A career in IT is a dream come true for many. Tempted by visions of rapid economic uplift, people try to enter the market – unfortunately, they often fail to succeed. Contrary to the opinion circulating among non-industry insiders, having a computer and ‘knowing windows’ is not enough to find a job in IT in 2023. The high demand for professionals and the huge number of people just starting their careers means that landing your dream job requires more than sending out your CV. This does not mean, however, that you should give up on your dreams. In order to meet the needs of individuals who are seriously considering a position in IT, many companies have created mechanisms that allow them to gain the knowledge and experience necessary when seeking employment on commercial projects. So how do you start your IT adventure?
What is it that you actually want to do?
The career shift process should start with the answer to this question. After all, working in the IT sector is not just about writing software, and programmers themselves can do a variety of things, each of which requires a slightly different skill set. Below you will find brief descriptions of some of the most popular junior positions.
- Service desk – i.e. the support department. This person is in charge of providing assistance for simple-to-solve problems or referring the matter to higher-level staff (for more serious breakdowns). In order to land a job as a junior service desk analyst, you will need to have at least a basic understanding of IT infrastructure, hardware and systems. Soft skills allowing you to communicate effectively with customers are essential for this position.
- Software tester – meaning a person who searches for bugs and reports them to the developers. To find a job in this position, you would do well to at least be familiar with the ISTBQ (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) syllabus. You should have a basic knowledge of databases and the software development process. As far as soft skills are concerned, people who are creative, inquisitive, thorough and diligent are best suited to this position.
- Software developer – that is, the ever-popular position of programmer. In a junior position, this person does not work independently. They are usually given small tasks and are in permanent contact with more experienced team members. Basic knowledge of programming languages relevant to the project (such as Java or Python) as well as version control systems such as Git is required here. Having your own GitHub profile containing standalone projects is a great advantage at the stage of recruitment. Knowledge of databases is an asset.
How do you get the knowledge?
There are several paths, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. It is hard to choose the best method to acquire knowledge and experience, so below we briefly describe the most popular solutions.
- Studying IT at a university. The greatest advantage of this solution is that it provides a comprehensive education in the field. The second major advantage is price – full-time university studies are free at state universities. Completing education involves obtaining a certificate of your qualifications. Sadly, the versatility of IT studies has a major disadvantage, namely that many topics are covered very superficially. Furthermore, university programmes frequently fail to keep up with the pace of development in the IT industry. This makes self-education essential.
- Bootcamps. These are (usually) paid training courses designed to help you quickly shift into a new career. This involves high intensity learning focused mainly on practical aspects, i.e. acquiring the most necessary knowledge. A bootcamp is a brilliant solution for individuals who cannot dedicate several months solely to learning, due to their daily commitments, for example. However, the number of bootcamps and their participants means that there are many people on the market with the same incomplete knowledge of the issues covered during the training. This is not to say that it is a poor idea to invest money on this type of course. It is simply a good idea to give something back, to improve yourself so that you can present something more than the others at a job interview.
- Online courses. It is an ideal solution for individuals who like to plan their own time. There are no meetings at specific times or deadlines for homework. There are only resources (usually in video form), presenting specific issues in an easy-to-understand way, available at any time to anyone who subscribes to access them. The greatest advantage of this solution is flexibility. The disadvantage is the lack of continuous, live contact with the instructor, which can have a negative impact on your commitment or result in learning incorrect techniques. This is because no one analyses your work on a regular basis.
- Learning on your own. This is the most difficult way of acquiring knowledge, but it allows you to develop an essential skill – asking questions and looking for solutions on your own. That is, using Google and StackOverflow. Learning this way is actually the least expensive of the suggestions listed here. Documentation of programming languages or frameworks, as well as various syllabuses, are available online for free. There is nothing to prevent you from using books such as ‘The C++ Programming Language: Principles and Practice Using C++’ by Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of the language in question. One major disadvantage of independent learning, however, is the risk of getting stuck with a more complicated issue – since there is no instructor here who you can ask for help and get it immediately.
How to get a job?
Or more accurately – how do you prepare for a job interview? What matters most in the IT sector is your skills and experience, not the number of schools listed on your CV. With juniors, the key thing is to assess the candidate’s potential, their willingness to develop and their ability to communicate with other team members. The factors that set one person apart from everyone else who has completed the same bootcamp.
Paid internships are a good way to enter the IT industry. They come with a low entry threshold and allow you to acquire the knowledge and real experience of working with a team, under time pressure. Frequently, at the end of an internship, you can expect a job contract – and even if this is not the case, it will add another position to your CV related to commercial experience, which opens many doors.
Is there still room for juniors?
Yes. The IT sector is growing all the time and the number of experienced professionals is limited. This situation has produced implementation programmes run by many companies. Keep in mind, however, that choosing the most popular path means the most competition and the highest expectations in order to succeed.