT expertise, while many big companies have in-house IT departments, or outsource to an IT service company. Accounting firms, law firms, real estate companies, escrow companies, retail stores - even a chain of video stores has 4 or 5 computers. Computer networks are everywhere.

What specialties are there within the profession?

No matter what background you have, PC knowledge is always an asset. It will allow you to perform better even if you are not working in the technology field. Lawyers, accountants, anyone can benefit. Knowledge of computers has become essentially important for hardware and software engineers too.

What kinds of job titles apply to IT?

At an entry level, "P.C. Technician" or "Help Desk Support" is typical. At mid-level, the job titles include " System Analyst", "Network Engineer", " Internet Systems Engineer" "Network Administrator or IT Manager", and a variety of MIS (Management Information System) titles. The company itself defines title. Even technical sales professionals or management personnel can use IT knowledge.

What kind of training is needed to start?

The foundation begins with training as a PC Systems Specialist and Network Systems Specialist. After that, there are opportunities to focus in specialties such as Microsoft Windows 2000 Networks , Cisco Routers, Data Communications, Web Architect, e-Commerce, Databases , Programming and so on. With better foundation, individuals can do a better job in their field of specialty.

How long does it take to prepare?

Typically, for entry level, training will take six to eight months, at 10-12 hours per week. This translates to one or two nights per week, and one Saturday or Sunday a week.

How should someone get trained?

I think an instructor-led program is the most effective. The human interaction builds confidence, and more confidence leads to more success! By not being isolated, the student is able to learn more, ask questions, and get immediate feedback. The classroom has many more computers, and is able to simulate more real-life situations than a student studying at home alone. Also, a university class has more recognition, which is an asset. There's a great demand for IT professionals who have certification, both from a university and vendor-specific.

What about self-paced instruction?

Unless you have facilities at work, don't do self-paced. There are so many computer programs to install, configure, trouble-shoot, etc. Both the on-line courses and books out there are fine for supplementing an instructor-led program, but you'll get a higher level of learning in the classroom.

What kind of training is needed on an ongoing basis?

Usually the job dictates what is needed. What the customer wants leads to change, and change creates jobs and opportunities! You should keep up with the newer technologies since this is an ever-changing field. Always update yourself.

What's the salary outlook in IT?

Let me tell you a story… A 19-year-old pizza delivery boy decided to take our IT courses. He was very determined and worked hard. He got his first IT job at $44 thousand per year, and was making $80 thousand after six months! IT changes people's lives ! The average IT salary in Southern California is $57,000 per year. With two years experience, that number goes up to $70 to $80 thousand per year. Four years experience typically translates to $90 to $120 thousand per year, depending on the individual. IT managers average $140 thousand per year. Of course, it depends on the individual's capabilities and on the employer.

Here are some of the characteristics needed to be successful in the IT field.

Determination and self-motivation

Ability to adapt to change

Customer oriented

Team player

Technical and analytical/reasoning aptitude

As a computer user, you enjoy the computer

Enjoy creativity

Any final words for those interested in Information Technology?

Whether you want to make a mid-career change, or are just starting out, there are so many job opportunities! Everyone can find his or her niche doing what they like. Everyday, you learn something new in this exciting field.




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