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Information Technology

1. What is Information Technology?
2. What skills are needed in the Information Technology field?
3. What positions and career tracks are available in this field?
4. How can I emphasize my technical skills on my resume?
5. What Information Technology resources are available?

1. What is information technology?

E-mail, personal computers, the Internet: These things make your life simpler by enabling faster communication, providing tools for more effective work, and giving you access to vast information with the click of a mouse. They also introduce a risk factor that isn’t totally within your control: If your computer fails or the network connection goes down, you lose time and possibly money.

That’s where information technology (IT) specialists come in. Information technology brings you the information and applications, such as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software, that office workers everywhere rely on to do their jobs. IT specialists create such products and set up and maintain such systems. Their work varies widely: They upgrade your computer software; get your office computer network, or your computer, up and running again after it crashes; set up and maintain the servers on which your company’s internal applications run; create and customize the software products you use; build websites; and build and maintain the databases that you rely on to gather information to serve your customers.

Many IT jobs are highly specialized, focusing on a small aspect within the grand design of a company’s network. You may associate IT with technology companies, but nearly all businesses—from nonprofits to investment banks—have an IT staff to remedy everyday computer problems and maintain and upgrade systems. IT professionals wear many hats and go by different names, depending on their area of expertise—engineer, programmer, website producer, consultant, and network administrator – to name a few.

But no matter what job they do, all IT professionals focus on improving the usability and efficiency of technological systems and processes. Their goal is a smoothly functioning computer network—free of bugs, glitches, and interruptions—that provides an effective flow of information so the company can keep on improving its work processes, customer retention and acquisition, and other aspects of its business.

The importance of the IT professional’s role cannot be overstated as technology continues to automate, accelerate, and connect the global marketplace. IT professionals are at the forefront of making businesses faster and more efficient.

2. What skills are needed in the information technology field?

Employers in the information technology field are seeking individuals who possess the following skills: technical, detail-oriented, energetic, personable, communication, analytical, logical, creative, and patience.

3. What positions and career tracks are available in this field?

Information Systems Managers:
 Sometimes also called information technology managers, they plan, coordinate and direct computer-related activities in an organization. They help determine the information technology goals of an organization and are responsible for implementing the appropriate computer systems to meet those goals.

Computer Systems Analysts: Study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and make recommendations to management to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively.

Database Administrators: Use software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data is available to users and is secure from unauthorized access. A knowledge of SQL is helpful.

Information Security Administrators: Use technology to advance their organization’s goals. Security analysts ensure a firm’s information stays safe from cyberattacks.

Software Developers: Create applications that allow people to do specific tasks on computers or mobile devices.

Computer Programmers: Write underlying code, using languages such as Eclipse or Objective-C, of software programs.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators: Responsible for the day-to-day operation of an organization’s computer networks. They organize, install and support an organizations’ computer systems, including local area networks, wide are networks, network segments, intranets, and other computer data systems.

Web Design: Responsible for creating the look and feel of a website. They create logos, banners, and other graphics; determine where to put text; and structure a site’s navigation. They work closely with marketing teams and branding experts to ensure that a site conveys a consistent image. The design function is frequently outsourced by smaller organizations that do not have the budget or inclination to maintain a website themselves.

Web Programmers: Turn the Web development team’s concepts into a functioning site. They must know HTML, the basic coding language of websites, inside and out. Most are experts in the more sophisticated programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, CGI, and Perl. Programmers should also have experience with Web development tools such as Dreamweaver, Flash, and Cold Fusion.

Web Production: Play different roles in different organizations. In some cases, they code the text and graphics that are on a site. In other cases, they coordinate across departments to make sure a website’s content works the way it’s supposed to. That is, they make sure links lead where they are supposed to lead; online forms function the way the programmer intended; and everything else that’s on the site works.

Project Management: Lead teams to get things done. They set a production schedule, set deadlines, and make sure everyone works together. Project managers can lead discrete projects, such as adding community to a website; they can also oversee wider areas. In many ways, the project manager’s role is similar to that of the producer, but on a lower level. The role requires excellent communications skills, a strong technical background, financial planning ability, and management experience. An e-commerce site can additionally have a technical administrator for its transactional software.

4. How can I emphasize my technical skills on my resume?

Feature your technical skills near the top of your resume. Immediately following your Education section is a good place.

Most Wake Forest Computer Science grads should be able to list C/C++, Flash, Matlab, Objective-C, Python, Linux, OSX, Solaris, Eclipse and Windows.

You might want to organize your technical skills into categories such as hardware, software, languages, and Web experience.

5. What information technology resources are available?

The Association of Information Technology Professionals
Society for Information Management
Association for Computing Machinery
Dice
Learn Smart Systems
Computer Work
Man Tech
Kenexa
Computer Jobs
Tech Engine
Aerotek
Computer World
PRG Jobs
Just Tech Jobs
Tech Vibes
USA Jobs
Xerox

For a timeline of the job and internship search process and information technology industry recruiting, click here.