You can explore your interest in computers by getting involved with a computer users group or club in your community or school. If an information technology trade show comes to your area, be sure to attend. You’ll be able to see new advances in technology and talk with others who are interested in this field. Search the Web for interesting sites, and look at the source code of these sites to see how they were developed. Increase your knowledge by experimenting and learning independently. Check out library books about computers, and teach yourself some programming or Web site design skills. Mastering a Web page authoring program is a good introduction to Web design. Develop a strong presence on social-media sites.
Offer to help people you know set up their home computer systems, or do upgrades for them. Gain experience by volunteering to help seniors or others learn how to use computers at a community center. Try to get a summer or part-time job at a computer store. Large retailers, such as Best Buy, also have computer departments where you might find work. The business experience will be beneficial, even if you are not working directly on the Internet. Create an imaginary social-media marketing campaign for your favorite band or video game in order to try out the work of IT consultants.
Contact IT consultants, Web site designers, or programmers in your area, and set up information interviews with them. You can ask them questions about their educational background, what they like about the work, how they market their business, what important skills someone wanting to enter the field should have, and any other things you are interested in knowing about this career.
Information technology consultants utilize their in-depth knowledge of the IT industry, computer and telecommunications hardware and software, and the Internet (including social media and cloud computing) to help clients achieve their technology goals. They have a wide range of duties, depending on their employers and the needs of their clients. Generally speaking, their work can be divided into five broad categories:
Information technology consultants are problem solvers who work with a variety of employers. For example, an IT consultant might be tasked with creating a customer relationship management system and strategy for a retailer that identifies top customers, studies customer behavior online, and develops strategies to better communicate with and serve customers online. Another might help a major health care system transition from paper records to a digital record-keeping system.
Information technology consultants have a wide range of duties, but examples of some typical tasks include analyzing a client’s current use of the Internet to determine what markets the company is reaching—or failing to reach; designing a company’s e-commerce Web site, and helping it create a consistent digital message; studying a client’s data-mining software, and providing advice on how to optimize and expand data collection and analysis capabilities; helping an online retailer plan for future IT growth and increased capacity requirements; training a company’s staff to use new software or hardware; and developing and implementing IT security strategies that protect a government agency from hacking and industrial espionage.
External IT consultants work for IT consulting firms such as Accenture, IBM, and Capgemini. They are employed by clients on a project basis, and clients are billed by the hour for consultants’ services. Internal IT consultants work as salaried employees for companies and other organizations and provide advice only to their employer. Some consultants work independently (running their own businesses) and are paid for their work by the hour; others may be paid by the project.