Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In Alan Norton's article 10 reasons for quitting IT, Jack Wallen listed some rationales for leaving the IT profession. I would like to offer a different viewpoint, with a few thoughts of my own that may help elucidate why you should stay in IT.

1: Money, money, money

While it is true that you work hard for your money, IT professionals are well compensated for that hard work. The pay isn’t just good, it’s great. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ An Overview of U.S. Occupational Employment and Wages in 2010 (Chart 6, PDF), computer and mathematical sciences ranked third in 2010 of all major occupational groups with an annual mean salary of $77,230. Only the management and legal occupations had higher earnings.

2: The professionals

If you are like me, who you work with is extremely important. After all, more than one quarter of your working life will be spent with them. I have worked with professionals and those who weren’t so professional. I prefer the former and run from the latter. I have met professionals in other occupations, the defense industry to name one, but the professionalism of IT workers ranks right up there at the top.

3: Career continuity

The second time I left IT, I wanted to take time off and do nothing. I found out, too late, that being away from your career can make it harder to return. The biggest problem is how you are perceived by a potential employer. Employers don’t like gaps in your resume. You may have the unfortunate opportunity to discover the hard way that discrimination of the unemployed is real.

4: The challenges

One reason I chose to write computer programs was that I found it challenging. When coding, not a day that went by that I didn’t run into at least one obstacle in my path. IT professionals thrive on solving puzzles and problems. With the right mindset (which is necessary to be successful in IT), obstacles become challenges. Information technology is challenging, but you won’t find it boring. No matter what your role is in IT, the challenges you encounter tomorrow will likely be different from those you experience today.

5: The rewards

Challenges, when met, are rewarding — another reason to choose and stay in IT. I have never been more professionally satisfied than when a program I wrote actually worked as designed, without errors, or when a long-term systems project was successfully completed on time. Okay, so you’re probably not saving lives. But if you support the medical profession you arehelping to save lives. And you’re saving blue- and white-collar workers the drudgery of tasks that can and should be done by a machine. Few people enjoy doing the grunt work. The systems I built during my career replaced numerous menial tasks. I can honestly say that except for a few rough patches, I left work at the end of the week satisfied, knowing that I was helping others do their jobs better. No matter what role you play in IT, helping people and a job well done create self-esteem and a sense of achievement that are highly rewarding.
As TR member Chronological put it, “Most challenging jobs ever? Maybe. Most enriching jobs? — 100% sure.”

6: Marketability

IT professionals have a much better chance of finding and keeping a job. The future looks bright for IT pros — at least in the United States. Five of the top 20 and 14 of the top 50 highest paying jobs with the most growth potential are IT jobs, as ranked by CNN Money and PayScale.

7: The skills

Those who want to work in IT are typically quite intelligent with unique attributes and skills. IT attracts the analytical thinkers and technically inclined of the world. If you have these qualities and skills, you can find a home in IT.
Another good reason to stay in IT is to keep your skills up to date. Leave IT for too long, and your skills will become rusty or even obsolete. Before you leave IT, consider that your employer is paying for you to learn new skills and keep your existing skills current. Those skills are an investment in your future.

8: The respect

Jack mentioned in his article that IT professionals get no respect from the general public. I know from your feedback in the forums that many of you agree and feel that you aren’t getting the prestige and respect that you deserve. If you are doing your job well, your perceived lack of respect may be due to the ignorance of the beholder and not through any fault of your own.
The general public may well be a tough sell, but you can find respect from your peers. The knowledgeable and wise professional values the contributions of others and shows respect for his or her peers. IT is a great place to earn respect. If you can’t earn respect in IT, you probably won’t be able to earn it in any profession.
Perhaps I have just been lucky or naïve, but I have always believed that I had the respect of my managers, associates, and clients. Perhaps most important, respect is a matter of attitude, your attitude, and your perception of how others see you.

9: The geek factor

IT is the perfect place to satisfy your craving for cutting-edge technology. Where else are you going to meet your geeky needs and get paid for it? If you enjoy thinking in bytes, gigahertz, flowcharts, milestones, and IF THEN ELSE statements, you will like working with others who share your interests and unique language.

10: The love of IT

Most people who choose to work in IT love what they do. Come on, admit it. Deep down you love your work. For those who don’t, it’s all relative. When you consider the other jobs available to the masses, and their pay, you just gotta love IT. If you can find nothing you like about you and your IT job, perhaps it is time you parted ways.
In one discussion thread, IT_Goddess may have said it best: “How many peeps can say they really like/love their jobs? So many people I know, outside of IT, dread going into work. Most IT folk I know love their jobs, as long as they are getting fairly compensated for what they actually do.”

The bottom line

I have been away from “formal” IT for quite some time now. I have learned from the school of hard knocks the many reasons for staying. Truth be told, I miss each of the above items, more or less in the order listed. When you get right down to the basic reasons for working in IT, more needs of the technically minded are met by IT than by other professions. And the jobs are good jobs. According to the Wall Street Journal, Two of the top five jobs for 2011 were IT jobs: software engineer and systems analyst.
I understand the grueling daily grind all too well, the stress of shouldering responsibilities day in and day out, the long, tiring hours, and the many never-ending frustrations. When your focus is on checking off one more to-do item and answering one more email, it’s not hard to understand why you can’t see the forest for the trees. I guess it is often human nature not to recognize the positive aspects of where you are in the here and now. As Joni Mitchell once sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” It’s not really necessary to leave IT, like I had to, to appreciate its many benefits.

By Alan Norton
Takeaway: Thinking about quitting IT? Alan Norton did — more than once. See why he says there are 10 good reasons to hang in there.

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