Today there are more opportunities for network-related careers than ever before. Although something akin to chaos has resulted from rapidly changing networking technologies and network-related business changes, these turbulent times have created a number of professional opportunities for individuals interested in data communications and computer networks. With a heavy dependence of organizations on information technology networks, those networking professionals-especially those with both strong technical and business backgrounds are surely to profit.
Traditional careers in networking include: network manager, network designer, help desk technician, LAN manager and technical support specialist. Many organizations have such positions and career paths leading to such positions; many will continue to have similar positions and career paths. Nontraditional career paths involve both entrepreneurial and other opportunities, such as: independent consultant on systems integration, turnkey solutions, e-mail systems, network security, or desktop-to-desktop videoconferencing.
Traditional Networking Job Titles
. Network manager Help desk manager
. Network planning manager Help desk specialist/technician
. Network design manager Network operations manager
Network designer. Network operations specialist/technician
. Network application and development manager. Network security manager
. Network application development specialist. Network security specialist/technician
. Voice communications manager. Network data administrator
. Voice communications specialist. LAN service/support manager
. Voice communications technician. LAN manager/administrator
. Data communications manager LAN service/support technician
. Data communications specialist LAN installation/maintenance Data communications technician LAN installation/maintenance
. Network services/support manager WAN manager/administrator
. Control center manager.
Non-Traditional Networking Job Titles
Consultant on specific network products
Fault tolerance specialist/consultant
Independent network planner/designer/installer
Independent Technical support specialist
Independent trainer for specific network products
Network cabling consultant/Installer
Network security consultant
Systems integration consultant
Turnkey networking solutions vendor
Wireless communications specialist
There are risks associated with both traditional and non-traditional career paths. Joining a company may provide you with a resource of years of experience, however, they could also be completely out-of-date. Outsourcing is another threat to the traditional employment option. Networking staffs could be reduced to save on costs, and independents could find themselves filling the gap. However, while many of the displaced workers are employed by outsourcing operations, long-term job security is at risk.
In spite of the increase in company downsizing and outsourcing, there is still a huge demand for networking professionals. A well-trained graduate in a high-tech field such as Computer Science or Information Systems, who has courses in networking, can almost be guaranteed several respectable job offers with good starting salaries. Networking and Internetworking are on the rise and will continue as companies develop more wireless networks, and satellite-based systems. It is very difficult today to find any of the traditional LANs, however, the interconnection of WANs is certainly a new source of employment.
A work option frequently chosen by people is the career path. This involves looking at companies in terms of advancement opportunities. For instance, a person may start as a WAN technician and move up to a WAN network manager. This is now seen as a riskier prospect for networking professionals since the information technology sector is in a state of constant flux and because of the fact that jobs that exist today may not exist in the same way in five years.
This is an alternative to the Career Path route that allows a professional to develop particular skills around one area of networking technology. This is invaluable for anyone deciding to go into the field of networking. Not only does it make an individual more innovative and valuable in a traditional company, it also increases his or her demand for outsourced contracts. This is also a popular option, since it is getting harder and harder to be a generalist in the area of networking due to the rapid pace of change and expanded responsibilities of the network professional.
AREAS OF NICHE EXPERTISE
ATM applications and switching LAN operating systems
Business process reengineering LAN switches
CASE tools for network applications LAN/voice integration
Cellular digital packet data CCDPD) Lotus Notes application development applications
Client/server application development tools Middleware products
Data compression Multimedia networking
Disaster recovery planning Network security
Electronic data Interchange CEDI) applications Object oriented programming Encryption systems Distributed environments
FDDI networks Optical switching
Distance learning applications Personal communications systems
Distributed database applications Personal digital assistants
Fast Ethernet networks and applications Software reengineering and restructuring
Groupwareapplications SQL servers and other database servers
Image processing and document management- Superservers
ment systems Systems integration
Intelligent hubs TCP/IP applications
ISDN applications Videoconferencing
Interactive television applications Voice recognition and voice processing
Internet applications. Wide area wireless communications
. Kiosk applications and networking Wireless LANs
Another option available to networking professionals is to mold a career around a preferred lifestyle. When developing a niche skill, tele-computing allows a person to have portable skills and the ability to locate in whichever location the professional wants.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of all computer professionals is the ability to train and retrain in order to keep up with the pace of change. This change in the working environment affects all areas of employment, but it has a particular impact on the Information Technology Sector, since it makes training and retraining a requirement rather than a luxury. The “half-life” of a Computer Science degree is about 6 months, which means that after 6 months of work, everything the graduate has learned is out-of-date. However, the skills learned should enable a graduate to keep herself or himself adaptable. Many executives in the business world also claim that a liberal arts background helps people to learn quickly and adapt to change. Whatever your approach, it is vital that your skills are up to date. There are various ways to do this including the following:
Networking Professionals retool themselves in many ways, including taking classes, going to seminars or exhibitions, reading, and joining a professional association, interest group, or club. Managers and users, especially those in organizations distributing their computing systems and giving more responsibility for managing distributed systems to user departments, may also find these approaches effective for staying on top of changes.
A wide variety of options exists for people who want to take classes in networking related areas. Many companies, for instance, hold classes on networking technologies for their employees. Classes can also be taken at a university, college, or technica1 school either for a degree or for continuing education. Training is available from vendors in areas such as object-oriented development in client/server networks, multimedia applications in networks, rightsizing, remote computing, and a variety of other areas. Such vendor-sponsored training can be an excellent way for network professionals to develop and maintain niche expertise.
In these fast-paced times, going to seminars provides an excellent opportunity for professionals to be aware of new technology especially in their areas of expertise. Courses taken at a University or a college are likely to be broad, and sometimes limited by the equipment available. A one-, two-, or three-day seminar can provide a quick, in-depth look at a specific networking technology, perhaps one so state-of-the art that it has not yet been fully integrated into academic curricula.
Often, one can find out which seminars are being given in an area by checking the trade publications, checking with local hotels, or getting on the mailing list of a company that gives seminars around the country. Increasingly, Seminars are being publicized in newspapers and trade publications.