Links and Info for people getting into working in Cyber / IT

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Links and Info for people getting into working in Cyber / IT

Quite often, companies complain that there’s a skills shortage in information technology. On the flip-side, nearly every company requires people to already have work experience prior to giving them a chance.

This chicken and egg scenario inevitable leads to frustration for companies who can’t get skilled people and new entrants to the world of IT.

Typically, some of the challenge in this respect is that the world of 2022 is geared much more towards “Employees need to be ready-trained/already know quite a lot” when getting into the workplace.

While it’s not likely that a newly starting employee is going to know lots of stuff and be immediately useful, there are certain indicators that companies will look for – the more of these things you tick, the more likely they are going to bring you into their apprenticeship program.

In Factory, typically we look for the following when hiring new people – and not just apprentices – this goes for all skill levels;

Work ethic/Learning ethic

How much effort do we think you’ll put into learning what we show you? Whilst working in technology can be fun and enjoyable, we’d be lying if we said it’s not more fun and enjoyable if it’s something you enjoy already. If you’re the type of person that enjoys picking apart/setting up a new device/changing settings on things/trying to tinker with things and likes solving puzzles, you’ll likely enjoy technology as a career. If you’ve not got a burning desire to play with technology, you can still work in this field, but at times it’ll feel like hard work when trying to learn complicated subjects. Depending on how far you want your career in technology to go will at least partly depend on how much of your own time you’re willing to commit to learning and evolving your skillset.

Genuine Interest in technology

Having a genuine interest in technology hugely helps with this. If you’re naturally drawn to playing with equipment that contains microchips and software, you’ll get a lot more out of a career in this field. Whether that interest started with computer games, programming, playing with the WiFi, trying to write programs/coding or just trying to fathom how the internet works, those skills are very transferrable to working in technology.

Skills you’ve gained playing with stuff in your spare time

Employers will want to test some of the statements above by trying to understand what you’ve done in your spare time/existing study time to understand technology. If your interest started with gaming, you already know about wireless controls, bluetooth, using WiFi for online gaming, managing storage on a console and you might even know what NAT is if you play online games a lot. Equally, you might have played with Linux and been lucky enough to get hold of a Pi or have WSL on Windows.

You might have just spent a long time on the Internet, but that might have taught you the important of having password managers/different passwords for different services and using things like multi-factor authentication.

Knowledge of some key technologies

With all the above, there are some key technologies that are genuinely really useful when trying to learn technology. I’ll split these into a few categories, these are links to various services/education content that we think can be useful when embarking on a career in technology.

https://www.udemy.com/courses/free/ – Great source of video courses with structure that you can follow to learn popular and widely used technologies.

https://www.w3schools.com/ – Great for interactively learning programming with a web browser – it even works on a Smartphone!

https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en/projects/raspberry-pi-getting-started – RasperryPi systems run linux – linux is largely running Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, Snapchat, AWS and more. If you can learn to run linux on a RasperryPi, you’ll be astonished at how similar it looks on £100k hardware!

https://www.tomshardware.com/how-to/install-windows-11-virtual-machine – creating a virtual machine can be great – this creates an entire windows system within your current computer (you might need ~8GB RAM/40-50GB free space), but it means you’ll have a copy of windows that you can break/change/learn to install without breaking your computer.

https://ubuntu.com/tutorials/how-to-run-ubuntu-desktop-on-a-virtual-machine-using-virtualbox#1-overview – This is the same as above but with Linux as a virtual machine!

https://www.bcs.org/ – The BCS are a great organisation and have a lot of good content to help people at the start of their careers. They also organise in person talks/networking events. Some of these are fantastic ways to meet people that are already working in technology.

Services commonly used by businesses/IT firms

Businesses use a variety of different technologies, but all of them tend to use some foundational technologies that everything else is built on-top of. Think in terms of maths – you need numbers (0-9) and then operators (plus, minus, divide, multiply). Computing is similar in some ways.

Computing generally will always need 1) something to run code and 2) some code to run that does something useful.

The something to run code is typically infrastructure/an environment which consists of computing hardware/cloud services/operating systems and networking.

The some code to run is typically code editors (visual code), then a pipeline/code deployment – to get the code into the environment.

In that respect, companies generally use the following technologies to achieve the above two things;

Environment/Infrastructure;

Microsoft Windows/Linux (Redhat Linux, Rocky Linux, Ubuntu Linux), Hardware to run those systems from companies like Dell/HP, Virtualisation Software (to run lots of operating systems on less hardware more reliably) – VMWare/Hyper-V/Virtualbox/Qemu/KVM. Alternatively, they might not bother with the hardware/virtualisation bit and just use services like Amazon Web Services/Azure for this piece of the puzzle.

For the second part, they might write code in Python/.net/c# (pronounced see sharp)/Java/Javascript/React/HTML/bash/powershell or more. Never be too overwhelmed by the amount of languages out there. Most businesses use what works to solve their problem, most competent career long programmers will generally only know a language or two very well.

Being able to write code takes time and the journey to writing good code takes decades (I’m still on that journey!).

Common Technologies

While the above is about companies which make software/systems that provide functionality, systems have to interoperate – say something using Dell Hardware and Microsoft might have to talk to something on AWS using Linux. In that instance, standards of interoperability will be used. If you’re using the Internet, you’ll be using standards such as TCP/IP, HTTP and public/private key encryption to keep your communications safe. These standards work across multiple software types and operating systems and can be used to make different systems talk to each other.

Equally – these standards are arguably the best thing to learn in detail – even when the vendors above change – and they will over time – these standards are true and can give you a deeper understanding of the working nature of the systems built upon these standards.

https://isocpp.org/get-started – c++ – deeply technical, but nearly all the other languages are built on-top of this. If you can understand this, you’ll have a very detailed understanding of how a computer actually works.

IP Networks – IPv4/IPv6 – Internet addressing underpins how the Internet works. Knowing how addresses work/what they are is hugely beneficial.

DNS – Domain Name Servers turn things like www.bbc.co.uk into an IP address such as 212.58.237.252. Learning how DNS works is fundamentally useful.

HTTP – the protocol that essentially makes the modern internet work, knowing how this works (things like headers and GET/POST) will hugely help, especially if you’re working in the cloud/working with API (application programming interfaces) and such like.

Cyber Security

Whilst it’s not always true – you can absolutely have a career in Cyber Security without working in IT first, we think the two domains cross quite closely. The terms “Builders” – the IT side and “Breakers” – the cyber side go together. We like crossing the two over occasionally. The obvious example would be a lock picker. A lock picker doesn’t have to be a locksmith, but a lock picker who understands how to fit/change locks is perhaps likely to be a better lock picker.

With Cyber Security, if you’re assessing how secure a network is, it’d be useful to know about IP addresses, public addresses, private addresses and what things you might expect to find on a normal network/what settings should be turned on/off and what not. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll typically have a bigger impact – and you’ll be able to authentically translate that problem to IT people to help give clear advice on how to resolve that particular issue, because you understand the technology in more depth.

That said, cyber security has different sets of goals and different tools and learning those tools and techniques – then making that informational actionable – so someone can improve their organisation – telling the story through report writing and communication is a crucially important aspect also.

Thanks for reading!

We hope this hasn’t been too daunting. If you’re new to computing, or if you’ve looked at it a bit, some of this might come across as too much to know. Don’t fret!! In the links listed above is centuries worth of time and effort by people who have worked tirelessly on the above standards and technologies.

People have had successful careers by specialising on 2-5% of the above, others have had good careers by generalising and understanding more of how the above pieces fit together (That’s me!).

Depending on your career option, you might have different things you’d want to focus on, certain roles lend themselves to being highly technical while others require more interpersonal skills and the technology side becomes less important.

Ultimately, it’s important to try and get into technology and make a start. We have careers at Factory and are always actively hiring for the right candidates. If you have questions about working in technology – even if you’re not likely to work for Factory – we’re always open to a chat to help steer you towards people that can help. If you’d like to chat to us, fill in our contact form detailing this blog and we’ll be sure to help.

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