When I was in college a generation ago, campus IT consisted of a DEC mainframe in the basement of the history building, a human-operated telephone switchboard, and phone extensions in dormitory hallways. Of course I wish I could go back and do it all over with the technology and tools that kids have today. When I think of all the papers I had to retype…
Recently I looked at my alma mater’s IT page on its website (a shock in and of itself). I found that incoming students are expected to have smartphones, laptops, Apple AirPorts and iPads. They don’t need printers since they can use shared printers through the campus-wide WiFi network. They can store documents in a centralized network storage space. Satellite TV hookups are provided and professors are learning about the newest version of Blackboard, the course management software that’s become standard equipment at colleges everywhere.
Someone has to set up and maintain all that infrastructure. Job hunters sometimes overlook IT in education, in part because we can forget to explore the huge non-profit sector. So here’s a reminder that on-campus IT jobs are out there. You just have to look for them, even though finding them isn’t particularly easy.
Where are the College IT Jobs?
In a quick survey of some big-name public and private universities, I found that college IT jobs are identified differently from institution to institution. Sometimes, they’re lumped in with other “staff” postings. I found interesting positions at the University of California Berkeley, the University of Texas and Princeton, but it took a while. At Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, regarded as one of the most wired campuses in the world, I stumbled across dozens of security-related jobs. It took me a few minutes to realize they were related to the university’s Software Engineering Institute and its famous Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). These were jobs worth seeking out.
As I continued to browse CMU’s Web site, I read about “Wireless Andrew 2,” the campus WiFi network, which delivers 100 Mbps access to more than 8,000 people throughout the 4 million square feet of interior space on the 105-acre campus. (Here’s a short video.) Interestingly, Wireless Andrew began in 1994 as a project funded by the National Science Foundation to test wireless network technology. Soon after the project was running, the demand for network access was enormous. It was WiFi before WiFi existed. Wouldn’t it be cool to go to work every day and be surrounded by the kinds of people who think up these ideas?
On Dice, a quick way to discover the kinds of educational IT jobs available is to perform a search with the word “university,” then sort by “company.” There are dozens of jobs throughout the nation, covering all aspects of IT – hardware, software, development, security, etc.
At my alma mater, it looks like the IT department is fully staffed for the fall semester, but who knows? If its attempt to match CMU’s 100 Mbps WiFi network, it’ll certainly need a few more talented people.
— Don Willmott