Wednesday, 16 January 2013

My Views On Working In The Industry

IT Support is not a great job. Not by any means.

Most people work in first or second line.

The Three Lines

First line is Helpdesk. You pick up the phone and give remote support by telling the user what to do. Sometimes you connect remotely to their PC to fix the problem yourself. Anything you can't do, you escalate to second line. This might sound great but you will be judged on your stats and this job is much like working in a call centre. You are nothing but a resource, a body.

Second line is sometimes called "desk side". You get the more complex problems that are not easy fixes. You see people, face to face, although most companies still encourage remote support where possible or your rate of ticket closure will be slow. It's still all about the stats but less so.

Third line is sometimes called "infrastructure/network". You'll do the more advanced stuff and rarely interact with end users. In big companies, you'll monitor and make changes to the network and the rest of the infrastructure.

The first and second line are basically treated like crap by users. I called this blog "Guy from IT" because that is frequently the name you are referred to as, even if you have offered your name. You are looked down at like a second class citizen. Even garbage collectors and cleaners get left alone to do their job but 1st/2nd liners are paid badly, treated badly and yet expected to offer a professional service where "the customer is always right".

Big companies tend to pay better but career prospects are often worse because each level of support is so segregated (often in another country) that there is no way to move up.

In a small company, first and second line are often combined and you may even be involved in or find it easier to move to third line.


Getting certifications helps a lot. Microsoft certifications have long been popular. If you want to get into third line, it helps to have advanced certs such as Cisco and others. They are much tougher but the salary rewards are worth it.


If you contract, you can gain a lot of experience in a short space of time. Every company does things slightly differently, and by working at several in a row, you can gain a great grounding. If you work at a mix of small and large firms then you'll be able to show that you can handle third line work (albeit on a smaller scale) combined with big firm professionalism. This can help you get those high paying big firm third line roles.

Dream Of The Third Line, Management Or Get Out

Most people don't want to stay on the first/second line, permanent or contracting, for the rest of their lives. The pay is bad (though there are worse paying jobs), you are looked down on and its a tough job.

Don't sit still: the older you get, the more prejudiced people will be against you and they won't believe you have any ambition left. Keep studying and keep trying to progress. Sometimes you have to be patient and sometimes you have to leave to get more experience or the ability to move up. If you are permanent, make clear your ambitions and get them recorded on paper at appraisals. By doing this, they can't deny your career ambitions so long as they lie with the company or it will make your manager look possessive and not allowing the company to take advantage of you reaching your full potential.

Good And Bad

This job is really a mixture of blue and white collar in many ways with some of the best and worst parts combined.

But IT Support is not the worst career going. Some people enjoy doing second line for most of their lives including some "career contractors", for example. However, both first and second liners are dime a dozen and this keeps pay rates low. You can improve your rate by specialising in, for example, front office support in financial houses or Mac support or supporting law firms (they use a lot of document management systems). It is also easy to get into and is popular with those leaving the armed forces who need a career - getting a few certs and offering your services for free or for a low rate is enough to get you your first role and from there you can easily enjoy a long career.

Personally, my ambitions lie elsewhere. I am not going to do this forever. I need more respect from others as it feeds my own self-respect. I also want more money. At my age, this affects not just myself but also my relationships too. I hope this article gives you a better picture of working in the industry.

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