Mary Williams Tell us about your work---what do you do?
I design , develop , and support computer systems . I work with my clients to define their requirements for a new system. This involves a lot of interviews with the potential users of the new system to learn about their current manual or automated processes, and how they want the computer to help them do their jobs better and/or faster. I then design (sometimes along with other analysts) a system to help the clients. I review the design with the potential system users to make sure it meets their needs and that I got everything right. This usually involves reviewing screen layouts and design documents. I then turn the design into program specifications and either turn the specs over to programmers to actually develop the system, or I do the programming myself. I then test the system to make sure it works the way it's supposed to, teach the clients how to use it, and get them started with incorporating the new system into their workday. I usually support the system after they start using it, answering questions and fixing problems. What skills are needed?
Excellent communications skills and a logical mind are very important in the computer systems field. Training in computer systems design and programming are also important. Good writing skills are helpful. What was your major?
Computer Science How did you get started in your career?
Many companies interviewed students at my college for entry-level jobs as computer programmers. I took a job with a consulting firm because I wanted to get varied experience with different types of computer systems. This type of experience is more available at a consulting firm where you have the opportunity to work on many different contracts over time. I progressed from being a programmer to a programmer/analyst to a systems analyst/team leader to a project manager . Right now I'm working as a systems analyst and programmer . I've worked for a total of three consulting firms during my 18 year career. What experience do you need in this job?
I feel that my experience as a computer programmer was very important for my job as a systems analyst. Some analysts have little or no programming experience because they don't actually develop the programs to make the system - they only do the analysis of the users' needs and a general design of the system. I feel that analysts with a programming background develop more practical designs and can work more smoothly with both the system users and the programmers. Describe your "typical" workday:
My typical day depends on the phase of the system I'm working on. It varies widely, which is why I like it. What is the hardest aspect of your job?
I work for a very small firm now and the hardest part is marketing our services and getting new work. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Helping to make a client's work life easier with one of my systems. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field?
Get a degree in computer science or management information systems. When you get a job, try to get some experience in all aspects of systems development so you know what you like best and would like to concentrate in.