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Sales and programming?

Also, a place in the travel business. Career Advsor hed: Sales and programming? dek: also, a place in the travel business. by Molly Joss

Q: My uncle was a programmer, and I have always had an interest in programming. I would like to combine Web design and programming with business. I am in sales, and I am interested in expanding my horizons with sales. The schools I talk to about programming just seem to want my money. I am very eager to learn, and I want to have more options. What kind of work should I pursue?

A: If you could figure out a way to learn more about the sales and marketing elements of Web design, you could carve out a nice niche for yourself helping businesses make the most of their Web sites.

I think we’ve reached the point in the growth of the Web where companies with Web sites need to include those sites in their overall business strategy. Making them look good is important, and having up-to-date information on them is crucial, but few businesses ruminate enough on how to use their sites as sales and marketing tools.

Preparing yourself for this kind of work doesn’t require you to be a whiz at Web site programming, but you do need to know how it’s done. More importantly, you need to find Web sites that are being used by their companies as part of a highly effective sales and marketing strategy and then find out how they do what they do. You can impart that knowledge to others seeking a better return on investment from their sites.

Having a Web-related certification, such as the CIW (Certified Internet Webmaster), will give you the background and credentials you need. The rest of the learning process you’re going to have to pursue on your own by reading magazines, making contacts, and attending conferences. Keep your eyes and ears open for companies that excel in using their sites for sales and marketing, and then get details about how they developed and implemented their strategies.

Q: I have a two-year associate’s degree and I work as a travel agent at the moment. As you know, the travel industry has been having its problems, so I’m looking for other opportunities. Someone suggested I look into the computer field. Where do I start?

A: Normally when people ask for an entry point into the IT world, I suggest using past work experience as one of the keys. Travel and IT come together most often on the Web–travel agents have used computers for years to book tickets. I think you should start looking at the more boutique-y travel-related Web sites. Think in terms of bed-and-breakfast associations or local governments trying to bring tourism to their areas. While you are still at your day job, you may be able to start working with a few of these sites to research and provide content.

If the transition approach works, after a while you might be offered a full-time position with one of these organizations to help manage their Web site. Or, you could start your own site to help people plan their own vacations. By taking it slow, you can find your best fit in the junction where travel and IT come together.

Q: I have a couple years of experience in installing networks and thought I’d take on the A+ and Net+ exams to see if I can get myself a similar, yet better-paying job. Will this help me or am I wasting my time?

A: I am not sure that there is a blanket yes for all certifications when it comes to using them as a stepping stone to a better job. In your case, though, it couldn’t hurt for you to get the certifications, and it could make the difference between you and another candidate. In talking with recruiters and doing my own research, I keep hearing employers talk about experience. They want candidates to have experience, yet they like seeing certifications on résumés.

I think this is because there is seldom only one candidate for a job, and employers tend to pick the candidate with the most of everything offered by the pool of applicants. In other words, if you and another candidate have similar work backgrounds and years of employment in the same kind of job, yet you’re certified and he or she isn’t… guess who gets the job?

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