Where Do I Go Next from Destop Support



  • Background, be sure to read the article on Standard IT Disciplines.

    This question comes up a lot in IT Career discussions, probably because it is so common for people to start their IT careers on the helpdesk, call center or deskside support roles. The challenge, and the reason that the question comes up, is because these roles are not "junior" roles of one discipline into which one can simply advance to higher roles, but they are a discipline within IT of their own; one with a very heavy focus on customer service and responsiveness.

    Without leaving this discipline, in some companies, there is a chance to move through a number of ranks. It is not uncommon for there to be at least four ranks of helpdesk or deskside positions sometimes called L0 - L3 (or something like novice, junior, normal and senior) plus sometimes a lead or trainer role and, of course, there is a helpdesk manager (but it must be pointed out that a lead would still be inside the discipline, a management role would be outside of IT and into a management discipline technically, but it is a natural move.)

    Moving out of the helpdesk or deskside support is technically a lateral move, not a move "up". But it is fair to assume that in nearly all businesses, there will be higher IT levels with more challenge and better pay in other IT disciplines. Not always, but normally. To be clear, though, high end deskside support can certainly push into the six figure range. Those roles are typically in places like executive support or trading floors.

    Moving up from the helpdesk requires a change of knowledge set. The most obvious move would be towards desktop support or administration which is, normally, the most heavily overlapping technical skill set. Desktop administration continues working, primarily, on the same systems that helpdesk tends to work, but does so behind the scenes rather than in a customer facing way.

    When reaching your terminal level in your helpdesk career, whether this is as high as the helpdesk discipline goes or it is as high as you are willing to commit to it, moving on to another discipline area requires a change of technical knowledge and skills. This means studying, possibly certifying and a means of proving those skills. Think of it as a job change, not a promotion. Some companies will have resources for this, many will not and you will need to do this on your own - especially if your move includes moving to another company, as is often the case with IT career changes.

    The most important starting point is deciding what the target career discipline area is going to be. Systems, Networking, Databases, Applications, and so forth. There are many choices. This is a major career move and will have serious impact throughout the future of your career and should be chosen wisely and should be very deliberate. And remember that there is no industry path forward, but rather an open field of options.

    If your current company is not going to provide resources or guidance, then it is up to you and this should be approached the same as you would any move between fields. A good starting point is to pursue a home lab, build a project portfolio and get appropriate certifications in the chosen discipline. The IT experience of the help desk will, of course, count as industry experience so moving into a new discipline is nothing like having gotten into IT in the first place. Years of IT experience plus fresh learning, certifications and projects can make moving between disciplines very easy.

    Of course it should be mentioned that a common role for the helpdesk is also to not move into a specialist discipline but to become an IT Generalist, often in the SMB world which is almost exclusively made of generalists with some helpdesk roles added in. Generalist might actually be the most common and clear upward move for someone using the helpdesk backround to "move up" into something else.

    Most importantly - where you go from your current discipline is primarily up to you. The industry will not dictate this nor hold your hand. The choice is yours.



  • I'd like to add that it is generally much easier to change positions when going to a new company. If you are valuable to the helpdesk or desktop support team, they may not want to let you go. Even if you do move from the helpdesk, you will always be looked at as the low man on the totem pole for your new team.

    It is much easier to go apply for a desktop support job after having 1-2 years experience in helpdesk. Then after you have 1-2 years experience as desktop support, you can move to a networking or system position with a new company. If you move within the company the timeframe will be more like 3-5 years considering you have to L1-L3.



  • @IRJ said in Where Do I Go Next from Destop Support:

    I'd like to add that it is generally much easier to change positions when going to a new company. If you are valuable to the helpdesk or desktop support team, they may not want to let you go. Even if you do move from the helpdesk, you will always be looked at as the low man on the totem pole for your new team.

    It is much easier to go apply for a desktop support job after having 1-2 years experience in helpdesk. Then after you have 1-2 years experience as desktop support, you can move to a networking or system position with a new company. If you move within the company the timeframe will be more like 3-5 years considering you have to L1-L3.

    I agree completely with this.

    I moved divisions to get away from the deskside support.