Front runner Karen Jones

Karen Jones is walking proof of the determination needed by people trying to change careers and get into IT

Karen Jones is walking proof of the determination needed by people trying to change careers and get into IT

After 12 years as a personal assistant she felt the need for a new career. "I chose IT because I was working as an IT personnel assistant at National Grid and saw that all sorts of people, with or without degrees, could do well in it," she says. "You can also get qualifications quite quickly."

She sought advice from recruitment firm Elan Computing. "They were very honest and said it wouldn't be easy to get into the industry, but they admired my determination," Jones says.

She signed up for a Microsoft certified programmer course with approved Microsoft training company Computer Skills Centre in London. Jones chose this company because it offered an intensive introduction to IT before getting on to the technical side.

Her determination is reflected in the fact that she sold her flat to pay for the course and support herself, with some help from her partner, an IT contractor.

At the end she went on to get the higher Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) qualification through do-it-yourself training. But her qualifications proved no passport to a job.

"It was practically impossible, because I had no experience," she says. "I contacted 300 agencies and eventually got one offer.

"Employers expect people with an MCSE to have experience, because normally staff work in IT first and take the qualification later."

Her big break was an offer from systems company K-net, supporting 100 users on an internal network. Her experience there then helped get her current job, a similar role at the consultancy and security group Hays.

"I chose support rather than Web design when I was on the course because in my earlier jobs I learned skills in communication, dealing with people, using my initiative, setting priorities and time management," she says. "In addition, I'm organised, not creative."

After her problems in getting her first job - an issue raised constantly in the Computer Weekly letters pages by people who have paid for their own training - Jones urges employers to be more receptive.

"Job agencies and employers need to be more aware that there are a lot of people like me who have the skills and the qualifications and are totally motivated and determined to get into IT," she says.

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