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There are so many different occupations to pursue in the field of computer technology. In this interview, a senior systems engineer shares his experience, which may help you decide if this job is right for you! He details the good, bad, and ugly of his experiences, and answers the questions you really want to know, like "how much does a systems engineer make?"

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A:I’m a Senior Systems Engineer working in the hospitality industry. I’ve been working in the IT field for going on 11 years now. I'd say I'm driven, happy and easy going.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A:I’m a white male, but can't recall any situation where it actively hurt me or helped me. Right now I work in a very fun and diverse department with people from all over the world, including India, France, England, El Salvador and even the deep south, which is strangest to me as a northerner from Washington DC!

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A:My job is to make sure all our servers are running and healthy and all the major network applications that our users need are always up and running. There are no real misconceptions about what I do. More like, I tell people “I’m a Systems Engineer” and I just get a blank stare, a nod and a “oh yeah, sure” that tells me they have no idea what I do. To be fair, it’s hard to explain sometimes, too.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A:I’d say it’s an 8. I’m pretty happy overall. The only thing that would make it better would be if I were allowed to telecommute more often. It’s sometimes hard to work with interruptions from coworkers.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A:It definitely makes me feel great, especially when I accomplish a major task such as when I complete a high level project or fix a major problem with our systems. That sense of accomplishment can’t be beat.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A:I changed careers late in life. I've been able to successfully transition from a degree I couldn't use into a very successful IT career.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A:I started as a help desk tech with no experience, just a little knowledge, a bare minimum Microsoft certification, and a lot of enthusiasm. If I could do it differently, I would have pursued IT in college.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A:Thorough management changes and layoffs, I learned that things can change in an instant, and you need to be always be marketable and ready to jump.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A:Always be nice and friendly to everyone. Half your job is PR.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A:I had to be on a plane to Toronto on two days' notice for an emergency project in our Canada office. I did get to see a hockey game for free, though.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A:I get up and go to work out of a sense of duty to my family and to the company. I really felt proud when I worked all night long, got two hours' sleep, then went right back in because I had already agreed to cover for the help desk manager.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A:My biggest challenge is the workload and juggling priorities. I work on big projects and also day to day problems, and the time requirements to handle both often conflict and can be very frustrating when it feels like I just can't get anything done.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A:It's moderately stressful, but I maintain a good balance because I work for a company with a great culture that promotes work life balance. I have a very understanding boss who knows that the job isn't supposed to be your life.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A:I'd say the rough salary range in my area is $60 - 90,000 per year. I was just promoted, so I'm happy where I am.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A:I have 4 weeks of time off per year to divide among sick time and vacation as I see fit. Considering vacation time usually works out to two weeks, I wouldn't mind one more week!

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A:You really need to work up to an engineering job, even if you do have a degree and a certification. I'd recommend A+ or similar certification and a lot of enthusiasm.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A:It's fun and rewarding, but also demanding. You need to be patient and open minded.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A:I'd like to segue into a management role, starting as a help desk manager and then moving up as I gain experience.