Starting an I.T. Career

Aug 7, 2023

person using MacBook Pro

So I’ve been working at my current company for just over 7 years. I want to share my experiences and maybe foster some conversation on what others have experienced getting into I.T. as a beginner.

When getting into the I.T. field there are a few avenues you can take and the avenue you pick can make or break you in the profession. I can say that I honestly don’t know all the different avenues there are to pick but what I can share my experience on is starting out at a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

While I was in elementary school I really fell in love with computers, I think I was somewhere between 7-8 (after we got our second PC) when I picked up my first Linux distribution (Mandrake) and installed it on our old Compaq Presario (this was also my first PC, had a wapping 2GB of storage and was several thousand dollars).

My job history looks something like this:

Construction -> Air Force Avionics -> Construction -> MSP

which is fairly unique but also not at the same time. On my second time working in the construction field I worked a crazy schedule Thursday – Sunday 3:30pm to 11:30pm, and then Monday night 11:30pm to 7:30am Tuesday morning. While I’m a single father with residential custody of my son and working those crazy hours my family was getting tired of picking up the babysitting duties (because there aren’t very many options working those hours) and I was just tired of the hours.

During my time working those weird hours I picked up home labbing and running servers out of my house and I fell in love with it (I still do it to this day, however on a smaller scale). I also used the home lab as a learning center and taught myself basic networking (from basic subnetting to BGP routing), Windows Server administration, web hosting (also had a virtual machine hosting company for a short period of time) and all sorts of other things.

One night when I was working the late hours (by myself because I had a lot of time working on my own) I started looking on job search platforms and came across a job posting that said something like:

Wanted: Network Administrator

Send us a paragraph about yourself.

I was like what the hell, can’t hurt to send out something. I would say it was less than 30 minutes later (more like 10-15) I had a response in my inbox. There were a few questions asked and then I did my first interview a day or two later.

The interview went fine, however they asked that I come in for a couple hours on a couple different days and do a trial run to see if we are a good fit for each other. I was a little skeptical, but at the same time I wanted out of my current work situation, so I was willing to do almost anything. I apparently killed it in my trial run, because I had an offer within a couple days and we negotiated a pay and I started working for the company as a Network Administrator / Field Tech.

My initial task was to get the newly adopted Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software in a usable state. You can read about that platform here but I wasn’t a huge fan. After I got that in a usable state I then got to where I worked tickets (back then we were doing everything out of email still) and then progressed to doing weekly site visits at clients (this continued until Covid hit).

The first 2-3 years were rocky but not because of anything the company was doing or anything. I had to move my sister back last minute one day, I had several health issues and they were able to help me through all of that (there was one year I took way too much time off so I did loose some pay, but I get it). This company has been amazing to me, and honestly I don’t think you get the same treatment in bigger companies, or other companies in general.

Fast forward to year 7 and I’m a Network Engineer, I get called in to do everything from new user creations to troubleshooting routing issues, maintain a lot of the internal infrastructure that we use across all of our clients, do client prospect visits, and everything in-between. I also help move along our projects, and service teams to make sure we’re meeting our Service Level Agreement (SLA) goals.

Honestly if you’re wanting to learn a lot of different technologies at a fast pace an MSP would be perfect for you. Generally the company will have a standard that they are trying to work each of their clients to however during that process you’ll work with whatever the client has. This gives you experience in working with the standard that the MSP has but also whatever your clients bring with them when you on-board them. I’ve used everything from Fortinet, Cisco, Sonicwall, Meraki, Watchguard, VMWare, Hyper-V, several different backup programs, and so much more. You also get to work with a lot of different industries, we primarily work with non-profits but also several for-profits and they are very different when it comes to their spending and technology needs.

If you’re not a fast learner I would say MSP isn’t the route to go, its a fast paced environment and not everyone will make it. Some MSPs aren’t great at training techs either, so it really depends on if you’re a good fit for that company too. We do our best to train people but its hard to train in such a fast pace environment if I have to train someone on the same task 3+ times, and personally I loose motivation in training someone if I have to repeat myself on the same task more than 3 times.

From what I have gathered from reading things on Reddit and other places (specifically r/msp) there are a lot of bad MSPs out there to work for, so I would choose carefully and make sure that the company is a good fit for you. I would also not be discouraged if the first one doesn’t work out.

I think the MSP space is a very rewarding environment and an amazing place for expanding your knowledge across various different technologies and equipment, however if you aren’t fast at picking up technology related tasks it may not be for you.

Share your story in the comments below or via our forums.



Father, Veteran, HomeLab User, Tech Enthusiast, Open Source Advocate, Network Engineer, Content Creator, Developer. Thoughts are my own.


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