Advice for those starting an IT career

Dave Sobel is host of the podcast The Business of Tech and co-host of the podcast Killing IT. In one of his recent Business of Tech podcasts, Suite3’s Dave DelVecchio offered his advice on a user-submitted question around whether someone straight out of college should consider working at a help desk or jump into the “MSP [Managed Service Provider] river”. The following is a transcript from that podcast:

“I’m 20 years old and have been working at a help desk for about six months. I don’t have any certifications yet and will have an associate’s in May of 2021. I would love to start a side hustle in the IT field to gain more real-world experience and income. I love how MSP sounds, but I feel like its way over my head. Should I get my certifications and help-desk experience first? Or dive into a small MSP river and learn as I go?”

Advice from Dave DelVecchio

Well, to start, congratulations, because with six months of help desk experience, and soon to be attaining an associate degree, you’re off to a great start with your career. The hardest job to get is your first and you’ve already crossed that hurdle. And, so, I understand you’re considering perhaps starting a managed service provider business. And there’s a lot to know on running an effective MSP, and I’m happy to share my knowledge.

I’m Dave DelVecchio from Suite3, we’re about 30 people based up in Massachusetts. And keep in mind that you need to have technical smarts, business smarts and sales smarts to effectively run a managed services provider, folks often will start a business with just a technical and learn the rest. But you’ll find that business smarts and sales smarts will accelerate your pace greatly. So, I have three pieces of advice for you as you consider that journey.

First, you have to commit to continual education, not just continuing education, where you’re focusing on things you already know and relearning technology. I mean, I’ve been through the wars of Windows 3 to 95, to 98 to Vista and on and on. You’re going to have to stay committed to technology, but it’s learning service gross margin, return on W2, the importance of a clean balance sheet. In addition to running all of the aspects of a business, picking a healthcare plan, administering a 401(k) plan, working with your insurance providers and your legal team and your accountants that are helping you to run your business. And so, understanding the business side as well as the technical side is going to become critical. And it’s hard at 20 to have all of that knowledge.

So be patient; it’s my second piece of advice. And when you’re 20 years old, a year feels like it lasts forever. At 30, it goes by in a blink. At 50, I feel like I could stand on my head for a year if I had to. So just be patient and take every opportunity that you can to learn about technical business and sales as you go. You have a lot to learn about all three.

So be deliberate, and most importantly, be humble. Nobody wants to work with a brilliant jerk. Nobody wants to hire a brilliant jerk to do work for them. You have to build your likability because with sales, it takes connection. And that salesmanship — if you’re building your business, you have to sell yourself to your prospective employees as much as you do to prospective clients. Learning to communicate to folks effectively is absolutely critical. And communication isn’t a text, and it’s not an email. And it’s not ticket notes, if you’re continuing to work technically. Talk to people, learn how to communicate, become likeable and build trust, and you’re going to be amazed where building trust will take you, whether you remain working for someone else, or if you do decide to branch out on your own. So commit to continual education, be patient and be humble. I wish you the best of luck.