Why Study Information Technology?

The other day at Barnes and Nobles bookstore, my 15 year old daughter, in a hushed whisper, told me “dad, that guy behind us, he was applying for a job.” I replied “so, what’s so strange about that?” She looked at me said “he told them he just got a psychology degree and needed a job.”

It reminded me of when I came to Washington DC, fresh with an Anthropology degree in hand and expectations that surely I could find a job somewhere. I did, first the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven in Manassas Virginia. Second, a banquet setup supervisor at a Marriott near Dulles airport. Even though I had defied the odds and escaped my humble trailer-park upbringing and went to college, I still faced no prospects of a good job. My work-life was one of coffee carafes, pastry trays, and disgruntled meeting attendees.

Once, I was late – probably no more than ten minutes or so – but it  might as well of been an hour as far as the hotel manager was concerned. He chastised me, threatened to fire me, and told me the most important quality in my position was punctuality. It was then that I decided to study computer programming at night and boy am I thankful I did.

I stumbled upon a career where you think for a living, enjoy (well mostly enjoy) what you do, and are never wont for a job.  And if you are good, nobody is chastising you for arriving ten minutes late to work. And, after two or three years experience, the dilemma becomes is never one of if you can find a job, but rather, if it’s a job you want and at the rate you want. Sure, you might stumble upon the odd story of the IT professional that works at Walmart because he or she cannot find employment. But I assure you, dig a little deeper, and you will find extenuating circumstances. Perhaps they stopped learning and stagnated, perhaps they were never very good to begin with. IT changes rapidly, people that find a job in one technology and then fail to learn new technologies rapidly find themselves outdated and expended. Simply put, if you are not willing to devote time to life-long learning, than IT is not for you. But if you devote a modicum of time to stay current in one or more technologies, you will find a job – usually within a couple months.

It is hard to impress upon folks just how lucrative IT is as a career. While every career is taking massive hits, and the educated, well-paid, career professional is rapidly becoming extinct, there is one career choice that is growing dramatically. Anything related to Information Technology. So how to explain this to the average person, someone that has worked in a “job” his or her whole life? How do you explain the difference IT can make?

Information Technology offers you a career rather than a job.  Unsure of the difference?  Chris Rock explains it best.

Before I discuss the gloomy prospects for most humans on earth in the twentyfirst century, let’s start by exploring a particulary lucrative career, computer programming.  Then, as we review the grim prospects, remember that we will readdress this career and the takeaway you should have from this post.

Now for the doom and gloom. The career prospects are grim for most humans. If you have a college degree and find yourself working at Starbucks, you are not alone. You did not throw away your life on a “worthless degree.”  Remember, in the past, there was a large demand for well-educated college graduates regardless of his or her major. But now, things are changing, if a graduate in engineering cannot find a job, how is a graduate in a subject like Classical Civilization going to find a job?

I’m not trying to make this political, but clearly the demand for human labor – both skilled and unskilled – is decreasing while the population is increasing.  Blame the Democrats, Republicans, or even the Easter Bunny, it doesn’t matter…as computers continue to increase efficiency the demand for labor will continue to decrease.

Maybe you are a snowflake. Maybe you are the next Justin Bieber, The Weekend, or Skrillex to start from humble beginnings on YouTube to international stardom. Perhaps, but consider this….even the music industry has taken massive hits. Gone are the days of the well-paid backup musician, the rock band, the symphony playing movie scores. Instead you have the single DJ/Producers, electronic musicians, and the one or two artists to manage to rise to the top and reap all the rewards.

Here’s a good video explaining the Winner Take All Economy.

Perhaps, just perhaps, you were misled by our recent popular culture regarding jobs/work.  Sure Steve Jobs tells you to “follow your passion,” but is it practical?  Isn’t it possible to shape your passion to the situation you find yourself in?

But, if you are in IT, and you resolve yourself to constant, lifelong learning, then you will be needed in the new economy. Still not convinced?

Here is a video explaining the fourth industrial revolution. While watching it, take particular note to the people in the video. Without exception, regardless of the person’s career, he or she incorporates IT into their career.

Even in IT, there is a trend where everyone wants to be the analyst or the manager and coding is seen as a lesser job. Developers, ironically enough, are the blue-collar workers of the twenty-first century. But here’s the rub…society needs us, they need us as badly as they need the plumber or the mechanic.

A perfect storm is brewing. Computers are rapidly replacing many of the traditional jobs. And not just menial jobs, jobs that traditionally required substantial education. At the same time, our culture denigrates hard work culturally. IT is more akin to the blue collar worker of yesterday than the stereotypical manager of yesterday. System administrators, cybersecurity analysts, programmers, all do something beyond go to meetings, schedule things, and drink coffee. If you even suspect you might like a career in computing, you owe it to yourself to explore all facets of the industry. Explore computer programming, system administration, testing, cyber-security analysis, and other “blue-collar” jobs where you work for a living, get paid well, and go home feeling like you have done something that day.

You might not be the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or IT billionaire, but you will have a six-figure salary for a relatively low  upfront educational investment.  And if you dedicate yourself to lifelong learning, or find that coding is your passion? Well, the sky’s the limit.

If you are interested, here’s Mike Rowe’s Ted Talk on the subject of America’s dysfunctional relationship with work.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Free Training Option

I’m cheap, I don’t wish paying too much for training. With so many predatory websites preying on those wishing training to get certification for Amazon’s AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Exam, what’s an I.T. professional to do?

After careful review, I decided the best resources are: AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide, Whizlabs Practice Tests, and Amazon’s training website. Amazon offers all you need for the hands on training for the certification, including Amazon Elastic Compute, Amazon EC2 Container Service, Elastic Load Balancing, AWS Lambda, Simple Storage Service, and many more.  Moreover, they offer self-paced labs for each one.  So why pay for training when Amazon offers it free?  Go through their training, read the certification study guide, use my free online flashcards and/or Quizlet flashcards, and buy the Whizlabs practice exam.