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Government IT worker finds pride and importance in his career through his work after September 11

Hispanic IT WorkerThe public often thinks of computer information technology as a fairly mundane and repetitive job, however in this career interview with a government IT professional, he shares how his work is anything but boring. He tells us how the events of September 11, 2001 affected his job and improved his pride and satisfaction in the work that he does keeping the world connected. Here is his story, in his own words:

I started out thirty years ago in a government agency as an IT professional. If I had to come up with three adjectives to describe me, I’d have to say I am resourceful, persistent, and inventive.

I’m a Hispanic male and that made it tough for me to fit in at work at first. Many of my supervisors and co-workers started out thinking of me as an Affirmative Action applicant with no education or skills. As they got to know me, they began to realize that I did know what I was doing and could play a valuable part in any project.

I provide support for computer hardware and software to people who might not have that much experience with computers. Every once in a while, I get to do some actual computer programming. Too many people think that computer programming consists of sitting at a keyboard and typing away as fast as possible — that’s not what it is at all. Most of the time programming is spent thinking things through and talking out possibilities with co-workers.

My job satisfaction rating would have to be a 9 on a scale of 1-10. I do work that I enjoy very much.

One assignment that did move my heart was when I was asked to do some continuing IT support work for a child abuse registry, a hotline anyone could call to report child abuse. I felt that I was part of a very worthwhile effort to make the world a better place.

One unique thing about my career is how it all started. I had gotten my training in computers through a few semesters of classes at a local community college, which was sufficient for me to sign up for a probationary appointment in government service as an IT professional. If I had to change anything, I might have chosen a starting IT position that would have involved more interaction as a educator.

One of the things I learned almost immediately is that there’s no shame in asking for help. An indecipherable database schema made no sense to me on one of my first assignments until I asked for some help.

The biggest adjustment I had transitioning from a student to a professional was adjusting to the fact that work is continuous and there are no clear-cut ends in sight for many tasks. School comes by you in chunks: a class, a semester, a graduation. Once one chunk is done, you move on to the next. The difference is that work is continuous and that can be daunting.

The strangest thing that ever happened to me on the job was also the saddest. One morning, I had just gotten to my job as a support tech for a unit responsible for computer networking all across the country. One of the managers came by with a worried look on his face, saying that the network responsible for computer traffic in and out of New York City had gone down and he didn’t know why. The date was September 11, 2001.

September 11, 2001 was a point in my career where I felt proud to do my job — we all pulled together to get things working again for the good of the country. Challenges like difficult co-workers and insane work schedules don’t hold a dime against that. The stress of the job does come from those moments when something is not working and you don’t know why. Those days before the a-ha moment hits are often the hardest, struggling to make sense of a problem.

No career interview would be complete without the question everyone wants to know, “How much do you make?” So here it is, in this profession, individuals can expect to make about $40,000-60,000 a year. I also take 2 weeks of vacation annually.

In order to get started in this field, a person needs to have a background in information technology — you can’t fake it. But, you can get that background easily enough through courses at community colleges. I’d tell anyone it’s worth it, if only for the satisfaction of a job done well.

Like many IT professionals, I hope my future holds the opportunity to become my own boss. I’d like to be running my own online empire five years from now, giving IT advice and helping others start their path to their future.

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  • This story really resonated with my because my future career and job satisfaction will be similar to this IT specialist. As a computer science major who is interested in systems security, most people outside of my field will think that I will just be sitting at my computer all day and typing.

    However, like this author, I will be doing so much more. He feels as though what he is doing truly matters in the world, and even though I am just a student, I feel that the things I am learning are incredibly important. There are a plethora of jobs in computer security in the government, and as a college student, I have applied to these jobs because I want to feel as though I am giving back to my country.

    I often say that the reason I am so passionate about computer science and software development is because there are so many applications in the real world that truly help people. His story about helping with software to report child abuse is exactly the type of work that I am looking to do in my future career.

  • Thank you for your candid thoughts about what it means to you to be a public servant working in government. As a public servant myself, I can relate to and appreciate your insights about working for the betterment of the country. You allude to what it means to be mission-oriented and work for a place that is connected to service and working for the greater good. Ideals of patriotism through a high-degree of professionalism ring true in your article and have reaffirmed the way I feel about the importance of investing in our public servants. As a government, we can afford to be thinking more strategically about talent retention, and placing value on a diverse workforce that is truly representative of the diversity found in the United States. Diversity of thought, perspective, and background are the underpinnings of the public sector’s success and it is encouraging to read about your account of how diversity and a natural drive for mission have shaped your role in the government.

  • After reading this, I had a phrase that stuck in my head throughout the entire read, “There is no shame in asking for help”. Constantly, you find users in the IT industry often confused or stuck on a certain issue they are having. A friendly reminder of “feel free to ask for help” is a great way to re assure users that they may not be the only one having issues. I remember an issue I was having when I first entered the IT field that I wasn’t quite understanding. My bosses directions were very vague and he expected me to understand their Information system without getting even as much as a quick run through. The shy teenager I was, didn’t want to bother him and I ended up not getting any progress done towards my task. This just goes back to high school when your teachers would say “No question is a stupid question”.

  • it is a great field that interest me and provides great job security. it also provides great service and helps many people in various fields

  • Reading this helped me realize that what we love to do the most, might not be what we love in the present time. In my opinion, experience is a key factor in the way we think about certain things or situations. Experience has the ability to completly change our thinking process to where we can have the exact opposite opinion of what we initially thought. For example, it took a severe tragedy in order for this man to really comprehend the love he has fo his job. I know that it took me many experiences (good and bad) to truly understand what it is that I have the opportunity to do. Without the things I went through, id stil be unsure of what I want to do after I graduate

  • I can personally relate to your story on many levels. I am also of Hispanic origins and have been in the IT field for over 16 years. I too am very satisfied with my career choices, but found that volunteering to children’s charities has given me a sense of fulfillment that career or financial success could not measure up to. I have volunteered for several programs to benefit children such as working in the Houston chapter of Child Advocates Program to Mentoring a third grade child on a weekly basis for the last two years in order to give him a glimpse of what is possible if you take advantage of the benefits an education has to offer. I appreciated reading your story and I am sure it will inspire others to also give selflessly. I also understand your comment regarding education coming in chucks while daily responsibilities are constant. I have worked full time since I was 14 years of age and I have never been unemployed longer than two weeks. I have learned that time will pass and regardless of whether you can take 3 credit hours or 12 any contributions you make towards your education is worth it. I am now 41 years of age and am enrolled in a Doctoral program. I could be 41 years old without a HS diploma if I let the fact that being a full time student was not always an option for me.

  • This is awesome information shared by someone that makes a difference in our world. I also have changed since the September 11th incident in New York. I am married to a Navy Veteran and on that day, 9/11, we watched the news together and were in aww. When I took my husband to work, the base was on lockdown at San Diego Navy Base on Coronado Island. We were not allowed out and in was very hectic. That day particularly made me want to continue and finish my degree in Criminal Justice and get my foot in the door.

    I went back to school but hit a brick wall due to financial difficulty. I again tried six years later, again, brick wall. Seems like something does not want me to finish school. I landed a job as a jailer in Winneshiek County in Iowa and thought, this is my chance to finish school. Well no tuition help from the employer so I had to see what I can do again. Now eight years later I am hoping to complete my education and look forward to graduation and making a difference with my degree and my foot in the door of law enforcement.
    Thank you for sharing your story and I now know there are positive things that can happen when you apply yourself and have motivation to get it.

  • I relate to this life story, due to what I want to purse in. Currently, I am a sophomore aiming for in criminal justice and want to help my community. This is what I want to do with my life and help others when situations like this happen. Every day heroes no matter what race, age, male or female.

  • I found out while enrolling in my first year of college, back in 2012, that I was a victim of Identity fraud. As I am disabled and drawing SSI, which limits my available income, I was notified that someone in Florida had filed for me, claiming $56,000+. (1st red flag should have went-up at IRS).
    Since that time I decided that our great nation needed more I.T. support. And Cybersecurity is my field of choice.
    Being a victim makes you more determined than ever to succeed. I am currently in my 4th and final year, with more than 100 “LinkedIn” Homeland-security connections. Wish Me Luck.

  • Although my background is not in IT, I was attracted to this particular post in its reference to the September 11th attacks and how it positively impacted your career’s trajectory. I am a Sikh American, and thus, in light of 9/11, overstated media representation of radical Muslims made the turban an icon of terrorism, rather than a symbol of religiosity and strong ethics.

    I can recall being bullied, harassed, and mentally distraught about my identity as a child. I can also remember the discrimination my friends and family received in public spaces, and even more so, the violent crimes that unjustly targeted (and sometimes killed) Sikh Americans throughout the nation. Though my resonance with 9/11 started off as negative, I soon leveraged my education and influence in the Sikh American community to push for civil rights and tolerance in the United States.

    Since 9/11, I have for civil rights non-profits, local Congresspersons, and even Washington D.C. to advance the interests of minority communities in the United States. I started working for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), where I helped pass California legislation to include Sikhism in California state curriculum and improve workplace environments for religious adherents (SB1540 and Workplace Religious Freedom Act 2012). I then moved on to work for Congressman Brad Sherman, where I served as a liaison for the Sikh community and worked on policy issues in the office. Finally, in the summer of 2014, I worked for Congressman Mike Honda in his D.C. office, where I worked directly on legislation and even organized Langar on the Hill, an event that attracted Congresspersons and staff from over 30 Congressional offices and taught the public about Sikhism.

    The point behind listing out my achievements above is not to wave a flag in my honor. The point is to show how my story resonates with your story: September 11th, though a tragic incident, has helped shaped who I am as a person today and has taught me to commit myself to working hard to achieve my goals. I find it amazing how events such as these can actually trigger greater diversity in the workplace and motivate minority community members to carve their own niches in the US environment, while also creating norms of acceptance and tolerance. I am brown. I am the son of an immigrant. I am a Sikh. I am an American.