CIC - Spring 2019

Information Technology – Much More Than a Virtual Career

From the time the alarm on our smartphone wakes us up in the morning until we set the security system on our house and go to bed, almost every aspect of our lives is assisted by computers and information technology.

Tanyia Arenburg is a member of the Faculty, School of Information Technology & Creative Industries at Nova Scotia Community College. She currently works in the data streaming area which is specifically focused on data information, data administration, analytics and business intelligence. A veteran of the IT industry since 1995 Tanyia’s worked in areas like healthcare, finance, telecommunications, provincial & federal governments, insurance, manufacturing and education; she explains, “Every day most people have smartphones and these phones are used for tracking your daily activities, to communicate with family and friends and colleagues across the globe or even in your own back yard. Being able to do research and connect and learn every day — tech has opened up opportunities to us as individuals to be able to have essentially an encyclopedia online.”

Our usual day-to-day tasks are made easier through the use of technology, but advanced programs are also being invented to help companies and government agencies with safe data storage and computer investigations.

Dr. Mandeep Pannu is a Lecturer and Researcher in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, with an MSc and PhD in Computer Science from Coventry University in the United Kingdom. She has been involved in teaching and research in higher education for over ten years. He adds, “Since 2014, I have worked on a number of knowledge exchange and enterprise network projects in collaboration with industry. I have developed high-tech solutions addressing a range of problem domains, such as using a dark web crawler to uncover suspicious and malicious websites, exploring dynamic security in the workplace, investigating vulnerabilities in mobile security, and analyzing the impact of the internet of things on businesses and customers.”

With changing and emerging technologies being introduced every day, IT professionals are required in almost all industries today.

“There are many opportunities in the Information Technology field and there should always be a need for technical experts within the business world. A lot of emphasis is being placed on networking, security, and cloud computing these days and there should be lots of jobs opening in those fields,” says Julie Aver, a current information technology a student at Kwantlen.

A career in the IT industry offers a solid future.

Dr. Pannu advises, “The need for IT professionals will increase because in today’s digital world, computers and IT are getting into almost every aspect of our life. According to analyst firm Gartner, there will be 20 billion internet connected devices to be deployed by 2020. IT professionals will be required to fulfill the demands of emerging technologies.”

Students with an aptitude and interest in computing have a wide range of choices when deciding on their future education.

Aver shares, “There will always be other ways an individual can become certified or learn skills through other organizations, but a good solid post-secondary education exposes you to many different aspects of the field. If you decide to specialize during post-secondary it would be an even better starting point.”

With the need for IT professionals in virtually all forms of business, it is possible for a potential student to choose a post-secondary institution and course to specifically suit their interests. IT courses are available at almost all post-secondary educational facilities — which one the student chooses depends on their future plans. Many courses are two years in length, but there are also more traditional four-year bachelor’s degrees as well as post-graduate certificates that are usually about a year-long to specialize.

“Many companies now have IT departments for managing the computers, networks, cybersecurity and other technical areas of their business. IT jobs include networking specialists, cyber security specialists, IT project managers, web developers, software designers and developers, database designers and developers, IT analysts, system integrators and system administrators, computer programmers and many other related occupations. The starting salary for many of these roles is usually in the range of $65,000 to $85,000,” says Pannu.

How does a student know if they have what it takes to make it in the IT world?

Aver has some advice, “If you are considering a career in information technology there are a wide range of paths you can take such as programming, network administration, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and much more. Having a genuine curiosity or interest in technology is a good place to start. I would ask how they currently interact with technology and find out what they like most. For example, do they like gaming, coding or disassembling computers? I would ask if they like challenges and problem solving.”

High school students who are interested in pursuing a career in the IT field can prepare themselves by taking advantage of any computer courses that may be offered at their school. Dr. Pannu advises that focusing on English and communications, math, IT basics and physics can also be helpful.

Pannu also adds, “Qualities required to be successful in IT include the following:           a keenness to learn new technologies, a dedicated and focused personality, the ability to solve problems, good communication skills, being good at hands-on learning and being a good team player.”

And Aver agrees, “Any type of computer or technology courses offered by their local high school would be good to focus on. Taking math would also benefit individuals thinking about information technology. And, lastly, any class that utilizes computers and or software would really help students with their typing skills.”

College and polytechnic instructors generally have considerable industry experience and can pass along real-life experiences to their students. In addition, their connections within the IT field keep them up-to-date on the latest innovations.

Arenburg has some exciting plans for her students in Nova Scotia. “Currently in the winter semester I will be working with about 30 students on a large project that allows us to work with sensor data. The idea around the project work is to be able to encourage and show the students how to learn and grow in the industry and take the skills they’ve learned in the last year and a half to show them what’s really going on in the industry and allowing them to focus in this area of expertise,” she says.

Once a student has begun their academic pursuits, they should be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time at their studies in order to properly hone their craft.

“Full time students have larger course loads which means more homework and studying than a part time student. I currently work full time in the information technology field and take two courses a semester, so I will typically devote four to eight hours on the weekends for homework and studying,” Aver says.

After a student completes their studies the rewards they can enjoy from their employment are much more than financial. “What I personally enjoy about the field is the opportunity to constantly experience and create innovative technologies. You’re always in high demand and it allows a range of career choices, a flexible work style, job satisfaction and an ability to sustain a good standard of living,” enthuses Pannu.

By Jackie Fritz