Career switch into IT: is it a good idea?

At the moment there is a wholesale movement towards digitalization. IT has also become more and more integrated into our daily private lives, as well as our work lives. As such an important aspect of our economy, businesses must keep up with the latest trends.

Boosted by the digitization movement, there is a higher than ever demand for IT specialists, on both a technical and a functional level. With a high need for, but limited supply of, IT specialists, you may consider that a career switch to IT would be a good idea. However, is this really the case? And what are the opportunities that you are likely to encounter if you take this step?

IT is of course a very broad sector, and there are many different areas in which to find a job. For example, there are functions as a programmer, tester, analyst, architect, etc., but even within these roles, there are many subdivisions to consider. Think of the various programming languages ​​that a programmer can use. There are also roles requiring different sets of ‘soft-skills’: some where you need to work independently and or others where you will need strong communication skills (for example, to engage with various stakeholders, to lead a team, to do vendor selection, etc.)

Career switch to IT

Perhaps you already have a great job but you are intrigued about a move into IT. In this blog, we will share some information about your opportunities for such a switch.

We will consider two types of career switches: evolutionary and revolutionary.

It is perfectly possible to move from your current job for an IT-related job without holding a diploma in IT. For example, someone with a strong experience as a user of a particular CRM application could make the switch to be closely involved in the technical deployment of such applications within other organisations. In this case you will grow into an IT-related job where you will use your past experience to facilitate the move into an IT-related function. (Evolution).

Alternatively, after working in a non-IT sector, you may decide to follow further education in IT so that you can make a career switch that is supported by your IT qualification.

The advantage of following a course in IT is that they are, typically, based around practical use. The course will allow you to not only learn the theoretical background of the subject, but will also give you a hands-on foundation and experience to help you get started at your new employer. (Revolution).


Growing into a new IT role

When evolving from your current job to an IT-related function, the change is not necessarily difficult. This is because your new job will typically be related to your past experience and will use this as the foundation upon which new IT knowledge will be built (think of the CRM example mentioned earlier). In this case, it is normal for your employer to provide the necessary IT-related training courses for you. Furthermore, this switch has advantages in terms of salary. As your past experience is an added-value / necessity for your new function, you can often keep the same salary as before – or even improve upon it.

At Amandis, we have recent real-world examples of candidates with a background in HR and with experience of using specific HR software tools, leveraging their user-experience to help deploy the same software for other organizations. Knowing the software well as a user gives them a distinct advantage. Additional product-specific  training was provided by their employer, as a more technical insight was required, but the functional foundation was already there. In these examples, we saw that candidates all maintained, or improved upon, their old salary packages.


IT Education

If you decide to completely ‘revolutionize’ your career path by following an in-depth IT training course, your job opportunities will be different. Firstly, it may be more of a challenge to settle into a totally new function, because you are likely to be leaving all of your past experience behind you. It is also more than likely that you will be the one paying for the actual IT training course.

When the training is done and you have found your new career in IT, you may find yourself back with other ‘new-starters’. It is to be expected that your starter salary will not match your old salary. If you have undergone training in software development, for example, you will probably receive the salary of a junior developer in your first new role, as your past experience is largely irrelevant to your new career direction.

It is also our experience that employers sometimes give their preference to candidates who have just graduated in an IT subject, rather than to someone who has recently switched career direction (often for reasons related to cost).


Is an IT education really necessary?

Now you are possibly thinking, is it still a good idea to switch to a career in IT? And, will I need a degree for this to happen? Well, ideally yes, but of course there are many exceptions to that – just look at Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg! Neither of them completed their University educations but are now two of the most successful IT business professionals in the world. So, without an IT diploma you can certainly succeed, but it won’t always be easy. When you follow a practical training course, however, your rate to success will improve significantly.

It is also true that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were always extremely passionate about IT, both of them starting to develop applications at a young age. Their passion was what helped to drive their careers so far without the need for a diploma. If this is the case for you, and you are really engaged by IT, I would say “Give it a go”. The shortage of IT specialists in today’s marketplace can only work in your favor.

So, to summarize, your chances of success in the IT job market after a career switch will depend upon several factors, such as your background, the job function and the open-mindedness of the company whose job you are applying for. But the greatest determining factor of success is, of course, your own motivation and passion. Go for it!