The Amazing Computer and Technology Race

Jazz Marie KaurTechnical Support Specialist, Poet & Cartoonist
CERTIFIED EXPERT
Computers don't hold all of the answers,
neither do I
but when a problem comes around
I'll never give up and won't hide underground
Published:
Edited by: Rob Jurd
This article covers 3 key tips for entering the IT field and resources to leverage in order to pursue the path you wish to run towards. These tips apply to those especially without a background in IT at any age. On your mark, get set....go!

1.  Comprehend How Stuff Works


Nowadays, we depend upon apps or technology to do things for us in the blink of an eye, leading to poor habits or a lack of curiosity. Too many of us perhaps rely upon our calculator apps and fail to exercise our minds. We have become accustomed in the 21st-century to stating:  "Oh, there's an app for that!" While technology strives to make our lives easier, it's not perfect by any means. It faces errors, vulnerabilities, hiccups, etc., so it's essential to learn how things work to fix them or implement long-term solutions as soon as possible, rather than applying temporary band-aids.

I personally loved the Revolution (2012) TV series, which sent the world back into the dark ages without electricity. While that's unlikely to happen, I loved how that show exhibited that human beings fall back into finding solutions or leveraging technologies and inventions that came before electricity was integrated into homes, machines, etc.

An auto mechanic knows what's under the hood per se, but the driver or car owner(s) do not fully; therefore, the mechanic holds the leverage over what is wrong and how much it will cost to fix it. The same applies to your PC or home technology; if I invest time in learning to fix this myself, I may be saving money and gain a ton of knowledge in the process that I can use to help others. You'll find what makes your computer tick is a whole other universe and world of complexity like a colossal puzzle. Still, once you break it apart, you begin to understand how everything forms a beautiful masterpiece.

So ask yourself the following:

  •  How does this app, game, device, or workstation work? What's truly "under the hood?"
  • Who invented this in the first place, and why?
  • What is responsible for the shopping cart functions on a site or dictates my selection?
  • What is driving the backend functions, or where is its heartbeat?
  • Can I fix this myself, and would it cost less than taking it to a repair shop? 
  • What are new trends or upcoming changes to this technology that I should be aware of?

Start by going out and buying or picking up discounted older computers. Some workplaces provide equipment for sale once retirement projects of older stations are done. Consider reaching out to a family member or friend in tech if there is a program of some kind or donation center they leverage. Hands-on experimenting is a great way to learn, e.g., developing your site from scratch once or examining a laptop's interconnected components. I learned a lot by working on older Windows OS stations and retired laptops.

You don't necessarily need to learn how to build a computer, game, or site from scratch for all roles, but knowing how things work in general can set you up for success, such as replacing a laptop Solid State Drive (SSD), running diagnostics, removing a battery or screen, etc., are fundamental tasks.

I loved watching the CSI series on TV as a kid. My favorite episodes showed the computer forensics or investigation tech tools for putting all the clues or "breadcrumbs" together to find one's digital footprints. While not everything is accurate on TV, of course, it is still impressive regarding what's possible, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching "How Stuff Works" and several series that provide the inside scoop on astonishing creations, e.g., food, guitars, cars, etc. You can learn a lot by investigating how technology works on your own.

When your phone or computer no longer works, don't trash it but use it to learn more or even donate it (once you wipe your data from it, of course) so that it could be of use to someone else too. As I state in my Top 5 Ways to Reduce Electronic Waste article, your old equipment still has value and can be repurposed in several ways.

2.  Don't Be Discouraged; No One Becomes An Expert Overnight


Learning is not a competition nor a race, but you can go far if you dedicate time each day to learn something new in a field of interest in bite-sized, digestible chunks. The "tortoise beat the hare" because of being cautious, taking time, and avoiding unnecessary distractions. Everyone picks up different topics at a different pace and learns at a different rate. Sprinting through a book series or course won't help you. Ensure you take the time to take notes and water, coffee, or good ol' cup of tea breaks. It is important not to overwhelm your mind or stress out about the amount you have to learn. "Experts" themselves keep learning and growing, for no one holds all the answers, of course.

Many of the skills you leverage in hobbies outside of IT or the field of your interest overlap. For example, a baker must have great attention to detail and time management when guests are expected. A carpenter or construction member gains experience creating things from the ground up or from scratch and must plan a project. A driver must get someone from point A to point B via the quickest and safest route, thus must have a knack for navigation, not just relying on Google Maps alone.  An avid gamer focuses on getting to the next/final level or defeating a villain by identifying weaknesses and opponents with, at the time, other players (teammates).  

As in gaming, you absolutely need quick reflexes in IT when responding to especially "fires", a.k.a back-to-back problems, and collaboration is frequently needed when extinguishing major outages or incidents too. On Experts Exchange (EE), one could say we are "volunteer technology firefighters". There is a reason there is no "i" in "team" because fires often require a team effort to tackle. While some fires can be extinguished by an individual, with more minds on a question or rather Certified Experts (CEs) as I have said in the past, you're bound to eliminate that complex fire and resolve the question at a much faster rate as a result of the combined minds working together charging towards the incident at hand.

I myself draw, write poems, and play chess, where there is a sense of creativity in thinking on your feet to solve problems or figure out your next move. Hobbies are not a waste of time, and they are part of who you are. Thinking back to the first drawings I ever made in composition-lined notebooks, which were mere scribbles or rather abstract in the early 2000s, and now flash forward to 2021, I am a cartoonist. It's ok to put "100%" or a ton of effort into a career, but you should never overthink to the point of burning out.

Consider taking up a hobby near your field or may even be considered a polar opposite of your field that you enjoy, as well as it can also sharpen skills you need in the industry of your choice. Listen to your heart, do not take things personally. Find a mentor in your organization/field of interest, the EE online community, or even a family member who may be in the field or knows of others who could guide you where to start.

Suppose you don't comprehend something the first time; circle back to it another day with fresh eyes.  Furthermore, dig deep and keep trying. If you don't learn from a book, try a hands-on lab or even ask someone in the field what resources helped them when they started. Real-world experience will define your career, and the unique start you established will set you apart from others.

3.  Ask Others Questions, Network & Reach Out:


Sitting back is not going to bring opportunities to your door. Join a virtual event or ones in a nearby city. A lot of training institutes and academies exist to start pursuing your path. A certificate program or free course may be the best to start with, or even taking a few classes at a technical community college can be beneficial.

Please don't put all of your eggs in one basket, as you may not like a specific field over time but enjoy another field entirely. Explore as many fields and topics as you can and listen to the stories of others, e.g., the Conversations with Tech Experts podcast.

Never feel like you're bothering an existing IT professional because asking questions is a core part of growth at any age. If someone seems busy, draft an email or leave a message indicating they can get back to you when they're available or schedule a virtual lunch to chat on their calendar.

Conclusion


Aside from Girls in Engineering Mathematics & Science (GEMS), being part of the Help Desk in 2014 exposed me to several areas of IT, e.g., security compliance, training, system administration, audits, project management, and networking. I also completed a 2-year degree and then a 4-year degree in Learning Design & Technology while working full-time. Bowling Green State University (BGSU) had awesome professors not just in terms of instructional design-related courses but technical management.  Online learning, the hybrid classes, especially in community college, were flexible while I strengthened my hands-on learning, e.g., with networking, Active Directory, rights management, customer service, documentation in the workplace onsite at the same time.  I learned a lot about cybersecurity in my community college classes. Even after you graduate, you never truly stop being a student as we must keep learning and growing to solve problems in tech.

Some shorter focused certification courses and even 2-year degree programs are undoubtedly beneficial to use a foundational launching platform before you invest in a university program or decide mid-way "this isn't for me" then lose time or have to start over in terms of finding a college that may also not accept all courses you've already completed or only a few; therefore, extending your completion time. I don't feel like I wasted time with the degrees I chose to pursue, but it took me time to figure out the path I wanted to dive into as a career that I love, and information security is exciting and challenging!

Many great IT internship programs are offered by organizations nowadays, whether remote or onsite; you can learn a lot from them. Something that also helped me decipher how things work is diagramming or sketching out complex processes on a piece of paper or a whiteboard, but consider using Visio or LucidChart. If you find others in the same boat as you, whether it be an online class etc., consider forming your own virtual study group and tackling the topics together as someone may grasp one aspect others are struggling to comprehend or can simplify text in a way others can digest it easily. Still, you yourself may be able to help others with something another didn't quite understand.

Always be open to trying new things, as you truly never know the outcome until you go out there apply, and most importantly, never give up no matter how many rejections you receive or when anyone says a field is not for you!  If you have a passion or interest in something, then go for it! The demand for IT professionals is at an all-time high, and the need for IT problem-solving will never go away for humanity.

There are so many avenues you can take to start your career path in life. Don't wait too long to decide and explore as the world of technology changes quite rapidly.  As a result of this exponential growth, it becomes truly a race against time when it comes down to keeping up with change, which can be won by continuous learning. The time to act is now!

Here are some resources listed below that could help you across a field of interest in IT, but a ton exist, so by no means covers all:


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