Career Cartography - Careers in IT


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A short article geared towards students in Pakistan, who are interested in pursuing Information Technology as a career.

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Career Cartography - Careers in IT

  1. 1. Careers in IT By: Karim Wallani Assistant Manager, Information System Department, Aga Khan University Honorary Director, Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan Introduction Have you ever seen the movie Hackers? Although not the most realistic movie in the world, it is an enjoyable one, and it certainly made quite an impression on me when I saw it back in the late-1990s. In fact, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, it was actually this movie that got me thinking about a career in Information Technology (IT). In those days, one could make a name for oneself by having a relatively limited skill set. Unfortunately, the IT industry is no longer in its naissance, even in developing countries like Pakistan. The industry has matured considerably, and this is a fact that young adults need to be aware of as they think about their future careers and apply to the universities that will help them actualise their career aspirations. Even though we live in a technology-driven society, one should not think that having a successful career in IT is easy, for, like anything in life, having a successful career requires planning, hard work, and dedication. In this article, I will outline a typical path many young adults follow in order to enter the IT field. This will be followed by a look at some of the major areas of specialisation in IT. Finally, we will examine the skills which are currently in demand in the IT industry and which, according to research and personal experience, are likely to be in demand for quite some time. Educational Path The first step in going towards a career in IT normally involves choosing Pre-Engineering at the Intermediate level or opting for A-level. This is typically followed by acquiring a technical degree at the undergraduate/bachelor’s level, usually in Computer Science (CS) or Computer Engineering (CE) from a university. If you’re not certain about the difference between CS and CE, it may be helpful to think about the following: of the three major divisions in computing, namely theory, software, and hardware, in general, one can say that theory goes with CS, hardware goes with CE, and software goes with both, but mainly with CS1 . There are many reputed universities in Pakistan (examples given below) which offer such degrees. Before entering an undergraduate programme or even while enrolled in one, some students choose to take specialised technical courses from institutions like Aptech to get acquainted with the field. While this is one option, readers should be aware that there are plenty of free online resources as well for this purpose. Websites like W3Schools, Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy offer a lot of free material to brush up on technology basics and even advanced concepts. In the case of Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy, there is an abundance of information there on subjects besides technology – just in case you want to broaden your horizons. After undergraduate studies, the path diverges, depending on where you see yourself. You should ponder over the following question: Do you want to go for a Master’s in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, or another related discipline directly, or do you want to work for a few years, gain some experience and then opt for the degree programme that would expand your professional domain? It really depends on you.
  2. 2. However, I have found that most potential employers tend to prefer candidates who have some work experience between undergraduate and postgraduate studies. It is also worth mentioning here that there has been a huge rise in multidisciplinary jobs; that is, jobs which are not purely technical and, therefore, require people who may have their undergraduate degrees in technology, but who have non-technical credentials as well. One such example would be the field of Educational Technology. In this field, a technical degree at the undergraduate level certainly helps, but it is also important to have knowledge of pedagogy (that is, the method and practise of teaching), which one may acquire via a Master’s degree in Education (M.Ed.) or, more specifically, a Master’s degree in Educational Technology. Another example of such a multidisciplinary field would be IT management. This is a field which students with technical undergraduate degrees, who are more interested in the management side of things, can pursue after doing a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), with perhaps a specialisation in Management Information Systems (MIS). After acquiring your Master’s degree, if you see yourself undertaking cutting-edge research, then going for a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D) followed by a post-doctoral fellowship may be the right course of action for you. Otherwise, a Master’s degree from a reputable institution, in and of itself, will open up a lot of doors. The following are some Pakistani universities (listed alphabetically) which offer quality technical degree programmes2 : • Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering and Technology, Swabi; • Institute of Business Administration, Centre of Computer Studies, Karachi; • Lahore University of Management Science, Lahore; • National University of Computer and Emerging Science, Karachi / Lahore / Islamabad; • Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology Karachi; • Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi; • University of Karachi, Karachi. Besides getting into a quality technical degree programme, another important consideration is funding one’s education, which, as many readers would know, is getting more and more costly. To ease the burden on their family, students should be on the lookout for multiple scholarship opportunities, which may be need-based or merit-based, at least two years before entering into any sort of a degree programme. With regard to this, the Careers and Scholarship Department of the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan (AKES,P) does send out weekly information. All someone needs to do is to send an email with the word “Subscribe” in the subject line to:, in order to subscribe to this free weekly information. Areas of Specialisation With a quality education under your belt, you will want to decide on an area of specialisation in which you would like to work. The following are some examples of technical specialisations where young graduates can work, along with simplified job descriptions3 of each area: • Business Analysis – A business analyst caters to organisational information problems and requirements by analysing requirements, designing computer programmes and recommending system controls and protocols. • Database Administration – A database administrator maintains databases by identifying database requirements and recommending solutions and supporting users.
  3. 3. • End User Support – An individual involved in end user support provides technical support to users by researching and answering questions, troubleshooting problems and maintaining the performance of workstations and the Local Area Network (LAN). • Network Administration – A network administrator maintains the computing environment by identifying network requirements, installing upgrades and monitoring network performance. • Network Architecture/Engineering – A network architect establishes and maintains network performance by building net configurations and connections and troubleshooting network problems. • Software Development – A software developer develops information systems by designing, developing and installing software solutions. • Systems Analysis – A systems analyst implements computer system requirements by defining and analysing system problems and designing and testing standards and solutions. • Systems Architecture/Engineering – A systems architect is involved with both the hardware and software design of a system and often has the role of effectively integrating these two important components. • Technician – A technician identifies and resolves hardware and software issues that cannot be resolved remotely (for example, via telephone or email). A technician is also responsible for the repair, maintenance, and tracking of client equipment. • Web Development – A web developer creates user information solutions by developing, implementing and maintaining Internet/Intranet applications. Besides these technical specialisations, IT graduates can also specialise in a number of multidisciplinary fields including Educational Technology and IT management, which were described earlier. Readers are highly encouraged to research more about these areas of specialisation in IT by visiting career-oriented websites such as: In-Demand Skills A recent technology article4 listed the following skills as the most sought-after in the IT industry in the year 2013: • HTML5 and CSS – The Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is what web pages are written in, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) control the look of web pages. HTML5 is the latest revision of the HTML standard. • Mobile App Development for iOS – The iPhone and the iPad are examples of highly popular mobile devices by Apple Inc. The devices run the iOS operating system. • PHP Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) and MySQL – PHP is primarily a server-side scripting language designed for web development, and MySQL is an open source relational database management system. • Java/J2EE – J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) is a Java programming language platform designed for the mainframe-scale computing typical of large enterprises. • JavaScript and Related Technologies – JavaScript is a programming language which makes things interactive on the web. Related technologies include the JavaScript framework jQuery and JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) data interchange standard. • IT Project Management – This is not really a technical profession. However, without a certified IT project manager, to see a project through to completion, projects may get delayed or go over budget. • Cloud Computing – Cloud computing refers to the use of computing resources (hardware and software) which are available in a remote location and accessible over a network.
  4. 4. While these are relatively advanced skills that new-comers to the IT industry do not typically have, and while it is not strictly necessary to have these skills, those who have them will be well-prepared for the IT industry for several years to come. Also, these skills don’t really require a formal degree and can be acquired through certifications or diplomas – although a degree is always preferred by potential employers. Conclusion As exciting as the IT industry is, it is equally vast. In this article, I have tried to cover a little bit of everything without going into too much detail about anything. Readers are encouraged to investigate areas of their interest in greater detail on their own and write back to the Careers and Scholarship Department of AKES,P for more clarification. If enough feedback about specific topics is received, future articles may focus on those areas. Readers should also be aware that major shifts in the IT industry are common. It is, therefore, highly recommended that readers should keep abreast of the IT climate by, for example, visiting technology news websites (for instance, BBC Technology, Wired, and TechCrunch) frequently from an early age. It’s never too early to get an idea of what’s hot in the world of technology since this information will certainly come in handy at school/university, when you’re applying for scholarships, or when you’re being interviewed for entry-level technical positions. References 1. 2. Career Insight CD developed by the Careers and Scholarship department of Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan. 3. 4. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s). None of the contributors, administrators or anyone else connected with the C&S Department in any way whatsoever can be held responsible for the appearance of any inaccurate or libellous information or for your use of the information contained in this article.
  5. 5. Author’s Profile: Karim Wallani Professional background:  Assistant Manager, Information System Department, Aga Khan University  Honorary Director, Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan Educational background:  Bachelor of Computer Science from Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada  Postgraduate Certificate in Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning from Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development, Karachi, Pakistan Publication(s):  Co-authored a book chapter in Education for a Digital World 2.0: Innovations in Education. The title of the chapter is Towards an Implementation of eLearning at a Multi-Campus University. Author’s views about Career Cartography and his experience of writing for us: “I often have to interview students for university scholarships, and my most favourite interview question, unsurprisingly, is, “Why did you choose to study this field?” What is shocking for me is that, more often than not, scholarship candidates have very limited information about their chosen field of study and are simply not able to answer this most basic of questions, at least not in an intelligent way. For this reason, I am very happy to see initiatives such as Career Cartography, which aim to address this by giving working professionals a platform to share their experiences and insight with the youth. Likewise, I am very humbled that I was given this opportunity by AKES,P’s Careers and Scholarship team to share my thoughts. It is my profound wish that the information I have mentioned in the article helps as many people as possible in deciding whether IT is the right career path for them.” Feedback!! Please share your feedback and further queries on: