Thursday, June 7, 2007

Career Goals

This is an email I wrote in a conversation with a friend working in IT security who is considering whether to major in computer science or something more "business and IT" oriented. He asked my advice, so I asked what his career goals were. He replied that he didn't have any, and this was my response.

I didn't edit before posting, so forgive any errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

Goals are critical…they don’t have to be extremely specific, but if you’re doing something like declaring a major, your goals should be at least specific enough to allow you to do so.

So, my long-term career goals are pretty simple, being basically along the lines of “work in IT in a hands-on technical role” which could include programming, systems administration, etc. Point being that it’s not incredibly specific (notice it doesn’t even specify IT security), but it’s enough to let me know that a comp sci degree is in line with my goals.

Keep in mind that career goals don’t need to necessarily be about a specific type of work. Mine are, but only because I’m passionate about IT. Some people may not care what type of work they do, but want to make as much money as possible, for example. Others might want to help people, and would be equally satisfied as a doctor or as a guidance counselor.

Ultimately what I’m getting at is that you should determine what you want your career to accomplish in the larger context of your life, not necessarily what field you want to be in.

That being said, if you’re into pursuing security further, and you’re finding that you prefer the technical aspects of it to the regulatory/administrative aspects (hate to meet the person who preferred the latter), I would definitely major in computer science. Security can be as technical as you can make it, being by necessity and by definition at the cutting edge of technology. The better equipped you are to deal with technology, the more opportunity you have in security. That being said, a computer science degree lays the groundwork, but it’s really important to put in additional work doing certs/training, and definitely to do your own projects/research. A potential employer for, say, a pen-testing job will most likely be more impressed by someone who says “I don’t have a degree, but I discovered 3 remote roots last year and developed and released Tool X and Tool Y.”

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