Career Opportunities

A ComputorEdge Column

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What does it take?: Part 4

© Douglas E. Welch 1997

I will end this month's discussion of computer careers by focusing on Internet-related positions. The speed of innovation in Internet services and products leads to new job titles and positions being invented nearly every day.

Web Designer

Often, jobs in Internet companies can blur the lines between one function and another. High among these is the position of web site designer. The duties of a web site designer vary from company to company but they often include not only computer skills but also design skills. This is often a good position for someone who has interests in both artistic pursuits and computer technology.

The goal in developing a web design career is to create a balance between these two, seemingly disparate, talents. Most web designers are computer people who have moved into design. Unfortunately, this can lead to technically spectacular web sites that are poorly designed. As you improve and exercise your computer skills you must also develop your design skills. This can be done by observing other interesting web sites, self-study or even taking design classes at a local university. As with many things, how you gain design experience is less important than the act of achieving it.

On the computer side of the equation, you must stay abreast of each new technology as they are introduced. Not only will you be judging them for inclusion in your site, you will also be learning the intricacies of using them in your web designs. This insures that when the need arises, usually by client request, you will be able to provide the best solution available at the time.

Web Master/System Manager

Another Internet position that has widely different job descriptions is that of Web Master or System Manager. You only have to list the various names used for this position to see how varied it is. Web Guru, Web Mistress, Sysop. All permutations of basically the same job.

The most important aspect of any system managers education is an understanding of the UNIX operating system. This is true regardless of the operating system you may be using to host your web site. The Internet itself, as well as the software designed to run on it, have grown from a UNIX base. Even if you are using a Macintosh or Windows NT to operate your site, the software will still use UNIX conventions in its configuration and operation. An understanding of UNIX will allow you to better interact with your software regardless of the computer platform.

Second, a system manager must have a good understanding of multi-user systems. I am talking about the computer concepts involved as well as the people issues. Local area network managers, mainframe and minicomputer operators and web site system managers all have to learn the same lesson. Small changes can effect large numbers of people. Become very familiar with your particular combination of hardware and software and understand the implications of moving a file or changing a file name. In some cases, a simple change can lead to an entire web server being out of commission.

Internet-based jobs are one of the most quickly growing markets today. While you can prepare in the ways mentioned above you must also remember that the industry is changing so rapidly that your job description today will more than likely be different tomorrow.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. While he cannot answer every letter directly, he welcomes questions and suggestions. Douglas can reached via email at or

Part 3--Dou