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    somabc's Avatar
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    Career Advice

    Hmm not sure I should ask this here, but I have been thinking about this (a lot ) and been unable to reach any conclusions.

    What advice do you give for someone to break into the next 'rung' of IT jobs above network manager, eg managing a school it is rare to see jobs above £30k. However I often see jobs in the £30-60k range both in Industry and in the Public Sector. To give 3 examples below -

    For example Line Management of a small / medium IT team. This seems like a classic catch 22. Take a NM in a school that does not employ an IT Tech. That NM will have no line management responsibility. How do you gain a job involving management if you are not a manager already?

    Or technical specialism, say specialising in Exchange / Sharepoint. There is only so much you can learn and do in a school sized network or using virtual machines. For example I have designed and implemented and run both systems in a school. However if I were to apply for a specific role in one of these technologies that involved large scale issues such as clustering with 1000's of messages per hour in a 24/7 environment I'm sure I would get knocked back for not having that experience.

    Or take Project Management, there are plenty of PM IT jobs out there, BSF winner implementation to mention one. However no-one will hire a project manager who has not managed a project of £x value.

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    Its rare to get to those positions through experience, its the confidence to say therotically you can

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    @somabc

    i'm really glad you've posted this.

    snap. it sounds like i'm pretty much in the same boat as you, i have the jack-of-all-master-of-none tag, i don't have the team and line mgmt experience or formal PM knowledge and experience to make the next step up. But i have progressed a great deal in my current role...it's just hard to demonstrate ability in a medium or large IT environment or in a specialism without it being purely theory at this stage.

    Or so i think in my head it matters......however until i actually get out there like the second poster argues, and through confidence explain why theoretically i'm able to make the leap into specialism or senior IT position, i'll never know whether my reservations are justified.

    Better to have some sort of base than nothing at all. I may not know the peculiarities of an enterprise backup system that needs to scale to dozens of servers and tape libraries, but i have used the software in a smaller or lab environment. Even though i've tried out all these scenarios from white papers and manuals, i just don't know whether this would be persuasive enough for a recruiter when i'm asked the question how many servers did i manage or how many TB's of data i was backing up each night. Experience with product types is typically a dead giveaway as far as experience or lack thereof with enterprise kit is concerned

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    somabc (11th May 2009)

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    Quote Originally Posted by irsprint84 View Post
    Its rare to get to those positions through experience, its the confidence to say therotically you can
    I'm sure 100's of people applying have the confidence to say they can do the job. This will not count for much when HR start to sift through the applications! Is it more the case that contacts come into play?

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    Quote Originally Posted by somabc View Post
    Hmm not sure I should ask this here, but I have been thinking about this (a lot ) and been unable to reach any conclusions.

    What advice do you give for someone to break into the next 'rung' of IT jobs above network manager, eg managing a school it is rare to see jobs above £30k. However I often see jobs in the £30-60k range both in Industry and in the Public Sector.
    Good luck with your search

    Quote Originally Posted by somabc View Post
    For example Line Management of a small / medium IT team. This seems like a classic catch 22. Take a NM in a school that does not employ an IT Tech. That NM will have no line management responsibility. How do you gain a job involving management if you are not a manager already?
    You may have to drop down to a senior tech or team leader (from being an IT manager in a school if you don't have line management experience), in order to build up certain skills. You could also do a couple of courses like ILM Intro to Management course/modules.

    Quote Originally Posted by somabc View Post
    Or technical specialism, say specialising in Exchange / Sharepoint. There is only so much you can learn and do in a school sized network or using virtual machines. For example I have designed and implemented and run both systems in a school. However if I were to apply for a specific role in one of these technologies that involved large scale issues such as clustering with 1000's of messages per hour in a 24/7 environment I'm sure I would get knocked back for not having that experience.
    What is wrong with a school size? Ok granted I don't know what type of school you work at but any business that has approx 1350 users and 500-600 PC/laptops is classed as a large organisation, out of the realms of a SME (small to medium enterprise).

    While it won't make you a demi-god, have you thought about getting certified in either Sharepoint and/or Exchange?

    Quote Originally Posted by somabc View Post
    Or take Project Management, there are plenty of PM IT jobs out there, BSF winner implementation to mention one. However no-one will hire a project manager who has not managed a project of £x value.
    Everyone has to start somewhere, surely as an IT Manager, you've done a project or two? Don't mix/combine standard jobs and projects as the same thing. For example:

    1. Upgrade of server & network hardware and infrastructure from Windows NT4/2000 to 2003/2008?
    2. School wide AV installation, you would have done the investigation of projectors, security considerations, interactive whiteboards, etc...
    3. Site wide wireless...

    Ok we're not going to be talking about £250k per project, however it's the experience and what you've done/accomplished that is important. You're not going to walk into a £60k pa PM job, but maybe on the same pay, hopefully a little more than what you're on now.

  7. 2 Thanks to wagnerk:

    GrumbleDook (11th May 2009), somabc (11th May 2009)

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    I've met more School IT folk and their corporate counterparts than most of you will have had hot dinners - and I speak from experience when I say that School IT folk, by and large are an experienced and professional lot - certainly no second fiddle. Don't play down your experience guys. What some of you lot do (and the budgets you do it on) is very impressive.

  9. 2 Thanks to tom_newton:

    john (11th May 2009), tmcd35 (12th May 2009)

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    Wide words from Ken there ... the only thing I would add is that if you are looking to move out of the education sector then you will need to play on your diversity. By all means work on a technical / engineering specialism such as Exchange but being able to adapt and pick up new skills quickly, or to understand new solutions and their impact will stand you in good stead.

    You don't have to have the title of project manager to be one. If you are kitting out a new IT suite (or even refurbishing one this year) then apply elements of project management to it. Get to understand teh change management process. Look at how change management is done in your school for non-technical things and then adapt your style to fit round the school's. Remember that some companies have preferred methods of change management so if you can show how you have adapted something like FITS to work around the school it is another thing to add to your portfolio of projects.

    If you are able to do any volountary work there may be opportunities to do similar as well.

    Learn to understand what is measurable and what isn't. Most schools don't understand service management or contract management but that will be your bread and butter outside in other sectors.

    Good luck with it all.

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    somabc (11th May 2009)

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    one thing i've noticed about many medium and large IT depts. is that they don't tend to take too many chances.

    If they've got a vmware consolidation project or a crm project or SAN redesign, many [no most] of them get specialist companies in to implement. Ofcourse there is bound to be some in-house IT involvement during planning and implementatin, but they are paying and relying on specialist partners to get it right. It's then a case of the IT dept being trained in actually managing the new systems on a day-to-day business.

    so in many cases it's the processes as much as the technical know-how which is important. I don't think anyone's going to be asked to be as creative in medium and large IT as they are in a school on a shoestring. That's perhaps a plus point to encourage school IT staff to believe they could cut it.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wagnerk View Post

    What is wrong with a school size? Ok granted I don't know what type of school you work at but any business that has approx 1350 users and 500-600 PC/laptops is classed as a large organisation, out of the realms of a SME (small to medium enterprise).
    But how many organisations classed as large have an NM and a couple of IT techs as the ENTIRE IT staff ?

    The difference is more about the sophistication of the IT landscape than size. There are companies classed as medium-sized orgs with half the number of users of a very large school but with N times the spend, and a bewildering array of Solaris, as400, and x86 servers. plus suitably staffed IT roles.

    i'm not saying managing hundreds of pc's and users doesn't add value to a cv, and whichever way you look at it a 1000-user exchange implementation is a big implementation wherever you are. it's just that those specialism roles in industry will require different experiences beyond number of users catered for. complexity and sophistication of the back-end design of systems will be somewhat different.

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    I think that whilst you may have the ability and expertise to do a more senior role, the answer may have to be to move across into industry into a position more level with your own (or even slightly below given that the salary is probably going to be better than yours in a school anyway), and work your way in from there.
    I don't decry your abilities at all, I just know from experience that the only people you will be able to convince are the technical people, and the chances are that your CV will have been discarded by HR or the recruiters long before the technical people get a look-in

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    Was re listening to podcast yesterday and some words which I think are apt to paraphrase.

    It not the outcome that is important but the specifics that got you there.

    So for real world example great you got an ict suite refit completed on time and in budget. Sorry that is given what got you there how do you do get done and in budget.

    When it comes to it ok there is some scale but process of refitting a 30 machine ict suite and 1000 machine building are same even if bit more complicated.

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    I get a fair few people ask me this question and I believe there are a few things you need to demonstrate and also have under your belt to take the next big step.

    Many businesses are/have implemented ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure) and use these standard as a way of incident and change management as well as the whole service delivery (SLAs, Financial Management, Business Continuity). These are actually used by most LEAs now as a delivery of support to your schools. Get yourself on a 3 day course and because certified with a Foundation Certificate which you can take at the end of 3 days.

    ITIL® Training Courses UK::ITIL Courses UK::ITIL Course Outlines

    If you have ever looked at FITS (Framework for IT Support) you will notice that its uses the same concept as ITIL.

    Project management is a hard one to get into unless you are Prince2 certified or you have experience of implementing large projects. Problem is with Prince2 is that you have to retake the exam every 2 years!

    Another thing I recommend is to blog. Maybe I'm going to say that but it is a way of demonstrating your knowledge and expertise for your possible new employees to look at. I could write a wonderful CV which says I have vasts amount of knowledge in PHP. So the I could prove this by blogging about a webpage I've put together, example code, story of the end user using it etc.

    It doesn't neccessery mean you have to blog about code. Demonstrate the work that is going on to improve the system you have at the school, where it is now, where you want to take it and then a post every month how you have got it there, lessons learnt. Here you are showing you have vision, experience, documentation skills, the skill set.

    Not wanting it to become a plug but you could blog here at edugeek or at Home - Learning Gateway UG - let me know if you want to blog at LGUG and I will set you up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    But how many organisations classed as large have an NM and a couple of IT techs as the ENTIRE IT staff?
    You'd be surprised...

    For example... Spar's headoffice in Oz, only has a handful of people in their IT dept.

    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    The difference is more about the sophistication of the IT landscape than size. There are companies classed as medium-sized orgs with half the number of users of a very large school but with N times the spend, and a bewildering array of Solaris, as400, and x86 servers. plus suitably staffed IT roles.
    Granted private companies spend more on IT, however don't forget that in the public sector/education we get a very big discount. In fact when I use to teach part-time at the local college, my budget was sometimes 2-3 times larger than alot of private companies.

    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    i'm not saying managing hundreds of pc's and users doesn't add value to a cv, and whichever way you look at it a 1000-user exchange implementation is a big implementation wherever you are. it's just that those specialism roles in industry will require different experiences beyond number of users catered for. complexity and sophistication of the back-end design of systems will be somewhat different.
    That's true, but then again you can say that going between two different private companies.

    -Ken

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