U !R 31!73

You are not elite, you are not hacker and I cannot help you work for NSA or any other 3-letter organization. The best I can do for you is give a few words of advice. Varianta in romana pe Meta.

matrix style background with YOU ARE NOT A HACKER on foregroundRecently, I was asked by a second younger relative if I can help them get an IT job in North America (another asked me in the previous decade). I am conflicted, because on the one hand I want to help my relatives, but on the other, the very question suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the world of work.

It’s like you’re neighbour with Michael Jordan and someone you care about, from your native country, asks you if you can get them a gig in the Chicago Bulls or another NBA team. You don’t want to hurt their fragile ego and want to help, but.. how?!?

Let me tell you about..

  1. my own journey through IT
  2. what I would do if I started today
  3. what not to do and caveats

As a kid, I learned to read before starting school and throughout primary school went to math contests. I was generally curious and liked going to school. When I got a “micro-computer”, I accumulated games and then started re-selling them. While so doing, I also looked into programming, but have always felt that the satisfaction of getting something done was never proportional to the amount of effort required.

I didn’t study English in school. I had one year to get good at it before coming to Canada, and back then, the best way to do that was to get a British Council membership, which I did. About two years after my arrival, I wrote TOEFL (didn’t have to but it was the better one out of my choices) as part of the requirements to get into U of T, and obtained a “native speaker” score. Still, I retain a “foreign” accent and occasionally mispronounce words, even though my spelling is better than that of most native speakers. The more I speak / read / write Romanian, the worse my English gets.

My Canadian high-school had a swimming pool and I joined the swim team. I enjoyed swimming daily. It was a time when the newspapers kept writing about very high youth unemployment (60%-70% or more). That worried me, as I never liked sales jobs (or working at McDonald’s) so I took a couple of courses for a total of $50 and got my Bronze Cross and Bronze Medallion, which allowed me to work as a lifeguard. I also spent quite a bit of time at the library reading all the books I could find on resumes (CVs), cover letters and interviews – the job search process. I then walked into the swimming pool closest to my home, resume in hand, and got hired on the spot.

(I also tried to get my ski instructor certificate (CSIA Level I), later on, while studying U of T, but couldn’t get enough time off for the final test and as such I learned it without getting my certification.)

I was originally hired because they needed more swimming instructors (this was a swim school and recreation centre), but after witnessing the owner throwing a bucket of smelly green liquid in the pool every morning I’ve decided that, given the choice, I’d rather work at the front office, where work was easier and the pay was better. The “manager” (who had hired me) sort of liked me, and talked to me about starting a swimming school franchise. Meanwhile, his mother (who was in charge of instructing and instructors) didn’t. I ended up working there one summer, quitting thereafter and, having gained some self-confidence, I started an internet consulting business at a time when most people didn’t know what the Internet was.

I went around trying to get contracts and not knowing anybody (and not having much sales experience) and got burned out quickly. I was frustrated that the businesspeople I met did not instantly share my vision of how big and important the Internet was going to become and why they should give me money to learn. So I resorted to looking for job ads for students and applying as a contractor.

tech

This was the time of Intel 386 and 486, internal modems sucked and external ones were expensive. Nonetheless, I shelled out quite a bit of money on a ZyXEL U-1496E. It was all worth it. It later allowed me to connect at a higher, special speed to the university phone bank (for free Trumpet Winsock / SLIP internet access) and, when paired with Delrina WinFax Pro, I could fax merge cover letters (with a cute drawing) and my resume to hundreds of employers every day. I rocked all the job interviews and would get to pick the best offers out of several.

If there is one thing I don’t like to talk about is my “hacking” exploits. I’ve had a number of “adventures” and accumulated quite a bit of knowledge (some about telecomm), but I never got “caught” doing something illegal. If you are doing or did something illegal, don’t even tell me. I don’t want to know. I don’t recommend it and I don’t consider it gives one bragging rights. If you desperately need to tell me something though, at the very least you need to use a secure channel. Telegram ain’t it. Signal might be a start. More importantly, don’t tell me about issues you have with a service on that very service – e.g., don’t talk to me about Facebook / Meta on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp or Instagram. I can only suggest we move the convo on Signal and if you can’t, then all I can say is that I don’t know what to tell you.

As for me, I found that my reluctance to engage in and avoidance of sales is a liability. All the successful executives I know have excellent sales skills. In my career I very seldom asked someone for a “favor” or to help me, especially at the start, when I was very cocky and felt like I can do anything. So it’s a tad difficult for me to understand when somebody is asking me for help. But I realize that this is common and normal which is why I tried to help as much as I could, by publishing this ymess log and summaries of debates (among many other such articles).

So if I started today, I’d start with making sure my English is as close to perfect as possible, then continue on with the most spoken languages. There’s no excuse for “Dambovita Engrish”. Use Duolingo, Drops or whichever app or service you have available and learn the basics, then continue on by consuming content in that particular language in a manner that captivates you – i.e., read books or watch TV series / movies.

Once you know English well (or in parallel), start looking at job search websites, such as Indeed, CareerBuilder or Monster. See the kind of jobs you want to do and look at their requirements. Most of them ask for a certain level of experience and, more importantly in IT (because these you can get’em faster), certifications. Try to get all the certs you can that are related to the job you want. You can also identify certs’ importance by looking at how many job ads require each one.

Some free certifications that can be currently obtained are the Microsoft Azure “Fundamentals” ones, i.e., AZ-900 (yt), DP-900 (Data) and AI-900 (AI). You can get a voucher for a Certiport exam by listening to a Microsoft Virtual Training Days presentation. These Microsoft Azure certs are free but perhaps not the most useful. Nonetheless, they’re a good start. Apart from Microsoft Learn Docs, there are lots of YouTube videos and exam dump sites such as ExamTopics. Have a look at such an exam while studying as it helps to focus on what’s important.

In my career I never asked anyone for help to find a job, though it’s been offered to me without asking. I want to help, I’m just not sure how. In IT, if you know something, it’s hard not to find a job. If you don’t know it, you’re useless. And since COVID, remote working is even more prevalent. For a friend or relative, I could play the Las Vegas cowboy trying to get his protege re-hired, but how successful could I be?

If you ever held hope that you can “break into a site” and somehow someone will be impressed by that and hire you, forget it. Those days are long gone. What’s needed now is people who can mitigate dDOS attacks or fix others’ DNS mistakes quickly, who can work in teams, who communicate well and who are very time-efficient. We’ll delve into that and more another time.

Sources / More info: si-myth,

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