Careers Beginning Your Career in IT: Chris Gonsalvez
We were lucky enough recently to speak with Chris Gonsalvez, the Associate Dean of Student Engagement in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University. She shared some fantastic tips for students interested in learning more about a career in Information Technology (IT) and gaining a head start in their careers. Check it out below!
1. Please tell us a little about your role at Monash.
As Associate Dean of Student Engagement in the Faculty of IT, I am closely involved with a number of programs that contribute to Student Experience. From the planning of student orientation to overseeing work-integrated learning (WIL) programs such as Industry Based Learning and Industry Experience, my goal is to provide more than just an education program for students throughout their degree.
A key part of my role is also bringing students’ attention to the extensive opportunities they have available to them beyond their studies, such as extracurricular and community work. These opportunities allow students to further develop their skills and professionalism, which are valued by industry.
2. What advice would you give to students who would like to pursue a career in the IT industry but aren’t sure where to start?
Remember that ‘Google is your friend’! Students have a real advantage today compared to previous generations, as they can easily research and explore possible careers to find out more about what they may like to do.
Given that the IT industry is so broad, students should search job advertisements, career sites and the IT department webpages of company websites to discover what work is being done, and what type of roles are out there today. From this, students can slowly start to narrow down their areas of interest and can explore these areas by choosing subjects within this area as part of their degree.
In saying this, students should remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with changing your mind about what interests you.
The most important thing is that you have taken advantage of opportunities to learn more about what is going on in the industry, and where you might like to pursue your career. There are always events on campus, hackathons and meets across Melbourne where students can meet industry professionals with invaluable advice and insight.
"It’s just a matter of making the most of the opportunities available – you may have to search for them, but they definitely are there."
3. More generally, what skills or experiences would you say best facilitate the transition from a student to a professional?
What we have heard from the industry is that employers expect students to be well versed in the discipline knowledge from their area of study. However, beyond this, employers are looking for students who possess key soft skills such as verbal and written communication, teamwork and professionalism.
There are a number of ways that students can develop these skills. Firstly, part-time jobs are excellent ways to improve these soft skills, even if they might be different to your area of study!
Secondly, Student Futures is a great tool for students looking to develop their soft skills. Student Futures is an online platform provided by Monash where students can find all relevant activities across Monash to improve a soft skill of their choosing. Activities found could include peer mentor and leadership development programs.
4. What are some interesting developments in the IT industry that may affect the career trajectory of IT students or students generally?
There has been huge interest in IT recently, as the community realises that every aspect of our society, from music to health, is changing as technology evolves. Whatever passion students may have, there is a good chance that IT can be a part of it.
The current flavour of the month for IT is still big data or data analytics. This refers to the ability to analyse large amounts of data and draw key insights from it. Cyber security has also become increasingly important as businesses realise the importance of safeguarding their data and systems.
5. For students not studying IT, what are some ways they can improve their IT aptitude?
For students not studying IT, there are many ways in which IT could be incorporated within their future careers. To start off, however, students should look for opportunities to build their foundation of IT knowledge before moving on to skills such as programming.
For example, students can study subjects like FIT1013 Digital futures: IT for business that develops key skills in programs such as Excel – our industry partners just love students who have done this unit. Students from other faculties should also check whether they may even be able to study majors or minors in the IT faculty as part of their degree.
Anyone looking to improve their IT capability, however, must be willing to learn for life. IT software is continuously evolving and changing, which means our knowledge and expertise must evolve and change with it.
Special thanks to Chris Gonsalvez for taking the time to speak with us! You can read more about her work at Monash University here.