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Going to college in a couple of years, need some help from you guys.

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I'm a sophomore in high school (15) , and I'm getting a head start on looking at colleges/careers. At this point, I have no idea what's "out there". I am mainly interested in the whole networking thing. And servers, datacenters, storage, maybe even HPC clusters, or network administration. It looks like you guys have a lot of experience in the field, and it would be great if you could answer some of my questions.

IMO, I have some pretty good understanding on computers, at least for my age. I've built about 5 computers. One being my main computer, another being my server. It runs ESXi 5. I have a File server running, a seedbox, a minecraft server, and a webserver. Im trying to find out what else to run. In addition, I built a small atom gateway running pfsense. It does firewall, NAT, routing, VPN, DHCP, QoS, and whatever else it does. I have a general understanding of all these networking terms, but It's all self-taught. I have no formal technical education. I am pretty skilled in Java (IMO). I enjoy programming small 2D games, and simple applications. But mostly just for fun.

So, here goes the questions:
What is your job, and what do you do? What did you major in? What college did you go to? What are some careers in the 'Networking' field? What else is out there regarding 'computers', and not just networking? What about working for a big company or small company?

I'm just really looking for general information. I just need to know whats out there so I can do some further research. It would be great if you could help me out.

Thanks
post #2 of 7
You'd be surprised just how far experience can get you. I've been looking into where to go from college for a long time, and even through college, I changed programmes a couple of times. From what I've picked up - and this is from talking to everyone from lecturers, to post-grads, to high-level management in Microsoft HQ - employers don't really care what degree you do, as long as you do it well. All they're looking for is that you can adapt to a given system, handle it well, and come out on top. Assuming you can do that with X, it's a reasonable assumption that you'll do it with Y too.

Having said all that, there's no point going for a job as a network admin if you've got a degree in physiotherapy. If it helps, I'm currently doing an Arts degree, studying Anthropology and Computer Science*. I'm thinking of a career in games development, but I don't have anything nailed down yet. Currently I'm trying to decide on a post-grad, or jumping straight into work. Also what continent do start with. I live in Ireland, but the economic situation here isn't great at the moment. My girlfriend is Canadian, and they seem to be handling things better than most, so that's another option.

I'm sure you've heard this before, but the IT industry is huge. If you're not sure, take a general degree and try your hand at everything. When you find something you like, go with it. If you like it, you'll be good at it. If you're good at it, someone will want you to do it for them, and pay you for it.

The one bit of advice I can give you that I've heard time and time again: Talk to everyone. There's never such as thing as too much information.


*Computer Science (at least here in NUI Maynooth) consists of programming modules in Java (loops, methods, classes, etc.), Operating systems (resource scheduling, memory allocation, etc.), logic theory (FSMs, Turing Machines, boolean logic, integrated circuits), some limited Linux work, a very basic multimedia module (I actually found this of particular interest, though it was very basic. The most advanced thing we did was a fairly in-depth look at mp3 compression), computer networks, some basic hardware (CPU goes in mobo socket, mobo goes in case, **** connects to mobo, type stuff)


Hope that helps.
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post #3 of 7
I currently work as a Systems Engineer for a consulting firm. We are a Microsoft Gold Partner, and were also a partner of the year for 2012. Knowing that, I primarily work with Microsoft products--System Center mainly, but also a lot of work with virtualization (Hyper-V, VMware, App-V), general server work, and also storage. I have no college degree. I have about 15 different Microsoft certifications, and a few other non-Microsoft certifications (CompTIA and some vendor based). I am working on my CCNA, CCNA Security, and a few GIAC certifications for this year. I am 23, own a home, have two cars that are paid for, and have the money for whatever hobbies. While I won't say what I am making, I will say that I never expected to be doing so well as such a young age. My clients range from 200 computers up to over 100,000 computers. I have met so many powerful CEOs, CIOs, Directors, and Technical Engineers, and most I keep in touch with via email and LinkedIn. It's a wonderful feeling going into a Fortune 500 company and scoping out and implementing a virtualization migration plan, or a System Center Configuration Manager environment for an enterprise level management solution. My job has helped me grow both personally and professionally, but the traveling does get old.

The point I am making is that a college degree is not a requirement in today's IT world. I will get one eventually, but it has not stopped me. If you want to break into IT with no degree, get your CompTIA A+ and Network+ and find a helpdesk/desktop support job. Will pay better than fast food, but not as much as a Systems/Network Admin/Engineer. With some experience, you can move up from there into whatever path you want (Systems Administration, Networking, InfoSec, Database, Programming, etc). Check out TechExams.net -- It's a great forum for IT folks where we discuss industry certifications, education, new products, jobs, etc. It's really a great place for information such as what you are asking.

Even with a B.S. degree, you will still be starting near the bottom in any IT field as experience is what matters. If you have the opportunity to go to a school for a four-year program, then by all means do it. Even an A.S. from a local community college will be cheaper, and you can generally get your A+ and Net+ while in high school or college. Getting stared in IT can be tough, but what matters is a mix of experience, education, and certifications.
post #4 of 7
If you want to do networking CCNA is a good start.
    
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post #5 of 7
As these other fine gentlemen said, experience is crucial. Network engineering typically necessitates a computer science degree, which in my experience is one of the most dropped-out-of degree programs available. A less technical path would be something like network administration, which in terms of schooling falls more in line with a business administration program with an emphasis in information systems. While you're at school, hit up the IS department or job-placement people for an internship. If you can get even a low-end position at an IT company or in the IT division of some company, you will be well on your way. Keep that up all through school and, as you get more experienced and know what exact career path you want to take, start looking at certifications. You would probably be looking at the A+/Net+/Security+ route first, then moving on to CCNA/CCNP and that sort of stuff.

The idea is that once you graduate, you'll have the degree, the experience, and some certs to back it all up. That trifecta will help you a lot when it comes to the job search.
    
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post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses, guys.

Just another question or two if you don't mind. What are some specific careers regarding IT? And what are their career paths? Where can they take you?
And what are some words of advice with going into IT?

Thanks again
post #7 of 7
IT/IS is a very broad subject, but you can do anything from basic help desk "plug it in, you idiot" duties all the way to engineering global networks and systems and everything in between. If you're good or you're good at getting noticed, you can even end up in the executive realm. There's really a huge variety of places to end up. As you get older and you decide that IT is the path you want to follow, you'll decide what you want to do. Up until recently I wanted to get into networking, but enterprise networking is about as much fun as getting a colostomy. To me, anyway.

Generally speaking, IT careers require you to be willing to work until the job is done, come up with solutions on the fly, and be ready to put out fires. Luckily for me, I love a good disaster.

Details matter. Document everything. If you're in a position to do so, standardize as much as possible. You also have to love what you're doing because if you don't, you're going to end up in trouble.
    
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