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THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONAL & SOCIETY
Who is the IT professional? For the purpose of this discourse, the key
areas are those that relate to the Attitude, Skill and Knowledge of
the IT professional. Interestingly these are the same areas of change
that training focuses on. Training seeks to close or fill any gaps that
an individual has in these areas. However, it must be noted that simply
going for training programs does not make one a true and complete professional.
To be a competent IT professional, you must know what the expectations of your colleagues, your industry, your clients and the general public are. Meeting these expectations is what qualifies you to call yourself a professional, and what gives you recognition as a professional.
In today's world the role of the IT professional is crucial. IT has become an essential resource for most organizations. The evolving scenario is one of a growing complexity of computer systems and businesses dependence on them. Qualified and competent IT professionals are needed to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of computers.
Professionals work in areas such as Programming, Engineering, Database Administration, Networking, Web development and E-Commerce.
IT professionals create, operate, maintain and program computers. An IT professional must have the skills and knowledge required to carry out specialized tasks in a recognized field of IT. This is the minimum requirement. But IT skills demand far outstrips supply. Current IT skills shortage worldwide is enormous.
Knowledge (intellectual and conceptual) can be acquired through formal education sources such as private training institutions, colleges, institutions of higher learning, as well as E-learning on the Internet. The focus is on the intellectual, i.e. understanding concepts, generating ideas. Skills however, can be acquired and improved from work experience and practical training. The most effective form of skill building is through practical exercises.
Training and certification assists in improving skills, increasing knowledge and gaining recognition. Certification exams identify the necessary skills for an individual to perform their job competently and most important, successfully. For example, A+ certifies the competency of service professionals in the computer industry. Anyone who wants an internationally recognized credential as a competent computer service professional can take the A+ examination.
Because Certification is becoming the vogue in the IT industry today, more and more potential and working IT professionals want to get certified. It makes sense. Certification gives an IT professional, a valued credential that is recognized in the IT industry. Not only that, it is a powerful tool for providing job and business opportunities and for meeting challenges on the field. Improved income and enhanced professional credibility are powerful motivators for becoming IT certified.
Popular certification programs are Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), A+, Oracle DBA, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Sun Certified Programmer (Java 2).
Does having a popular certification make you a competent and recognized IT professional? Is certification part of your career development plan? If it is, this must be based on a solid understanding of what certification entails and how certification fits into your personal work / career goals.
But as noted earlier, certification is only one way of ensuring you have the required skills and knowledge for IT professionalism. Formal education and Work experience, i.e. practical and relevant work experience, are also essential for IT skill and knowledge achievement.
However, does having superior IT skills, knowledge and certification make you a true professional? "Administrators and network engineers do not live by Windows 2000 alone. " I have personally come in contact with IT certified individuals who I cannot dare to call professionals. Or what would you call an individual who has no regard for ethics and is ever ready to sacrifice professionalism at the altar of money? As a professional what is your attitude to the public, your work, your colleagues, or your clients?
What is your attitude towards business ethics? In today's fast and slick business environment, how relevant is ethics when you can take the easy way out? Everybody wants to be "fast and smart". To a professional, money is important but it is not everything. Money should not be your master. To maintain this attitude can sometimes be difficult, with the attendant daily pressures. But that is no excuse. If you want to be a true professional that is the price you must pay. IT professionals need to ask themselves: "Am I in IT for quick, short profit or am I in IT for the long distance?" The choice is yours.
Is the CCNA certified individual who defrauds his employers an IT professional? What about those who use their skills and knowledge for anti-social and destructive activities? Are they professionals too? The most notorious are hackers and Virus developers. These are highly skilled individuals but what they use those skills for are not in the interest of society. The same goes for IT fraudsters. If you have all certifications in this world and you use your knowledge and skills to steal and destroy you are nothing but a thief.
The right attitude also extends to how you treat your clients or employers. Are you dependable and trustworthy? There are many examples of so-called professionals who talk down to clients, and who cheat their clients or employers.
Is it truly ethical, for example, for a professional to take longer than necessary to perform a job? To say that he/she is sick in order to take a day off for leisure? To fail to report rule violations by a co-worker?
The public expects the IT professional to be socially responsible and disciplined and should be a role model for the youth.
IT professionals must also address is the issue of currency. Professionals must find ways of staying current on IT and IT related issues. This requires continuous self-development on the part of the IT professional. Simply because you are certified, or you have many years of experience, does not mean you should go to sleep. The IT field is one of the fastest developing fields worldwide. You cannot afford to be outdated or allow your skills to stagnate. You cannot serve your clients or employers well if you only have outdated ideas and information. As an IT professional, you cannot be relevant to your society if you are not current.
Luckily with the digital age, there are many information, and learning opportunities available for serious and career-minded IT professionals. The Internet can be used for education and continuous self-development. Other tools that can be utilized for staying up to date include: books, publications, training, software, etc. But the presence of all these tools is not enough; as a professional you must have the ability and desire to update yourself on a continuous basis. We must never stop learning. This is especially crucial in IT. There must be a readiness and hunger to learn. Yesterday's knowledge may not be able to handle today's opportunities and challenges.
In conclusion, one can state that IT professionalism doesn't end with getting certified and earning a fat pay. It isn't simply about being a skilled expert. Just as professionalism is about skills and knowledge, it is also about responsibility and duty. It is about using your skills and knowledge in a responsible and humane manner. It is about using your privileged status to bring about positive change in society.
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