I have worked in technology full-time for about eleven years. Prior to this, I built PCs and was somewhat of a technical hobbyist. Occasionally, I am faced with the question, “How does one get into computers?” or “How can I get into computer networking?” There are many paths and correct answers to these questions. However, the question that the individual should first ask is the uncomfortable question, “Should, I get into technology?”. The general field of technology can be rewarding both personally and financially. However, it is not a field that everyone is well suited. I would encourage those asking questions about how to get into this field to first make sure that their personal traits fit well with the career choice and that their motivation is not misguided.
I believe there are several traits that can allow individuals to excel when working with technology. There are some overlapping aspects within these. The first one is what I like to call a technical mind. Someone with a technical mind has some natural abilities to visualize how things work. This does not mean that they should fully understand the inner workings of a sophisticated network. If there has been no exposure to a technology, then there is no way they can understand it. However, this person has the ability to understand as they learn. For example, the first time they hooked up a VCR they may have used a manual. However, the next time, they likely understood the video out on the VCR is attached to the video in on the television. That just sort of makes sense to them. This person is not intimidated by technology, but breaks it down into pieces that are digestible and works through them. As this person gains experience, he or she has the ability to see the logic and processes in their mind and to visual the likely areas for problems to develop.
The technical mind also should have another closely related trait that is a tremendous asset. This is the desire to understand how things really work. Some people are completely satisfied with knowing that if you press button “A”, result “B” will occur. In some cases, this is sufficient even in technology. In order to excel though, it is more appropriate to ask and understand why “B” occurred. If the individual never has this desire to understand these inner workings, they will find that technology may not be an appropriate career choice. It is this continual “digging” that leads to holistic understanding necessary to troubleshoot difficult situations.
In addition to the natural technical tendencies that make up the ideal personal characteristics, I would add two disciplines that are extremely important. These disciplines include the ability for the individual to be a self starter and to be a self trainer. There is a lot of overlap in these two characteristics. Being a self starter will benefit an individual in any career field. In technology, this trait should be extended to being a self-trainer. Although structured classroom training is important, there are many tasks that a technician will do only once. Therefore, I do not think anyone could expect to be trained on every single task that they are required to do. It is my belief that structured classroom training should be used to achieve a level of knowledge in a shorter amount of time. An ideal individual in a technical field should should be able to learn most everything on their own if given appropriate access to materials. However given the fact that time limited, structured training can be an important tool used to get up to speed on key technologies quickly.
The final skill that should not be overlooked is people skills. Interpersonal communication is a tremendous asset in any field. In technology, this skill is often overlooked. There are areas of specialty in which a technician may find themselves not requiring as much interaction with people. If these skills are not exercised and become weak, they will become a hindrance at some point. My point with this is simply to encourage people not to only develop their technical abilities, but push themselves by continually working to master the art of communication and dealing with people.
Technology is constantly changing and this dynamic nature creates a lot of exciting career choices. Such careers can be lucrative and enjoyable for the right type of individual. However, job seekers that try to get into these fields for the wrong reasons will likely not have the level of success and satisfaction they expected. To do well in technology, an individual should thrive on change, and enjoy critical thinking from a technology perspective. Just as everyone is not born to be a salesperson, everyone is not born to be employed in a technical field. For those looking to make a career change from a non-technical to a technical career, I would first recommend self examination. They must make certain that the career choice is one that fits well with their personal traits. If it fits, I would definitely recommend making the move to a new and exciting career.