The Breaks in IT (Getting Started with Inforation Technology Careers) Part 1

Often times people ask me what do I do or what is my degree in.  Well I’ll try to explain both in depth.

For starters, I am a web application developer.  That means that I develop and program web-based software.  Computer software is a program that run on your computer such as Microsoft Word, Google Chrome, or Apple iTunes.  These are all desktop applications that are launched by you, the end user, when you are ready to use them.  The term web comes in because I specialize in software that is accessed through a web browser, some examples of web applications are Facebook, Mint, or Box.   The term application is used opposed to the term ‘system’, which may refer to computer system developers. These developers may write programs such as Intel HD Graphics Driver, Mac OSX, or SAP which relies heavily on the hardware of the device.  And a developer is basically a person who uses a programming language to create programs such as those listed above or other software.

Most Developers typically don’t call themselves ‘programmers’, mainly because programming is consider more mundane and does not encompass all of our skill-sets; especially if you’re cool.  You don’t want to come off as the guy that is given a task and you give it no thought or offer no expert analysis before diving in.  A professional developer will offer insight on best practices, and ensure that they completely understanding the requirements before coding software; and often developers play an integral part in the management and design of software in general.

Secondly, my degree is in Computer Science – Engineering.  Although, most developers have a degree in computer science it is not required.  It is also common for developers to have degrees in Managing Information Systems, Information Technology,  Graphic Design,  Mathematics or other Engineering disciplines (especially Computer and Electrical Engineering).  There are more specialized degrees being offered now such as Software Engineering and you may see programs that offer concentrations in Web Development.  Typically developers are strong problem solvers and have exceptional analytical skills.  If you do not have a degree in Computer Science, typically individuals obtain certifications to gain more knowledge and up there skills.  Lastly, all Computer Scientist aren’t developers – I’ll elaborate on this more later.

During my undergraduate studies I had very little course work that was geared towards web development.  I had an interest in art and design (I took several Art classes), I did build a few web sites for personal and small business use, but I had relatively little understanding of web technologies and web development.  I wasn’t a kid that stayed up all night to write a compiler or create my own video game – but I did like technology and the ability to use technology to solve practical business and personal problems.  So as I was navigating my career I learned that web development was something that not only was I very interested in, but it fit really well with my passion to create things that I can touch, see and feel.  It was much cooler to me than writing scripts to perform bucket sorts or desktop apps that didn’t allow creativity.  I had a mentor that gave me insight on web technologies and exactly how to use my knowledge base to make it a career.   I cranked up my learning by picking up the latest Wrox, Apress, and O’Reilly books that dealt with web development and started building small trivial apps that gave me much needed experience.

In closing, a CS degree can definitely give you the foundation to  become a web developer, and web development is a high demand career that crosses over into many industries.  Its engaging, challenging, fast pace and rewarding.  I can’t say that there’s a clear blueprint way to becoming a web developer, but as the world is becoming more automated through web-based technologies it is definitely cool to be a part of the movement.