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Switch Your IT Specialty

Switch Your IT Specialty

Allan Hoffman / Monster Tech Jobs Expert

October 27, 2008

You might think that changing your technology specialty wouldn’t be nearly as difficult as making a wholesale career change. After all, expertise in one area of IT should have some relevance in another, right?

That’s true enough, but it doesn’t mean that making a transition within IT is easy to pull off. Far from it.

Changing IT career tracks – technical support to programming or programming to network administration, for instance – is often much more work than many techies realize. (More typical progressions, such as from help desk to network administration or programming to project management, are another matter entirely, because they are recognized routes of advancement.)

To make the transition to a new specialty, you’ll need a record of projects showcasing your new skills and possibly additional training. Even then, expect to start at the bottom, both in terms of pay and job responsibilities.

“Is it possible?” asks Helen Campbell, chief technology officer of Data Group. “Absolutely. Many things are possible if you really want to make them happen, but it’s not easy.”

Campbell cautions about the challenges of making a major switch within IT – even if you’re doing so with the help of a supportive employer. Campbell recounted how one techie on her team, thanks to his logical, process-oriented mind, had a fairly easy transition from technical support to software development. But a similar transition wasn’t right for someone else, who missed the troubleshooting aspects of system administration and the level of interaction, she says.

Al Parvar, who switched from tech support to software development at Daata Group’s LaserShip division, says a certain amount of initiative is necessary if you want to change IT specialties. Soon after joining the company, Parvar spoke up in a meeting on a technical topic relevant to software development. His views were noticed, thus setting the stage for subsequent opportunities to work on software interfaces and applications.

Where you work matters, too. “This company gave me a lot of chances to grow and learn,” says Parvar, now an IT business analyst at LaserShip.

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