The objective of the major in ISM is to produce graduates who meet the needs of industry because they have the fundamental business, technical and communication skills required for career success. This success is measured by the first job obtained, on-going job performance, the salary earned and career advancement. Three specific skills will enable a graduate to become successful in an Information Systems (IS) career. These are:
- computer-related technical skills,
- business and economics knowledge that provides an understanding of the problems that information systems are needed to address, and
- communication skills to deal with users and sell ideas, approaches and solutions to business problems.
Possible ISM Career Opportunities
There are a number of ways that one can pursue an ISM career. This could mean working for a specific company in either its information systems organization or functioning in an information systems capacity within a user department. It could also be working for a consulting organization or functioning as a sales representative or technical support person for a computer vendor.
Sounds Interesting, But What Would I Do in a Job After Earning an ISM Degree?
The following job description is from an actual company. It provides a specific example of the activities that an ISM graduate would be expected to address if they work for a company as an IS professional. A specific job might include a large number of these activities or could focus primarily on a limited set of them.
Job Description: Information Systems Engineer
I. Primary Function
Uses business knowledge and technical skills to acquire, develop, integrate and implement information technology solutions. Functions as an internal consultant.
II. Principle Duties and Responsibilities
- Process Engineering/Consultant: Works with internal customers to re-engineer key business processes. Acts as a consultant to end users, their management and information technology management by developing plans and defining solutions that meet business requirements.
- Systems Integration: Integrates data from multiple applications, platforms and technologies into desktop system environments which improve end-user productivity. Analyzes information needs and provides solutions using the most effective tools, techniques and methodologies.
- Project Leadership: Leads small to medium projects or parts of large projects. Carries out assignments using sound project management techniques and methodologies. Ensures that key schedule milestones are met.
- Technology: Keeps abreast of new technologies and techniques, current and future business environments and process changes. Ensures that internal customers are getting the maximum benefits from their information technology investments.
- Technical Guidance: Acts as the procedural/technical resource for others in IT. Provides training, guidance and direction in particular areas of technical expertise.
- Customer Support: Ensures that proper training and support are provided as IT solutions are implemented. Consults with end users regarding the effective, successful use of IT solutions.
- Production Support: Ensures the integrity of applications software and databases through regular monitoring. May be responsible for after hours production support.
- Teamwork: Participates in department improvement projects. Contributes to the success and development of others in IT.
- Procedures/Standards: Adheres to internal procedures and standards for application development and support.
Some Important Advice for Preparing for an Information Systems Career
Prepare a resume during your sophomore year or at the start of your junior year. Determine what needs to be added to it by the time that you graduate and make those things happen. Recognize that there is no such thing as a typical ISM graduate but those that fall into four categories:
- Those with significant part-time or full-time IS work experience when they graduate. These are the people that get the large starting salaries that everyone hears about and would like to emulate.
- Those with significant business work experience but no particular computer-related experience. These graduates tend to do well since they bring the benefits of experience and maturity to a new IS job.
- Neither of the above, but an ISM internship.
- None of the above. This is the category that you want to get out of if at all possible for the following reason.
In real estate there is a saying that the three most important factors in determining the value of a property are location, location and location. Given the current business environment, the three most important factors in getting a good Information Systems job are experience, experience and experience.
Network while you are in school. This simply means getting to know as many people as possible within the ISM concentration. Definitely break out of your immedite circle of friends and get to know as many people as possible. There are numerous stories about graduates that were hired into new jobs directly through personal contacts that they made with other students while in school.
Address your weaknesses while in school.
- No one says that you are expected to be the world's foremost computer technician. There are those that are stronger technically than others. Don't be intimidated by the student that seems to know absolutely everthing there is to know about anything to do with computers. Hang in there and become as good as you can both technically and in understanding the business implications of computer use.
- If your programming skills are weak then you might consider taking a second programming class at a community college during the summer. The community colleges generally do a good job of teaching programming languages.
- If you are terrified by the thought of giving oral presentations, then become the first to volunteer to do so in any and all of your classes to improve through experience. Better yet, sign up for a second speech class.
Some Important Advice for Students Regarding ISM Classes
- Adhere to the recommended progression through the courses within the ISM major. The prerequisites were put in place because they make sense based on a logical learning progression.
- Recognize the importance of the Systems Analysis and Design course. This is the foundation course for the major. Do as well as you possibly can in this class for this reason. During and after taking this class emphasize developing a systems mentality. Don't just get money from the ATM at your bank. Think about the input, process, database and output aspects of such a system. You are surrounded by systems that you use every day that help in developing this mentality.
- Do not become a box checker. This is someone that simply checks off each class as it is completed with little concern for the important things that should be learned and retained from the ISM classes.
- Recognize that you need to develop certain technical skills on your own. This is particularly true for PC capabilities. You should be able to do impressive things with a PC whether it is desktop publishing, web page creation, integration of multiple software packages, etc. You need to become very confident of your PC skills.
- Adopt a company and pay attention to it on an on-going basis. Check out its web page. Read its annual report which is also often available through the company web page on the Internet. Really try to better understand its business including its strength and weaknesses. Develop an understanding of its industry, its position within its industry and its major business strategies. The benefit of this is that in both ISM and business classes you can relate concepts to a specific business.
Yeomans, William N., Seven Survival Skills for a Reengineered World,New York: A Dutton Book, 1996.
This is a straight forward and very worthwhile book on how to deal with a future career. It is not written specifically for a ISM career but is very applicable. The seven necessary skills will help you take charge of your career and your life. As summarized by Mr. Yeomans in his book, the following are important skills to develop:
- Career Skills. These include taking charge of your career and your life.
- Endurance Skills. This includes using stress to help you through times of change and turmoil.
- Communication Skills. Skills in this area are of high concern to many employers because so many people lack them. They include speaking, writing and listening skills.
- Follower Skills. There are skills to being a good subordinate especially in today's flattened organizations.
- Leadership Skills. This is being an effective leader in a time of reduced loyalty and increased anxiety. These are important skills to know even if you do not supervise other people.
- Team Skills. Teams are a way of life today. You must learn to lead them and how to function as a team member.
- Customer Skills. Influencing customers, building relations with customers and collaborating with them in a spirit of teamwork are necessary elements of these skills. career.
You are commended for taking the time to read and understand the contents of this segment of this web page.
Best of success in your Information Systems career!