IT Support is one of the most common starting points for many careers; mine included, but is also an excellent area to build your IT career. A Director running a large customer support Service Desk environment can earn six figure sums. I started in Front Line Support and learned valuable lessons that have helped me formulate my own opinions of how a good Service Desk should operate. When I am recruiting for a junior service desk analyst or front line support technician (you will find many different job titles, but essential the role remains consistent i.e. providing front line IT support for a customer base) I am looking for someone enthusiastic, willing to learn, has an aptitude for learning which will demonstrated with good school grades and of course someone with an interest or obvious aptitude for IT. Finally, I am looking for someone that has an aptitude for working with people. Remember, the interaction with customers is going to be the large proportion of your working day.
For more senior roles I am looking for someone that can communicate. Communication remains the one fundamental area of IT that I believe we in IT do badly. Good communication is the cornerstone of any of my strategic IT decisions. The next big ticket item for me is that the candidate must have a working knowledge and qualification in ITIL v2 or v3. The third area is leadership. Senior Service Desk roles will involve managing both junior low experienced and more senior technical employees. A good leader should be able to nurture and develop junior members and at the same time challenge and appreciate more senior members of the team.
Junior roles – £15,000 to £25,000 depending on the organisation. Although I appreciate money is a huge factor in the decision making process. Also consider the chances of development within the role. Remember this role is likely to shape your next role as well. You are going to have to weigh-up the benefits of a wider remit with more freedom to expand in small companies, but will have more opportunities for IT training and personal development initiatives with larger companies.
Mid-level or Technical roles – £20,000 to £40,000
It is difficult to be exact for such experience because the level of your technical expertise will help dictate your salary. If you have experience of Citrix then you will command a larger salary in a company where Citrix skills are sought after. This is time where you need to consider which direction you want to take on the career ladder.
Do I stay in the Service Desk function? Do I have an aptitude for customer service and support? As I have mentioned if you are good then you can look for salaries from £50k upwards. If you are very good then £100k upwards is a possibility.
Do I move into a more technical role? I have a colleague who is technical guru. I have known him for nearly 15 years and started with me on an apprenticeship when he was 17. His knowledge of the very broad depth and breadth of IT, from datacentres to networking, is astonishing. He commands a salary well in excess of £50k and his potential is boundless. His future roles could be in IT Architecture, IT R&D or he could go freelance and work in a consultancy capacity. Again commanding a salary in excess of £100k. My point is that you do not need to be
Do I develop my skills in other IT areas? What areas am I good at and enjoy? This then becomes our tangent into exploring other areas of IT functions. Do you have a passion and talent for Development, Project Management, Networks, Operations (like DataCentres), or Business Systems (SAP, Oracle). I will be exploring these areas in more detail in the coming months. The potential in all of these roles is exciting. All could command over £50k with the right skills and experience.
Finally, Do I have an aptitude for management? I quickly realised during my time in Banking and then in a small start-up that IT management was my passion and my talent. I love the variety, the challenge of managing people, the reward of delivering a project and developing IT strategy. Salaries here range from £40k upwards depending on the size of the company and the remit. Once again good IT Leaders can early well in excess of £100k so the potential here is enormous. I will cover IT Management in future posts.
Top 5 Tips for my first or next move in the Service Desk function
1.Get ITIL Qualified
I think you knew this would be my number 1. Get ITIL qualified. If you can get ITIL v3 foundation on your CV your chances of getting your first or next role in the Service Desk function will be greatly increased.
2. Start Reading
I can recommend the following books to improve your understanding of the support environment and to help you stay current. If you are responsible for Windows 8 Support get a book on managing Windows 8 environments. Likewise with Exchange, SharePoint, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Server, Ubuntu, Citrix…
3. Get experience
As I mentioned above if you feel your CV is lacking experience then go out and offer your services (maybe free of charge) to a charity. Ask friends and families
if they know of anyone trying to hire IT support people. The point here is don’t just bemoan your situation, do something to rectify it.
4. Are there any Apprenticeships schemes available in your area?
Having met and worked with someone that has used this route very successfully I would recommend getting on an apprenticeship programme.
5. Practise at Home
This is exactly how I started my passion for IT. I remember buying a cheap desktop machine running Windows 95. I took the whole box apart to see what was underneath the cover. What a hard drive looked like, where the memory was housed, fans, processor etc. Then messed around with Windows 95, learning how it worked and how to fix problems as they occurred. I cannot remember how many times I reinstalled Windows 95… a terrific way to learn about the systems you will be support in the business environment.