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Programming for success

02.11.2007
Autor: Tomasz Przybyszewski, translation: Michał Landsberger

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If you don't know what this sequence is, you are probably not an IT expert (IT - Information Technology). Which is a shame, because if you did, you would have no problem finding a well-paid job, even if you were disabled. Unfortunately, disabled IT specialists are still few and far between.

 - The disabled people can successfully develop and maintain software, they can work as system and network administrators – claims Prof. Krzysztof Diks, the dean of the Institute of Informatics at the Warsaw University - Developing software is about creativity and conceptual thinking, not about fast typing. Computer science requires proper training and intellectual effort. Besides, in this business you often work in teams so if you can work in a group the disability is not a problem.
     
The demand

According to a report by the Pracuj.pl website, in 2006 14% of all job offers came from the IT companies. More than half of the firms present at the Academic Job Fair in Łódź represented the IT business. Whole world suffers from IT specialists shortage – a company from the Netherlands has recently been trying to attract Polish programmers by paying them 20 zloty for every minute of their job interview.
Polish programmers are renowned for their skills and are very sought-after. They regularly rank among the best in the most prestigious tournaments. Quite recently three of Prof. Diks's students have won the International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals in Tokyo. The achievements of Polish programmers encourage IT giants such as IBM, Microsoft, Google or Motorola to set up their programming centres in Poland. The fight for IT specialists is on.

- There is a great demand for IT specialists - acknowledges Monika Grim from an employment agency IT Kontrakt. - A programmer having some training and experience is sure to find an employment. High demand, greatly exceeding the supply, generates high earnings. The average net salary in this business is several thousand zloty. The boom is very likely to continue.

 - In my opinion, both good programmers and database and network administrators will have no problems finding a job for the next 15 to 20 years – speculates Prof. Diks. However, he also adds that an IT specialist must constantly learn and hone his or her skills as the world of computers is changing very rapidly.

The offers

Some IT companies are turning to the disabled people.
- The shortage of well qualified staff is a growing problem – states Przemysław Gacek, the chief of Grupa Pracuj, the owner of pracuj.pl - Finding a suitable candidate can take months. That's why the companies turn their attention to social groups which were up to this point ignored – the disabled for example. The employers are starting to appreciate their potential and are now more willing to employ them, even if it means spending some extra money on adapting the working environment to the needs of people with disabilities.
There is an abundance of job offers for the disabled on the market right now. For programmers, the disability is not a hindrance - it's their competence that matters.

The response

- When we put up a disabled-targeted job offer, we received only one application – says Monika Grim from IT Kontrakt.
- Sadly, the response is quite week – adds Justyna Ożóg from Motorola Programming Centre – We had hoped to attract a bit more interest. This year, we have gone to some lengths to meet the needs of the disabled interns. We have modified the programme of internship and have made our facilities more accessible to them.
 - The response was disappointing – echoes Arkadiusz Borowy, co-owner of BML, a company which put job offers for the disabled on the Internet. - We received three applications. The first knew about computers but had no idea about programming, the second didn't suit us and the third withdrew his application. 

The university

- Some years ago I learned that I was one of the few disabled students on the faculty of informatics – states Piotr Mazur, a fifth-year student of informatics working in a software company.
Let's look at the numbers. In Poland, in the academic year of 2005/2006, there was 14,5 thousand disabled students, compared to 2 million students in total. How many disabled persons study computer science if only 4% of Polish students chooses this faculty?
Piotr claims that all it takes to study informatics is a natural aptitude and determination.
- Some of my friends on the faculty had no prior knowledge of informatics before they entered the university and are now doing very well. I guess it's never too late to start.
- There's nothing magical about computers. Even if you were not taught programming in primary school, it doesn't mean that your career as a programmer is ruined – confirms Prof. Diks – That's what the universities are for, to teach you informatics. What you should learn however, is maths. It will prove very helpful in the future.

Specialists claim that it's the parents of the disabled children who should attract their interest to computer science. Even if the child has no aptitude for programming, he or she can always work as a web or computer graphic designer. Besides, computer science can successfully be taught via Internet. It's always worth to try because there's a good possibility that an investment in a computer with an Internet access will soon pay off.

Who's who in the IT business

IT specialists can be divided, with some simplification, into following categories:

  1. Hardware specialist – assembles and maintains computer equipment
  2. Helpdesk – indispensable in every office. Software and hardware troubleshooting
  3. Administrator – operates and maintains the information system, can administer servers, operational systems, databases etc.
  4. Programmer – writing and developing software. Programmers can work alone or in teams, depending on the project's complexity. Extensive projects also require the participation of analysts, designers, software testers, operating system and database administrators and project managers.

How to become an IT specialist

It is advisable to choose a vocational school or a lyceum specialising in informatics or mathematics. Secondary schools search engines:
www.liceum.studentnews.pl  (general secondary schools)
www.licea.studentnews.pl   (specialised secondary schools)
www.technikum.student-news.pl (vocational secondary schools)

As for the higher education, it's best to opt for a polytechnic, an university or one of the numerous higher education facilities, not necessarily in the computer science faculty. Many prospective programmers study mathematics or physics. In Poland there's over one hundred schools offering courses in computer science. Working as an intern during your studies will increase your chances of securing a good job.
Higher education search engines:
www.uczelnie.pl (including courses via internet)
www.uczelnie.studentnews.pl
www.edukacjapl.pl

Technical school is yet another option. A variety of courses is offered to those who wish to master a specific computer program. However, according to specialists, these can never replace regular education.
Technical schools and courses search engine:
www.szkolypolicealne.uczelnie.pl
www.kursy.edu.pl

You may also try to gain the required knowledge on your own, although the employers tend to favour specialists with a diploma.

***

Artykuł powstał w ramach projektu "Integracja - Praca. Wydawnicza kampania informacyjno-promocyjna"
współfinansowanego z Europejskiego Funduszu Społecznego w ramach Sektorowego Programu Operacyjnego Rozwój Zasobów Ludzkich.

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