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noodle_poodle's avatar

What are the best things to learn for a career in IT support and Web Design?

Asked by noodle_poodle (1614 points ) March 26th, 2014

Are there any books/websites particularly recommended? Any absolutely key software to keep ahead of the game?

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5 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I had a very good friend who was an absolute wizard at this stuff. He learned the basics and then went into his specialties. I think it’s like anything, get the basics first. Once you understand how things work the rest is easy.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

First, IT support and Web design are two different fields, and although there is some overlap between the two, you will have an easier time if you clarify what you are going for before you start.

Web Design is distinct from Web Programming and Web authoring. Web design focuses on graphic design, look & feel, layouts and fonts and things. If you are a highly aesthetically sensitive person, Web design is a good field for you. Warning: you might become irritated by bad kerning on road signs.

Web programming is programming. It’s like any other kind of programming, just more popular. There’s a lot of overlap between what you learn in setting up your programming environment (httpd, database engine, CGI or other runtime setup, VCS, editors, the whole deal) and the necessary knowledge for certain types of IT support. My first support job was for a VPS server provider, so my customers were largely website admins who had questions about apache, MySQL, PHP, and all that sort of stuff. Later I worked for a large online retailer, for a computer store, and for some offices- none of these made use of my web-programming and sysadmin knowledge. Mostly I needed to know about Active Directory, adding printers and such under Windows and Mac, and other office-type things. It can be hard to predict in advance what kind of knowledge will come in handy for what kind of job, but it’s also sometimes hard to learn it ‘on the fly’.

Don’t learn specific software, learn languages and protocols. In a few years Indesign will be as dead as Macromedia. Learn HTML5 now, and you’ll still be in good shape when HTML6 comes out.

Here are some things you will need to know:

The OSI layer model of networking. Memorize it. Do it now. Expect to be quizzed on the OSI layers at any tech-related job interview.

Learn HTML and CSS: Learn to code it by hand. Follow standards, don’t depend on special browser behavior. Read alistapart.com.

Learn at least one programming language. Also learn Javascript. I don’t recommend you start with Javascript, as it encourages bad habits, but what the heck: I started with LOGO.

Learn XML. It’s hard, but you’ll be glad you did.

If you are a Windows user, learn Powershell. If you are a Mac / UNIX / Linux user, learn bash. Actually, even if you’re a Windows user, install Cygwin and use bash.

Learn how relational databases work.

funkdaddy's avatar

Great answer from @rexacoracofalipitorius above, I’d add that there is simply too much involved to know it all. It moves too fast for you to be great at everything from ops admin to design trends to desktop support to security for it all. It’s just a huge spectrum of skills and ways of thinking that don’t overlap well.

That doesn’t mean you can’t try, but after trying a little bit of everything something will feel like “home”. Get into that deep and cover the part of the spectrum that touches both sides, that will make you easier to work with and more valuable.

Regarding being “ahead of the game”, unfortunately that doesn’t exist in web design and development it seems. The best in the world at their niche are constantly innovating and able to show what they’re doing almost right away. The good news is you can learn from their work directly, so just never stop learning the new stuff. Some will feel like the right tools for you, some won’t, you just have to keep trying out new ones, filling your toolbox, and keeping your favorites handy.

Beyond that:

1) Start building or playing with whatever excites you in your spare time, having a job in something you hate sucks, so why work towards that as a goal?
2) Find people who like the same stuff
3) Ask for help
4) Be humble
5) Start over at #1 with the understanding that it never stops and eventually someone will come to you for help, remember all the people that have helped you.

It’s the fastest way to learn.

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