Artificial intelligence, data management, robotics…the world of information technology (IT) is vast, diverse, and ever-changing. According to Dr Jeff Gosper, Academic Director of Charles Sturt University Study Centres, it’s these characteristics that make IT such an exciting field to explore.
“There are opportunities in IT all the time. That’s what’s so exciting about the area – it’s still growing, it’s still booming, and there’s still an opportunity for everyone to get into it.”
If you’re pursuing a degree in IT, you’re probably already aware of the industry’s depth and what it has to offer. However, you may still be seeking tips to help kickstart your career. With a background in software consultancy as well as information and communications technology, Dr Gosper has a wealth of expertise to share with students. Here are his top ten tips for kickstarting your IT career.
Show your passion
When asked what attributes recruiters are looking for in candidates, Dr Gosper stresses that a passion for the field of IT speaks volumes: “How passionate are you about doing a great job? How passionate are you about getting results and doing the best you can? Passion – that’s what employers are looking for.”
So, you should think about why you love this industry and how you hope to contribute to it – then, be ready to share those thoughts with potential employers.
Hone your people skills
Although technical skills are necessary to be successful in IT, your ability to work with people is just as important. To make yourself a well-rounded candidate, seek to improve your competencies in areas like interpersonal communication, customer service, and sharing ideas.
“One of the key differences between IT and computer science is that IT is working with people,” says Dr Gosper. “So that’s where your communication and people skills really come into it.”
Practise active learning
IT is constantly evolving, so it’s important that you stay up to date and learn new technologies, new software programs, and new developments in the field. According to Dr Gosper, it’s this proactive approach to learning that will make you stand out to employers.
“Employers are looking for the capability to learn because IT changes very rapidly,” he says. “Because of that, you’ve got to be able to demonstrate how you can continue to learn. If you don’t keep on learning, you can become very stale in the industry.”
Set projects for yourself
When developing your IT skills, don’t limit yourself to the classroom. Dr Gosper recommends that students continuously refine their abilities in different areas by creating and developing projects in their free time.
“If you want to learn about mobile programming, for example, set yourself a target. Write yourself a mobile program. Get to know the infrastructure. Once you start to learn the basics [of IT] in year 1 and year 2, the world is your oyster.”
Seek up-to-date programs
When researching degrees and universities, look for educational programs that are consistently updating and keeping up with the transformative nature of the field.
“IT is changing very rapidly,” says Dr Gosper. “The worst thing you can do is come out [of university] after three years and be working with technologies which are no longer relevant. Look for [a university] that has quite timely, constantly updating degrees.”
Be aware of your study pathways
There are multiple degree types you can pursue to get started in IT, such as diplomas and advanced diplomas through programs such as TAFE, or bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees at university. When choosing a study pathway, Dr Gosper says that students should be aware of what different programs offer.
“Diplomas and advanced diplomas teach you what the technologies are today and how to use them today. What a [university] degree does is teach you that the world of tomorrow is not going to be the same. Within a degree, we challenge students to think outside the box – and that’s the real difference.”
Take advantage of study centres
Study centres, which are satellite study locations that provide you with a quality tertiary education, often tailor their resources to meet the unique needs of international students. So, why not use them to your advantage and see how they can help you explore the field of IT?
“At the study centres, we have a real focus on international students,” says Dr Gosper. “We know the transitions they need, and we know the support they need to be able to build the skills they need.”
Seize every opportunity
The IT industry offers a wide range of possibilities and pathways. To broaden your skills and ultimately find your preferred area of work, take advantage of each one that comes your way.
“Use every opportunity,” says Dr Gosper. “There are lots of opportunities in IT. There are the more technical sides of things, like hardcore programming and network configuration, but there’s also customer relationships, there’s business development… You can find your niche.”
Capitalise on your international background
As an international student, you bring a unique insight to the workforce. Consider how that can benefit you and your potential employers when kickstarting your career in IT. For instance, think of study subjects that may be very well-developed in your home country’s schooling system but less so here in Australia.
“One thing that international education systems do quite well, possibly significantly better than Australia, is they build really solid mathematics skills,” Dr Gosper names as an example. “If you have a really strong base in maths, you tend to do better in some areas of IT.”
Don’t be afraid to branch out
Finally, even if your educational or professional background is in a completely different field, remember that it’s never too late to explore new career avenues.
“Don’t be afraid,” says Dr Gosper. “Particularly if you’ve had a science base or an engineering base, IT can offer an augmentation to your skills. If you want to transfer, you can build on your existing skills.”