The differences in technology disciplines

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It was suggested to me by one of the readers of that I write about the differences in the different technology disciplines. For example, what kind of job can you expect to get as a IT professional, say versus a computer science major.

Well, as you know, my company provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. Given that, and given my background, I’d say that I fall under the IT category more than any other. In terms of jobs in the IT sector, it really depends what you want to do. In the past, we saw a real separation of duties. Networking guys worked on networking, like switches and firewalls and routers. Desktop support dealt with desktop operating systems and hardware, like Windows XP. Server administrators dealt with server related infrastructure. Sometimes you even drilled down server tasks, like you had an Active Directory administrator, and a separate Exchange server administrator.

In today’s technology world, we simply don’t see as much division of these tasks anymore. Active Directory is pretty damn stable. Exchange ‘just works’ more than it ever has. Windows 7 and 8 are very robust desktop operating systems. With the enhanced quality and reliability of all these components of the network, we’re having to rely less on specific individual elements. In other words, we don’t need a separate Active Directory administrator, Exchange administrator and IIS administrator. We can simply find a good, well-rounded systems administrator to look after everything.

As you can tell, this kind of goes down the road of eliminating the systems administrator altogether. I honestly don’t think we’ll ever be at a point where we don’t need any systems admins, but there will certainly be a drop in the amount of system admin positions out there.

Anyways, in the IT world today (keeping in mind that this changes often and quite frequently), we’ve got the systems admins, the desktop support folks and the networking folks. These are the 3 main categories. Are there more ? Of course. Are they as big as these 3 ? No. These are the 3 fundamental categories. Depending on your area of preference, you may specialize in any of these 3 areas. Personally, I think networking is becoming the hot topic right now, with all the changes happening in wireless technologies and SDN (Software Defined Networking).

Now, moving over to the sciences side, there are also several main categories you can look into. Computer sciences is considered the path to programming. There are many different programming languages out there, like C++, Ruby, Java, PHP, etc. The more programming languages you learn, the more desired your skills will be. Programming is very logical and mathematical. It is not for everyone. You need to enjoy ‘coding’ and problem solving (debugging). You have to be willing to sit there and write line after line after line of code. Computer science folks are NOT part of the IT realm as you think it. Computer science majors don’t know how to setup Windows servers. They don’t know how to create static routes in a router, or define QoS on a switch. They write code.

Another major category on the sciences side is computer engineering. These are the people who actually design things like processors and figure out how the actual computations take place. These guys are some real gurus, and what they do is absolutely above my head, so I will the description at that.

A third discipline which is often overlooked because many don’t consider it ‘technology related’, is business. Business majors are absolutely involved in the technology industry, and often they are sought after by companies. Myself, I have been educated in both Business Administration as well as IT. This gives me the ability to have a strong business acumen, yet also be the ‘geeky tech’. Business skills can be very important, especially if you’re in senior management or in a position where you run or own your company. Bottom line, you aren’t going to become a CIO or Director of IT without some business background. C-level executives aren’t nerds and they aren’t geeks. They are business people. If you want to get to that level, you need to have those same business skills, while also sporting the technical knowledge at the same time.

This is just a very brief overview of the common fields in today’s technology world. Again, this list is not comprehensive, and it is certainly growing by the day. Almost every profession, from legal to accounting is making its way into the technology sector. The industry is just too big and growing too quickly for this not to be happening.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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