Nowadays, most engineers end up working in the IT industry. A very small fraction of these engineers would have studied Computer Science or IT in their curriculum. However, every other engineer ends up going for an IT job, without necessarily understanding what they are getting into and why!! I know a lot of people who felt totally out of place a few months or years down the line and then had to get back to higher education or alternate careers, thus losing valuable and productive time in their working life.

My aim is to shed some light on the IT industry and what it entails so that engineers can foray into IT with the right expectation and anticipation. So what goes on in an IT firm? Well, the core business in an IT firm is to solve business problems for their customers – product firms build IT products and services firms provide IT services. Easier said than done…

The lifecycle of any project goes from Requirements à Design à Construction à Testing à Production. In large projects, an individual is generally involved in one phase of the project (and is usually one amongst tens or hundreds of people). He/she may not have a complete view of the project. The cycle time could last anywhere from one year to three years for very large projects. Such projects are mostly undertaken by large IT firms. Smaller projects follow a somewhat similar cycle. However, the team size would be smaller and also the cycle time could be from a few months to a year. In this case, it is possible that an individual would be involved in the entire lifecycle of the project.

Projects are most often won in competition with other companies, so the timelines in a project tend to be very challenging. This translates to longer hours of work, maybe weekends and sometimes no-vacations during the project life-cycle. Add to this, most developers working on a project are not familiar with the technology, and the learning curve is not often planned, so all that is extra hours!!!

A lot of people are under the misconception that an IT job requires good English-speaking skills. More on that on a later post, but for now, do understand that an IT job is all about teamwork. Individuals need to interact with co-developers, testers, their leads, project manager and at times, the customer. They need to read and interpret the User Requirement Specifications(URS), Software Requirement Specifications (SRS), Test Scripts, User Manuals, etc. Sometimes, they may need to actually write these documents. Hence the need for good communication skills – which include reading comprehension, writing ability, speaking/interacting and listening skills.

Most IT organizations have predominantly flat structures. There would be at the most 3-4 layers in the organization. Freshers join at the lowest layer. There would be growth in salary year after year, but job responsibilities do not change so fast because the pyramid does not have so many slots as you go up the hierarchy !!! I know a lot of people who get disillusioned when they see their peers growing up the ladder and find themselves at the same level. But do understand that there is no space for too many people to go up the ladder, so only the best ones go. Moreover, choosing the best one is also subjective, so luck also plays a role in it.

So what should one expect while getting into the IT industry?