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Old 03-20-2009, 07:42 AM   #1
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I need some career advice please

I've been out of work for the last 6 months after being made redundant by my previous employer (a major UK bank). The redundancy package was generous and has allowed me to enjoy the time off. However, I'm now thinking about getting back into the workforce and I'm seriously thinking about changing my career having been in banking (front office origination and execution) for the past 13 years.

I am interested in starting a career in IT. I enjoy tinkering with computers both at the hardware and software level. I don't have any programming skills but I would like to get involved with systems administration.

I have been using GNU/Linux and OpenBSD for the past 4 years (entirely self taught) and have set up my home network. I use OpenBSD as my gateway and OpenWrt as my SAMBA server. I enjoy installing and configuring systems (desktop and servers) esp. 'playing' with packet filtering.

I am just starting to look at Windows Server 2008 and, albeit early stages, am finding it very simple compared to *nix. This could be because I've 'grown-up' in the open source community where people are generally very learned and always demonstrating a level of understanding that amazes me.

I don't have any formal IT qualifications despite having 4 university degrees: 2 undergrad (1 accounting, 1 law) and 2 post-grad (1 finance, 1 mathematics). I don't have any 'workplace' IT experience (save for use of MS Excel at an advanced level: VBA and all that).

I'm 39yo and would prefer not to go back into banking (I've gotten tired of working with many headstrong and egotistical people, but it does pay well). I really need to know if I'm wasting my time looking for a career in IT and I have no real prospects of getting a job in systems administration.

I would appreciate some guidance.

I'm posting this in 'Linux - Certification' because I'm not sure where else it should go.

Kind regards

Last edited by Shagbag; 03-20-2009 at 07:43 AM.
Old 03-20-2009, 07:58 AM   #2
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Generally speaking, while it's great to have either a CS degree or certifications, most employers prefer work experience. And with no experience, you'll probably start out with a help desk job, unless someone personal knows your expertise and will place you in a more senior position. 39 is still young and with people working longer in life, you have the opportunity to make IT a career.
Old 03-20-2009, 08:40 AM   #3
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You're probably aware that the computing world is divided into two camps -- Microsoft and the rest. Good, bad or indifferent, that's how it is and that's what you have to live with. You kind of have to make a choice (and get some formal training, the "piece of paper" matters to get your foot in the door just like it does in pretty much ever endeavor). I don't know what the equivalent of community colleges are in the UK, but there must be something similar that offers classes in the basics of administration (networking, configuration, back up, all the stuff administrators do) and taking a few of those would be worth your time and effort.

Back in the bad old days there was IBM and the BUNCH; IBM dominated corporate computing and the BUNCH (that would be Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, Control Data Corporation, and Honeywell) were kind of the also-ran's. You specialized in one and crossing over from one to the other was difficult (the skills were manufacturer-specific). In the bad old new days, it's pretty much the same; i.e., Microsoft or UNIX/Linux and the twain do not meet or merge too well.

I'm kind of wondering, though, why a guy with masters' in finance and mathematics doesn't shoot, perhaps, in a slightly different direction (which is not to say there's anything wrong with system administration in any way -- far from it, the work is interesting, not physically taxing and, you know, they give you money). IT management, trust me on this, needs people that have imagination, are willing and able to look in all directions for what will work best rather than just continuing down the same well-worn path trod by all and sundry that have come before; it used to be that "nobody every got fired for going with the leader" irrespective of whether "the leader" was, in fact, the right choice to do the job at hand. Things haven't changed much: companies blindly buy and continue to throw good money after bad at "the leader," totally ignoring the benefits and cost savings of looking at "the BUNCH" and it would be useful if someone in charge were willing and able to lead in a different direction (this is not, mind, an easy task to take on).

But, bottom line, can you take up IT as a profession? Sure -- but, you really do need to get some training if for no other reason than you need to know what you're letting yourself in for. You ought to look around at where the jobs are (Microsoft, Linux, UNIX?) and think about what you'd really like to specialize in: you still have to get out of bed in the morning and go do the work; it would be nice if getting up and going is something you look forward to rather than dread, eh.
Old 03-20-2009, 09:59 AM   #4
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I would learn C programming. Its the lingua franca of programming languages.
I would take a few Cisco courses. Its the best investment I ever made in learning networking and with your math back ground you stand a chance with IPv6.
I wouldn't worry about learning a specific OS; I started with AT&T System 5 and thats not even with us anymore, I think Google Andriod is the future and the Microsoft and all the others will be wondering what just happened.
The reality of IT is that you have no idea where you will be in 2 years time.
Old 03-20-2009, 10:19 AM   #5
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I wouldn't necessarily bother to do more programming specific courses.

If you have some contacts you might be ok just with an LPIC-1 certification. Should be enough to do some system admin on Liux systems. With VBA you already know enough to do some basic scripting and luckily with many jobs you won't need anyting else. There are lost of routes to go though. Cisco certifications are harder and you also have Microsoft ones for system admin work on MS exchange etc (these ones are quiet easy too). A friend of mine went down the MS route. Did some courses and got a certiciate from MS. He did get a job and also haven't got any programming experience.

So it depends on what sort of job you are going for. But you probably have to do some sort of course and/or certification.

Old 03-22-2009, 03:58 PM   #6
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Thanks for the responses. I'm encouraged by them. I'm going to look into LPIC-1. I had looked into RHCE but I think I need to walk before I can run.


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