If You Love Technology, Become a Technologist

technologist consultation
By Brian Skewes

What exactly is a technologist and, more importantly, can you make any money claiming you are one? We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the job below. Let’s deal with the money question right away. Yes, you can make a lot of money. The reported average salary by Indeed is around $30 an hour.

Nice, right? But not overly impressive.

You’ll notice most of the reported salaries in that study use the word technologist as related to working for a hospital/clinic in the medical field. You can use the terminology differently and make a lawyer’s salary.

But enough yapping about money. While technologist doesn’t always show up on career lists, let’s dig into why this career is a great move for homeschooled teens and what you’ll actually be doing.

Enter the Technologist

As a technologist, you should have an intense interest in different types of hardware, software, and assorted other tech out there. Plus you have to stay on top of the new stuff coming out. Right now, that would include AI, nanotechnology, and blockchain still spins off iterative technologies more than a decade after its first use. Have you heard the old saying – a jack of all trades and master of none? Well, this sort of applies to a technologist. You should expect to know a little bit (or even a lot) about a variety of different technologies.

Here’s a tip: always be learning or you’ll quickly fall behind.

But don’t let the idea of being a generalist fool you. While a specialty technician can dig in and solve the most convoluted problem with a particular piece of technology A, they’d be hard-pressed to figure out how to even turn on technology B. That might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. A good generalist can turn on ALL the technology and know how they work together too.

Over the course of a year or a career, a technologist is likely to encounter a variety of technology. While it’s impossible to have a working knowledge of everything, the broader you cast your net, the more valuable you’ll be to clients, and the more you can charge for projects.

Corporate vs Freelance Gigs

There are two basic career paths as a technologist. The first, which I’m not going to spend much time on because it is largely self-evident, is to go to work for a mid-sized or large company in their IT department. Smaller operations aren’t likely to have much of an IT department.

In a corporate gig, you’ll likely not have much job variety, but there is a better chance of benefits and a long-term stable (albeit lower-paying) career.

The second path is to become a consultant. You’ll take gigs from clients on a freelance basis from companies of all sizes. Consider this. The racing rate of change in technological advancement leaves lots of businesses with no idea of what they need to buy next. Should they move their work to the cloud? Avoid the cloud at all costs? Never want to hear the word “cloud” again?

Like it or not, we’ve arrived at the point in time where a business is hard-pressed to operate without dipping a foot into the technological pool. While this reality creates stress for business owners everywhere, there is a financial windfall waiting to be claimed by those who call themselves technologists.

We’ll continue presuming you’ve chosen the consultant route. If you’re looking for a corporate gig, it’s easy. Polish up your resume’ and hit the interview trail.

Education? Probably.

Do you need an education to be a technologist? Here’s the answer we all love to hate. A college degree or trade school certification in some type of computer or tech related field can’t hurt. It lets a prospective client know you’re serious about what you do to at least some extent. The problem is that not everyone has the time, money, or inclination for that.

The truth is your first step to becoming a technologist is to do whatever it takes to attract the attention of a company decision-maker who will agree to pay money in return for your knowledge. Period. Maybe you’ll need a college degree to wedge that foot in the door and maybe you won’t. A well-tuned website or LinkedIn profile along with real world experience can go a long ways towards establishing that you are a legitimate candidate to hire for the project.

Here’s the thing. You can put together a portfolio of work you’ve done with side hustle gigs while you’re still in school. Right now.

Convince one person that you DO have the skills, by any means necessary, and you’re golden. Once you have one happy client in the bag, the second is easier, and the third even easier than that. Before you know it, you’ve got a thriving technologist consultant business.

A Day in the Life of a Technologist

The cool thing about working as a technologist is that you can set your own schedule. Work as little or as much as you like. But what are you going to do when you get to the job site? It might go something like this.

Let’s say your client owns an independent pet supply store. Let’s further say his name is Carl. He’s 54 years old. While Carl has made a success out of his store, The Pet Emporium, sales have stalled lately. Part of the problem is he doesn’t use e-mail or text, has no website or online sales, and still holds great suspicion of the smart phone he hasn’t bought yet.

But Carl’s niece, Jazzy, hounds him relentlessly about upgrading the non-existent technology in his business. But where does Carl start in bringing his prehistoric operations into the 21st century?

He needs a technologist. Stat. Even though Uncle Carl is more miserly than Scrooge McDuck,  he finally faces the reality that a large part of his sales problem lies in the lack of technology. When you arrive on site, you verify that Carl has nothing that could be called a “system.” This isn’t a bad thing. It is easier to build a cohesive solution from scratch than piece together an old one from technology bits that have seen better days.

Here’s where your broad knowledge comes in handy. Carl needs a website, hosting, an automated email platform, and customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Add to that a social media presence, cloud storage, business internet, and a process of moving all his paper-based records and accounting online. And don’t forget about cybersecurity. If you’re not aware, hackers love to go after small businesses even more than large corporations.

As a technologist, you’ll create a plan that lays out the tech he needs, which vendors to consider, and how to hire the right person to install the pieces and tie it all together. Voila! Carl has arrived in the 21st century and you have another happy client.

Obviously, there’s more to it that this but we’re not writing an exhaustive career guide. If what we’re talking abut whets your interest, start researching.

Final Thoughts

Let’s recap. While others might spend years chasing degrees, certifications, or experience, a technologist wants to understand technology in general and how the disparate pieces work together to create a functioning system. Towards that end, you need to become familiar with a range of current technologies.

Here’s one way to think of it. A technologist is the person to call when you run into a problem and can’t figure out the best way to solve it. Once the solution is delivered, our brave technologist is off to the next adventure while a collection of technicians and/or IT people are called in to build the system.

Brian Skewes is a technologist into deconstruction. Over two decades of self-employment, he has accumulated a wealth of inadvertent real-world lessons related to building, running, and preserving a small company. Look him up on LinkedIn if you’re so inclined.

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