Follow your passion – Mark Cohen

AN INTERVIEW WITH Mark Cohen the CTO of Domain Group.
An international IT professional, and Consultant to Boston College.

Why did you choose this career?
Mark: I always had a passion for technology – not just using it but actually breaking things open to see how they worked from the inside. In the process of my career growth a few items have been rendered unusable, and my family had to pay a price for being supportive of my IT career growth! I am so fortunate that there was an avenue for me to properly develop international skills, and to forge a career in an industry I am passionate about.

What formal qualification did you have to attain to enter into this field?
Mark: When you are young you are still deciding what career to choose. That was me. I started off studying engineering, and switched to a degree in IT. This got me a great start into the industry. However, because IT is so fast growing, and always changing, there are opportunities to enter the industry without specific formal qualifications. This is an industry where you can create a career with “building blocks”, ie, you can qualify with individual CompTia and Microsoft modules and international exams, and begin working in an IT company or department. It is also a career of lifelong learning, so as you move along in your career you have to always be updating your skills and completing the international exams. It is also a career where employers look at the modules and skills you have more than at which university your graduated from. There is no need to ‘requalify’ when you take up job opportunities in another country as IT is an international career. All that being said, having a diploma in IT will indicate to an employer that you have not only the passion, but also the tenacity, perseverance and intelligence required to complete three years of study in your industry, and this will put you in a better position when you apply for a job in IT.

What does your job entail?
Mark: Systems developers create, maintain, audit and improve systems to meet the needs of the company. They test both hardware and software systems and diagnose and resolve system faults. It is a pressurised job that often strays beyond the average 9am – 5pm day. Developers will also create diagnostic programs, and design and write code for business systems.
Network computer systems administrators take care of, install, and organize the network’s local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and intranets, as well as support an organization’s computer systems and other data communication systems. It is a far more hands-on job, so to speak.
What do you enjoy most?
Mark: The world of It is high tech – we get to test and play with new ‘toys’, we work on the latest technology in order to ensure we meet our client’s needs, we do a lot of problem solving which is always awesome when you are able to solve an issue for your client, and we are involved in high tech development that other people will just read about.
I love working with my team. They are an incredible bunch of talented and creative people, who are also off the wall! It makes every day enjoyable, and they are able to work together to come up with out of the box solutions for clients – solutions that work.

Career highlights?
Mark: My career highlight is that I have been in this industry for 25 years, and I love my job. I have never been bored or wished that I had selected a different career.
3 important qualities that your position requires:
Thinking laterally, creatively and with discipline. Working with teams. Perseverance.
Advice for grade 11 and 12 learners considering this career?
Mark: Two IT Diplomas will ensure you get the job of your dreams – both accredited by the CHE (Council on Higher Education). A diploma in Systems development, or the diploma in Networking. A Systems Developer earns an average salary of R265 131 per year in South Africa. (A skill in JavaScript is associated with the high pay for this job.)
My advice? Mark: Follow your passion. If you are lucky enough to have a passion for something you can earn a good living out of, the world is your oyster. Work hard at school. Do as well as possible in Maths, and get loads of practice in order to understand the maths concepts well.
As many of the international IT skills as you can gather, A+ and N+ are great starting point. And moving on to programming for those that have the mathematical skills.

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