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IT Skills to Learn on Your Own

Through the blog, I’ve had quite a few readers ask for career advice in Information Technology. Today, I’ll share a bit of my experience on what it takes to start a career in IT. Furthermore, I’ll tell you how to do it on your own without having to spend a lot of money on training.

While this blog focuses on cutting the cord, I’ve worked in IT for over 20 years. I still spend a good portion of my time working in Enterprise Architecture. I started when I was 20 working desktop support.  From there I picked up a few programming and scripting languages and worked my way into scripting software deployments.

Eventually, that evolved into being a UNIX and Systems Administrator. There I became familiar with application architectures which eventually led to my current discipline of Enterprise Architecture.

When talking to people looking to begin their career in IT, the question always arises of which IT skills are key to getting their foot in the door. Of course, if you have a certain IT direction you want to pursue the answer could vary. However, I find a large number of people asking that question don’t know which direction to turn.

In the beginning, I also remember feeling confused on which way to turn.  I did several forms of desktop support for 5 years before I figured out my passion was in scripting and programming.   After another 7 years, I finally realized I loved architecting systems.

The point is, an IT professional will always be growing their skills.  Having a career path is great, but one should always remain open to learning new skills. That allows for taking advantage of new opportunities in information technology that is yet to be considered.

With that in mind, there are core competencies one should possess when perusing a career in Information Technology.  One doesn’t need to be a master of any of these. However, a basic understanding will help navigate that first interview, and provide opportunities to build your IT skills profile. Here are 5 IT skills you can teach yourself, and the strategies to leverage them on your resume.

5 IT Skills to Start Your Career

1. Learn HTML

Have a basic understanding of how to write web pages in HTML.  The latest standard is HTML5, but we are concerned with understanding the logic and syntax.  Here is a great resource to start learning HTML: http://www.theodinproject.com/html5-and-css3.

With data science being the current buzz, understanding HTML will give a candidate access to fruitful sources of information in static web pages.  Knowing how HTML works will allow that person to extract that data from these pages and fuel a data science project.

2. Learn Linux and Shell Scripting

Install Linux and understand how it works.  There are free Linux distributions, so the cost is minimal. Furthermore, this is a way to not only understand the principles of an operating system, but to learn a scripting language.   A scripting language is used to write the procedures and steps an operating system will follow.

You will want to start playing around with different automation projects on your Linux box to become comfortable with basic scripting.  As you write scripts, your proficiency with scripting will build.

These scripts can achieve anything.  For instance, they can access the web, and access every page within a given website.  The script could pull specific pieces of data from the HTML on those pages.  This skill essentially creates a source of information for a data science initiative.

I recommend starting with the Ubuntu distro. Once you read the documentation and figure out what you will need to start. Install the server and move on to learning BASH scripting.

3.  Learn a Computer Language

PHP is the easiest for a novice to learn as it runs easily on the Linux Server you just built. Java is also an option.  For those serious about computer programming, I recommend C++.  I consider it the Latin of modern programming languages.  There are plenty of resources online to learn these languages. Here are a few.

Learn PHP

Learn Java

Learn C++

4.  Database Fundamentals

Obtain a basic understanding of how a database works.  All the information is readily available online to build a MySQL database on your newly built Linux server.  You can even use PHP to access the database and move data around. One could also use shell scripts for operations on the database.  While the tutorial linked below will teach you MySQL, a database fundamentals course would benefit those wanting to learn database theory.

Learn MySql

5.  Basic Network Security

Read an eBook on Network Security Fundamentals or study articles online on IT network and application security. Again, you don’t need to master this unless you want to evolve a career in cybersecurity.  However, every IT professional should have a basic understanding of network security, authentication, and authorization.

Leverage These  Skills on Your Resume

Having knowledge of the skills listed above should create Information Technology career opportunities.  Use what you’ve learned to build a resume that showcases these new IT skills. I recommend doing the following to build your resume while job seeking.

Join an Open Source Project – Search the web for an open source project that uses the new IT skills you have learned.  This will allow you to understand how these technologies are utilized in a real development project. Anything you create or accomplish for the project is great resume material.

Build a Website – Build it on Linux using Apache Tomcat as an application server. You can also run a MySQL database, and use PHP to code an application on the website.  Design it to look professional, or have a useful application running on it.  If it looks great and functions nicely, it is something else to list on your resume.

Volunteer for a non-profit – Donate your new IT skills to a non-profit.  This builds out your Resume and may eventually turn into a paid position. This option is great for people that require a little direction, as one has to be a bit of a self-starter for the first two options.

So, learn these skills, build that resume, and maybe we’ll run into each other one day at an IT conference.

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