How did you get into IT to start with?


blog One of our favourite Australian IT user groups, AUTechHeads, has a nice post this morning from a gentleman of our acquaintance named ‘GiantGuineaPig’ exploring the reasons why he got into the IT industry to start with, and asking others to share their stories. But the path wasn’t always easy:

“After finishing high school, I then had an opportunity to do two weeks work at my Dad’s new place of employment, where he was the systems builder and tester. I was excited to be earning $13 an hour back in mid 1999 but the job was pretty much just building PC’s out of components, installing an image and testing that the basics worked. Again, it put me off being a computer technician, but I had no idea what else to do.”

Personally, I got started in IT because I had always been interested in computers for as long as I could remember. After studying what IT subjects it was possible to at high school, I got a scholarship to study IT at the University of NSW … but like GiantGuineaPig’s career, that didn’t go completely smoothly — I dropped out after two years of my IT degree and worked as a systems administrator for a while, before going to back to uni to study English Literature and become a writer. And now I write about IT :)

How did you get started in IT?

Image credit: Mark Phelan, royalty free


  1. A Commodore 64 and programming book, September 1984 – was reading the book the second day we had the computer, and programming very simple stuff the next day. And so it began…

    (the same Commodore 64 is still in the cupboard somewhere – last time I fired it up, everything worked except the audio)

    • Ah memories. The first computer I got my hands on was my cousin’s Commodore 64 and I thought it was the most amazing thing that had ever existed. I pestered my parents to get me one but they ended up buying a Tandy 1000, which was an early IBM XT clone but with a sixteen colour monitor (OMG!) and no hard drive. I felt ripped off since everyone else I knew with a computer either had a C64 or an Apple II, but in hindsight it was a good decision – eventually the IBM architecture ruled the world and everything else sunk without a trace.

      • Heh my family never got into the Commodore 64 stuff; our first PC was an Apple IIe borrowed from the school where one parent was a teacher. I still fondly remember playing Karateka on that beast :)

      • I wish I still had my C64. I sold it to upgrade to an Amiga 500 (which I luckily DO still have along with about 500 games for it). I loved the C64, but to this day the best games I ever played were on Amiga. It’s a shame Commodore had to go and stuff everything up with the CD32 (remember that stupid thing?) and other terrible management decisions.

        As for how I got into IT, my first IT job was working in tech support for a local ISP, known at the time as KeyPoint, who eventually got swallowed up by Eftel (which was exactly the same time I left funnily enough). I then went on to manage the network for an employment services company. They ran a business of 24 people over a single ADSL 1.5mbps line, so managing bandwidth was pretty much impossible and their budget for upgrading anything was non existent . It was the opposite of fun.

        I’ve also had the extreme displeasure of working for Telstra, selling broadband to innocent victims. I used to sign people up to those horrendous 256k\200MB $29.95 contracts. Not something I’m proud of..

        I’ve since moved away from working in IT, but building and tinkering with computers will always be a hobby. I’m obsessed by technology. Plain and simple :)

  2. Started by doing a programming diploma, then built machines for an OEM, cut to now and working in telco (so not IT, don’t confuse the two!!)

  3. Sounds like I was a lot like Renai what I was young. ;) I was always interested in computers from a young age and loved programming (started with GW-BASIC on DOS circa 1988), so when I got to the end of high school I knew exactly what I wanted to do next: study IT at university. I guess I was lucky in that respect because most of my peers had no idea what they wanted to do with their life at that stage; some still don’t! IT just seemed like the natural thing to do, it was the only thing I was really good at and the only worthwhile skill I had which I actually enjoyed.

    I went to uni and studied comp sci but that didn’t work out and after a while I dropped out and landed a job as a sysadmin/user support monkey for a small law firm in the late 90’s. Got bored of that quickly but I was lucky and got a programming job with a medical research foundation. I’ve changed jobs about a million times since then but still doing much the same thing with no plans to change. I’ll probably still be here when I’m 60 and honestly, that doesn’t sound too bad. :)

    What really fascinates me is people who switch to IT from a completely different profession. A few years back I worked with a C# programmer who started out as an auto mechanic – one day he decided he didn’t want to fix cars any more and enrolled in uni to study IT. Doesn’t seem like a natural progression but it happens sometimes. I hope we get some comments from people like that here, would love to hear the motivations behind it.

    • IT can be a fairly easy skill adequate to pick up if you have analytical reasoning skills common to the medical, legal & engineering professions. But unless you grew up loving it, there are just some problems you will never intuitively grasp. It’s similar to car mechanics in that way.

  4. ah ok, if you want to go back that far I got a C64 in 1987 and learnt BASIC.

    I miss you ,8,1 :-)

    • 10 POKE53280,0
      20 POKE53281,2
      30 PRINTCHR$(147)
      40 PRINT “GO BOMBERS!”
      50 GOTO 40

      (scary shit that I can still remember the POKE and CHR$ codes)

  5. It is with a *cringe* that I admit I am 2nd generation IT. My father was originally a mainframe COBOL programmer for what was, in the 1970s, the Rural Bank of NSW who had a data centre in Pitt St, Sydney. In the early 80s he brought home my first “computer” a Texas Instruments equivalent of a Commodore 64 which I fondly remembering learning to “program” using TI’s version of BASIC . By 1986 we had an IBM AT (the original model with dual 5 and a quarter inch floppy drives) supplied as part of my Dad’s salaray package (not a bad fringe benefit in those days). I learnt DOS and with each new machine upgrade learnt the new platform – Windows, OS2 etc. I even got a 1 month gig as a contract data entry operator when I turned 18 (mainframe of course). Despite all of my IT experience I wanted to become a lawyer and started a Law degree, but 1 year in I decided it was just not a profession that “created” anything truely useful to for the person on the street. With that thought I changed my degree to Business with a major in IT and after a brief stint in PC support and sales, got a real IT job in 1995…as a COBOL developer (just like my old man). Apparenlty some of my original COBOL code is still running…not sure about Dad’s though.

    • Now you mention it I’m a 2nd generation IT tragic as well – in the 70’s my dad was a computer technician in the RAAF. I used to giggle when he told me his dodgy back was a result of moving 10 megabyte hard drives around; in those days they were the size of a washing machine and apparently much heavier. I’m glad we’ve moved on since then.

      • Love it – it reminded me that when I was quite small my Dad told me that at work he spent alot of time “fixing bugs”. I thought for a while that his job was to keep cockroaches from getting into the data centre :)

  6. Ok spose I’ll post…as I kinda said already, 2nd Gen IT here, Dad was in it (still is in it, but a GM of a software company now) anyways. He’d bring home an Apple something during the school holidays until we got an IBM permanently. I don’t recall much of what I did etc, but yeah growing up around IT stuff made IT/working with computers come naturally to me, haven’t gone to Uni, just been working in IT since I left High School

  7. I got into Unix because of Amiga ports and from using Dialix shell for Internet access. Then I started reading BOFH and all that other cool Unix lore so I went out and got a job as a Unix operator.

      • Beards were not compulsory. Pony tails were.

        True SysAdmins were locked in rooms with a big enough gap under the door to slide a pizza, and Coca-Cola or Jolt was piped in using plastic tubing.

        • I’m ashamed to admit I used to be one of those ponytail guys. Never worked with Unix though so no beard.

          A few years back it was practically compulsory to have at least one ponytail guy on any programming team, but now they all seem to be extinct. It just isn’t the same.

  8. Pffft, C64… I discovered computers at uni, taught myself FORTRAN (on a Burroughs B5500) when the “command line” formed at the verifying card punch. This was so long ago that there were NO computing courses at ANY Melbourne uni, so I dropped out and eventually conned my way into a job as an “operator” on a machine which booted from one punched card… and I’m still at it, now a Unix sysadmin at a regional university. Lost the ponytail about 15 years ago (along with much of my hair). My father was a bank manager, he used to say it was lucky for everyone else that we were honest :-)

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