Dear Mentor:

How do I enter the brave new world of the Internet?

I am currently working in the IT department of a hospital, but my educational background is in Journalism. I completed my undergraduate [Bachelors] degree in Journalism 3 years ago. I do not have any formal education in computers and technology, so my knowledge in this area is through work experience only. It seems that the world is becoming web-based and I will be left behind. My exposure to technology is more like systems development, maintenance, and support. We do have a website, but it is fairly basic and I do not have any involvement with it. How can I enter the brave new world of the Internet and be successful? I am a highly motivated person. I am willing to work hard and pay the price. I just need some guidance. Thank you.

Zeenat, Buffalo, NY, USA

Dear Zeenat:

You seem to have already won half the battle in whatever you choose to pursue, because motivation and hard work are the essential ingredients for success. The other half of course includes goals and a game plan.

It has been said that every company will be an Internet company in the next 5 years. While there is some truth to this statement, the world will still need hospitals, food, clothes, books, etc. So the world of goods and services will still exist. We should not forget that the Internet is a tool; it is not an end unto itself. However, we do believe that the Internet will be a critical part of the strategy and operations of every business.

You do have choices: you can master the Internet as a tool (that is, its technology), or you can learn to leverage the Internet for business objectives. That is, you can continue on the IT track, or take the business operations and management track. It depends on your interests and goals. For each of these choices, you have 2 options. You can either pursue formal education, or learn on the job. Although formal education may seem a longer way to get “there,” that may not in fact be the case. You will certainly start slow, but you may get “there” faster.

Let us take the IT track first. You can certainly pursue a Master’s degree in Computer Science, where you will be exposed to the latest and greatest in IT technology, including Web technology. You may, however, choose to seek employment instead, where you are exposed to the Internet technology. You do have 3 years of experience in IT. So you have the background to learn Web technology quickly, given the right opportunity. You can improve your chances for such an opportunity by doing some basic courses in the widely used Web languages (HTML, JavaScript, Java, Perl, etc.) and databases (SQL, dB2, etc.).

For the business operations and management track, you may consider doing an MBA. An MBA will give you formal managerial training, with exposure to appropriate tools and techniques, not least of which will be the Web. Should you choose not to pursue an MBA, you can seek employment in such areas as Marketing Communications, where you can learn, on the job, how to leverage the Web. There are job opportunities for Journalism on the Web, in which case you can leverage you educational background more fully, and gain valuable exposure to the possibilities of the Web.

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