How to choose a career in ICT

career in IT
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Being passionate and ambitious are essential characteristics for a successful career in ICT. Jobs are growing rapidly in this sector, creating new opportunities for people to access a huge range of cutting-edge careers. From film to finance to pharmaceuticals, there are employers looking for people with the right ICT skills. In fact, more than 60 per cent of people working with technology have jobs outside the traditional ICT sector of software development in ICT firms.

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Not all roles within the four main career streams involve coding and developing – some tasks go beyond that and require intelligence, creativity and innovation. In whatever one does, he or she must do it with fervour and willingness to learn more. Technology is dynamic, always changing and improving, and one needs to make his/her job irreplaceable (by a robot) through intelligent opinions and ideas. People must enjoy doing what they do in order for their career to flourish.

What do you consider in choosing a career in Information Technology (IT)? Ten tips have been compiled. Here are the details of first set of 5 tips you should consider in making a career choice in IT the remaining part of this tips will be sent to you next week via this column.

1. There is financial reward in IT but don’t choose your career simply for the money:

IT is financially rewarding when you choose the right field, make sensible career choices and work hard. Although the economic factor must come into play when making a career decision, it shouldn’t be the sole determining factor. Because IT is a field that facilitates the creation of wealth in an efficient and effective manner, there is a tendency to attract the “get-rich-quick” clique. It is unwise to think of your career solely in terms of “where the oil is flowing”. IT is not a “get-rich quick” scheme. If immediate results are what you are after, then the IT field might not be what you want. Nobody is in IT for the sole purpose of making you rich. An IT career is more like a marathon than a short sprint.

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From the narrow prism of money you spend and money you make, how will you quantify frustration, sacrifice, “brain-stretching”? An IT career isn’t just about wealth, but the ability to create wealth. If money is your sole focus, how will you make the effort required for empowerment? You must have a purpose beyond money. Don’t get me wrong; money is part of your reward when you contribute. But money is only critical in helping you meet your obligations and in fulfilling your purpose. What is money if what you do soils your name and reputation? Can money replace goodwill and networking that helps you build relationships and open closed doors? Of what value is a “shortcut to riches” mentality when you can’t manage people? What is money without a future, lifelong learning and without opportunities for growth? Money is nothing without creativity – the ideas and attitudes you need to overcome challenges and create opportunity as you grow your career. Please grow up. Get deep. Aim for financial fulfillment and career worth. Drop the money fixation and put more bandwidth into your thinking – a career in IT offers much more than money. A career is about self-actualization issues – knowledge, empowerment, recognition, opportunity, influence, reputation, ability (technical and people) and self-reliance.

2. Avoid the “bandwagon effect” when choosing a career in ICT:

Don’t jump on anybody’s bandwagon. What is good for Lagbaja may not be good for Tamedun. For some it has been described as the “Feel Good, Rave of the moment or Go with the flow” factor. Everybody seems to rush for the hot career choices.

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One has to be careful because when faced with either insufficient career guidance, or an avalanche of confused or conflicting career “misguidance” information, jumping on the bandwagon, seems the easy way out.

You have joined the bandwagon but do you know where the bandwagon is going? What is your purpose? It is important to observe trends but must you always move with the wind?

Everybody’s running after the “best” areas, nobody wants to grow. Many are always asking questions about the “best” areas. Typical questions I get asked include: “Which area or field is better than the other?” “Which is the best field in IT?” “Which is the best certification?” “Which are the hottest certifications?”

Is database admin better than programming? Or is programming better than database admin? Give me a break! Get your career on the right track by focusing on issues that matter. Please no area is best. What works for you may not work for me. Don’t live the dreams of others. Certifications and IT career opportunities exist in a wide variety of fields including: Engineering, Networking, Programming, Database Administration, Web Development and Research. Each of these fields has unique requirements. The question is where are you and where are you going? Don’t jump on the bandwagon, but instead look for how your interests and strengths fit in. What are your interests? What are your IT capabilities? What is the level of your IT know-how?

Your career shouldn’t be dictated by what your friends are doing. Neither should it be determined by powerful media promotion. Avoid the bandwagon effect by having a deep understanding of the various career areas and what it takes to succeed in these areas. You need to have sound knowledge and information about the nature of work and work requirements. What are the trends, what are the innovations, which business needs are being addressed, where is the industry heading? Avoid the bandwagon effect by having a career plan. Your career decisions and direction should be determined within the context of your unique career plan.   Although some career fields are more popular than others, popularity alone shouldn’t be your primary concern. Ignore the distractions of hype, immediate benefit and short-lived “fantasy island” career success by focusing on areas that are more in line with your ability and goals. Building your IT Career isn’t about living a “copycat” life; it’s about living your own dreams. Be focused and do your homework.

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3. With specific reference to IT, don’t jump on IT because IT is the in thing:

There is no doubt that the scope of IT is quite wide. This scope has certainly been expanded through the phenomenal growth of the Internet, advances in technology and increasing global dependence on IT. IT is certainly the key facilitator of development in this age. Your interest in IT should go beyond empty noise. In a world ruled by fads and trends, IT may be the “reigning champion”, but the significance of IT is more than that – IT adds value. Do you really appreciate the power of IT or are you simply pursuing the latest craze? The benefits of IT and e-business should be obvious. The Internet has transformed the way we interact, communicate, learn and do business. Interest in the digital revolution isn’t a technology issue. Using IT for development creates tremendous educational, social and business opportunities. All sectors of the economy require the services of skilled technical IT personnel. Individuals with such skills are involved in designing, developing, maintaining, installing, configuring and managing IT systems. Examples of the use of such skills include: writing software programs, repairing computer systems, developing and securing database systems, etc.

Building a career in IT is therefore an opportunity to exploit the new economy opportunities offered by IT and e-business. Your career focus should be on how to contribute to and benefit from the new economy. An IT career is more than gimmickry. It’s about acquiring IT competencies that are required not only to take advantage of environment, but also to overcome the new challenges the knowledge economy introduces.

4. First and foremost, you must answer the “Who Am I” question when choosing a career in IT:

Understand yourself. Sincere self-evaluation is a necessity for quality career management. Knowing who you are helps you in determining what you want and don’t want in a career, and in providing career direction.

What are your interests, abilities, skills, values, hopes, personality, qualities, strengths, weaknesses, attitudes and ambitions? Self-awareness is a combination of past experiences, current thoughts and future ambition. What do you do make of your past – your memories, experiences, failures, achievements, qualifications, growth?

What interests you? Ideas, people, or things? Are you more of an ‘I’ or a ‘we’ person? How do you like to work with data, people and things? What are your likes and dislikes? What do you want, what are you good at, what are you afraid of, what do you need, and what makes you happy? What gives you meaning and satisfaction? What is your fundamental driving force? What’s most important to you? Who are you?

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The IT space is vast and self-awareness is key to knowing which area is appropriate for you. For example, can you work at unusual hours? How do you handle stress – “putting out fires” and solving problems? The people factor is also important. Who are you when it comes to relating to people?

 We live in the world of constant change. How comfortable are you with the beast called lifelong learning? In IT learning never stops. What is your learning style? How do you learn (thinking and understanding) best? What works for you in terms of seeing, hearing, and doing?

You must do your research and ask around about career opportunities, but the value of your research is dependent on the quality of your self-knowledge. Do you know who you are?

5. Before choosing a career in ICT, what is your interest?

Do you want to create, provide or use IT, or create with IT? Are you the sort of person who wants to know how IT itself works, i.e. the inner workings and how you can be an IT creator, or you are more interested in how to get results using IT? The IT revolution results in a demand not only for Computer professionals but also for competent, creative and IT savvy individuals in all sectors and spheres of life. Do you need IT competency to perform at your best, or are you interested in being an IT specialist? Which field or profession really interests you? You can become a proficient user or an e-business professional in your field of interest – medicine, marketing, law, agriculture, education, manufacturing, non-profit, government, etc.

For example lawyers today are conducting research through the Internet, doctors retrieve and update medical records electronically, while entrepreneurs are creating new types of businesses using the Internet.

And if becoming IT specialist is your goal, what is your interest? How much do you know about the different IT career options, such Networking, Database Administration, etc? The IT industry offers a wide range of positions that vary in their requirements and expectations. To start an IT career, you should have a reasonable idea of the requirements of the area you’re interested in. What you should do first is to learn about the various career options. What does the job entail? What is your background? What are the skill needs? What are the personality requirements? Read more about IT Career Profiles and Professions

As a starting point, I have just looked at the first set of five tips you should consider in making your IT career decisions.

Ubong Nsekpong

Ubong Nsekpong is a graduate of Communication Engineering from FUTO. Founder, TechForest SoftTechnologies Ltd. A web developer, digital marketer, writer and a passionate promoter of the tech ecosystem in Nigeria South.

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