As a networking professional, you need much more than just technical skills, to have a successful career. While strong technical skills can help people get Jobs, other factors, such as their ability to communicate and get along with others, are often primary determinants of their Iong-term success. The following outline the various skills that a person working in the field needs to be marketable and command a fair salary.
Employees who desire to progress along traditional career paths often find that interpersonal and communication skills are important factors in whether they are able keep their jobs or get promoted. Similarly, individuals in business for themselves are likely to find that interpersonal and communication skills are key to attracting and retaining clients.
Network management involves linking users with one another and with computing resources. Therefore network professionals need to be able to understand and communicate clearly with users. Interpersonal and communication skills are used by network managers on a daily basis, when talking with vendors, customers, users, and when trying to persuade superiors to purchase networking components. When users view network personnel as being approachable and responsive, they are more likely to feel comfortable communicating with them. Network problems are likely to be detected and corrected quickly when users feel that communication channels are open . Network planning and network design and development projects are more likely to be when communication is at an open level. For individuals with a great deal of technical knowledge, users can come across as frustrating. Many do not read the manuals and documentation, follow simple directions, remember their passwords, make backup copies, or use logon scripts or print routines.
While these all-too-common user characteristics can try the patience of Network professionals, it is important to patiently address the problems with clear and open communication. Network managers often must be able to communicate and establish good working relationships with vendors. This communication is likely to be both in oral and written, such as requests for quotations, requests for proposals, and contracts. Many educational and training institutions overlook this factor and concentrate only on the technical skills rather than the basic communication abilities of their students, and thereby limit the amount of success of their graduates.
A variety ofways can be used to improve or enhance interpersonal and communication skills. These include additional training in areas such as interviewing. effective listening. technical writing. giving feedback, and doing stand-up presentations.
As network managers advance in organizations, there is typically a greater need for them to possess conceptual skills. Conceptual skills include the ability the see the "big picture" and how all the different parts of the organization fit together to work toward achieving long-term goals.
Conceptual skills also include the ability to understand ho\v the organization fits into the business environment. As managers near the top of the management hierarchy, they are more likely to be involved in strategic planning and long-term decision making. Both of these activities demand the ability to predict how specific plans and decisions are likely to affect the different parts of the organization.
Technical skills tend to be more important than conceptual skills at lower levels in the management hierarchy, while conceptual skills are generally more important than technical skills for upper-level managers.
Lower-Ievel network managers are likely to be most concerned with managing the day-to-day operations of networks. Higher level network managers, however, are much more concerned with strategic management. Strategic management considers the role of networks and networking over the long term. It ensures that the organization has a network infrastructure in place needed to help it achieve its long-term goals and objectives. This involves the creation of network plans that specify the networks (including interorganizational net\vorks) to be implemented or interconnected. These plans also specify the network technologies to be included, how data will be distributed, and how network security wvill be enhanced.
LAN and WAN managers at all levels may be involved in tactical network management, especially those responsible for the operations of two or more interconnected networks. A good balance of technical, interpersonal, communication, and conceptual skills is often needed for effectively carrying out tactical network management activities.
As managers advance in their organizations, their need for leadership and management skills generally increases. In terms of leadership, they must be able to create (and sell) a vision for networks, motivate network personnel toward long-term goals, and exert the influence needed to turn the vision into reality. Good leaders can inspire others to do their best to achieve long-term goals. Network managers who are effective leaders are likely to progress faster.
Network managers who wish to advance in their organizations should strive to develop or enhance their management and leadership skills. While experience may be the best way to learn, network managers should also consider taking advantage of in-house management and leadership training programs or those offered by network consulting firms, colleges, universities, technical schools and community colleges.
Politically aware managers understand what peers and superiors are really interested in, and this knowledge can be used to influence them and gain their support.
As LANs and internetworking have become more important, the importance of centralized, host-based systems has decreased. This has often resulted in increased power and political clout for networking personnel at the expense of IS personnel associated with the operation and management of centralized systems. Redistribution of power and clout has caused bitter infighting in some organizations.
To make career progress, network personnel must lmderstand the organization's business and how its various subunits contribute to this business. To develop networks for a user area, it is essential to understand the work that users in that area perform and how this relates to other areas of the organization.
In addition, by knowing the nature of the work and interactions of the various subunits, network managers are in a better position to know what interconnections are needed to build an effective enterprise-wide network. Such knowledge should also enable them to design appropriate interorganizational systems. Courses, seminars, newsletters and professional groups can all be used to enhance the business knowledge of a network professional and make her/him more successful in their career.