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What is the best way for someone with plenty of sysadmin and programming experience but no actual professional IT experience to begin a career in IT?
July 1, 2011 11:34 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way for someone with plenty of sysadmin and programming experience but no actual professional IT experience to begin a career in IT?

I'm in my mid-30's and I'm changing careers. I have many years of technical, managerial, but non-IT experience and a Master's degree in engineering. I'm considering IT, especially network administration or information security, but I don't have much professional IT-related experience to list on my resume.

I have several years of programming experience that can be listed as "professional" but no professional admin experience. What I do have is a lifetime of hobbyist experience with Linux & Windows administration with very small networks, strong familiarity with network security, and proficiency with lots of programming languages I can't list under "professional" experience.

Am I a good candidate for certifications? Which ones?

All of the reading I've done suggests that all IT careers begin at the Helpdesk or Technical Support. I feel well overqualified for such an entry-level position. Is it possible to step past that? What jobs should I be targeting?

This is related, but represents slightly different circumstances.
posted by jpg15 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
A good position for you sounds like being the jack of all trades IT guy at a smaller company. Get real experience, have the position title and branch off into something bigger if you decide.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:49 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Contracting and temp work. The downside is that work can be tough to come by as you start, but will pick up as you gain experience and contacts. Try to get with a good contracting firm who can shop you around. If you know your stuff, it will come through in the interview. Just give references who can speak to your work ethic, don't sweat the tech refs.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:51 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


tech support isn't all entry level, and it really is the best way to learn how to help folks with IT stuff in a professional setting. you're gonna be up against a lot of other applicants who DO have a ton of on-the-job IT experience and the references to show for it. if you can afford to, start out at a company who will train you in their tech support and will let you move up as you gain experience.
posted by hollisimo at 11:55 AM on July 1, 2011


I have several years of programming experience that can be listed as "professional" but no professional admin experience. What I do have is a lifetime of hobbyist experience with Linux & Windows administration with very small networks, strong familiarity with network security, and proficiency with lots of programming languages I can't list under "professional" experience.

What you have is a whole lot of because-I-say-so, and not a whole lot of results. As a manager, one of my things to do during phone screens is to pick something like, say, network security, and find out what strong familiarity means. If it doesn't mean that you can diagram the packet exchanges that lead to DNS cache poisoning, for example, it means you're lying to me and not getting hired. Strong familiarity means I should have very little to train you on outside of my org's particular procedures.

What have you _done_ with these things in your hobbies? What results do you have? Get those on your resume.
posted by bfranklin at 11:57 AM on July 1, 2011


The problem is that I haven't done anything, other than just use and tinker. There are no results to document.

On the other hand, the screening question that you mentioned sounds exactly like the sort of thing I would be able to answer if I passed the Security+ exam. What do you think about certs for someone in my position?
posted by jpg15 at 12:12 PM on July 1, 2011


Certs are a great start. The Security+ is not a great start. As far as technical security exams go, there are two routes: either go Cisco and be vendor specific, or go with the SANS GIAC certifications. I cannot recommend GIAC certs enough. Someone with a GIAC is pretty much guaranteed to be at an intermediate level with their certification's subject matter.
posted by bfranklin at 12:21 PM on July 1, 2011


Have you thought about 'consulting'?
Like project and implementation work of enterprise solutions? Do you know anything about databases? The market is incredible right now for data (companies can't hire fast enough, and rates are $60-$90 an hour. Consulting shops may really like your managerial experience.
posted by sandmanwv at 12:24 PM on July 1, 2011


Where are you located?
posted by empath at 2:03 PM on July 1, 2011


Southern California.
posted by jpg15 at 3:29 PM on July 1, 2011


Tech support can be a great start. About 20% of our corporate help desk rolls off each year into other departments - everything from networking to internal audit to human resources. At my last job I worked the help desk, but hung out with the infrastructure team after hours, and they eventually offered me a junior position when one opened up.

If possible, I'd tactfully ask a potential employer if that sort of thing happens there, or if their help desk analysts stay put until death claims them.
posted by fixer at 7:18 PM on July 1, 2011


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