How to get a career in technology

Published by Ruth Cornish on 12 May 2014.
Last updated on 12 May 2014


Whether it's in software development or on the support side, working in IT is at the cutting edge of the business world.

These days technology is hard to avoid, whether we devour it as hungry consumers or embrace it as leaders of organisations. Many of us will remember when IT first crept into the workplace: word processors replacing the click-clack of the typing pool. Now the global marketplace links us all 24/7.

As technology has increased its influence in the workplace, so it has metamorphosed the career options for individuals. It used to be the case that working in IT was seen as purely technical and career limiting if one aspired to progressing to management but now that every large company has at least a chief information officer and often a chief technology officer commanding large salaries there is much to aim for - Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo, is a good example of how far you can go in IT.

Companies will typically have an IT support side which looks after the infrastructure: the mainframes, servers and for some data storage (though much of that is being moved on to clouds) as well as supporting users, fixing problems, keeping all systems working. This can be in-house or outsourced with the key focus on cost, flexibility and speed. The use of self-employed contractors is wide spread with many earning in excess of £100,000 a year.

An exciting area is software development which is the sexy face of IT (but with a hard commercial edge), bringing creativity and technical skills together to create new applications and ways of doing things. Programmers developing software may have formal training or qualifications but can be self-taught with the internet and global forums acting as their tutor.


Kevin O'Sullivan, lead development engineer for resource management firm SITA, says: "I love the buzz of having an idea, working it up with my team and selling it to a company, then watching how it becomes a significant factor in revenue generation."

Children study technology at school and it is a popular option at GCSE and A-levels and as a degree choice. But it can also be a mid-career option for those who have an active interest in new technology and are informed users in their current role or outside the workplace. IT above all industries can be accessed by anyone at any age with the right aptitude.

If one is not interested in learning how to code, there is the vast and growing area of managing IT projects as well as leading technical teams and acting as the bridge between the business and the team, understanding needs, translating technical jargon and meeting deadlines.

When I'm working with a new company reviewing the board profile against the ambitions of the business, there can often be a glaring gap (IT sometimes reports into another function, reflecting the past) and hiring someone who has the ability to influence the business strategy directly at this level is critical for the whole success of the business.

At the top of their game, the best IT professionals will possess the ability to quickly grasp the art of the possible and influence their companies to make progressive and informed choices about how they will use technological solutions to creative competitive advantage.

O'Sullivan adds: "IT professionals with good communication skills will always progress rapidly in the same way that companies ignoring the development of new technologies do so at their peril."

The skills required

Persistence, patience, determination and logic are all important skills, as well as the ability to communicate what you are doing and why. If you enjoy variety, communicating and are above all commercial, you will be sought after with a good choice of employment options. Technology skills lend themselves very easily to employment, self-employment or running your own business.

Choosing a career in technology will guarantee you an ever-changing job, keeping you fresh and learning new things all the time. It's a sector that sees skills more than age and will always be at the cutting edge of the business world. A highly fulfilling, solid and progressive career option.



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