If you lie awake at night worrying about your career, you're not alone. Windows IT Pro's first reader survey has provided fascinating information about IT careers. In answer to the question, "What are the professional issues that keep you up at night?" 42.1 percent of survey respondents identified career development. Only problems with system security, reliability, and stability are stealing more of your sleep. One survey respondent provided insight about this livelihood-induced insomnia with the comment, "A career in IT is fast-paced, fun, and fulfilling, but you have to be able to keep up."

Keeping Up
How you're able to keep up depends largely on how you view a career as an IT professional. For example, we received a slew of thoughtful responses to our open-ended question asking respondents why they would or wouldn't recommend a career in IT to a young person choosing a vocation. One such comment provides suggestions for a successful IT career: "Computer technology is a huge field where creative thinking is in great demand. One should work in diverse areas, such as programming, systems administration, security, systems analysis, and IT planning and development, not only to learn multiple aspects of the field, but to reap greater financial rewards."

The phrases that most stimulate my interest in that comment are "computer technology is a huge field," and "creative thinking is in great demand." Both phrases are a window into the challenge and promise of a career as an IT pro. In issues to come, this column will navigate through the myriad questions and choices that come with the territory of an IT pro career. We'll look at the nitty-gritty concerns of education, training, and certification; searching for a job; interviewing; and sharpening your skills. But we'll also delve deeper into matters that aren't always easy to wrap up: matters such as whether you're in the right niche as an IT pro, whether you should consider going out on your own as an IT entrepreneur, and whether you'd be happier working in a larger company—or a smaller one. We'll also take time regularly to grapple with what might be the granddaddy of all career challenges: How do you find time to think creatively when you have your hands full just keeping up?

Power and Glory
No question, a career in IT offers some of the greatest rewards to be found in any profession—along with some exceedingly difficult challenges. As one survey respondent told us, "I believe that the level of commitment to job and training is higher than it's worth to most people. Even doctors, except for possibly surgeons working with leading-edge medicine, don't have the constant training requirements that many in IT have. The pressure to upgrade skills is constant, and the salaries don't often reflect the number of hours worked and the need for round-the-clock availability that IT folks often endure."

But contrast that tough reality with another respondent's comment: "IT jobs continue to increase and morph into many areas involving the computer industry. There are so many opportunities out there, and with a little research you can find the one job that will set you up financially and spiritually for the rest of your life."

My goal for this column is to give you the information you need to fulfill that promise. In future issues of Windows IT Pro, I'll report on my conversations with IT pros, business owners, human resources (HR) professionals, and other career experts with practical guidance for finding your perfect job and building, maintaining, and advancing your career. Let me know what you want to know regarding your career development. Drop me a line with questions, suggestions, gripes, or frustrations, and I'll get to work finding answers and solutions.

Challenges and Rewards
Let me leave you with my personal, unscientific, random tabulation of the two words that show up most frequently in the responses to our survey's write-in question about whether respondents would recommend an IT career to a young person. Those words are challenging and rewarding. One survey respondent summed it up beautifully: "IT is a rewarding, enjoyable, energizing career path that can have a profound effect on the lives of others." Welcome to your career.