I just finished reading the NWW article on Top 10 Technology Skills.
It seems like weekly, I get request from folks wanting to know where should they start out in IT to build a career. I typically tell them to find a beer they like and stick to it (I highly recommend Newcastle), pick a Star Trek series (if it is Deep Space Nine go directly to a VOIP specialization) and start out with the foundational skills first. A good career in IT means be able to be many places at one time with a wide skill set. Just like any building, a strong foundation is the key before picking out window treatments. Here is typically what I recommend to folks just starting out:
- Do not be a vendor loyalist. Learn the best vendors and open source has to offer for all solutions. This helps make you flexible and very valuable to any employer.
- Learn a Cisco foundation. Not because I work at Cisco but because Cisco is the most deployed, most documented and easiest to find local training on. Many vendors use a IOS like interface as well, so your learning curve is super short if you understand the green arches. Ethernet is the ruling class in the network. If you have a good handle on Ethernet, you are way ahead of the game to learn new stuff.
- Start reading and never stop. A few must reads in any IT pros knowledge bank should be:
- Interconnections: Radia Perlman
- Routing TCP/IP Vols 1-3: Cisco Press
- The Switch Book: Rich Seifert
- OSPF: John Moy
Allow folks to challenge your designs and disagree with you as much as possible. You are going to be wrong and miss stuff, just don't be a wank about it now or to the engineers that follow you.
- Get in the habit of understanding proprietary vs. standards based features. This is not like the old IBM days where proprietary is a bad thing. Some features you need on a network will never ever be a standard so you have to look at other options. All vendors do it, just look at the depth you need. If there is a standards based option, understand it and why is it better or worse.
- Now specialize in a career area. You can stay and do all things foundation for sure. That path is wide and will provide you with endless challenges. OR you can look at VOIP, Security, Wireless, Network Management, Data Center. I personally believe that Data Center is the hottest ticket out there. Customers are begging for data center engineers today that understand fiber channel, iSCSI, fiber channel over Ethernet, virtualization and power management/control. I could not give any area a higher recommendation right now. This is one hot hot hot ticket!
- I do not recommend folks to be lawyers or programmers. Programming is a great skill to know, but it is too easily outsourced and off shored. If you like programming look at becoming a Database Administrator. Those folks are making some serious green!
- Give back and don't be a locust. We all learn from each other. Post a blog, teach a seminar, write a paper or a book. Your knowledge, experience, success, failures and view point is the future of networking.
If you are looking for more Cisco career options, Cisco is hosting a virtual career fair on Thursday 02April. It is a come and go all day event (click here for more info). I will be there virtually chillin' in the Cisco lounge three times a day. So drop by and say hey Dude and have a virtual Newcastle with me! I would offer a virtual Cohiba but virtual cigar smoking is illegal in California...
Jimmy Ray Purser
Trivia File Transfer Protocol
Talk about dedication! When Archimedes was killed by a Roman Soldier his last words were; "Don't disturb my equation"