I have worked in technology full-time for nearly fifteen years. Prior to this, I built PCs and was somewhat of a technical hobbyist. Occasionally, I am faced with the question, “How does one get into computers?” or “How can I get into computer networking?” There are many paths and correct answers to these questions. The general field of technology can be rewarding both personally and financially. However, it is not a field that everyone is well suited. I would encourage those asking questions about how to get into this field to look inward. The goal is to understand the traits they naturally possess that are most likely to help them achieve success.
Several traits seem common to those who have achieved great satisfaction in the field of technology. Within these characteristics, there are some overlapping areas. One key trait that I find in all technology rockstars is what I like to call a technical mind. An individual with a technical mind has some natural abilities to visualize how things work. That does not mean that they have an inherit full understanding of the inner workings of a sophisticated network that they have never worked with. Likewise, it does not insinuate that they grasp a protocol that they have never been exposed to. It simply implies that their mind processes things beyond a simple cause and effect relationship.
Let’s look at a couple of examples to expand on this. One example for me is the very first time I hooked up a VCR. Since I had never done this before, I had to look at the manual. After reading the manual and understanding the concept of cable in, cable out, audio out, audio in, video out and video in, I really had no need for the manual in the future. The point is not that I memorized how to hook up a VCR, but that input and output made a lot of sense to me.
A person with a technical mind breaks things down into pieces that are digestible and works through them in an orderly process. As this person gains experience, he or she has the ability to see the logic and mentally visualize areas where problems are more likely to develop. Additional experience will allow this person access to new processes and logic that can be layered on top of previous knowledge.
One attribute of the technical mind is the desire to understand how things really work. Some people are completely satisfied with knowing that if you press button “A”, result “B” will occur. This simple cause and effect relation is often sufficient in other fields and even in some areas of technology. However in order to excel, it is more appropriate to ask and understand why “B” occurred. Individuals who never have this desire to understand these inner workings will find that technology frustrating and will likely create barriers for themselves. It is this continual “digging” that leads to holistic understanding necessary to troubleshoot complex environments.
Technology is constantly changing field. This dynamic nature creates a lot of exciting career choices. Such a career choice can be lucrative and enjoyable for those well suited. To do well in technology, an individual should thrive on change, and enjoy critical thinking, and always ask why. For those looking to make a career change from a non-technical to a technical career, I always first recommend self-examination. Making certain that the career choice is one that fits well with their personal traits is very important. A key trait in any career in technology is a technical mind.
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