How did I get into IT?

This post wasn’t planned at all! I was browsing EduGeek this morning and saw this thread asking forum members to share how they got into IT. I started replying on the thread, but as it became more of a tale, I thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to update my blog and hopefully inspire a new generation of IT professional! So, here we go!

I remember my first experience using a computer was when I was in Year 5 in a school in Leicester back in 1992. We were the only class in the whole school that had a computer in the room. It was an Acorn Computer. We were all fascinated by this device that was something amazing that no one in the whole school (or outside of school!) had access to except for us. We would all be given 30 minutes “play time” to use the computer. At that age, I had a huge interest in art and drawing cartoons. We’d been working on an art project and when it came to my time to “play” on the computer, I launched the Acorn version of Paint and then began to draw out my art project on the computer. Suffice to say, I fell in love with computers at this point and my teacher was so impressed with what I’d done, that I got more and more opportunities to use the computer to exploit my “talent”. From that moment onward, I knew that I wanted to work with computers and IT.

We moved and settled back in London in the  summer of 1992 and a year later I started at secondary school. I had a huge interest in IT by now and ended up taking IT at GCSE, then at college and then chose Computer Science at uni. I had a mixed experience with my degree. Most of our lecturers were terrible and utterly demotivating! I did enjoy the programming modules and I was actually very good at them. But, I HATED the networking modules! I remember I would vividly say, “I will do something in IT when I leave, but the one thing I definitely will NOT do, is networking!” What was I to know eh?!

One day in my final year of uni in 2004, my friends and I were having lunch in the canteen, when a lady came over to us and said, “Would you guys be interested in coming to a 1 hour session this afternoon and help us with a research project? All we need you to do is answer questions on why you feel there are so few Asian people in teaching.” We looked at her and promptly told her that we were not interested. She then said “I forgot to mention, we pay you £10 for attending!” Suffice to say, we ran to the session!

The session was actually very interesting. At the end, true to their word, we were given a crisp £10 note. As we were leaving they asked us if we’d be interested in spending 10 days at a school observing lesson as part of a programme called the “Student Associate Scheme”. Before we could have a chance to waver at the fact of having to spend 10 days in a school, we were told that we’d get paid £40/day. It was the easiest £400 we’d make in our lives! 

At the end of the 10 days, we’d go for a 1 hour evaluation session to share what we learnt and got a cheque (remember those?!) for £400. As I was leaving the evaluation, the tutor said “I have some money left in the budget, would you like to do another 5 days?” My eyes lit up at the £200 and I snapped it up.

On my penultimate day at the school, I bumped into the Head Teacher. I spoke to her and told her that I was a final year uni student. I didn’t have a PGCE or anything, but I knew a thing or two about computers. Would she happen to have any summer work for me whilst I looked for a job post uni-life. She introduced me to the Business Manager, who introduced me to the Network Manager. I sat with him in his office whilst he awkwardly didn’t really know what to ask me. I then asked him what he was doing and he was struggling to deploy an MSI to a remote PC. I showed him how MSI parameters worked and he said, you’ve got the summer job!

The summer job turned out to be a two week network overhaul project involving the decommissioning of the RM CC2.4 network and the implementation of a new vanilla Windows Server 2003 network with Windows XP clients. The school had called in a now defunct small company to carry out the implementation in full. I shadowed the lead engineer like a leech and watched his every single move like a hawk! At the end of the two weeks, the Network Manager told the Business Manager that he’d like me to stay till the end of the summer holidays to ensure a smooth completion of the project. Come September 2004, things were still a bit shaky with the usual new network teething problems and so the Business Manager asked if I would still carry on until the end of September. I had nowhere else to go, so of course I did. 

The previous Network Technician who was term time only, returned in September. She told me that she was due to start the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) and become an IT teacher at the school. It turned out that there was a chance that she wasn’t going to get accepted because she didn’t have a grade C in GCSE Maths. I went to see the Assistant Head and asked her if the technician didn’t get accepted into the GTP, could I do it instead, as I had a grade B in GCSE Maths. She said she’ll look into it and let me know. A few days later she told me that the technician had managed to do a GCSE Maths equivalent course and passed and so there wouldn’t be a position for me in the GTP. I asked her if the technician was leaving the IT Technician role, could I apply for that?

That afternoon, an internal vacancy went up for the role of Network Technician. I applied, a couple of days later, I had probably the most “non-interview” in the world and I was given the job as I pretty much knew the network setup like the back of my hand!

What started off as a two week contract for some work in the summer, turned into a ten year stay at the school, with some very valuable experiences of highs, mighty lows, but some very valuable learning experiences. So yeah, that’s how I ended up getting into IT!

If I had to sum it all up as the “moral of the story”, I’d say… Be passionate about what you love and grab any opportunity that comes your way. You never know where it will take you! Be patient, keep working hard and success will come. It may take some time, but you will reap the rewards in the future!

And to think, I was so close to becoming a teacher! 😂