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When Bill Gates was a teenager he had a vision that every business and household would have a computer. To this end, he spent many years teaching himself how computers operated and writing computer codes. Today Gates' net worth is calculated to be billions of dollars.
Many youngsters have dreams of developing new computer software and amassing Gates' wealth, but the stark reality is that the South African information technology (IT) industry is currently experiencing a great shortage of skills. So says Peter Denny, director of IT training company IT Intellect.
"According to IDC research done last year and sponsored by Cisco Systems, 75000 jobs in IT networking alone could not be filled last year. By 2009 there will be 113900 jobs that will be vacant because of the skills shortage," says Denny.
He says that the problem is not a shortage of jobs or people to fill them because there is a "glut of skills in the entry-level arena" because the government has spent millions on learnerships and internships. The difficulty is that those people who have the entry-level qualification are not being skilled up properly.
"The industry needs South African specialists because some companies are now turning to overseas personnel to fill jobs," Denny says.
There are various career paths that IT graduates can pursue within the industry, with the most common being programming and networking.
Lloyd Moodley is an IT programmer at MDB, a law firm specialising in debt collection. He says that implementing something that he has created is what he loves about his job.
IT programmers are known as solutions designers or application developers because their job has evolved from programming to analysing the specific needs of a business and creating software to address those needs.
"In large companies programmers will be more focused on software development, but in smaller companies we tend to do the tasks of a business analyst, project manager and programmer," says Moodley.
Once business needs have been identified, programmers will develop a project plan, which outlines the building of a computer program to manage the business process. They will then spend time creating this program, testing it and then deploying it to the business. They also maintain other existing programmes and do data fixes to the database when something new needs to be accommodated on the system.
"We spend many hours in front of the computer with little human contact," says Moodley. "So if you like socialising at work, this job is definitely not for you."
The biggest challenge, he says, is practising good time management and keeping focused under pressure.
Programming was first introduced to Moodley in high school when he wrote his first program after watching a friend who had studied IT plying his trade. He has not looked back since. If you want to follow a career in IT programming, then technical skill is a necessity, says Moodley. You must also be a creative, analytical individual who is willing to learn and loves building things from scratch.