CIC - Spring 2019

Making Beautiful Music in the IT Industry

While Michael Robinson was planning and implementing his calling as a public school teacher, little did he realize that his focus would change partway through his career.

After a move with his family left him unemployed in the teaching profession, he decided to experience life at the other end of the spectrum and go back to school to update his training.

“I used to teach music in the public-school system and after my family relocated when my wife started a new job, I was unable to find a position in our new location. I decided to take a year off and take some courses that were of interest and might be beneficial as a teacher (as there was a push on to include coding in schools). I enrolled in the two-year Information Technology program at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and after the first year, loving what I was doing, I decided to give up the classroom and make a go of it in the IT industry,” says Robinson.

Michael Robinson. Photo courtesy of Matt Madden, Nova Scotia CC

Now, he is employed as a Mobile Application Developer at the IBM Client Innovation Centre in Bedford, Nova Scotia.

“I mainly write code to create applications for Android smart phones that meet provided business and design requirements. I work closely with a team of other developers and we collaborate daily to find the best solutions to problems and take advantage of our individual strengths. I participate in regular team meetings that involve clients, business analysts, software testers and designers to provide progress updates, plan future work and give product demonstrations. On most days, I take time to review code written by my peers to provide feedback about their work and also to become a better developer myself by investigating their approach to a certain task. And, as work is completed and tested, I fix defects that are discovered,” Robinson explains.

Learning coding is like discovering French or Spanish for the first time. The best way to learn is to become fully immersed in studying the language.  

Robinson describes his education, “The program that I took was very hands on. We continuously developed working programs and applications using different programming languages for various platforms such as web, mobile devices and desktop computers. We learned about the tools that software developers use to collaborate and manage their work, as well as, the methodologies used in software development. These last items really helped me to integrate into a team environment quickly once I was working. A significant portion of our program focused on developing soft skills that are necessary skills, but are sometimes lacking, in a technical field.”

Careers in Information Technology and Coding can include Computer network architect, Software application developer, Network system administrator, Software quality assurance engineer, Web developer, Business intelligence analyst, Database administrator, Computer systems analyst and a myriad of other positions. IT professionals are needed in every profession – healthcare, government, finance, business, creative arts, engineering, manufacturing and more. There are many Information Technology courses offered at colleges across the country so potential students can really pick and choose the area that interests them the most. The sky’s the limit when it comes to a future in IT!

Robinson’s years of study at NSCC not only prepared him for a career in his chosen field, he was able to flex his IT muscles in an IBM-sponsored contest which led to his employment with the company.

“In my first term at NSCC, I participated in IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest, he says. “The contest is for secondary and post-secondary students and involves solving a series of programming challenges on mainframe computers. I heard about the contest from our instructors who told us that it was very difficult and based on my current skill set probably wouldn’t be able to complete it. Being a bit stubborn, I was determined to finish it and managed to finish in the top 1% of over 4000 participants in North America. This contest was my first introduction to the kind of work that IBM currently does and was a factor in deciding to pursue my career with the company.”

Robinson recommends a career in the field for people who are creative problem solvers, love technology and can continuously keep their skills current throughout their working years.

 He suggests that the earning potential for new graduates can begin at around $35,000 to $45,000 per year with a high end of $70,000+ as experience progresses. In Robinson’s opinion, there will always be a high demand for employees in the IT industry.

“Devices that rely on computers are becoming so embedded in our lives and all of them at some point need to be initially programmed, updated, secured or improved with new features,” he states. “As technology evolves, a programmer’s work won’t look the same in ten years as it does today, but people will still need to do it. There are many different areas that you can get into with some exciting new ones like machine learning and quantum computing that will really impact the future of the industry. I really enjoy the team work and find that my days go by very fast.”

By Sharon Fredericks