When I was younger, I didn’t know what I wanted to do within the IT industry and picked a general IT Systems degree at University. The course had a mixture of networking, security, desktop support, theory, business analysis, and coding.
It was clear working through the various modules and parts of the course that coding wasn’t for me. Instead, I enjoyed the parts that involved solving problems. My career has been defined by that path ever since.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work in a lot of different IT departments, sometimes as part of that department and sometimes as a contractor. What’s always struck me with each IT department is the variety of people that make up that department.
Unique skillsets, unique opinions, and unique personalities. There was never just one job role in those departments.
You’d be forgiven if today you thought IT departments were only made up of one type of role. The developer role. It’s all you ever hear from certain companies and marketing departments.
They are wrong though.
Those roles I saw when I was coming through the ranks of IT are still there, they are as relevant, sometimes more so than the developer role.
So, let’s explore the other roles that make up an IT department.
Help Desk Analyst and Help Desk Support
Your help desk team are often the most visible members of the IT department to the business. They are the ones that triage the problems your end users have, whether that be simple password resets or bugs within your products.
They’ll be the ones that spot the patterns and escalate bigger issues.
You’ll probably see variations of the job title. It’s a role I did for many years. It taught me so much about and IT department, how end users interact with technology and customer service skills.
This is a great place to start your career and build on your skills.
Large organisations may have a team that are dedicated to looking after desktops and laptops and end user devices.
This is another great role within the IT department for folks looking to get started. Often some of the skills you’ve homed outside of work, fixing relatives PCs and the like can be transferred to this role.
This can often be the next step up after working in a Helpdesk role. It’s another role that gives you a great overview of the business and IT department. You’ll get exposure to a lot of basic and complex problems. And to a lot of people and teams.
Networking is a complex area. It was complex back when all we had to worry about was one building that house all the staff and the servers. It’s even more complex now with WiFi, on-premises networking, cloud networking, remote access networking, telephony networking and more.
It’s a specialist role and very important role. They’ll maintain, monitor, secure and grow your network.
Most other roles within the IT department will have to at least a basic understanding of networking and how the network is configured and works. But it won’t need not be as deep as the network team.
Another role you might find within an IT department is a Server Engineer. This role will be focused on looking after the servers within the business. Servers can play a huge role within organisations IT setup, that could be a server that stores all the businesses files and gives you access to them or even a server that helps you to print out your super important print outs.
This role was very dominant as I progressed through my IT career but it’s something that you don’t often see anymore. You’ll often see this role incorporated into the DevOps Engineer role or a role that isn’t needed in organisations that are focuses on cloud native services or micro services that live in the cloud.
There is still a place in the IT industry currently for this role, there are literally thousands of Windows Servers and other types of servers out there in the wild that need to be maintained. Those servers aren’t just going to disappear overnight or move to the cloud in the next day or two.
So, I this is something you want to focus on then there is still scope here, especially if you focus on the hybrid nature of running some IT services in private datacentres and in the cloud.
When I started out in IT, I don’t even remember the title DevOps Engineer being something available, or if it was then it wasn’t commonplace. Now it is a common job title and function inside an IT department.
There are lots of definitions of DevOps and what a DevOps engineer should do. A DevOps engineer will often be instrumental in unifying and automating processes and procedures. This could be helping to release the latest code to maintenance tasks.
I’ve seen some people claim you need to have Developer and Server experience to be a DevOps Engineer. Let’s clear that up. It’s nonsense. You can have a DevOps Engineer that has only Development or Developer experience and you’ll also have DevOps Engineers who only have Server or Operations experience. The team should be balanced enough that you’ll have a mix of people and experience inside the team to compliment each other.
Inside your IT department you'll find a team who are focussed on using programming languages to create software. Their role will be to write, test, debug and maintain applications.
The applications will be bespoke applications, not your standard applications like Microsoft Word etc. The development team might also be responsible for making applications that the company sells.
Security has become a major part of any IT conversation. Whether it’s understanding threats from external actors or from users inside your network. Nowadays you’ll find dedicated people or teams within IT departments that focus on the security for every project or system that is implemented.
However, security should be a core skill everyone in the department is aware of and thinking of. You’ll probably find if you join a new company part of your on-boarding will be security and making sure you are aware of the companies’ best practices and procedures.
Microsoft have even become a little famous for their internal security training, their Standards of Business Conduct training featuring Nelson has become a bit like a Netflix show with people waiting for the next episode to be released.
This is another role that’s evolved during my time in the industry. A Data Scientist will have experience and knowledge of both theoretical and applied, in a range of Machine Learning algorithms. And the ability to communicate complex analysis in a clear, precise, and actionable manner and sell these to a non-technical audience.
Data and information are key these days to a lot of businesses. Being able to interpret that and use it to help make the right decisions is important. A Data Scientist team can really help with that and make sense of the data your organisation is gathering on your customer base.
Your Data Scientist might be able to make sense of all the data you have collected and make it useful data for business decisions. But chances are there is someone or a team in your department that will be responsible for the maintenance of the servers or systems that store that data.
You'll often found people who specialise in setting up database servers, structuring the data tables, making sure they perform they way they should, etc.
With so many choices of databases, relational or non-relational and beyond these days someone in your team who can figure out the best solution and manage and maintain that for your business is important.
I’ve seen IT departments who have technical project managers and non-technical project managers. Either works if the project manager can help to bridge that gap between vision and execution. At the very minimum they should have a basic understanding of technical platforms and methodologies.
A good project manager will help to manage tasks, budgets, business communication, and will have a good relationship with both the IT department and the business.
This role can often be the link between your IT department and the rest of the business. You’ll find this role helps to gather requirements from the business on new IT systems that are needed or processes that need to be introduced that have a technology slant. They’ll look at risks and impact of these projects.
Sometimes this role is combined with the Project Manager role.
Do I need to code to work in IT?
This is often something that I get asked all the time. It’s also something a large majority of current people within the IT industry can’t decide on and regularly debate.
For me the answer to the question is you need to be able to have some basic coding skills, but you don’t need to be an expert.
There are different types of coding skills, being able to write a script to automate the installation of software to a bunch of PCs is something you might need to be comfortable to do. But you don’t need to be able to write a mobile phone app from scratch, that type of coding is a developer’s job.
There is also a massive argument to be had that you don’t have to be technical to work within IT. There are roles and opportunities for those that have strong leadership, communication or even just some common sense.
The IT industry is forever changing and evolving and the skills you need are forever changing as well. But if you are wanting to pursue a career in IT and find yourself stumped by coding, don’t let that put you off. As I said above there are a lot of roles and variety in IT, so you can find your path.