Jobs In Information Technology: Click Into Your Next Career
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) PROFESSIONALS are plugged into almost everything that gets done in the business world. They play big roles in businesses from small mom-and-pop stores all the way up to Fortune 500 companies. It is nearly impossible to get anything done in today’s business world without them. IT is as important as any other department in most companies when it comes to strategizing, planning, and creating revenue – and not just for supporting the other departments. All that computer hardware and software requires an IT staff behind the scenes to keep everything humming and useful. But IT pros are not just the help desk guys. They are also the masterminds behind massive computer networks and security programs. They play a strategic role as important as any sales person, accountant, or top executive.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a part of the United States Department of Labor, classifies IT jobs as Computer and Mathematical Occupations (SOC 15-0000; see “Your Guide to Industrial and Occupational Employment Statistics” in this magazine). Employment in this major occupational group stood at 3,814,700 in 2012. And here is excellent news: The BLS expects 18 percent growth between 2012 and 2022, much faster than average for a major group. The BLS projects that the group will add 685,800 jobs by 2022. (The BLS updates these statistics every two years; the most recent update was in 2014 and includes projections for the years from 2012 through 2022.)
There will be 1,308,500 job openings in Computer and Mathematical Occupations over that period, because some positions are expected to be listed multiple times. For details, visit www.bls.gov/emp/eptable102.htm and read the BLS article, “Occupational Employment Projections to 2022,” at www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/occupational-employment-projections-to-2022.htm. As in other fields, job openings will result from employment growth and a need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
The broad occupational group Software Developers and Programmers (SOC 15-1130) is expected to add 279,500 jobs by 2022, accounting for about 4 out of 10 new jobs in SOC 15-0000. The projected growth for the detailed occupation Information Security Analysts (SOC 15-1122), at 27,400 new jobs, is relatively small. However its rate of growth, 36.5 percent, makes it the fastest growing of all groups and occupations within SOC 15-0000. Demand in SOC 15-1130 and SOC 15-1122 will stem from a number of factors, including an increase in demand for cyber security, the implementation of electronic medical records, and an increase in the use of mobile technology.
It’s shouldn’t surprise anyone that more and more people have been trying to land IT positions. After all, those jobs are relatively secure, and they have growth potential. So there is a lot competition, but once those jobs are landed the employees tend to stick around. The unemployment rate for SOC 15-0000 was only 2.8 percent in September 2015. By contrast, the overall unemployment rate for September 2015 was 4.9 percent. Qualified IT candidates will be fine, and those with military backgrounds will be in even better shape.
The median annual wage for Computer and Mathematical Occupations in May 2012 was $76,270, more than twice that for all wage and salary workers, $34,750, and the second-highest of any major occupational group. All of the occupations in this group pay above the median wage for all occupations. The detailed occupations Computer and Information Research Scientists (SOC 15-1111) and Mathematicians (SOC 15-2021) had median wages of more than $100,000 per year.
A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field is almost required for management positions in IT, but many employers will take military experience into account. Some employers require a graduate degree for their higher-level managers, especially an MBA with technology as a core component. Through 2022, more than 3 in 4 new jobs occurring in this group are projected to be in occupations that typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, with the fastest projected growth among occupations that need a master’s degree.
Computer and Information Systems Managers (SOC 11-3021) play a vital role in the implementation and administration of technology within their organizations. They plan, coordinate, and direct research on the computer-related activities of firms. They help determine the goals of an organization and then implement technology to meet those goals. They oversee all technical aspects of an organization, such as software development, network security, and Internet operations.
Other IT professionals include Systems Software Developers (SOC 15-1133), Computer Programmers (SOC 15-1131), Computer Systems Analysts (SOC 15-1121), and Computer Support Specialists (SOC 15-1150). These professionals plan and coordinate activities such as installing and upgrading hardware and software, programming and systems design, the implementation of computer networks, and the development of Internet and intranet sites.
They are increasingly involved with the upkeep, maintenance, and security of networks. They analyze the computer and information needs of their organizations from an operational and strategic perspective, and determine immediate and longrange personnel and equipment requirements.
IT professionals need a broad range of skills. Employers look for individuals who can demonstrate an understanding of the specific software or technology used on the job. Generally, this knowledge is gained through years of experience working with that particular product. Another way to demonstrate this trait is with professional certification. Although not required for most computer and information system positions, certification demonstrates an area of expertise, and can increase an applicant’s chances of employment.
The recent recession may have dulled prospects for employment in IT for a short time, but new applications of technology in the workplace will continue to drive demand for workers, fueling the need for more managers. To remain competitive, firms will continue to install sophisticated computer networks and set up more complex intranets and websites.
Also, because so much business is carried out over computer networks, security will continue to be an important issue for businesses and other organizations, and will lead to strong growth for computer managers. Firms will increasingly hire security experts to fill key leadership roles in their IT departments because the integrity of their computing environments is of utmost importance.
So prospects for qualified computer and information systems personnel are excellent. Workers with specialized technical knowledge and strong communications and business skills, as well as those with an MBA with a concentration in information systems, will have the best prospects.
FROM PSYOP TO MARKETING
RED HAT provides open source enterprise technology, including cloud, virtualization, storage, Linux, and middleware. The company also offers support, training, and consulting services. Red Hat is grow ing rapidly; it supports more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
People who work at Red Hat are passionate about their work, they are highly collaborative, and they hold one another accountable – all traits that will feel familiar to veterans. Red Hat does not have a military structure, but the company helps all new hires learn how to get work done in its open culture.
A VETERAN SUCCESS | BRIAN DAYMAN
Brian Dayman served for nine years in the United States Army before separating as a staff sergeant. His was a psychological operations sergeant. He planned, coordinated, and executed radio, TV, and print programs to counter extremist ideologies.
Dayman started his career at Red Hat earlier in 2015. As a marketing specialist, he works with marketing managers to spread the word about the company.
During his job search, Dayman realized that his military background gave him skills that are coveted by a lot of companies. “Being deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa has definitely helped me to sell myself as someone who works well under pressure, knows how to work on teams, and has a relentless attention to detail,” he said. “Those are skills that were relevant to many of the job postings that I saw.”
His leadership experience has also played a role. “Being a leader in the military has helped me to understand how to work on teams, which often means being assertive, balancing multiple priorities, and managing expectations with others,” he said. But that’s not all. “Having a strong sense of duty has helped me to take initiative and do what needs to be done, even when the operational tempo is high,” he said.
Dayman enjoys working at Red Hat because he can contribute in a lot of ways. “Red Hat is great because it allows you to contribute to many different projects,” he said. “For veterans, this creates opportunities to let your unique sense of discipline and grit shine through when it’s time to get the job done.”
He cautions transitioning and veteran job seekers not to spend too much job-hunting time online. “Be wary of getting trapped on Google during your job search,” he said. “Spend half of your time doing research online, but after that reach out to a veteran mentor organization. They can connect you to people in your respective industry who can help to get your resume in front of the right people.
“Start reaching out to people in your field of interest. Ask them what surprised them about the industry. Solicit their advice. This can give help to paint a much clearer picture of what your ideal post-military career path is.”
As for working at Red Hat, Dayman said that veterans need to make sure they do their research. “Do your homework,” he said. “Understand what makes the company’s value proposition unique, and you will in turn be able to define your own unique value within the organization.”
FROM MARINE SERGEANT TO IT DIRECTOR
The Reynolds and Reynolds Company was founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1866 as a printer of business forms. By 1927, the company had begun to serve automotive retailers with standardized accounting forms. By the turn of the 21st century, Reynolds was well established as provider of a dealership management system, business forms, and professional consulting services.
Reynolds is still headquartered in Dayton, and it has major operations in Celina, Ohio; and Houston and College Station, Texas. Additionally, Reynolds operates in Canada, the United Kingdom, and continental Europe. Worldwide, the company employs more than 4,300 people.
Reynolds has employment opportunities available in Dayton, Houston, and College Station, ranging from customer service and product support to marketing, sales, IT, software development, and recruiting. Reynolds also has sales and consulting positions available nationwide.
The company has a recruiter on staff who focuses on recruiting, hiring, and transitioning veterans into professional civilian life. Reynolds shares its open positions with transition counselors at military bases across the nation, posts open positions on military-specific job boards, and attends military-to-civilian career fairs throughout the year. Veterans find Reynolds’ corporate culture to be similar to that of the military: a professional environment built by strong leadership and a strong work ethic.
Reynolds has actively recruited veterans for more than 30 years. The company has found that veterans demonstrate high levels of professionalism and a commitment to excellence – characteristics that Reynolds looks for in every associate. In addition, many job seekers with military experience have developed soft skills – such as a sense of determination and leadership experience – that can be harder to find than technical skills that can be taught on the job.
A VETERAN SUCCESS | CLINT CARGILL
“Those soft skills are valuable to organizations,” said Clint Cargill, director of IT operations at Reynolds. “Don’t sell yourself short.”
He also noted that many veteran job seekers demonstrate greater commitment to a job – a difference that can set them apart. “Veterans typically get that every job is important, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant,” he said. “Veterans recognize leadership wouldn’t ask them to do something that wasn’t important.”
Cargill was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps from 1994 to 1998, with a military occupational specialty of small computer systems specialist. His role included PC support, basic networking, and account administration.
He joined Reynolds in 1999 as a desktop support technician at College Station. Within a year, he transferred to Houston, and later was promoted to supervisor of desktop support. With a “first to arrive, last to leave” mentality, Cargill steadily worked his way up within the company, becoming group supervisor of PC support in 2001 and manager in 2002.
In 2006, Reynolds promoted Cargill to director and transferred him to company headquarters in Dayton. His responsibilities included bringing IT operations in-house, helping with plans to build a data center on site, and hiring talent to fill open positions. In 2008, the company named him Reynolds Director of the Year in Dayton for his efforts in building the in-house IT team and his work with the data center. When Cargill had decided to transition to civilian life, he did not know exactly what the next step was. But when Reynolds reached out to him, he knew he had to seize the opportunity. “Aside from literally wanting to salute anyone in a suit and tie, the transition at Reynolds was relatively easy,” he said.
He related immediately to the professional environment across the organization, the discipline required for completing the work, and the continuous training opportunities. And, although his new role as a desktop support technician included many of the same responsibilities he held in his MOS role, he still had to overcome a skills gap.
Instead of focusing on all of the unknowns, Cargill turned to what he did know: He knew how to work hard. He knew how to learn new skills. And he knew he had the drive to get the job done. “My goal was – and continues to be – to do my job well,” he said. From the start, I showed management I could handle the additional responsibilities.”
That attitude paid off. Cargill’s commitment to working hard and getting the job done right the first time was recognized by the company’s leadership, and he was rewarded with a number of promotions, transfers, and awards. Cargill also noted that, because Reynolds has a tradition of promoting from within and recognizing hard work, veterans relate to the structure within the company. “You have to consistently perform at a high level to be given more responsibility and earn a promotion,” he said. “I see great people around me getting those opportunities every day.”
Cargill attributes much of his success in the corporate world to simply and consistently displaying that he could be trusted with additional responsibilities, much like a servicemember moving up the ranks. “Over the years, it was not my technical skills that helped me with my career,” he concluded. “That’s not what I leaned on. I relied on my work ethic and professionalism. I learned how to do tasks on my own. Whether you’re the IT guy for the battalion or you’re the tank driver, the skills you possess are valuable in a civilian role.” Whether interviewing job seekers or observing them in the halls, Cargill easily identifies those with military service. “It’s evident in how they stand to greet you and shake your hand,” he said. “My advice to veterans looking to transition to civilian life is to maintain that military professionalism. You don’t need to change who you are.”
FROM PETROLEUM SUPPLY TO TECH TRAINING
LEVEL 3 COMMUNICATIONS is a global communications provider headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, north of Denver. The company has core locations in Atlanta; Littleton, Colorado; O’Fallon, Missouri; Phoenix; and Tulsa. It employs more than 13,000 personnel around the world, and has an enterprise value of $30 billion.
Level 3 provides data, security, video, voice, and unified communications services to enterprise, government, and carrier customers. The company has extensive fiber networks on three continents – connected by undersea facilities. Level 3 reaches more than 500 markets in over 60 countries.
The company needs people skilled at software development, cybersecurity, IT, engineering, provisioning, data analytics, project management, and technician roles. More than half of its employees work on the technology side in roles ranging from IT and network architects to software engineering and Internet protocol operations.
Level 3 actively seeks to hire military talent by recruiting at military job fairs and bases across the country. The company is looking for three traits – attitude, a desire to learn, and technical aptitude. Veterans possess those traits as well as discipline, military training, and integrity, making them a good fit for telecommunications and Level 3’s structured environment.
Level 3 has a Veteran Employee Resource Group (VERG), which enables employees to create their own support group and community. The VERG advises the business on how to best meet the needs of veteran employees and hosts the Buddy Program, which pairs new veteran employees with seasoned Level 3 veterans. This program helps new employees transition into civilian life personally and professionally.
Among the company’s training units is the Ops Tech Academy, which offers a 10-week training program that combines classroom work with on-the-job training. It begins with three weeks of intensive coursework and ends with two practical rotations, before participants are placed in a position within the company. After a year of working at Level 3, students officially graduate from the program. The program has been called the “basic training” of Level 3.
A VETERAN SUCCESS | LEIF OLSEN
Leif Olsen runs the Ops Tech Academy. He spent two years of active service in the United States Army, two years in the National Guard, and four years in the Reserve. He separated as a specialist. While on active duty, he worked with petroleum supply. In the National Guard, he worked with Huey helicopters.
He is now a talent management consultant with Level 3, an Ops Tech Academy trainer, and a live training facilitator. He joined the company in 2000, gaining experience in the Technical Service Center and the Network Operations Center. He switched to sales training in 2011 and took over as the lead trainer of Ops Tech Academy in January 2013.
Olsen did not find immediate success when he left the military. But he trusted his skill set and experience.
“I’m not sure if my transition was normal or not,” he said. “When I got out, I applied to a few airlines at Denver International Airport to refuel aircraft, but nothing panned out. I applied for the Denver Police Department, but that also didn’t materialize. Eventually, through the help of temp agencies, I found myself working in a technical field and started networking to grow my career. I think being raised by an Army officer and being exposed to military life helped me understand the military and how it operated. And while in the military, I knew that networking and asking questions would help in any career opportunity.”
One key to finding success in the civilian world is flexibility, according to Olsen. “I am discovering through the Ops Tech Academy program that background, skills, and experience are only a small part of what managers are looking for,” he said. “Don’t get into a rut that you think you have to do what you did in the military in the civilian world. I have had waitresses, landscapers, and school teachers come into Level 3 and be successful because of their motivation and energy. I have seen communications techs, infantry, officers, and enlisted individuals in the same classroom, starting a successful new career at Level 3 because of their dedication.”
As a matter of fact, the technical skills Olsen learned in the military did not translate directly to his current job. “Not much petroleum supply needed in telecom,” he said. “However, the life skills learned in the military such as drive, determination, and problem solving have helped me get ahead in my career.
“Punctuality, hierarchal organization/command structure, and accountability were huge in the military, and still benefit me in my job today. It’s important to be on time, deliver on your commitments, understand and support management and executives, and be responsible for your own actions.”
Olsen likes that veterans get a lot of support at Level 3. “I believe the resource groups are the best example of support for veterans at Level 3,” he said. “The VERG is continuously sponsoring events, bringing awareness, and hosting activities for veterans and all employees to create a healthy community feeling and provide a strong network of support.”
Olsen knows the importance of having the right attitude when looking for a career. “Be patient; something may not present itself in the civilian world as readily or obviously as opportunities in the military,” he said. “Be aware; know your rights as a veteran and be sure to familiarize yourself with VA benefits. Be positive; a good attitude can often push a decider onto your side of the fence.”
He recommends that veterans who are interested in working at Level 3 bring several qualities to the table: “Energy: Managers are looking for highly motivated employees. The excitement you show in an interview can make a huge difference. Motivation: You don’t necessarily have to have job-specific skills for many starting positions. Show motivation to learn and opportunities will open up. Network: Reach out to anyone willing to help or offer advice in your transition. Get tips from other veterans who have been in the workplace for a while. Ask advice from non-veterans on what has helped make them successful. Thirst: Be eager to learn all that you can. Ask questions about your position, the organization, goals to meet, and performance objectives. The more you absorb, the better an asset you can be.”
FROM NAVY TO MSC
Headquartered in Norfolk, the United States Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) provides ocean transportation to the Department of Defense. MSC operates about 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that conduct specialized missions around the world, move military cargo and supplies, and replenish Navy ships.
Military Sealift Command’s workforce consists of more than 9,500 people, most of whom serve at sea. MSC is currently looking to fill seagoing vacancies in the following departments: deck, engine, supply, culinary, and communications. Their biggest hiring needs are for first officers, first assistant engineers, and chief radio electronics technicians. There are also shore-side vacancies in various departments.
More than 40 percent of MSC’s workforce have military experience, and the organization focuses on recruiting veterans. MSC attends military-specific job fairs throughout the year and visits with veteran representatives to educate them on the openings, processes, and benefits of MSC employment. MSC also hosts its own military-specific hiring events aboard Navy ships to reach sailors approaching their discharge dates.
MSC knows that veterans make good employees because their skills and experiences, such as discipline and respect for the chain of command, are critical for success at sea. Other traits imperative to the organization’s mission are cooperation, support, and teamwork. In addition, veterans are accustomed to being away from home for extended periods of time.
Veterans are familiar and comfortable with MSC’s structured and regimented work environment, though it is more relaxed than that of the military. The camaraderie can be hard to find in other civilian workforce environments. Veterans can also appreciate the job security, federal benefits, rapid advancement opportunities, and paid leave that comes with MSC employment.
A VETERAN SUCCESS | ALFRED ALEXANDER BROWNE JR.
Alfred Alexander Browne Jr. separated from the Navy as a petty officer 2nd class after 10 years of service. “I was responsible for maintaining and repairing the communications and navigational electronic equipment onboard naval ships,” he said.
MSC hired Browne in 2012 as a first radio electronics technician, and recently promoted him to chief radio electronics technician. “I am directly responsible to the ship’s communications officer for maintaining the local area network, electronic key management system, radio electronic equipment, and administrative duties,” he said.
Browne discovered MSC while serving in the Navy. “I was departing from my second command, the decommissioned USS Nassau,” he said. “I had to take a helicopter from the Nassau to the USNS Kanawha. I talked with a couple of the MSC guys, and I was immediately intrigued with the opportunity.”
When he went to work at MSC, it helped that he was already familiar with the equipment in use by the organization. “Most of the equipment I worked on in the Navy is prevalent in MSC,” he said. “It was, for the most part, a smooth transition in terms of dealing with the electronic equipment.”
He was also able to adjust quickly to a life at sea. “Both MSC and the Navy are seagoing jobs,” Browne said. “MSC is actually more of a seagoing job than the Navy. I have done two deployments with the Navy, and the routines I learned there have helped me adjust with MSC. I have learned to have a nonchalant attitude when it comes to adversity and handle it with poise.”
His advice to those still in the service is to work on their education. “Get your journeyman certifications done, and also get your degree,” he said. “It will help you immensely in getting recruited in MSC or any private company looking for someone with our skill set.”
Preparation is also key. “Make sure you have all your ducks in a row,” he said. “Take care of all your medical situations in advance. Attend the TAP class so you can learn how to present yourself to civilian job opportunities – because the military language doesn’t translate all the time in the civilian world. You should make two copies of all documents you have before you get out, including your DD-214.”
He believes that MSC is a good place for veterans for many reasons: “If you didn’t have a chance to retire from active duty, you can buy your federal time back and continue your journey towards federal retirement,” he said. “If you do happen to retire, there is another opportunity to retire and have two paychecks coming in for the rest of your life after time served. You also have a lot more freedom in MSC than the Navy.”
He encourages anyone interested in MSC to get rolling now. “The whole process takes anywhere from four to six months. I would also say get help writing your federal resume and your knowledge and skill assessment (KSA) questions so you can look great for the job.”