Where do I go from here? (Career)
January 18, 2007 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I'm at a crossroads, career-wise. I don't know where to go from where I'm at, or even where I *could* go. Back to school? Certifications? Keep contracting? Help!

Here's the breakdown. I'm 24, and this spring I'll have been out of college 3 years. (Syracuse University). I graduated with a BS in Information Studies In Technology (a merger of Info/Computer Sciences and Management) They were never very instrumental in helping me find a job so I really did a good chunk of that on my own.

During college I worked 2 years at a computer support group. I worked 2 summer internships at American International Group, and when I graduated stayed on with them about 3/4 of year as a contractor until I got laid off. They couldn't take me on full-time. After 3-4 months of job searching I worked for Intellisync (now Nokia) who was contracted by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. I worked there for about a year and was unemployed and searching again. Now I'm contacting for Merck Pharmaceuticals on a 6 month contract (possibility of extension).

I just turned down a supply-chain position in Los Angeles for a few reasons. The compensation salary-wise and relocation fees were not enough to warrant the move. Also Supply Chain is not so much IT, and it felt like a career change/out of field opportunity. I felt like I wanted to stay more IT-based for the time being.

The problem is I don't know where to go for here. My experiences have been the following:

-Managing help desks (multiple application queues)
-Software/hardware installation
-Minor SQL/Database work
-Server installation
-Systems Administration (Remedy & PeopleSoft admin)
-Remote synchronization software
-Hardware/Software Rollouts
-Software/Hardware Change Control

I'm more adept with Windows OS's than I am with coding, although I have worked with C, VB, HTML and SQL. I enjoy project management although it's been hard to find an "in" to that field.

The problem is I don't know where to go from here. I feel like I've hit a brick wall in terms of job opportunities and salary. I don't want to fall into a "contracting loop" where it's one contract after another and no benefits. A full-time job with a company I could grow with is really the goal.

I have a unique situation where I still live at home, taking care of my parents' house while they're in Florida 3/4 of the year, so rent is not a worry. It feels like an ideal time to further my education to open up more opportunities. I have no idea what to look into though.

I have considered getting into project management and telecommunicatiosn. Maybe studying for the Cisco CCNA/CCNP certifications. Or perhaps the Project Management Professional certification. I have a few recruiters but they mostly offer more straight coding/developer jobs and more often than not contract with no hire.

Are there any IT professionals out there who were once in the same boat? What did you do to make yourself more "marketable?" What specialized fields are "all the rage" now, and will be strong for years to come? I've worked with the What Color Is Your Parachute book and I'm not finding any answers out on my own.

Thanks in advance for all who help.
posted by PetiePal to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
With your contract experience with Pfizer and Merck, you could maybe look for something in healthcare IT (disclosure: I work in this subsector of the industry.)

It seems to me (sorry, no hard numbers, just general observation) that healthcare IT companies tend to have proportionally more PMs and larger implementation teams than other sectors, because the industry is so highly regulated, and because the number of acceptable system issues is so small. Furthermore, healthcare systems often have large numbers of end users with little or no computer experience, so there is a strong need for support and client-liason positions as well. Maybe you could look through some of the articles on Healthcare IT News and see if any of those projects sound like something you'd be interested in working on.
posted by slenderloris at 10:32 AM on January 18, 2007

Stop talking about certifications and recruiters for a moment: What is it you want to do? Are you itching to manage projects, or do you just think that project management might be OK and you know there's an accessible way to get there? Does network administration call out to you, or do you just know how to go about getting a CCNA?

What do you like? What would make you wake up in the morning excited to go to work and get paid to do that? What would make you feel like you were constantly improving and developing at work and seeing the results of your development?
posted by mendel at 11:11 AM on January 18, 2007

Being a technology manager would be ideal. I'm not the kind of guy who wants to sit in a room (or a cube) and just code away all day. That's boring. I'm a people-person and I love to work and manage teams.

Project managing is where I feel like I should head but I know nothing about getting into it.
posted by PetiePal at 11:56 AM on January 18, 2007


Dont feel bad..I'm in almost the exact same situation (except I never went to college).... and I'm about to turn 34 !.. (imagine how I feel ;)

As far as technology goes.. I'm a "Jack of all trades" but without any degree or major certification I am finding it REALLY hard to make any forward progress landing a good job.

So for now..I took over a small consulting business for a friend an am self-employed doing SOHO PC Consulting for $95 an hour. (so when clients call--the money is great, when they dont.. it sucks. Thankfully (for the moment) I'm living rent-free also .. but that wont last forever)

I'm trying to do what I can to grow my business,... pickup any random projects that come along (to gain experience and variety) and (hopefully) go back to college in the next year or two.
posted by jmnugent at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2007

What direction to you think IT is going?

I think it's going in a direction where many of your skills are only useful if you can apply them at a grand scale. Organizations are going to continue consolidating infrastructure, and relying on automated provisioning and system management as much as possible. Desktops and laptops will largely be used to access web based applications, and those that aren't web based will be automatically deployed.

Existing custom developed system and applications will, whenever possible, be migrated to custom configured versions of commercial software. This standardization will let companies outsource more of their IT. That outsourcing will lead to economies of scale that make it economical to improve the usability of the software in order to lower help desk and other support costs.

Companies will invest in new systems and applications which let them either open new lines of business, or cut operating costs in other parts of the company by making businesses processes more efficient.

So, what does this mean for you? For the most part, it means that you have to get out of the IT box and come up with a strong understanding of some class of business processes. Then you work either to shift those business processes to applications you play a roll in developing, or to customized commercial software away from custom apps. The business area you learn could be supply chain, it could be some subset of healthcare.

Either that, or learn to administer systems that can support hundreds of thousands of users.

One thing on your list will probably never go away "Minor SQL/Database work," no matter how good Ad Hoc query & report tools get, I'm convinced that there will always be something that people want to do that isn't easily achievable by the average user within their attention span. The problem is that this need is widely but thinly distributed within organizations. It's usually filled by the one person in every department who made the mistake of spending a little too much time one day learning what the available tools can do, blabbed about it and now has everyone asking them for help with the hard reports.
posted by Good Brain at 4:53 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

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