The corporate world is an interesting world. Specifically this one I’m in, the world of computing. I felt compelled to share a bit of it, so maybe when you meet someone you know in this field you may also step into their shoes and see things from their perspective. It also might give you some insight too if you’re’ just starting out on your career path.
Apologies if this feels like a term paper or a work report but all play and no work? No? Okay, at least today I’m not talking about Apps man, cut me some slack! LOL (Yes, I can insert LOL whenever I want; this is not the Business Daily) I can also randomly drop this emoji 💩. And start a sentence with the word and. What, come beat me.
Information Technology is basically defined as the use of computers to help businesses work. How does it differ from Computer Science? Computer Science is just as it says, a science that deals with knowing how computers work. However the two are often intertwined, depending on the job you get into and your roles. The fields within IT are quite vast but only to name those you may have come across; IT support , computer networking (inter-connecting devices), software development (programming), IT/Cyber security, IT audit. etc.
Like almost every other job in Kenya right now, getting and keeping a lucrative job in this field has become concrete-hard and I am inclined to share some of the reasons I think why:
Corruption and Nepotism
We are all familiar with this, I won’t even talk about it.
Wrong career choices
Before guys enter campus, it is important to beware of the following three words, “It is marketable”. Most people I know and former classmates as well, never knew what the course was all about when they were enrolling for it. Heck, a huge percentage of freshmen never know what they really sign up for. Blame the system, blame the campus’ shitty curricula, blame capitalism, blame our old-school African mindset, our ignorance as a country, I don’t know. But it greatly contributes to drop-outs or worse; incompetent employees who have no clue what they’re doing and are always unhappy in their jobs. These guys of course will almost always terribly fail at interviews because they don’t quite grab the attention of the recruiters. Another interesting thing is that some guys (like myself unfortunately) love(d) the idea of doing IT because of their love for computers/technology and thought they’d escape things like economics and business studies. What did I say Information Technology is? In IT, You have to learn how a particular business works first, so that you can either develop or maintain systems for it. Damn it. Whether in IT departments in fields such as health, accounting, finance & banking, manufacturing, fleet and vehicle management, learning institutions, government, etcetera, you cannot get a job there if you don’t learn the company core functions. So yeah, learning what a particular industry does and then applying what you know to help it work. Who knew?
What do I.T. guys do?
Let’s go back home. Dad will give you his phone when his contacts and messages are lost so that you can magically retrieve them and he’ll also call you to ask why his car alarm & GPS are not working, ‘since you’ve done IT’. Mum thinks you’ve grown fat by staying behind a laptop all day but you haven’t developed any mobile Apps ‘since you’ve done IT’, like the neighbour’s son who is 5 years younger than you are. Your aunt is always forwarding WhatsApp messages with all job listings totally unrelated to your specialization, again ‘since you’ve done IT’. There’s your bigger sister who’s a hotshot lawyer and keeps saying how IT guys are the coolest (read laziest) guys in the firm, says they come to work whenever they want, in jeans and spend their time downloading movies and talking about expensive airpods. Then there’s your little brother who thinks you are a legit hacker and can hack into Safaricom servers and get him unlimited bundles for his Snapchat & Instagram. 😂
The downside of this is that in case of job openings, even your circles will somehow always keep asking if you can do this or that, because they really get confused about what you do, or you will get a lot of stuff sent your way that you’re quite unqualified for. This is the part we envy people that say “I’m a lawyer”, “I’m an accountant”, I’m a pilot, “I’m a DJ” … when asked what they do.
Like any other job that involves technology and people, most IT jobs are not for the faint-hearted. Especially if you’ll be dealing with annoying and incompetent users, you will often find your emotions well in the way of your actions and what you do with these emotions is up to you. Unfortunately for us, when a company’s systems are smooth and well-oiled and the office is busy, no one talks to the IT guy, no one asks them if they are OK, if they watched Chelsea beat Manchester City yesterday, everyone buzzes around and the IT guy is seldom seen.
So what happens when shit hits the fan? EVERYONE comes for your neck and depending on your boss, these are the points you may undergo immediate sacking. You get insults, you get snapped at, you get chased out of rooms even. Sometimes (actually most times) system downtimes are not your fault, but you have to take the fall. This mostly happens in Non-IT firms where everyone else feels important because they’re the ones “bringing the money” while you’re just the guy who carries cables around right?
Patience, interpersonal skills and quick analytical thinking is very important otherwise a lot of guys just take the easy way out and quit their jobs.
Flooded job market
Guess what the fruits of “It is marketable” are … Yup! I should have graphed this, but I am very sure that statistically in Kenyan campuses, either Bachelor of Commerce graduates are slightly higher than IT graduates or they are at par by now. We are sooo many out here. “IT is marketable” ,yes, but what they need to tell young students is that you really have to stand out. IT guys nowadays have their salaries quite diluted, because once you step out another guy is always ready to do your job, even for less salary. Actually our employers nowadays prefer lots of interns, fresh out of campus that won’t complain much about their weightless wallets and will be quickly trained to do the donkey work because they desperately need the experience. So you’ll be lucky if you even get a good IT support job that even pays well. Unfair? Yeah, life is not fair.
recruitment issues and absurd job requirements
I have been to a lot of interviews over the past years and needless to say, I have met very few HR guys who really get it. Is there a gap in the Kenyan HR world?
For instance, as you may know, many techies and geeks may not be quite ‘good’ with people. As an interviewer, the HR guys have to be intelligent enough to overlook this aspect and don’t write someone off completely because they stuttered when answering some of those scripted questions. I remember in an interview somewhere, 75% of the questions asked were just pathetic. “Have you been in places where you’ve demonstrated conflict resolution?” Then I got questions that my CV answers, then I got a ‘why do you want this job’ question, then a few about my hobbies, then about my personality type, then another about conflicts 🤦🏻♂️. I aced the questions of course (or I thought I did) but still, something’s gotta give. Out of the 30 minute period, I was only asked like three questions relating to the job.
This is mainly why I personally think that the key people in the project who the candidate will be working with/under should be the main interviewers and then the HR guys should come last in the panel. That way, your knowledge about the position and your competence is tested first before the other questions about why you prefer sweaters to coats bore you out. Some of these HR interviewers can be know-it-alls and quite a nuisance, pestering and intimidating unnecessarily right from the start or even plain clueless.
I don’t know who needs to see this but …
In addition to this, have you noticed that in most job listings nowadays everyone is so extra when stating the job requirements and qualifications? These guys can ask for 5 years’ experience, 3 certifications (and a 4th as an added advantage), a Master’s degree and expect you to be younger than 30. Even when you pass these qualifications, you will fight over the meagre salary offer for a while because companies always seem to look for qualified people for minimal wage. What usually happens? Either you are desperate enough to succumb or you get a scripted “We will contact you” which of course won’t happen because someone else will take the offer. There’s always someone else who takes the offer.
“It is marketable” huh.
Professional ICT bodies, where are you?
We’ve heard of strong unions like Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya, Kenya Bankers Association (KBA), University Academic Staff Union(UASU), Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Surgical Society of Kenya (SSK) etc. but for us ICT guys, where are the vocal professional ICT bodies? ICTAK? What do they do? Their boards and memberships look like they have an age quota because I don’t see any young men and women on them. I’m not sure I’m ready to join a board that charges like 5k/year in subscription fees but I’ve never heard them in the public space raising issues or organizing open forums. Even the ICT Authority and Ministry are failing on that front. Issues e.g. ICT awareness, lack of jobs, lack of appealing salary scales for ICT staff, and so many more need to be addressed, otherwise it becomes more and more of a slippery career.
Rapid Technology Change & Artificial Intelligence takeover
Ah, yes of course. I think this is across the board. Touchy subject this one; as we advance more and more in technology, we build machines that make our work easier right? (except for sex-dolls of course)
So why would companies need 20 humans in an office when they can just automate the processes and leave only 5 human to supervise? Yikes. Technology is in fact our greatest enemy and our greatest friend, a complete paradox. In the tech-world, the word obsolete is thrown around like shoes at the end of a tiresome day. Hardware, software and programming languages change quite frequently; if you don’t change with the flow and stand out, you’re left behind and you become as obsolete as that piece of old technology. For example, most professional certifications in IT expire after some years and you have to renew them to show your competence else you’re kinda locked out, and they are damn expensive.
As expected, before companies hire guys today you really have to bring something special to the table, if you don’t, well there will always be someone else, or worse, a computer. Ironic.
Tell me friend, do you experience the same in your career? Is it different? I’d like to know; drop me a comment below.
Till next time, kwaheri!