ICT careers that will land you a job – Part I

ict-comm

Robert Ndlovu
There is a serious skills shift in the ICT arena and as such you must gear yourself to change with the ever changing field. If you remain static you will be irrelevant like the postman and his postage stamp – no offence. New skills are required that are globally in demand and not just in Zimbabwe. Stop thinking locally but globally acquire skills that can be acquired locally but are internationally relevant. This has a direct impact on our businesses, small and large corporations alike. They must stay abreast with all the ICT developments in whatever industry they are in, in order for them to stay relevant or they will cease to exist. Information is power. This article is not only for career seekers but businesses as well to re-train their staff and stay ahead of the game yes. Ask the mobile operators and banks.

Career guidance in any field be it journalism, medicine, law, social sciences, arts, engineering, music, ICT or any other, plays a very pivotal role in shaping one’s success or failure in a chosen field. So many variables come into play when one has to decide on which career to pursue. And well this is an area where educationists will give you best advice as to the metrics that are used to help someone decide which path to take. This article is specific to information technology related fields.

What you decide to do invariably takes into consideration the following issues, the remuneration, job security, your ability, peer pressure but most importantly, passion. So whatever is the driving force behind your choice make sure you choose something that you will enjoy doing and will also put a meal on your table.

The list I have compiled is in no specific order or importance. I put these together as they popped up in my mind based on the experience, knowledge and exposure I have had.

Before you decide to pursue any ICT career ensure that you are computer literate in the true sense of the word. In that you are comfortable in finding your way around the systems , text editors,  spreadsheets , the internet and the basic hardware that makes up the components. This brings us to the basic ICT competency certification – ICDL.

(0) ICDL – International Computer Driving Licence. ICDL programmes are for anyone who wishes to become fully competent in the use of a computer and common applications. Computer skills enable people of all ages to understand and use technology to improve their personal and professional lives. This is why we urge both the Ministry of ICT and Higher Education to make it mandatory for all students who enroll in institutions of higher learning to leave the institution with accredited ICT qualification. Surely how does a nation expect to have ICT literate community and deploy e-gvt , e-commerce , e-health when graduates from our colleges and varsities know no more than browsing , goggling , typing assignments and apping ! There are several private institutions in Zimbabwe as a whole that offer this course.

(1) Networking – Cisco Certification . Computer networks are connected via different means in the true sense of the word. Signals may travel over a pair of twisted copper wire between 2 end points , signals may use light (fibre optics) to travel across continents. More commonly and very familiar to the reader is the use of wireless technologies which I must lament is one of the greatest leaps in technology – no wires. These are in the form of different sections of the electromagnetic spectrum from microwave right to x-ray.

Different providers are allocated different slots on this wide spectrum and this comes with a licensing fee – save for WiFi !

Now networking as a career prepares a student to be competent in the way information (data packets) from point A to point B. It is in networking where decisions are made as to which physical medium to use to send a signal . Very crucial things are learned in networking as they follow certain set of standards and protocols to effect end to end communication and connectivity. These are rules that govern how devices communicate.

Pursuing a course called Networking + can bring you up to speed into understanding how data travels in networks. Stopping with the networking course only is NOT good enough and you are advised to pursue Cisco Certifications. Cisco is a company based in San Jose, California that makes networking equipment as their core business. So to support the market they had created Cisco came up with Cisco Certifications. These are top notch certification. It is advisable to go beyond the basic CCNA (associate) and go for CCNP (professional) and ultimately for gold the CCIE. It is very important to understand that certification alone without any hands on experience are not good enough. Ever heard of a Network Engineer? Do this.

How and where do I get this experience? Set up a home lab. Volunteer to work for companies. Don’t ask for pay when you can’t even configure an IP address on a router interface. Get your hands dirty. Technologies such as VSAT , WiMax , WiFi . LTE and the like also use similar suite of protocols and I have decided to have a separate section on Wireless technologies.

(2) Internet Telephony & IMS – These are very disruptive technologies that will forever change the way we communicate in terms of voice, images,video and instant messages. If you have NOT noticed just how Skype and Whatsapp are causing sleepless nights, mobile operator you will understand what is happening. I will not delve into that in this article more of that here wozatel.blog.org . The core skills you want to acquire here assume you are pretty proficient in basic programming languages and networking. But the key protocol used in internet telephony otherwise known as VoIP is called SIP – session initiation protocol. Learn that like the back of your hand and call me and you will have a job. SIP skills are in demand but few. I learnt SIP in 2000 while still at Telco Internet. Oh yes VoIP was illegal then. When I relocated to the USA I walked into the then largest software company just because I knew SIP – just a fact. Up to now there are still organisations mainly in North America looking for VoIP practitioners and its making me think twice of going back. Now go on-line do some searching , download a soft phone , get some soft switch called asterisk and read a 500 page manual and you should be on your way to a rewarding career. This is not a plug and play kind of career. Be prepared to devote a year to learn it. SIP will not totally replace the fixed line but with the convergence of voice , data and messaging only a fool can duck his head in the sand and ignore this.

Other protocols that are in demand include but not limited to XMPP and WebRCT. XMPP is used in Whatsapp and most instant messaging platforms and there is a skills shortage in this area. I must emphasise that in this one you must learn how to code in different lingos from Java , C# , Python, Perl,  JavaScript amongst others. This is the real deal. You don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to write a world class programme. That is how India is doing it. Create your own employment and be on demand. Get hired. Charge what you worth. This is a hard hat area. Spend less time apping about “vuzu” parties but researching and learning.

(3) Cyber Security Specialist .We live in a world where protecting data bytes are as important as protecting one’s physical home and office .As more and more people gain access to the digital world so do criminals. This is one hot area where bad guys are always coming up with different tricks and viruses to compromise and even defraud the unsuspecting Facebook user.

There is great demand for security experts. You must love computers and Maths. You must learn open source systems like Linux. You must be daring. You must be prepared spending long hours reading , testing , validating, stress testing, reverse engineering, cracking encryption (legally) amongst other things. Your job will vary depending on the task at hand and the requirements of your client. But in general it will include some vulnerability assessment testing to see if an organisation has exploitable loopholes known and unknown.

Other tasks on those networks that you are working on is to carry out sniffing and spoofing tests. In short you are doing this to see how vulnerable the system is for your client but NOT to break in or do some bad stuff. Sniffing is a passive security attack in which a machine separate from the intended destination reads data on a network. Once the data is read it is then sent elsewhere for analysis. Your job once you find this loop hole is to plug it. Where as Spoofing is an active security attack in which one machine on the network masquerades as a different machine .It “pretends” to be a certain machine on your network. Spoofs are now common even in Zimbabwe where you get a text message claiming to be from a certain number, a bank, but it has been manipulated to confuse and defraud the victim. Spoofing is more common in emails but now it has been extended to voice calls. I can call you from your own number .Meaning I can manipulate the originating digits to reflect your own. This is just an example OK so don’t quote me. Your role is to  find the loop holes and plug them raise security threat levels and inform and educate network users and system administrators.

Other skills in this field of expertise include reverse engineering, password cracking, forensics technology amongst others. The last being very important. There are very few certified digital forensic experts in Zimbabwe. Which means once a computer crime is committed the prosecutor has so much burden to prove his case as digital data is not so admissible unless the forensics is carried out by a certified, competent and qualified expert. More people are using smart phones. More crimes are being committed via these phones but there are NO mobile forensics experts ?
Still looking for a career. How do I get started. Download some Linux system Ubuntu, Centos or Fedora and some commands from the command line. If you already know that then Google some security courses up !

In the up coming series – space permitting  we will look into careers that relate to the following :
- IoT Internet of Things

- Cloud Technologies

- Wireless Technologies

- Fibre Optics

- Mobile Application and Development

- Mobile Banking & Social Media

- Media & Video Technologies

- Digital Forensics

- Drone Technology

- Databases & Data Mining

We are interested in employment generation and self-sufficiency skills. We  are grateful for the telcos and regulatory authorities that have created a conducive environment for ICT people to work. We should stop crying funding before we acquire any hard core global skills. It is note worthy that some of our universities and colleges are making efforts to this end.

But this is not adequate. Its time for ICT and Higher Education Ministries to up the stakes.

Send your questions and comments and for the next session’s Q&A section. Also suggest what you want discussed for the sake of converting ideas into action. The era of more talk and less action is over.
wozatel@gmail.com,
Whatsapp  + 263 77 600 2605

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  • http://www.learn-new-skills-from-home.com Paul Buggs

    I agree that the ICDL, like its European counterpart the ECDL
    (European Computer Driving Licence) should be a mandatory qualification
    especially with government workplaces.