We talked to Steven Hodges (@steven), a systems administrator at Webspec, about his career in IT.
When did you start in IT and what was your first position?
May of 2018 - Server Administrator at Webspec
How has your career changed since then?
Initially I was only supposed to manage our servers, but pretty quickly I took over all of the infrastructure. It was all a mess, and no one else really managed it so I took it over. Then I met with HR and our COO and just said "Yeah I want my title changed to Systems Administrator. I manage way more than just our servers."
What excites you about IT today?
Honestly, everything. While it scares me senseless, the constant cyber attacks get me excited because you never know what's going to happen next or what zero-day vulnerability that's going to be found. When I first started at Webspec I took a look at our infrastructure and rebuilt it from the ground up. We're now fully in "the cloud" with excellent up time (knock on wood). Figuring out what the next big change is to get us hosting and developing at the next level also gets me really excited. I wrote a (fairly long) post about it in the Community Forum, but I also developed and maintain an internal web application to help us manage everything in our company; including a custom CRM solution, Human Resources system, asset lifecycle and tracking, and infrastructure management.
How do you stay up-to-date in a field that's constantly changing?
I've subscribed to a few newsletters to keep info flowing into my inbox, but other than that I spend a lot of time on Reddit (don't tell my boss), a few slack channels, and the JC Community Forum. There's just so much new stuff happening in the IT world that it's hard to keep an eye on everything, but between what I look at now, I think I have a good handle on anything important that happens.
What advice would you offer someone trying to either switch careers or break into the IT industry for the first time?
Two things: 1) Take any opportunity that comes your way, if it makes sense, and 2) Apply for everything, even if you don't think you're qualified or it's not exactly what you're looking for.
1) While in college, a course came up to learn Drupal development. It didn't help my graduation requirements, but I'm a nerd and decided to take it for fun. The course was great; I enjoyed talking with the instructors and enjoyed working in Drupal (I still think it's a great CMS platform for enterprise & education to this day). Turns out the instructors were the staff who worked for the university building and maintaining all of their websites! A week or so after the course ended, they invited me for an interview, then a week after that I got offered a part time position working for the university! Worked there over the summer and 2 more semesters, then....
2) I applied at Webspec for a full time Drupal Development position. In my cover letter, I let them know I had 1 more semester of college, but I'd love to work full time for them during the upcoming summer break. They emailed me back letting me know that they were interested, but it would be an internship over the summer, then if things worked out I would move to a part time during my last semester and full time when I graduated. In my interview they asked me what my "dream job" was, and I let them know it was Systems Administration. The CEO and COO looked at each other and laughed, it killed me on the inside thinking it would never happen. Turns out, they had been talking earlier that day about putting an application out for a Server Admin position. After the interview was over, I got an email from them saying they'd love to have me intern as a drupal dev over the summer, go part time during my last semester, then after I graduated go full time as a drupal developer, but transition over 6 months to their Server Admin.
Thanks for taking time to share with us, Steven. We appreciate you and your time!