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Tech Expertise in Demand
IT degrees open myriad doors and can be parlayed into all sorts of in-demand tech careers.
Expertise in information technology (IT) and computer systems works like a Swiss Army knife, for it’s a skill set that meets and beats all challenges. Tech-savvy professionals know their skills are in demand, and can be parlayed into all sorts of heavily recruited tech roles, from IT and computers systems to software development, data science, and healthcare IT and informatics, and from artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and blockchain to progressive web apps, coding, and programming.
And whether it’s working for an IT company like IBM, an IT consulting firm like Booz Allen Hamilton that delivers the goods from healthcare to defense, a semiconductor design and manufacturing company like Texas Instruments, or a cable television provider/multiple system operator like Altice USA, IT prowess leads to invigorating, challenging careers, as the following four IT and computer systems professionals explain here.
Ogunsola Elevates His Career at IBM via Learning
Femi Ogunsola, director, processor product engineering, IBM Systems, is the development executive responsible for working with IBM’s foundry partners to deliver semiconductor processors for its cognitive systems and IBM Z mainframes.
In his more than a dozen years at IBM, Ogunsola has learned that learning is why IBM and its 360,000 employees excel, decade after decade, whatever the technology du jour, which has ranged from punch card tabulating equipment for the 1890 U.S. census to revolutionary electric typewriters in the 20th century to artificial intelligence and quantum computing today.
“I love that IBM’s focus on skills encourages employees to grow deep in one area, or broad across multiple areas, while continually advancing their careers. I have personally benefited from broadening opportunities, which I leverage in my current role to enable my organization to execute together with focus and clarity,” he says.
However, learning, whether it’s “deep in one area or broad across multiple areas,” presents challenges. Ogunsola urges IT professionals to embrace the inevitable inquietude.
“Be comfortable with discomfort. The industry is fertile for significant contributions from people that are willing to take on challenges directly. Become one of those people now,” Ogunsola advises.
Of course, life can pile personal challenges atop professional challenges. “I made a significant career change to a new organization and unfamiliar location at a time when my wife was pregnant with our first child and would soon not be working,” he recalls.
However, Ogunsola stood tall. “Failure was not an option. I embraced the challenge, and can point back to that decision fundamentally and positively accelerating my career trajectory, which I couldn’t have known at that time.”
That exemplifies the IBM way: excelling no matter what changes come your way. This is also evidenced by the fact that, through 2018, IBM has received the most patents in the U.S. for a record 26 consecutive years.
Along with maintaining excellence and facing challenges as IBM has, making a difference is also Ogunsola’s mantra.
“A sponsor once told me that when you leave a role you want to make sure your work has left monuments that will last long after you’re gone. As such, my advice is not to leave a role before you’ve made an impact,” he recommends.
And when it comes to moving into a new role, which Ogunsola has done five times at IBM, make sure there are both reasons for leaving the old role and entering a new one.
“The best career opportunities are those that involve a push and a pull. If there’s only a push to leave or a pull to join, then really interrogate if that’s the right opportunity,” he further advises.
Learn more about IBM, headquartered in Armonk, NY, via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Explore careers at careers.ibm.com.
Mitchell Takes Calculated Chances & Climbs High at Booz Allen Hamilton
Tony Mitchell, executive vice president, leads the strategic development and execution of Booz Allen Hamilton’s support of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), among other federal organizations. It’s a big role that also has Mitchell leading 1,500 of Booz Allen’s nearly 26,000 employees.
So how does an IT professional develop the skill set that enables him to oversee so many and manage so much responsibility? Mitchell did it by managing discomfort.
“Be willing to challenge yourself by taking on new roles that are outside your comfort zone, knowing there’s a chance you’ll fail,” he advises.
“Becoming comfortable with being stretched by expanding expectation will help you discover hidden capacity that may develop into strengths.”
Mitchell also had mentors and supervisors who saw his potential. “Many people took a chance on me during my career. I was offered roles that elevated my visibility and broadened my experience. I went through many transitions that could have otherwise sidelined me, but for the help I received.”
Part of the potential his mentors and supervisors likely saw is Mitchell reveling in challenges.
“I love problem-solving, something that’s much more complex when you’re dealing with a challenge that’s a combination of technical, organizational and leadership aspects. I love doing the work at Booz Allen because I’m always learning from and challenged by the people with whom I work.”
A passion for one’s profession is a good start, but it doesn’t finish the race. Mitchell had to adapt as conditions changed and pressure increased.
“Transitioning from the commercial sector to the defense sector was very challenging because everything was different; the clients, the buying approach and the size of the teams,” he recalls.
“The biggest adjustment for me was actually learning how to lead in a different way and at a different scale: I went from leading a team of 20 to hundreds of people.”
Those who saw his potential also lent their expertise. “Honestly, it was a combination of mentors and a career coach that helped me stretch myself and find leadership capacity that I hadn’t yet discovered,” he explains.
“That experience was a significant launch point in my career.”
Adapting is also the Booz Allen way, according to Mitchell. “Booz Allen has demonstrated an incredible capacity to continuously transform, and this is what has propelled us to lead the industry. Our willingness to not only accept, but to also demand new ideas and ways of thinking from our people. This is our greatest strength. This, in turn, could not happen without the extraordinarily diverse talent pool we’re blessed to have at Booz Allen.”
Embracing Booz Allen’s culture engenders success, adds Mitchell. “More than anything, Booz Allen is a values-driven company. There are plenty of places for smart, qualified people to work, but it’s as important for the applicant as it is the person hiring them that they understand and buy into the culture. We challenge people to change the world. Are you ready?”
If you’re ready to follow in Mitchell’s considerable footsteps, then develop your network and expertise.
“Build your network and challenge yourself to continually build your skills. Become an expert at something,” he counsels.
Learn more about Booz Allen Hamilton, headquartered in McLean, VA, via LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Peruse available roles at boozallen.com/careers.html.
Lawyer Puts in Extra Work to Rise High at TI
Paitrick Lawyer, sales and pricing applications manager, oversees a team of software programmers who design IT solutions that help enable Texas Instruments’ (TI) internal businesses to operate and execute more efficiently. Lawyer loves his work for many reasons.
“I love being part of a global company that’s always at the forefront of innovation,” he shares. “I enjoy being able to help solve problems and see the positive impact our innovation has in our communities and daily lives.”
Lawyer further appreciates what TI delivers to its workforce. “I also love that TI has a strong focus on its people and helping them achieve their career aspirations. There are many opportunities for career growth within TI and resources available to help employees meet their development goals.”
Lawyer might be one of approximately 30,000 employees in more than 30 countries, but he feels that he and his team are respected and heard.
“Even though TI is a large, global company, it’s created an environment where each member of our team has a voice - a voice to provide ideas, feedback and creativity to ensure success. I feel every opportunity I’ve had at TI has added to the overall success of our company and my personal development,” he elaborates.
In the end, Lawyer improves TI, and TI reciprocates. “My unique voice can assist in finding solutions to make our company even stronger. I make TI better, and TI makes me better. I couldn’t ask for more.”
To reach this sweet spot in his life, Lawyer had to hang tough when he was a student. “During my freshman year in college, I struggled heavily in my computer science courses.”
The problem was insufficient preparation for the curriculum. “As a student who had not been very exposed to programming, I had trouble understanding the concepts. My exam scores were low, and I knew I was on a path to fail the course.”
So Lawyer took corrective steps. “I also knew that it was my responsibility to do something about it. After having so much trouble, I began utilizing my professor’s office hours and worked with the TAs to help me grasp the concepts. This helped immensely, and I was able to get the course back on track,” he recalls.
Lawyer has advice for those still in school: “My advice to students is simple: dedicate time to learning your field and ask for help when needed. I recommend dedicating at least one hour after class to review materials covered that day, and take an extra step to learn more on the topic during your own time.”
Though he found his way as a student, and learned to adapt and do this, Lawyer wishes someone had given him that very advice to apply sooner when he was a student. “Building a great foundation in any field, especially in STEM, is key to success. Looking back, I wish I would have applied this advice sooner when I was in college,” he says.
Wherever you are in your career, Lawyer’s advice to seek help and prepare yourself still applies, and doing so is part of TI’s corporate culture.
“Ask for help and ask questions up front,” he counsels. “At TI we’re encouraged to ask questions and keep asking until we get the answer and can solve the problem. Also stressed [is] the importance of having a great foundation [for] any educational concept. If the foundation isn’t there, then nothing else falls into place.”
Picking the right place to work also helps everything fall into place, according to Lawyer.
“My advice to college graduates is to search for companies whose mission aligns with their personal moral compass. When I started my job search, I looked for companies that were very active in the community and believed in growing people. I believe working with a company that aligns with your personal moral compass is key to overall career fulfillment.”
For Lawyer, TI is such a company, and it’s hiring. “Texas Instruments is always looking for talented, motivated, technical and naturally curious individuals,” he encourages.
Texas Instruments is headquartered in Dallas, TX. Those looking to join its workforce can apply at careers.ti.com. Learn more via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Google+ and Instagram.
Thompson Loves to Collaborate & Innovate at Altice USA
Wayne Thompson, vice president, telecom and internet management, manages engineering and operations for Altice USA’s voice services, as well as expense management, vendor relationships, and infrastructure connectivity for its voice and internet services.
Overseeing so many elements requires interfacing with colleagues ranging from engineers to accountants, and Thompson relishes connecting.
“The best part of my job is the people I work with, especially the people who are a part of my team. As a group, we’re cohesive, we trust each other, we face challenges together, we collaborate, we handle problems and find solutions, and we get things done,” he reveals.
Thompson also parlays individual assets into group achievements. “We’re able to leverage the strengths of the individuals to form a team that continuously takes on challenges and is able to accomplish great things.”
Thompson learned early in his career the power of teamwork, and listening. When he was a recent college graduate, “a very large telecommunications company” offered Thompson a job.
“This exciting new position would take over the duties and responsibilities of three individuals who had more than 110 years of combined experience. My first thought was that this was an impossible task, but as I thought about it, I figured out the solution,” he remembers.
That solution was asking the veteran trio to be his mentors. “I would meet with them quarterly for dinner (I paid), and I would listen, be silent, ask questions when I needed to, and learn as much as possible from their wisdom.”
In listening, Thompson gleaned much more than the mere mechanics of his job. “This experience taught me several principles that continue to govern my career today: the principle of education, the principle of mentorship and relationship, and the principle of intentionality. Most of us have the capability and capacity to achieve great things in our careers, but it all begins with us taking action, learning and repeating.”
But Thompson wasn’t done learning. “Early in my career I started an engineering company with several partners. We were very successful for the first few years.”
Then the successes ebbed. “In the third year we started to lose business and money because our quality of service declined. We were growing so fast that we lost focus on the primary objectives: our customer and our quality of service,” he shares.
Things went from bad to worse, according to Thompson. “This had a rippling effect on our business, which led us to start laying off employees.”
Thompson assayed himself. “It led me to do some self-reflection on my own actions and leadership capabilities, which led me on a journey to understand my strengths, weaknesses, values, [and] goals, and to develop a performance plan that turned around the business.”
Thompson has never forgotten the lessons. “This experience taught me how to handle setbacks, the importance of proper training, the need for putting the right infrastructure, processes, and procedures in place to manage growth, how to adopt, pivot, and recognize changes, [and] how to manage our customers and their expectations.”
And he learned that deep sight alone isn’t enough. You also need foresight. “I also learned how to truly set visions and goals that are guidelines for our success, and how to focus and prioritize my efforts. Our customers gave us clarity - a lesson I continue to use today.”
Thompson puts his epiphanies to powerful effect at Altice USA, where innovation is everything.
“I work for a company that’s always pushing the boundaries and has a different approach than others in our industry. The most surprising thing about my company is the pace in which we deliver new products and services. As a multiple-service organization (MSO), you’re not primarily known for your speed to market. We’re changing that perception.”
One of approximately 9,000 employees, Thompson urges his colleagues and new hires to be integral to coming innovations.
“You move ahead at Altice and most companies when you add value. Understand the vision and goals of the company, and align your efforts to bring value to you, your team, and the company. Your repeated efforts and activities will be recognized,” he advises.
A laser focus also helps. “Understand what to prioritize. Not everything is a priority and is worthy of your time,” he adds.
Learn more about Altice USA, headquartered in Long Island City, NY, via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Explore careers at alticeusacareers.com.
Data Dive: IT/Computer Systems
Employment of computer and information technology (IT) occupations will grow 13% through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations will add about 557,100 new jobs.
Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, big data and cybersecurity.
The median annual wage for computer and IT occupations was $86,320 in May 2018, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $38,640.
Occupation 2018 Median Pay
Computer & Information Research Scientists $118,370
Computer Network Architects $109,020
Computer Programmers $84,280
Computer Systems Analysts $88,740
Database Administrators $90,070
Information Security Analysts $98,350
Network & Computer Systems Administrators $82,050
Software Developers $105,590
Web Developers $69,430
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook
Data Byte: Software developer is the number-one, in-demand job with a median salary of $105,590. Right there with it is data scientist.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. News & World Report and Time
Data Byte: Employment in healthcare IT and informatics will increase 20% by 2026.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Data Byte: U.S. employers posted an estimated 313,735 job openings for cybersecurity workers between September 2017 and August 2018. That’s in addition to the 715,000-plus, currently employed cybersecurity workers and IT professionals heavily focused on security.
Sources: CompTIA, Burning Glass Technologies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and CyberSeek, cyberseek.org/heatmap.html
Data Byte: Job growth in the software sector through 2026 will expand by 24%, much faster than average.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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