You know you want to enter the IT world, but you’re not sure what path to take. Sound familiar? Here’s our guide to whether you should become an IT admin or a Software Developer. Because you really can’t be both.
There’s no right answer to which of these two crucial jobs you should ultimately choose, as both have vital roles within an MSP. The amount you get paid and the hours that you work will depend on the company you work for rather than which job title you end up with. That means it’s all about which role you are best suited to. First, let’s look at what each one of these positions entails on a day to day basis.
Software Developer: What Will I Do?
IT Administrator: What Will I Do?
An IT Admin or sysadmin can often work as a bit of a lone wolf, supporting customers or the rest of the team with their machines and devices, building computers, setting up networks, and troubleshooting from the front-end. You’ll need to understand how the back-end works, but it’s unlikely you’ll need to have in-depth knowledge of the programming languages or excessive coding skills. Instead, it could be beneficial to know about security technologies such as VLANs and firewalls, as well as cloud software and various IT and MSP software.
How Do I Know Which Role Suits my Personality?
Here’s where you need to dig deep. This anonymous quote might be able to help you, well known in the IT industry.
“A programmer gets famous when he does something good and an administrator if he does something bad.”
Administrator roles are, by nature, more stable, reliable. They are all about keeping things running smoothly. If you’re great at your job, no-one will ever hear from you. You’ll be ahead of the game, acting proactively to make sure that disruption or delay never reaches the end-users. You also get the benefit of working across multiple teams, dealing with lots of different kinds of professionals, and having a lot of variation in your daily work. However, if and when something goes wrong, the blame could fall directly at your feet, and you may need to be on call to fight fires at any time of day or night.
Developer roles are more chaotic by design. They are all about innovation and creativity, and you might find that you need to keep proving yourself with the next great idea or quick win. You’re likely to be focused on the same task for weeks or months at a time without a lot of variation. On the other hand, your hours as a programmer are often more predictable, and you escape a lot of the more staid or repetitive work of fixing, backing-up, updating, and patching.
What Will Make You Happy?
Many people enter the world of IT and really have no idea which path they want to take, or what their destination ultimately should be. This can lead to confusion and delay, plus unnecessary costs as those who are best suited for IT admin take software development degrees, or programmers collect certifications and course diplomas that they simply will never need.
Instead, separate the roles in your head, and think about which one makes sense. If creativity, sharp deadlines and design speak to you – start down the road towards programming and development. If collaboration, fire-fighting, and more diverse work tasks suit your personality more – it’s likely that administration is a better fit.
Once you’ve launched the right career path and are making a success of it, that’s the right time to look at where you want your role to take you, and augment those existing skills with new competencies. If you are a sysadmin, and you see DevOps or Automation opportunities in your future, then this is the right point to think about learning coding or scripting. If you’re a developer who wants to be able to broaden your skillset, perhaps look to gain a Network+ certification, for example.
Ultimately, the right job will be the one that keeps you excited; that gets you jumping out of bed in the morning, ready for a new day.
What skills helped you get to where you are today? Do you think it’s changed over the years? Tell us in the comments!