Note that the below post was written in 2014. I won't update this to be current, but just wanted my readers to know.
Have you ever had someone tell you that "You got this job because of ...", or "You are only successful because of ..."? If I'm being honest with you, I'm just going to quit listening to them when people say those sorts of things. I mean, what do they really know about me or you?
I had a guy tell me something like that not too long ago. He based his evaluation of my success on my skin color. This was during a conversation about being successful in the career we chose. We are both IT professionals. He told me that he was successful because he worked hard, paid his dues, struggled through the hard times, etc. He proceeded to tell me that the only reason I was successful was because I was "privileged". He meant white.
Now I want you to know, I don't believe in the whole skin color thing. God made me and you what we are, on purpose. And I think all people are loved by God and that, if that is true, I am to love all people. After all, we are all His creation.
I also think people are individuals and your success is based on YOUR effort. Your business value and success in a company is based on YOUR effort. I feel the same way about my own career. I feel the same way about everyone out there reading this blog. I also believe in God's hand in our careers, but that is another topic.
Now I do know people can get a job because of "who they know". But you really cant "keep a job" for the same reason. You keep a job because you bring value to the company. Trust me, they wont keep paying you because they DON'T see value in you in the IT business. They keep paying you because they DO see value in having you there. IT DRAINS company money. IT rarely MAKES the company money.
You see, everyone has a story. Everyone has walked a path to where they are now. And no one has the right to judge anyone based on what they "think" someone elses story is. As for what that guy said to me about why I was successful, well, he doesn't know me or my story. All he knows is who I work for and what I do for them now. He thinks I am successful because of my skin color, but he doesn't KNOW anything about my story. He has never once asked me.
Here is the thing. I had to work hard to get to where I am now. I'm currently working as an IT consultant. But if you rewind in my career, my story might sound a lot like yours. Then again, maybe it wont.
I really have a couple of reasons for this post. First, I hope what I'm going to tell you about the beginning of my career is an encouragement to those of you who are IN the beginning of your IT career. Second, I hope you get the message that your success depends on YOU, not anyone else.
I'm currently 19 years into my IT career. But, did you know that I worked for free to try to get experience in this IT career? No one would hire me as an IT professional during those days, because I didn't have any experience. I didn't have any experience because no one would hire me. That is a real problem when you want to change careers. I was working as an electronics technician during those days making very little money. I was married and had my child at this point. All I knew was that during those days, I wasn't making enough money and I had to make a change. So yes, I spent my nights at a tech college working for free on computers. I had a full time job already, and I took a PC class at night while before and after the class, I would work for free for them. Not exactly what I wanted at the time, but how else was I going to get experience in this? I worked in a small town, and the options were limited.
I thought I would post some of my work history. Both what I was doing and some earnings information. I'm thinking if I was successful because I'm white, then these earnings and jobs should be different. I also think I should tell you that most of the jobs I have gotten, I did not know anyone who "got me on".
This is how I got started in the work force. I was 14 years old at this time. My father had passed away, and we had to do something. I got ONE of these jobs based on who I knew:
I started out at a grocery store. I was a bag boy.
Worked at a restaurant as a bus boy. I cleaned up after peoples dirty tables/dishes.
Worked at a sod farm/plant nursery. I worked outside, summer and winter. My worst memory was picking up pecans in -22 wind chill weather during that time, outside, on my hands and knees, picking up pecans off the ground.
Worked at a Sams Club (sister to Wal Mart). I pushed buggys, then moved up to a cashier. I also mounted tires on rims/cars. I actually got employee of the year AND got fired from this place.
Worked as a 'property manager' for an apartment complex. This really meant that I was the trash pickup guy on property. Yes, my main responsibility was picking up trash.
Actually getting into "a" career. I got ONE of these jobs based on who I knew:
I finally got an electronics technician job. I worked for several companies.
Adtran (you know those units inside the smart jack at your DMARC? I worked on those)
Avex Electronics (twice)
Actually getting into an IT career:
This is where I ended up working for free while I had an electronics job, from above. These were hard times (you will see why in a few minutes). As time went on, I did get completely into an IT career. I worked mostly as a consultant. In fact, I think only two of my IT jobs in the beginning was with a "company". The rest were consulting, either on my own, or through a consulting company.
I started out on computers. I eventually got to work on servers, printers, etc. I had to work my way up on things. I worked on NT4 (remember that?) and SCO UNIX.
Eventually, my family and I moved to the area we are at now. That has been a while back. At that time, I needed something to provide better for my family. That is when we moved.
I wont go much into my time here in the city where I am now, but I did do better financially. But, that is because I worked hard. I got certifications and, again, worked hard. I worked for a healthcare company, when we moved, for four years. It was a good experience, but I wanted more. I wanted to do Cisco stuff. I didn't care about the rest of IT. I wanted to be a network guy, and at this healthcare company was the point I really realized this. So, I worked hard at learning Cisco. I got certified (CCNA) and they let me do all the frame-relay installs. I started to "thrive". After this job, I got back into consulting. After all, its what I really like to do. I learned somewhere along this path, that you really need to do what you like to do. Your life will be happier if you do.
Now, I decided I would post the first 10 years of my married life salaries that I had along the way. When you are single, its easier to provide for yourself. The reason, again, I'm posting this is so that you know you have to work hard to improve your earnings and value. In the beginning of my IT career, I didn't have a lot of worth (to a company). I only had certain skills. But, in order for me to do better, I had to get better skills, improve myself. This gets back to "my story" and the guy telling me that I was successful because I was white. Do these earnings look like a successful career man? Keep in mind, this is for a family, not a single person.
1993: $13,500 a year
1994: $23,800 a year
1995: $27,500 a year
1996: $28,800 a year (this was the year I started in IT (for free)
1997: $24,600 a year (notice my first full year salary in IT)
1998: $41,200 a year
1999: $41,200 a year
2000: $33,200 a year
2001: $46,400 a year (moved to a bigger city, which means more expensive to live)
2002: $56,600 a year
Now, fast forward to now. Today, I still work hard to better myself. Its "in" me to do that. After all, I want to be valuable to who I work for. I believe that you can do better for yourself too. You just have to work hard. Don't ever think that your success depends on your skin color. It doesn't. It depends on you.