Most every large company, regardless of industry, employs a squadron of IT gurus to build, maintain, and upgrade technology systems and processes. From publishing houses to retail stores to dot-coms, the presence of at least a small IT department - comprised of a Database Administrator (DBA), Project Manager, Network Administrator, and programmers - is imperative.
The job functions of IT professionals are almost infinite. An IT professional is the first person you dial when you the receive the dreaded message on your monitor: Your computer has performed an illegal operation. IT workers install and maintain the productivity applications - content management software, word processing programs, spreadsheets, antivirus software, web browsers, personal organizers, desktop publishing tools, and multimedia devices - you rely upon to do your daily work. They set up your computer and make sure it's running smoothly. They create, customize, and upgrade software and hardware. Chances are that the databases your company and its clients depend upon require daily maintenance and troubleshooting: another task of the IT team.
IT professionals ensure the collaboration between Internet, intranets, and extranets for the successful buying, selling, and marketing of eCommerce products and services. The networked distribution of computer power throughout a company may take the form of a client/server approach, with client and network servers bound together to share processing software and databases. In all cases, IT workers ensure that the internetworking of computing is fast, cost-effective, and efficient.
On another, perhaps less visible, level IT professionals also have ethical responsibilities. It is up to IT departments to decide which uses of information technology are irresponsible or detrimental to other individuals and companies; what is the proper use of a company's information resources; and what precautions should be taken to prevent outsiders from having access to privileged information and private servers.
Ultimately, the successful IT department is a well organized collective of people, hardware, software, communications networks, and data resources. Their job is to create, transform, and disseminate information both within an organization and outside of its firewalls. More than the guy who fixes your computer glitches or the girl who installs the latest version of Microsoft Word, IT professionals contribute to a company's business operations, managerial decision making, strategic edge, and global competitive advantage. They are business process engineers who have the ability to restructure the way we work and the way we do business.
Who Works in IT?
There is no "typical" IT worker. Because the spectrum of IT jobs is enormous, workers in this industry tend to be specialized, with in-depth experience and training in one area. Java programmers write code that is vastly different from that of Cold Fusion Programmers, who write code that is vastly different from that of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) programmers. Project Managers may work in conjunction with Network Administrators, Quality Assurance Testers, Database Administrators (DBAs), Technical Writers, and Graphic Designers, but the skills set and knowledge base for each professional is quite distinct. In the grand scheme of an IT department, each "knowledge worker" represents a separate, yet indispensable piece of the whole.
Sometimes, different titles reflect the same positions. For example, a software developer, software engineer, software programmer, and software architect might have exactly the same job descriptions. In addition, many companies employ professionals with the same IT specialization at several different levels. A company that relies upon Oracle, a robust but complex database, may employ several DBAs at the Senior, Mid-, and Junior Levels.
Adding to this colossal job pool are the IT workers who work in newer fields such as Wireless, Broadband, and Mobile Computing. Yet whether the company is B2B (Business to Business) or B2C (Business to Consumer), a computer hardware manufacturer or a commercial bank, a nonprofit or a for-profit powerhouse, it will likely employ an IT staff to take care of its technical needs. From improving the flow of information to eradicating viruses to smoothing software glitches, these professionals are essential to the usability of a company's technological systems.
Now - perhaps more than ever before - computers are changing the way we work, live, and think. With the advent of the Information Age and increasing reliance on PCs, high-speed Internet connections, company Intranets, and other technologies, the importance of Information Technology (IT) professionals cannot be underestimated.