One of the best ways to explore this field is to get hands-on experience working with computers. Join your high school computer users group or start one of your own. You may be able to learn about new technology developments from others in your group.
In addition to reading books on programming, look at computer magazines for the latest news. Some publications, such as the quarterly magazine 2600 (https://www.2600.com), have articles about security issues. While 2600 is aimed at hackers, reading the articles will give you an understanding of how some systems are broken into and help you develop your ability to think of defenses.
Naturally, you should use computers and the Web as often as you can. If a community center or tech school in your area offers computer classes that are more advanced than those offered at your high school, be sure to take them. Also, your computer teacher or school counselor may be able to help you contact professionals in the field and set up informational interviews with them. Even if you can't find an Internet transaction specialist to interview, talking with anyone in the field, such as programmers, Web site designers, or consultants, will give you an idea of what computer work is like. If you live in a metropolitan area, you may be able to get an unpaid internship in the e-commerce department, although you will not have access to sensitive information.
Every business engaged in e-commerce must use some type of Internet transaction software, that is, software that allows money to be transferred from the customer to the business. This process is also referred to as electronic funds transfer (EFT). Transaction software and systems are what allow customers to do such things as transfer funds between banks, pay bills online, and buy and sell stocks. At the same time, transaction software and systems are what allow businesses to get credit card approval for a customer's purchase, receive payments, and make money transfers. As e-commerce has become more and more popular, the need for Internet transaction specialists has grown. In addition, the technology itself continues to develop.
One of the major responsibilities of an Internet transaction specialist is to ensure the security of a system. Because these transactions involve money and because they take place over the Internet, the possibility exists for theft through electronic means. Customers need to feel sure that when they buy shoes or groceries online, for example, their credit card numbers won't be stolen or their bank accounts emptied by hackers breaking into the system. Transaction specialists constantly work to improve protocols for secure financial transactions.
Another major responsibility of the specialist is to improve software and systems so that transactions are speedier and less complicated, allowing banks, credit card companies, and stores selling goods online to exchange financial data more rapidly and directly than ever before. Improvements also provide customers greater access to goods and services. Through EFT, for example, customers may be able to transfer funds from a bank account directly to a business.
As e-commerce continues to increase, so do the laws and regulations governing it. Internet transaction specialists must ensure that a company's e-commerce system meets all of these laws and regulations.
Some companies have large enough e-commerce needs that they have their own in-house Internet architects, developers, and programmers designing and implementing transaction systems. Other smaller companies may hire a firm specializing in e-commerce systems to perform this service. Some firms specializing in transaction software simply implement that software for companies developing or improving their e-commerce sites. On the cutting edge are firms working to push transaction software standards forward, developing new ways to perform transactions online.
In-house specialists, as well as outside specialists who are hired by a company to work on a project, must have excellent communication skills. They meet with management to find out what services the company wants to offer its customers through the Internet and determine what type of programming is needed. Often the specialists will work with other programmers to build the software and system. In addition, specialists must be able to deal with the frustration that comes when programming does not work as they had anticipated. Tight deadlines can also make the job of the transaction specialist fairly stressful.