Even though there's a lot of not-so-great things you weren't taught in school, IT is still a rewarding career.
When you were in school, studying all things technology, you learned everything you needed to get by in the IT field, right? You learned networking, security, operating systems, virtual machines and development.
But then something strange happened. You graduated and began your career, only to find out that that amazing CompSci department failed to deliver on their promise to prepare you for a long-lasting career in systems administration, cloud application development or general IT.
What did they miss? Plenty.
As they made that career sound like the perfect way to invest your life in, they forgot to hit on a few issues that will inevitably arise. Let's dive in and see if we can round out that education.
It's exhausting and stressful.
One thing they won't tell you in school is that a career in IT is absolutely exhausting. It's filled with long hours, being on call, lugging heavy equipment, travel and mental acrobatics. To add to that exhaustion, its tight deadlines and high demands make it incredibly stressful.
When servers and systems go down, the company that hired you to keep the IT infrastructure running smoothly will place serious demands on you. Why? Because when those machines are down, business stops. Every hour the company can't function, the bottom line gets hit.
That's on your shoulders. If you can't keep a level head as you work through that stress-filled situation, your day will get longer and longer.
This is especially true as you get older. Once you're out of your 20s or 30s, have a family, and require more sleep than you did when you were in college, those long and stressful days can really suck away your will to continue on.
End users aren't qualified or patient.
Ask anyone who's been in the IT field long enough, and they will flinch when you mention end users. Why? Because most end users don't know how technology works, which causes them to do things they shouldn't do. When end-users start "pushing buttons," bad things happen. That lack of qualification to use technology means your job gets busier and busier with every click of the mouse and each tap on the screen.
It gets worse. End users have no patience. They need things to work immediately, otherwise, they can't get their jobs done. Do you want to be responsible for that person missing a deadline or not being able to pick their child up from daycare on time? Of course not.
Upper management isn't precisely in your corner.
Let's face it, those above you on the food chain don't know that much about daily activities. That's understandable, as it's not their job to keep the network up and running. It's yours. Although they might seem all buddy-buddy when everything is working, the second things go down, those above you will show their true stripes without hesitation.
This also goes for the budget. Upper management will demand more from you than you are capable of delivering, given your budget. And don't think for a second you can use that to defend your position. The second you bring up the budget, you'll get shot down. So don't bother. Instead, get creative with your solutions.
Clients rarely pay on time.
For those of you looking to go out on your own, know this: Clients rarely, if ever, pay on time. Instead, they hold off sending that check until it's your patience being tested. You'll have to send email after email and weather every possible excuse. Eventually, they'll pay you, but only after you've sent that final, final, final warning.
You won't be rich.
Right out of school, don't expect to pull in six figures immediately. Unless you are a brilliant developer with a killer idea, you're going to have to settle for less. According to Glassdoor.com, the entry-level salary in IT is approximately $64,421. Depending on where you live, that could either be enough to easily get by or barely a means to an end.
But don't worry, that salary will continue to increase as you rise in the ranks of your chosen field. But as for the hope that you'll be driving a 2020 Porsche Tycan in your first year? You'd be better off behind the wheel of a Prius. And if you're situated in a location like San Francisco, you better get used to a roommate or five, otherwise, you'll be living in that Prius for a while.
Software developers don't fare much better. If you're right out of school, the average starting salary is around $67,000. Of course, as a developer, you could always freelance on the side and pull in some extra cash. And, as you work for a company, continue developing the next Facebook, knowing you could one day cash in and sell the site to the highest bidder.
Murphy's law is always lurking.
Murphy's law states that "anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Nothing so true has ever been said about IT. And you need to accept that fate. Things will break. It's not a matter of if, but when. And it doesn't matter how amazingly talented you are or how perfect that hybrid cloud deployment was, it's going to go down.
When Murphy's law strikes, guess who is responsible for resolving every single issue? You. Even when everything breaks at once (which it could), it's your job to fix it. And you will. And it'll break again. Guaranteed. The sooner you accept Murphy's Law into your life, the better prepared you'll be to navigate your day.
Google is your friend.
At some point you're going to be faced with a problem you can't solve. Good thing there's Google. Chances are, someone out there has experienced the same problem you have, and that might help you out with a solution.
But here's a word of advice school probably didn't mention.
When you do have to lean on Google for answers, do it out of sight. Don't let clients, managers or end users see you turn to the search engine for help. Most of them assume you know every single thing there is to know about technology. You don't. You really, really don't. And it's alright, because you don't have to know everything. However, if someone else sees you Googling issues, they'll assume you don't know anything. It's unfair, but it happens.
Documentation is generally awful.
Why turn to Google when you have the official documentation for whatever piece of technology ails you? Because, generally speaking, official documentation is awful. Why? There are a lot of reasons, one of which is that sometimes documentation is written by engineers. Engineers are outstanding at engineering things. Task them to write things and that brilliance gets in the way.
Another reason why official documentation is often so bad is that it typically was written in a vacuum. In other words, those writing the documentation wrote for a specific purpose with a specific set of circumstances. Chances of you recreating that are slim. That's why turning to Google is a better idea.
Don't let this dissuade you from a career in IT. Even though there's a lot of not-so-great things you weren't taught in school, it's still a rewarding career. When things go well, you're the hero. The pay can also be really good. Plus, you get to work with some really cool technology. Just keep an open mind, and be aware that you'll hit walls and obstacles more often than you think. With that on your radar, you'll do fine.