Careers: Interviews
Current IT Market

To provide a unique perspective of the current IT market, this week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an interview with a recent outstanding computing graduate, Jelka Posilovic. Ms. Posilovic was chosen from more than 300 IT applicants for her position as user support specialist for a large legal firm.

Q: Jelka, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
A: It’s my pleasure.

Q: Can you describe your background and how you decided upon a career in computing? What are the pros and cons of the decisions that you have made?
A: I had originally started working in the service industry when I graduated from high school. A few years later, I decided to return to school to take a legal secretary program. After graduating from the program, I immediately started working for a large legal firm. It was during the course of this time that I became interested in computers and how they functioned in a networked environment. I started reading literature on computer mechanics and found it so challenging and intriguing that I eventually decided to turn it into a career. I enrolled in a computer studies program at Capilano College, got my diploma, got certified and then got myself a job.

With respect to the pros and cons of my decision…My workload is monumental and can seem daunting at times. Here I am, walking into a job straight out of school with not an inkling of experience with Novell or Unix servers, both of which I now have to support and maintain. As a result, I often find myself glued to my PC after hours researching these products so I can better understand and troubleshoot the problems I encounter.

I have found that this line of work can be incredibly stressful and yet incredibly rewarding at the same time. Every day my job brings a new challenge and if there’s one thing that I love, it’s a challenge. For me, the pros about making a career choice in computers heavily outweigh the cons (since I don’t mind losing too much sleep, that is).

Q: What are your viewpoints on the current job market and how did you get your current job? What job finding strategies did you use?
A: I have found the current job market for a “no computer experience” type like myself, extremely bad. I sort of lucked out getting the job that I did. I knew that all of the medium/large legal firms in Vancouver had IT departments. Also, based on my previous experience as a legal secretary, I figured I had a pretty good shot at applying for some sort of help desk position since most of the law firms used the same software applications.

My job finding strategy was directly focused on the legal community. I grabbed a legal directory, phoned all the big law firms and got contact information for all the IT department heads. I then mass e-mailed my resume to these perspective employers and eventually got a hit.

I never actually applied at the law firm where I work now. It turns out that the legal community is quite tight knit and my resume got passed from one IT manager’s hands to another. A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call to come in for an interview. My interviewer mentioned that she called me in because she was interested in the fact that I had worked as a legal secretary before joining the world of IT. It was actually this exact point that was pivotal to my beating out over 300 other applicants for the job.

Q: What was it like the first weeks on the job? How did you feel and what strategies did you use?
A: The learning curve I encountered during the first weeks at my job was probably threefold what I found it to be at school (even though school was incredibly difficult and challenging in itself). I felt overwhelmed at the fact I had absolutely no experience with most of the server products the firm was using. I walked into a job position where only two people ran the IT department at the firm (which supports 75 users), and I was going to be one of them. I only had one full week of training time with the person whose job I was going to take over. In order to maximize what I could learn from my trainer during that time, I documented practically everything he taught me.

Q: What are the most important skills and resources that you use to do your job?
A: I’d say the most valuable skills I use to do my job are my analytical, organizational and interpersonal skills, and by far the most powerful tool I use to do my job is the Internet.

Q: What were your biggest surprises while on the job?
A: I guess the biggest surprise I’ve encountered while working in IT so far has been the discovery that there is no short and sweet solution to every problem.

Q: What advice would you give to those thinking about a career in computing?
A: Be prepared to fully devote yourself to your job. This is not the kind of occupation where you finish your day at 5:00pm and then punch your time card. All the sayings I have heard about the world of IT have proven true that you don’t have much of a life outside of your work. Also, don’t expect to enter a career in IT and then become instantly wealthy. As with most jobs, good pay usually comes with years of hard work and world of experience.

I also note that being a computer technician is much like being an auto mechanic. It can be thankless work sometimes, however, as long as you are doing it for the love of the job, you will always be rewarded.

Q: What about woman in IT – what’s your perspective in this important area?
A: There aren’t enough of them. I’m not really sure why so many women have been deterred from entering this field. I believe that if you have the desire, drive and determination to pursue a career in IT, you can and will succeed to do so, regardless of your gender.

Q: Where do you see yourself in one, three years and five years?
A: In one year I see myself continuing to assemble a solid foundation of knowledge that I can start to build on. In three to five years I’d like to tackle the field of user/network support on a larger scale, perhaps from a management perspective.

Q: Based upon your experiences, what are the biggest traps or pitfalls to avoid in IT?
A: They are:
  1. Don’t get to in-depth when you are troubleshooting until you’ve ruled out the obvious.
  2. Don’t assume things work unless you’ve tested them.
  3. Avoid rushing your work to prevent making hasty and costly mistakes.
  4. If you can’t solve a problem on your own right away, start looking for the answers somewhere else.
  5. Don’t do anything drastic without having a good backup.
  6. Never tell people things are fixed until you know this for a fact.
  7. Don’t assume you’ll remember every step you took, write it down.


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