One of the things I have discovered about working in IT for several years is that most people have no idea what I do for a living. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult trying to explain this to people, especially considering there are so many different specializations in our field. A lot of people often think that if you work in IT, you know pretty much everything about anything more complex than an Abacus, but this simply isn’t true. To elaborate on this, it is like assuming that someone who does the work on their own automobile understands how every function works on anything mechanical including submarines and stealth aircraft without having specialized training or study. Sure, concepts are somewhat consistent, but that is for the most part simply not the case. Still I find other people that think a lot of complex systems in IT are very rudimentary and simple (I personally blame Hollywood) which is also simply not true. Hopefully throughout the course of this miniseries, I will be able to debunk some of these thoughts.

As far the specializations I mentioned, I have three main areas of expertise: programming, networking, and security. Unfortunately, these are VERY broad categories, and for those who are not very tech savvy, these likely mean nothing to them.

This leads to why I am writing this miniseries of articles. I want to try and put into words what exactly each of these mean, at least in my career, so that friends, family, and nontechnical people can understand what it means to work in any of these categories. Additionally, for those who are looking at a career in IT, I’m hoping this will help explain some of what they can expect from working in one of these fields.

Who am I?

So before I go much further, who am I? Well, aside from my name, Michael, I am mostly a jack-of-all-trades for a variety of areas. I started working with computers in my early teen years. Mostly this consisted of breaking my computer, a Gateway Windows ME system, and then trying to fix it. However, it wasn’t long before I expanded my interests to websites, which will be covered in the programming article. It is also the next item in this series.

During high school, friends and I had what we call LAN (local area network) parties, in which we networked our computers together to play computer games. This was all before broadband internet was common place, as we almost all had dial-up internet. This is where my networking interests began, and will be detailed more in the networking article.

Throughout my life I have always been security conscious, such as always locking doors to my home and vehicle, shredding any mail that contains confidential information, and trying to protect my personal computer and network. This has been a fundamental part of my personal and professional life, and it has been very crucial in guiding my career to where I am today. Governmental anti-terrorism efforts aside, I believe everyone has a fundamental right to privacy, and security is one of the methods to achieve this. However, many companies have not taken this concept very seriously, or have just had it as an after thought rather than a fundamental part of their service or systems. In addition to companies having issues with security, individuals themselves often do not take even the simplest steps to secure themselves, which I believe is primarily because of a lack of education about how to do so. This will be covered in much greater depth (both personal security and organizational security) in the security article.

Lastly, since this is sort of an introduction to me, I have not always worked in IT. This is something that I think is very important about my particular career path and personality that sets me apart from some of the stereotypes. Some people think that those in IT are just people who have always sat at a desk and know nothing outside of it. After high school I worked in a factory for several years doing a variety of things including being a standard machine operator, material handling with a forklift, and even doing maintenance on machines. The reason I like to mention this, is because I feel it helps put me on the same perspective level as the nontechnical people reading this article. It helps to show that we are not so different, and that we are all human.

Enough about me for now, look for the programming article soon to start learning about some of what it is that I actually do for a living.