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Getting Out of Tech Support? 152

An anonymous reader asks: "For the last year or so I've been working in 1st line tech support at a small call centre that's part of a much larger outsourcing company and to be honest it's sucking the life out of me, I want change but I don't know what direction to take in order to get out and I really need some advice from others who have made the jump. I suppose what I'd like to know is what kind of jobs one should be looking for coming from technical support with decent knowledge of UNIX, networking, scripting and 'light coding'. Is there any hope for me or will I have to go back to school in order to even have employers look at my resume?"
I'm in my mid-twenties and I've taken a number of college-level courses, a couple of those being computer engineering courses, some math and a few others that I found interesting, in the process I also managed to procure a fairly large amount of debt in the form of student loans, nothing I can't handle but I don't really want more debt although going back to get a degree is one possibility. I'm not entirely sure what I want to do except that I want to do something a bit more "real", to actually fix problems instead of just talking to customer after customer and then submitting tickets for someone else to fix the problem. From what I've understood from older acquaintances moving from tech support to other positions was actually a good way to go back when a lot of companies handled their own tech support, but for me there isn't much of a career path at this company as we only handle 1st line support, 2nd line and all above is done by the client companies themselves.

I'd really like to get more into sysadmin type work, or at least something where you spend more time solving problems and managing systems than you do arguing with irrate customers over how they have to call customer service for billing questions as technical support can't handle those problems."
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Getting Out of Tech Support?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2007 @03:56AM (#18191740)
    A+ and Net+ to start. Go from there.


    Certifications prove you know something.

    Degree's prove you can stick with something and are willing to invest time in something.

    References prove you've worked with people.

    Experience proves you've been trusted to do the job by someone.
    • by Fubar420 ( 701126 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:06AM (#18191766)
      As someone who interviews far too many who believe the same: Certifications prove you can pass a test (like HS) - that is, rote memorization. Proving knowledge is an exercise left to the reader. In answer to the original question, discover what interests you, what you want to do, and learn more, be it networking, unix, coding ( or sales :-) ). If you're not interested in it, you won't advance in it.
      • by acidrain ( 35064 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @06:23AM (#18192222)

        My advice to anyone thinking of trying something new technically? Go home and and do it. Just start. In this case, get old computers, install Linux on them and set up a network with a proxy, web and mail servers. Or get a book on programming and install a compiler. There is a world of free tools and information out there, just actively explore instead of sitting on your ass fretting about your dead end job. You'll probably find something that inspires you, and that will be the force that will pull you into doing it. A good education is best if you can get it, but you can also make good money if you take the time to teach yourself, for example how to set up office networking. *Actually having done it* and fiddled with it until you really understood it is what is going to translate into success. For example, the person who's post I'm replying to will be more impressed if you tell him you figured it out yourself. Then you can volunteer to get experience or get certs if you have to. You should at least be able to find something that makes it easier to pay off your loans and get back into school.

        Disclaimer: it's easy for me to say this as I have a degree and am a senior engineer. However, I'd equate what you gain from one university course to taking on a new kind of project or reading a good technical book. And I have worked with a senior kernel engineer who'd graduated with a music degree, and an artist who became one of the best Maya programmers, recognized as a Maya Master by Alias. I also recently changed specialities by taking this advice. Try before you buy, and if you like it, it suddenly gets a lot easier to switch.

        • I'm afraid I'd largely agree. Certifications don't carry a huge amount of weight in a lot of places. They might help get an interview, if you've gone one that matches the _specific_ skill set they're looking for, but all too often in systems admin, you are looking for a 'best fit'.

          It's very rare to find someone with the precise combination of vendor specific certifications, and it's actually much more useful to find someone with experience in the 'relevant area' e.g. 'has done firewalls' rather than 'has

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BVis ( 267028 )
            I agree that certifications are largely useful in getting into the "consider" pile of resumes instead of the "discard" pile.

            Remember that the initial screening is likely to be done by some HR idiot who wouldn't know PHP from PCP, and they're just operating off of keyword searches.

            I recently myself escaped the hell that is tech support (It's the ditch digging of the IT industry.) I gathered Linux, PHP, Perl, Apache and MySQL experience along the way through independent efforts, and have a job now where one
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jwocky ( 900748 )
          I was working on some home projects a few years ago while searching for a job. While setting up OpenBSD on my machine, I noticed that the mirror was an ISP in my city. Of course I checked out their website, saw job openings and applied. I told them this story during the interview, which lead to discussions to the projects I was doing on my own time, which lead to a job offer.

          I wound up turning the position down for another one, ironically a few blocks away from them, for a company that uses them as an in
        • This was the path I took. Building a resume in the tech sector with nothing but experience is like building a house with straw. Employers don't even consider me because I don't have a degree or any expensive certifications. HR departments datamine for resumes with the terms "BSc Computer Science" and discard everything else. I currently work at a small ISP for an employer so cheap that when our web developer begs for a new $300 computer to make Photoshop run (faster), he gets turned down.

          My wife works as a
      • While I agree certifications are meaningless, every tech employer I've met still requires A+. It might not get you a job anymore, but you'll have a hard time getting and interview otherwise.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 0racle ( 667029 )
          A place beyond Best Buys 'geek squad' type position requiring the A+ means one thing, you don't want to work there. A trained monkey can pass the A+.
          • A few years ago when I was unemployed, I applied for a "Technician I" job that required A+ certification. Since I'm not in the habit of wasting time and money, I'd never bothered getting it. They hired me anyway, because I had 10+ years experience... but they still expected me to take the test within six months. Fortunately I found another job before the six months were up, so I never had to demean myself by taking a test to prove what my resume and references (to say nothing of my job performance) alrea
            • As other posters said, the A+ by many manufactures is considered a warranty issue. Meaning if someone messes inside the hardware doesn't have the A+ they can say it voids the warranty (this is for high end stuff not typical desktops). Stupid as it may be your boss would be a moron for not covering his ass legally. I'm sure there are some lawyers out there who view the bar as below them but its required to practice law. Sure no states require the A+, but consider it in the same realm at least.
        • I've never met one that requires an A+. At least not if you have any actual experience in the industry. If you have a firm understanding of the principles and don't need to fill in the holes in your knowledge then I'd say skip it. Get your CCNA. They all go gaga for cisco certs these days. If you have a CCNA then it is assumed you have the 'basic' knowledge in the A+.
      • As someone who interviews far too many who believe the same: Certifications prove you can pass a test (like HS) - that is, rote memorization

        Yes, but you interviewed him, and that's the point. I interview countless mindless drones as well, but the certifications and other paper trail get him past the HR interviewing process. Some of them turn out to have some actual skills. We all know its a flawed process, but the goal is to actually GET the interview. Beyond that, actual skills, experience, and personal
      • Certifications usually show breadth of knowledge, at least in my experience with the Sun Java and J2EE certifications. You can learn stuff on your own or on the job, but that tends to be much more focused than you might realize. Certifications force you to broaden your knowledge base.

        That's why even "rote memorization" can be very important. Who is faster, the experienced code jockey who can whip out a set of classes within a few days, or the noob who knows that the problem has already been solved in a s
      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        Everyone's talking about Certifications and Degrees when what he wants is a job. I recommend really polishing up your resume, get several people to look at it and pick it apart for you. It should be no more then 2 pages and preferably one page. I like to stick in a skills section for jobs that might be data mining for key words.

        Step two is to get your resume to as many head hunters as possible, this can bite you in the ass if you are applying to a job that has already received your resume from a contra
    • by wiz_80 ( 15261 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:30AM (#18192038)
      I disagree. A degree beats certifications, at least in my experience. Annoyingly, the degree is just a tick in the box, but it is pretty much an absolute requirement. Certifications, on the other hand - I have a couple, but I stopped bothering about them because they did not seem to make any noticeable difference.

      Basically, I would recommend that you try to work out a way of getting a degree that builds on the courses that you already took, which should save some money, and also features work experience. This can be an excellent way to get good things onto your CV, get hands-on experience in other areas (not just technical areas!) and make useful contacts for later.

      Also, something to bear in mind for the future: I find that it pays to look at the career path a job offers, not just the immediate benefits. Make sure that you can go up the ladder, but also sideways in a couple of different directions. After three years of tech support, I went to pre-sales support, which is a whole different kettle of fish, but hugely rewarding in its way.
    • +5 insightful?
      "+" Certs aren't worth the paper their printed on. A waste of time and money, no matter how cheap and easy. If you want a cert, go for LPI (fits your Unix background) or something.
      • One of the biggest mistakes I've seen people make is to get certified for something which they have no professional experience. The only that does is to waste recruiters time. The cert ends up with a bunch of phone calls from headhunters that see the cert on a resume that end in this:

        recruiter: how much experience do you have with X
        applicant: none
        recruiter: ...
        phone line: click.

        But having a cert + experience will get you far more interviews than experience alone and in situations where it's you bein

    • If you can, find a University/college IT dept, that needs people. At least in the UK, most colleges and UNI's employ current and ex students as they cant afford to pay as much as private industry. Becuase of this the jobs you get to do are many and varied, and it's not really that important if you screw up once or twice.

      The advice about reading books and installing Linux on your PC will only get you so far. Becuase what you lack is experience of theings that can and do go wrong in a working network of machi
    • Not the computer kind.

      Lean on all the friends you had in high school. Sign up to a site like [] which is basically a job search site that uses networking to help you be more successful in your search... you'll be surprised how many people you know are "linked" with people offering jobs. (Or "linked" with people in the kind of big companies who are always hiring talent, regardless of their job listings.)
  • Well if you want to do something more hands on. Why not look for an on-site support job.
    • Re:well.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Eggplant62 ( 120514 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:24AM (#18192022)
      Sounds like you want to look for a position in field support. I worked in field support for several years, and found it to be a lot of fun. I never knew where I would end up from day to day. I got to travel around the Metro Detroit area mostly, but some days might find me out as far as Saginaw or the Toledo, OH regions doing service calls.

      As one poster wrote above, certifications are nice, they prove you can take a test. I got laid off due to budget cuts a couple years back, and while on unemployment for six months, I got back to school in a Unix/Linux Systems associates program at a local business college, and should have my degree by this time next year. In the meantime, I fell back on a trade I had worked in for several years before landing my tech support position, medical transcription, so I could stay at home, work part-time, save up some cash, and concentrate on my studies.

      I think the other poster is right, though. Don't rely solely on certs. Solid work in a college-level program is really going to prove how serious you are. I got really lucky back in the late 90s when I hired on as a field service technician, and then while out training with the service department manager at a large trucking facility located near Detroit Metro Airport, I showed him how to handle TCP/IP properly on Win95 and Win98 boxes hosted on an NT network. However, I'm going to call it a fluke, since trying to get a job with my notable lack of certs (I hold no Microsoft certs and will not pursue them, though I do have my LPI-1 & 2) or a college degree is holding me up.

      Note, too, I'm in my mid-40s. It's never too late to stop where you are, reassess where you are at, and take measures to fix things.
    • by ack154 ( 591432 )
      That's what I did... my first job out of college was phone support. Thankfully it wasn't for an "outsourcing" company though. It was in-house line. After a year of that I got burnt out too (though some of those people had been there for about 5 yrs before me). I made a transition to desktop support to at least get away from the phones. So now it's more of a "hands on" support role and it's much nicer. Of course not what I'll do forever, but not a bad experience builder either.
  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:08AM (#18191780)
    It sounds like you should move up to a run of the mill sysadmin position. You have the basic skills, you've paid your dues with a little time in a tech support job... Look for "System Administrator I" positions on your favorite job listings site. Apply to them. See what happens.

    This is a textbook career move. Why do you even need to ask us?
    • by s0l0m0n ( 224000 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:26AM (#18191828) Homepage
      I remember being in a similar position and asking myself the same question. "Where do I go from here?"

      It turns out that the answer for me was get demoralized by the tech support nightmare, get fired, bum around for a while, go back to college for something else. I'm much happier studying engineering than I ever was working with computers, even though much of the mindset still applies.

      I wonder if the originator of this question doesn't need to ask himself "Is this what I want to do with my life?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by subreality ( 157447 )
        I agree that that question should be asked. I sort of fell into syseng. It's a good career, but I've not found it particularly fulfilling in the long run. Changing to networking has helped some, but I don't think this'll last forever.

        However, given what it sounds like his goals are - get off the front line and into a job with a little more dignity and mental stimulation - syseng is a pretty easy choice. It certainly doesn't require a degree to get started, so you can try it for a while and see if you li
        • by Shihar ( 153932 )
          The issue is that if you get 300 resumes from a job posting on HotJobs, how the hell do you weed out 290 of those resumes? One quick and easy way is to start dumping people without certs. Are you dumping lots of qualified people? Sure, but you can almost guarantee that the 50 or 100 resumes you have left are on average more qualified then the average resume you just tossed.

          Finding a job is a really painful process, but don't forget that it is a pain in the ass for the person looking to get the job filled
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hb253 ( 764272 )
            Actually, my first resume filters would be spelling errors, bad formatting, and disorganized presentation.
            • Criteria that have no relation to job performance unless you are hiring an editor. Excellent choice.

              You are replying to someone who filters our resumes using a criteria which likely yields better candidates for the position. If you are going to counter with another method don't pick one that could as easily cut your best candidates as your worst.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by hb253 ( 764272 )
                In my view, if you don't care enough to check for problems with your resume, you will probably be just as careless with the systems or processes you're responsible for. There are always exceptions of course, but if I'm trying to cull the resume stack, it's not un unreasonable approach.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by tomknight ( 190939 )
                The reality is that the impression your CV and covering letter give makes a real difference. Decent presentation can help you get past the first sifting stage.

                It's like turning up to your interview well dressed and clean (shock horror) will give a better impression than that grease spattered slob top you're wearing right now. Yes, I'm talking to you, lard boy!

                The BIG KEY to getting a job at interview stage is this:
                Let the interviewer know that they'll look good if they employ you. How you appear to the inte
              • by SlamMan ( 221834 )
                I'd argue that attention to detail and producing finished projects is a good component of most positions. If you make spelling mistakes on a resume, why would I assume you're not going to make similar mistakes in emails to users, or documentation, or variables? If someone is willing to put out a resume, something that should have had some time put into it, with major problems, I'm not trusting them with work projects. That said, thats a very different thing from "I don't like your choice of indentation
                • 'I'd argue that attention to detail and producing finished projects is a good component of most positions.'

                  I'd argue that are dozens or even hundreds of details that are overlooked by even the most anal worker in a complex project. Attention to detail is critical in most positions but the most important aspect is prioritizing your time to address the most important details.

                  As a hirer you are looking at dozens of candidates. You forget that those candidates are looking at dozens of positions and probably cus
                  • by SlamMan ( 221834 )
                    It has nothing to do with non-conformity, it has to do with submitting sub-par work when a higher level of quality is required.
  • Outside Jobs (Score:3, Informative)

    by 1mck ( 861167 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:16AM (#18191806)
    A friend of mine worked with me at a huge call centre, and he had enough, much like you, with the whole tech support thing babying people with basic installs etc. There is a huge demand for Sys Admins for engineering firms, and these companies cannot afford any, and I repeat any down time whatsoever! Look into it, and with the credentials that you have now I'm more that sure you'll be able to get a job! Good luck
    • I did 5 years of TS and worked my way up from tier 1 to tier 3 at one company before moving on. Now, I hold a Tier 2 position (out of 3) and have sys admin abilities, but I still would not trust myself in a zero downtime situation. Granted, my boxes are currently setup for DNS failover (web) so there isn't any downtime, but file, exchange and DB servers and all that - no thanks. I see what our current sys admin goes through on a daily basis and it would take me at least a year shadowing him before I'd consi
  • The normal growing path for support people, at least from what I've seen is higher level support, growing into sysadmin, or for some rare cases - moving into programming. But for this you need a complany that has all of those and that offers such mobility - like most ISPs, hosting companies, etc. Probably the best option is not a really big company, as there it's easier to learn the trade, to see almost everything in action (as opposed to the big ones, where you'll probably be stuck with only a part of the
  • College (Score:5, Informative)

    by sporkme ( 983186 ) * on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:26AM (#18191830) Homepage
    Stop screwing around and get a college degree. Your jobs will suck until you do. Work at a crappy job with crappy pay if you have to, so long as it lets you get that degree.

    Time spent at school affords you the people network and insight to answer this question yourself. Plus, you will have a college degree. Choose wisely and you will need a big wooden club to keep the headhunters away. Everything starts with college, and it is never too late. Assuming you are a citizen of the United States, you get more money after you turn 24 because your parents' income cannot be considered.
    • Re:College (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Harker ( 96598 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @06:23AM (#18192224)
      I have to agree. I'm 43 and have only just recently come to that conclusion (I'm a slow learner). All the self-paced and occasional classes will not help. Take it from one with experience.

      I've been, and still am working in an "operations" job for the past 15 years or so and have gotten really tired of it. I believe the decision I made to go to school, obtain a degree and change my focus is one of the best moves I've ever made. Now, all I need to do is decide what my end focus will be...

      Although I do have one benefit that you might not have. The company I now work for has tuition assistance, which will mitigate the cost somewhat.

      Best of luck whatever you choose.

      • by xtracto ( 837672 )
        I found your comment interesting. I am kind of the "inverse" of what yo are. I am 25 now and I completed the Bachellors degree in Software Engineering in 2002 (I was the first in my class with an average of 94 out of 100). I worked around 1 year on a web applications development company (ASP with .NET, ,when it was just starting) and after that I worked something like another year in "real" software development implementing multi agent systems (Jade/Jadex), neural networks (CMAC) and some interfaces in C# a
        • by Greg_D ( 138979 )
          There are many, many jobs out there that specifically ask for MSc or PhD level candidates, most of which dealing with exactly the type of research you've done. I think you need to rethink the whole avoiding a US job issue. Regardless of the politics in the country, it's not going to affect you that much if at all on a day-to-day basis. You'll also have considerably more job opportunities and be able to build the kind of experience where eventually companies in Europe will salivate at the chance of having
    • I wouldn't focus on the degree necessarily, it's not critical depending on what you want to do. It's hard to say where you go to in the IT industry without any coding abilities, someone else in the thread mentioned system administrator, but how the hell are you going to get a job as a sysadmin with "light" coding abilities?

      I'd say do some open source coding in your spare time, write some cool things that you can show off, but at least learn how to code.
      I mean.. what is an IT career if it doesn't involve
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I mean.. what is an IT career if it doesn't involve coding? I literally can't think of anything..

        1) Well, there is IT project management. A project manager doesn't necessarily have to code, and, if they run the project well, they shouldn't be coding.

        2) There is IT Architect. The Architect draws pretty visio diagrams of hardware or, if you are into Services Oriented Architecture, they draw what amounts to process flow charts. No coding involved there.

        3) There is true IT business consulting. While

        • 3) There is true IT business consulting. While many consultants do code, many more simply work with the end users to help write design documents - which are then handed to coders.

          ObOfficeSpace quote: "So what is it you say you do here?"
          • by Greg_D ( 138979 )
            I can tell you with all honesty that in the ERP market, IT business consultants made about 60% more on average than the developers they work with. The ability to map out business processes in a way that makes interfacing with software possible is a much more sought after ability than developing software from those plans. There are business students who got their feet in the door who have 5 years of experience and are pulling down over 200K a year.
      • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )
        I mean.. what is an IT career if it doesn't involve coding?

        It's the same thing as an ME career that doesn't involve arc welding.

      • I mean.. what is an IT career if it doesn't involve coding? I literally can't think of anything..

        I could start a list, but I'll leave it at - I work for an IT organisation, and whilst i've got some good perl-fu, most of them do not. You don't need to 'code' to do most systems admin style troubleshooting, and most of the 'management apps' abstract any need to be able to code.

        That's not to say I haven't found 'programming skills' useful, I have, but they're a part of a repetoire and aren't actually all t

      • I mean.. what is an IT career if it doesn't involve coding? I literally can't think of anything..

        I'm a Systems Analyst... I don't code, I analyse the problems and write the requirements specs that the coders write the code for. The only code I do "write" is pseudocode to accompany state diagrams when describing the object that is to be coded.

      • Why on earth would a sysadmin code? Some mild scripting maybe but no coding. It isn't as if you are implementing custom coded solutions, as a sysadmin you are configuring an arrangment of already coded solutions. If any coding has to be done that is outsourced.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sinistar2k ( 225578 )
      Ha, okay.

      I dropped out of college after a year and a half to take a temp job doing network support. That start eventually took me through a number of software quality assurance and IT jobs to the point that I ended up as the Director of IT for a mid-size company. I'm now back in QA, serving as a lead for a team of four testers that specialize in network deployments.

      Mind you, I'm not making six figures, so I may be a failure depending on one's measure of success, but I make a very comfortable living consid
      • Things are changing. How long ago did you start your path through IT? I've been doing it a while without a degree and have done pretty well but for someone really trying to get in they need a degree now. You can't get a title of Manager at my current company without being able to check off that box for having a degree. It's just something places require now. Luckily my current employer paid my tuition and I finished my BS last year.
        • I started 15 years ago with the temp job. For what it's worth, nearly every job I have held has required a BS to even apply for it. I have routinely ignored that requirement to my benefit.

          Once you have the opportunity to speak with an employer and can recommend improvements before even setting foot inside the company, their concerns about a degree slide away.

          For the original poster, I'd concentrate on the developers who make the stuff he is supporting. Start talking to his immediate employer (the outsour
    • One way to get paid and get $$ for college is to join the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, Coast Guard, or any of the other military options that do not involve going to the sandbox/going to the sandbox with any real risk of experiencing anything icky.

      Avoid the Army and Marines for obvious reasons. They actually do military stuff including physical labor. Screw that.

      Active duty blows in terms of getting a degree (unless you have a career field with stable hours) but the Air Guard and Reserve weenies a
    • The college degree is to get the interview, not the job.

      I have no degree (although I spent 4 years in a CS program), and I was able to get a great job once I got my foot in the door on the strength of the skills I could demonstrate and my personality alone. Getting your foot in the door is the hard part, if you don't have a degree, and that's where networking takes over.
  • Check out the market (Score:3, Interesting)

    by $pearhead ( 1021201 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @04:28AM (#18191840)
    Why not just check out the job market? Look at ads for interesting jobs and their requirements. I would definitely recommend you to write a few applications, even if you don't feel 100% certain that you want the job(s). Job ads can sometimes be quite misleading and going to interviews will be good experience, a chance to find out more precisely what the companies are looking for and what you can expect from them. Many companies also use psychometric tests for evaluating applicants and although alot of those are crap (especially if over interpreted (which they often are, unfortunately)) it could be interesting to be able to take such a test.

    During the autumn, I was looking for a job, attended a few interviews and got the chance to take some psychometric tests. Even though I'm a bit sceptical to those tests, it was an experience and I think I got a clearer view of where I want to go and what I want to do jobwise.
  • with decent knowledge of UNIX, networking, scripting and 'light coding'.

    Are you actually able to back up those claims with evidence?

    Do you have any education in those fields or can you show some direct results of your experience?

    In all honesty; "1st line tech support" only proves you can speak over a telephone. 1st line tech support isn't considered a "real" IT job so you can't rely on it to get further into IT.

    I know this sounds harsh, but sugarcoating it won't help you further. Get some sort of "portfolio

  • by nickco3 ( 220146 ) * on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:29AM (#18192036)
    I manage a web-hosting operation for one of the largest insurance companies in the world. We are an internal department in the corporate IT division. Like your clients, we have kept the interesting work in-house and out-sourced our 1st and 2nd line support.

    I would employ you based on what you've written here. Well, bring you in for interview, anyway.

    I've recruited Web, Unix, network, and firewall admin roles. My best successes have all come from those first and second line support teams. They work hard, they are aware of the elements of customer service, they appreciate little things like being able to decide when your own lunch-time is going to be.

    I also like the motivation you've shown in organising college-courses, and that you're clearly got an interest in learning about the technology.

    A degree on top of that wouldn't sway me *that* much. I'd be impressed by anyone motiviated enough to do a degree in their own time. It's the motivation that impresses me, not the techie stuff you've may or may not have learned. There will always be learning curve when you come into a new job however good/experienced you are, and I expect to have to train people.

    So don't underestimate what you've got under your belt already, and start looking for 3rd-line techie jobs with your clients and other big corporates.
    • by Daneboy ( 315359 )
      I was going to make that same suggestion. It's still true that you can move from support into a lot of other technical roles, but this is definitely made more difficult by companies outsourcing their support to others.

      If you want to leverage your support background into something else, I would start looking closely at your current client companies, and see if you can find a way to move into their in-house 3rd-tier support organization. Once you're there, depending on the company and what they do, you'll h
  • by Veliena ( 39225 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:53AM (#18192112)
    You've only made it a year? Ptth. Wuss. ;p It took me five years of tech support, a forced move and another couple years of tech support to realize there were other valid things I could be doing with my life. We're both at an age where it's in our best interest to actually settle on a career with a descent wage so be sure admin'ing is what you really want to do. Do you read books about UNIX on the weekends? Find yourself really wanting to know when a big security patch comes out? Will you actually be happy doing it or is it just the path of least resistance? I thought I was stuck on that side of computers. It was an epiphany that I could do something else with them for a living. I went back to school for 3D modeling and game development since I love sculpture, but don't actually want to be a starving artist. I had to go the community college route due to my own loan issues, but I lucked out and there's a good program in my area. I'm graduating with an AA and lots of good, focused practice soon so it's working out for me so far. I would probably rather be a stripper than go back to being afraid I'll answer my own telephone, "Thank you for calling the IT Support Center! This is X speaking."
  • Bootstrap yourself (Score:4, Informative)

    by ma11achy ( 150206 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:57AM (#18192130)
    Here are a few pointers from a Unix sysadmin and programmer for the past 10 years.

    1) Motivate yourself. Get a Unix/Linux Sysadmin book and read it
            from cover to cover. Stick Linux on your PC at home and
            break it/fix it/mess with it.

    2) Do more at your workplace (if you can). Start helping out in
            the areas that interest you. You might be surprised, people
            notice these things.

    3) Sell yourself. This is very important. I don't mean telling
            everyone you meet how great you are, but dropping hints when
            chatting to sysadmins/programmers about what you can do.

            People like me usually remember people like you, and have
            a little influence in recommending people to the boss.

    Best of luck.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      On #3, 1 more tip: Don't try to talk about things you know nothing about. You'll appear a fool and get exactly the kind of attention you don't want.

      I know it's very tempting to try to learn new things all the time, but if you are angling to get noticed and promoted, asking basic questions is not the way.
  • If I were you, I would be looking at a wider range of options than just sysadmin type roles. To be brutally honest, on the basis of your original post, your technical qualifications don't actually sound much more impressive than my own. For me, this isn't a problem - I have a decently paid white-collar job that I like a lot in a non-technical field. However, I've seen too many friends lock themselves into an IT career path despite lacking the qualifications or experience for anything other than front-line t
  • Boob support? I hear that's a really hands-on and exciting job!
  • Sysadmin prereqs (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sobrique ( 543255 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @06:30AM (#18192258) Homepage
    System's admin is a big subject, as I'm sure you're quite well aware.

    However, it's pretty much always a support service. Therefore you should expect that you'll end up on call. Personally I don't like that part, but can't deny the extra pay is nice.

    It's also a field where experience is what really really matters. Which means it can be tough to break into. Certifications and degrees are nice, but it's my '5 years in the industry' which opens doors, not the other bits of paper.

    However as a starting point in 'building your career', I will suggest you look at:

    • ITIL [] - IT infrastructure library. It's something that put me off initally, as it look a bit too much like icky-yuck processes and procedures. However, I've run into a _lot_ of companies that are starting to 'buy in' to the model. That wouldn't convince me, though. What did, is it's actually a fairly good way of 'doing IT'. Not the only way by any means, but one worth looking at, if only because then you have a basis for comparison.
    • SAGE [] Systems Administrators guild, a subdivision of Usenix.
    • BCS [] British Computer Society
    • The Practice of System and Network Administration (Paperback) [] - A personal favourite, this is a brilliant book, because it covers the _theory_ of systems admin.
    Don't neglect the 'soft' skills though. I know many hardcore techies hate the idea, but the ability to wear a suit, and look good and confident when doing so is _very_ useful. Also 'social interaction' skills. Systems admin is as much about the people (ab)using the system as the system itself.

    As far as I can tell, your bits of paper serve to help you secure an interview. But the field's .... well sufficiently complicated and convoluted that your ability to learn, research and innovate are far more important. As is your ability to show you can do this.

    • The Practice of System and Network Administration - Excellent recommendation for anyone who wants to move into a sysadmin role.

      Soft skills - The importance of this cannot be emphasized enough. The better people skills you develop, the more effective you will be at getting a job and more importantly, doing a job well and efficiently.

      This came up in a discussion with my son the other day, and upon reflection, I realized that a large part of the development work that I have done was as much about the sof

  • /me is a Phoenix expatriate currently living in Silicon Valley (both working full time and finishing up his BS part-time). I've also worked tech support, entry-level SA, and hybrid SA/coder for several years.

    If you're in a typical backwaterish US outsourcing outpost (Boise, Phoenix, Vegas, e.g.), then getting the first piece of college paper (even an Associate's) makes a lot of sense.

    If you're anywhere near Silicon Valley or the bigger SV wannabes (Seattle, Portland-Hillsboro, Austin, Denver-Broomfield, RT
  • Go to university. If you can't, take some distance learning courses from such universities like OU []. You could also try to become self-employed by fixing your neighbours's PCs, etc.
  • You have experience in dealing with customers, you know how IT things work. Those 2 are valued for people who work in sales. In many cases you'll be managing your own time, allowing to further develop your "light coding" into whatever you decide is adequate for your future, including going to college in part time.

    Job offers in sales tend not to focus that much on college diplomas, but more in your ability to make your point and in your previous experience. There are plenty of alternatives you can explore a

  • where they have in-house 2nd, 3rd, .. level support; I am thinking like a big Telco NOC
  • Several years ago, I was stuck in retail with a Computer Science Degree. I wasn't in a good area for IT jobs and had no idea what could be done. A Bestbuy came to town so I took up the Geek Squad thing to start working something remotely IT into my resume. But I still wasn't sure where to go from there.

    That all changed when I took a Helpdesk position at a state agency. I had to move, but I found that as a great springboard into other areas. Goverment shops often have a varied IT department to cover all
  • If you want to do development, testing is a traditional entry path. The best career path is with companies who will admit they do Extreme programming, as testing is more respected there. And you already know a lot about informal testing if you've been doing support (;-))

    If you want to do sysadmin, you've already collected some of the prerequisites, so start looking for postings that say "sysadmin" and do not say either "tier 1" or "operations".


  • This is an easy one.

    First, change companies. Take a tech support position at a small company at which other employees do the kind of technical work you're interested in.

    Then, once you're at the new job, hang out with the folks doing the kind of work you want to do and identify and volunteer for small projects that can help them. If you're actually good at it then your job responsibilities will shift and they'll hire someone else to do tech support.

    The "small company" part is important. Large companies hire
  • I worked front line support all the way through college. It was this, not my degree, that got me my a job doing front line support in a rather fast-growing organization with plenty of opportunity for advancement. I've been promoted twice in as many years, and now I'm working at a technical level that regularly uses the stuff I went to college for.

    If your current job is a dead end, find a job that's not going to be a dead end, even if it's doing the same thing at first. In my case it was a fast-growing co
  • Get a job in the IT or data processing department of a small company and then put your skills on display. It's how I started. I went to work for fast growing local ISP as a customer support rep. (I had no work computer experience) When there, I would take canceling customer calls. If they were canceling because they couldn't get their service working, I would fix them. The ISP took notice and I started writing their Intranet Knowledge base and the tech support guys used it! Anyhow, they promised they
  • my experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SABME ( 524360 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @10:41AM (#18193826)
    Find a job working for a small company where you have to install, configure, and support every aspect of the business. You will be underpaid, will work ridiculous hours, and will be stressed because there's more to do be done than you can possibly cover. You will, however, learn everything you can about what you are doing, including the ways in which computerized tools impact the business. Document everything you do in a way that ensures someone else can figure things out if you leave.

    After about two years, you can start looking for serious sysadmin positions. When you get into an interview, you will be able to look the person on the other side of the desk straight in the eye and say, "I have done x, y, and z. Here is how and why I did what I did. I may not be familiar with the tools in your organization, but let me tell you about my last job, and how I taught myself to do x, y and z. I have demonstrated initiative, a strong work ethic, and an ability to solve problems, even in areas where I have no experience. Hire me."

    It helps if you have samples of your work. If they want someone who can write scripts, bring a few of your scripts, even if it's only hard copies, describe why and how your wrote the script, and walk through what it does. Show them the documents you wrote describing how you set up a kickstart environment, or the VPN, or automated backups.

    When you get to the new job, keep learning more. Maybe pick up a certification if you can get reimbursed for it. Keep doing this for the rest of your career, learning and finding new opportunities to expand your skills. If you work hard and you're lucky, you will not only stay employed, but you'll also find that your jobs get better and better, especially when the markets recover (as they seem to be doing a bit now in some areas).

    Good luck!
  • by stan_freedom ( 454935 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @11:12AM (#18194214) Homepage
    Find a small business that needs a generic sysadmin/tech to manage their systems. You will get to touch all areas of systems, computers, telephony, networking, etc. If you show any business saavy, you might also get involved in guiding your company's IT direction and even apply technology to solving business problems. Don't necessarily target technical companies, as you will be surrounded by people who either have or think they have superior technical skills, rendering you to a more subservient role.

    After a few years at a small business, you should amass a broad range of IT skills and probably have a better overall idea of how companies work than more experienced IT staff at larger companies. You may not get paid as much, but you will probably have better hours and better treatment. At least you will still be making money, as opposed to spending money on further education or certs. I'm not opposed to education/training/certs, but hands-on experience is the best way to gain skills.

    In case you think I'm talking through my ass, I have worked in IT for Boeing, Verizon, and Publix (regional supermarket chain, 100K+ employees) in various IT and senior IT roles, including sysadmin. I now work for a small company with around 25 people. I manage all of our systems. To clarify, if it plugs into an electrical outlet, I'm responsible. The money and hours are significantly better than my corporate gigs, but my situation is somewhat unique.

    By the way, the smaller and younger the company, the better for you (if the company seems viable). This will give you the opportunity to grow with the company. If necessary, make some financial concessions up front, especially if you can work out some type of future profit-sharing or equity stake (I wish I would have done that instead of going for the big salary).
  • "downward, not across"

    If you don't know what I mean google 'scary devil monastary' and read the faq.
  • I managed to get transferred into an engineering job, but it helped that I was already doing some engineering work during slow periods.

    Work on some OSS software, or otherwise get your name out there. Good managers believe in running code.
  • I was in a similar position to the one you sound as though you're in. When I left school I had no real IT qualifications at all apart from a GCSE and an A-Level and I found myself stuck doing admin jobs in insurance companies and the like which very quickly became extremely boring.

    From there I managed to get a job on the out of hours helpdesk of a large outsourcing company with the hopes of using this to working properly in the IT industry.

    At this point I think I was fairly lucky in that first of all workin
  • Hello ... I'm the IT Manager at a company that uses a LOT of GNU/Linux and Unix systems and publishes a big Open Source program. I'm hiring.

    The things people like me look for in an applicant are:
    • Ability to learn, research, and document
    • Ability to design scalable systems
    • Social skills - you need to fit in!
    • A college degree that shows you are capable of both design and writing
    • (plus the expected list of technical skills)

    College is extremely important. Without it, an applicant appears to be unorgani

  • Sounds like you wish to follow in the footsteps of a legendary hacker (whom I see most days in downtown Palo Alto). His recipe:

    Just do it [] and grow a moustache [].
  • If all you're doing is talking to people, opening tickets and transferring them to somebody else, you're not doing tech support, no matter what your job title is. You're nothing but a receptionist. Get a job where you actually have to diagnose and solve problems for callers. Judging by what you wrote, that's probably "Tier II" for your company, even though you're probably over-qualified for it. (I suspect that your Tier II reads scripts, and Tier III, if there is one, is actually paid to think.) In any
  • It's true that a degree doesn't imply skill, or vice versa. But why not at least finish buying what you paid for? Right now you owe money for something you don't even have. It's like putting a huge down payment on a car and then walking away without actually buying it. Why would you do that?
  • And look what he created. You too can do it.
  • First, if you have any connections with the 2nd level companies you should see if they could hire you. Since you already have a relationship they may have a better feel for your abilities than your resume shows, and they may be able to save themselves some money by hiring you directly versus using the 1st line company.

    Second, try some consulting or temp work. Places like TEK-Systems will let you get some hands-on experience with administration, but won't tie you to a specific job/company for an extended p

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.