Being able to bounce around all those options is something I would definitely recommend to people in the early stage of their career. Eventually you will figure out what it is that you like.Michael Koziarski, VendIt was an IT \u2018grunt\u2019 job that led Michael Koziarski to rethink his original career plans.Koziarski was studying economics, finance and management at Victoria University of Wellington when a friend offered him a part-time role for a startup.\u201cI was crawling under the desk and scanning the barcodes of computers, that kind of thing,\u201d Koziarski says. \u201cI realised I was good at the computer side of things.\u201dToday, Koziarski\u2014or \u2018Koz\u2019 as he is known in tech circles\u2014is vice president of technology architecture at Vend, a cloud-based retail management platform used in over 15,000 stores across 140 countries. But it took a lot of \u201cbouncing around\u201d to get where he is.In a way, computing was always a part of his life, more so than economics would be, even after earning his bachelors in 2006.\u201cAs a kid, I was copying basic programmes from the boxes of computer manuals,\u201d says Koziarski. Programming at Uni was \u201cjust for fun\u201d and made some assignments easier, he says. \u201cIt was like a tool that I had used as an economist.\u201d Photo by Divina ParedesIT is a brutal industry. We work very hard and if you don\u2019t keep up, you will quickly find yourself, your skills, are out of date.Michael Koziarski, VendThe learning curveHe enjoyed working in ICT,but the startup he was working with did not succeed. \u201cI went on what I referred to as a sabbatical.\u201dKoziarski\u2019s \u201csabbatical\u201d led him to the banking industry where he took roles as Java Architect for the Bank of New Zealand and Westpac.\u201cSo that was the other end of the spectrum,\u201d he says, smiling. \u201cRather than constant pressure for shipping, shipping, shipping everything moving fast...In a large organisation it is much more risk aversion, and getting things right.\u201cI saw both sides of the coin [in ICT work] in the first four years of my career.\u201d\nRiding\nthe Rails to the top of the IT game\n\nIt was while working in the banking sector that he \u201cstumbled upon\u201d the open source framework Ruby on Rails.\u201cI started working on the open source project in my spare time while working at the banks,\u201d says Koziarski.\u201cIt was kind of a good balance, the banks were very formal, structured slow and the open source project was very quick and was very fast,\u201d he says. Koziarski found himself speaking at conferences as an expert on Ruby on Rails.\u201cAfter about six to seven months, I realised I was saying \u2018no\u2019 to a lot of people who said, \u2018Come work for me'. \u201cI said, \u2018Well, I am doing this for fun, why not do it for a job?\u201dOver the next six years, he worked on projects involving Ruby on Rails, either as a contractor or directly for various companies.\u201cFrom there, I drastically up-skilled, jumping from client to client, learning new and more painful experiences.\u201d\u201cYou know, the lessons you learned with a small company are massively different from a big company, and from lessons you learned from a fast growing startup.\u201cBeing able to bounce around all those options is something I would definitely recommend to people in the early stage of their career. Eventually you will figure out what it is that you like.\u201dFor Koziarski, this was realising he was not \u201ca big company kind of person\u201d.\u201cSome people prefer the more structured environment and it is important to figure that out [yourself],\u201d he says.That said, Koziarski\u2019s degree has proved extremely useful in his current role.\u201cOne of the nice things about having an economics and finance education is that I am quite comfortable working with financial models, and understanding actual business impacts of a lot of decisions.\u201d\u201cSome technologists have a real challenge with that,\u201d he says.They may, for instance, have a good understanding of how to make ICT systems go faster, but this will not matter if it does not help the organisation sell more products or reduce expenses.\u201cSometimes those performance optimisations make a material difference, but being able to understand how the business flows and works is quite useful,\u201d says Koziarski.\u201cIt will not take a substantial amount of effort to figure those things out, but it would put you in a much better position for a successful technology career.\u201dThere is plenty of good online material on the topic, he says, citing the blogs of venture capitalists like Paul Graham, co-founder of tech accelerator Y Combinator.\u201cYou can possibly do some part-time MBA papers if you want to,\u201d he adds. No captionIf you have an interest and an aptitude in engineering, software, hardware or electrical, you would be mad not to try it as a career. Michael Koziarski, VendThe STEM question Vend, like other tech-sector companies, does have difficulty hiring engineers, Koziarski says, when asked about ongoing campaigns to encourage young people to undertake STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses.\u201cBut then, I look at a lot of our engineers and some of the people doing amazing work either do not have a formal education in ICT, or were trained for a completely different field,\u201d he says.\u201cPeople think it is an easy answer to say if we have 2000 more computer science graduates every year, it would be better. It probably would, but it is not only the pipeline for new talent.\u201d\u201cIf I were advising a high school student, and you have an interest and an aptitude in engineering, software, hardware or electrical, whatever it is, you would be mad not to try it as a career. There is a substantial amount of growth in our industries.\u201cBut on the flip side, if it is just something that does not interest you at all, I am not sure pushing people to study it, and then pushing people into the industry, is going to have a positive effect.\u201d\u201cIt is a brutal industry,\u201d he says. \u201cWe work very hard and if you don\u2019t keep up, you will quickly find yourself, your skills, are out of date."Koziarski says if he didn\u2019t enjoy his role at Vend, he would go back to consulting or helping new startups.\u201cOne of the nice things working for a consultancy firm is you see dozens of different companies in a given year,\u201d he says. \u201cSome are really interesting, some are really tedious. \u201cAs a consultant, typically I would come into a dysfunctional engineering organisation or a place that needed some additional skills. I would help them improve their technology or improve their team and once everything got working well, that was it,\u201d he says.\u201cWhereas now, working at Vend, the team is phenomenal and doing really great things,\u201d he says. \u201cI get to continue working with really talented and amazing people.\u201dSend news tips and comments to email@example.comFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nzFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinapSign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.Join us on Facebook.