7 emerging network jobs that could boost your career

Hot trends such as cloud, edge and remote work, plus new approaches including SASE, SD-WAN and ZTNA, are reshaping network job titles and skills requirements

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The relatively stable world of enterprise networking has undergone quite a bit of upheaval over the past few years. As a result, networking professionals with traditional job titles have assumed new responsibilities, and entirely new job titles have emerged.

Key trends reshaping the jobs of network professionals include increased adoption of cloud services; the push for more automation of business processes; and the rise of technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN), SD-WANInternet of Things (IoT) , secure access service edge (SASE), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and edge computing.

Traditional roles such as network administrator, network manager, and network architect are still relevant and in demand, says Jeff Weber, executive director in the technology practice at talent solutions provider Robert Half. But newer positions in areas such as cloud administration, cloud architecture and site-reliability engineering are hot, he says.

“Clearly, the acceleration of cloud adoption and edge computing is increasing and pervasive,” Weber says. “While the functional role and title doesn’t always change, the skills required for the role reflect the trend.”

The ongoing surge in cloud services is having a major influence on networking jobs. In February, Gartner reported that enterprise IT spending on public cloud computing will overtake spending on traditional IT by 2025. Almost two thirds of spending on application software will be directed toward cloud technologies in 2025, the firm said.

Edge computing, which impacts how networks are built and managed, is also gaining momentum. A January IDC report said worldwide spending on edge computing is expected to be $176 billion in 2022, an increase of 15 percent over 2021.

Enterprise and service provider spending on hardware, software, and services for edge computing is expected to sustain this pace of growth through 2025, when spending will reach nearly $274 billion, according to IDC.

The total number of network-related jobs will continue to increase as organizations enable business and digital transformation, Weber says. “We experience both demand for resources to maintain and secure the existing network, as well as project-based resources to design and deploy networks,” he says. “The expansion and now presumably permanent adoption of hybrid [and] ‘work from anywhere’ models increases the demand for expanded network capabilities.”

He adds that the edge computing trend is driving a change in security frameworks, which in turn is driving changes to network architectures.

Some titles remain the same, but requirements change

The skills needed for positions such as network engineer are changing at all levels, says Joe Clarke, distinguished customer experience engineer at Cisco.

A few of the drivers of change are well documented, Clarke says, including the cloud, SDN and SASE. “These architectures are permeating the network engineering job role, and we see it in terms of the modern network engineer job descriptions,” he says.

“Sometimes it takes digging in the requisite skill section of the job description to see what the employer wants,” Clarke says. For example, companies are looking for people who understand Python (used for task automation, data analysis and data visualization), Ansible (also used for IT automation, configuration management, application deployment and cloud provisioning) and Terraform (infrastructure lifecycle management.)

In many ways, it is a given that network professionals will know networking, Clarke says. But employers also want someone who will bring value to the business, “which means scale, agility, and competitiveness,” he says. “And all that must happen while protecting internal, and more importantly, customer data.”

“Today’s network professional is a networker, automator, cloud connector, software maven, and cyber sleuth all rolled into one,” he says.

Clarke has seen modern network professionals identify with titles such as network defender, hybrid work engineer, agile NetOps architect, and even chief chaos officer. “These self-identifiers highlight the responsibility that today's networking engineers feel in protecting their businesses and ensuring reliability in the face of any level of disruption,” he says.

Although professionals in the field should not expect a flood of exotic new job titles when they explore the market, there are some emerging roles that reflect the latest trends.

Here are some of the more recent network-related job titles:

Automation Advisor

With the increased use of automation in IT environments, it’s not surprising that there would be a growing need for people with skills and/or interest in automation.

People in this role would design, plan and implement cloud solutions for enterprise customers, and have experience implementing automation tools for provisioning and configuration management, according to Charles Pritzl, director at Experis Practices, a division of staffing firm ManpowerGroup.

Among other tasks are designing and deploying container platform-based tools; delivering large-scale application modernization projects; and working on projects that encompass systems architecture, proof-of-concept and technical deployment services.

Required skills might include implementation or system development experience; cybersecurity, including risk management, risk analytics, security risk analytics, vendor risk management and application security; IT operations; an understanding of network technologies; and cloud development platforms.

Cloud Automation Engineer

Candidates looking to fill this role should be skilled in the use of automation tools for provisioning and configuration management, and have a basic understanding of network and communications technology including TCP/IP, Ethernet, UWB, Bluetooth, etc.

Other important skills include experience in Linux development environment; data center and cloud computing transition; cloud computing (private, public and hybrid); virtualization; storage platforms; containers; software-defined networking; and orchestration tools.

Cloud automation engineers, who can expect to command a salary of $90,000 to $150,000, also need to be familiar with programming techniques using C, C++, C#, Python, Structured Text or similar languages, Experis says.

Cyber Defense Network Engineer

This is one of the many emerging networking roles with a cyber security focus.

The description for this job includes the ability to create and maintain standard operating procedure documentation for security appliances; and hands-on experience in security with an emphasis on engineering design, configuration, implementation, operations, and maintenance of a variety of security technologies.

Salaries range from $80,000 to $215,000, according to Experis.

Hyperconvergence Engineer

This position requires the ability to troubleshoot server hardware, hyperconverged infrastructures, and virtualization technologies. Knowledge of technologies and areas such as VMWare ESXi, Linux, storage administration, and network administration is also required.

Other important skills and certifications include an understanding of Kubernetes/Docker; VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification; Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification; and data center experience.

IoT/Edge Data Engineer

Any job roles related to IoT and edge computing are likely to be in demand for some time, as more organizations advance their strategies in these areas.

This position requires a knowledge of IoT wireless networking technologies; social, ethical and legal IoT information gathering; implementing IoT data governance; intelligent edge to intelligent mesh performance benchmarking; and data brokering and consolidation.

Salaries range from $60,000 to $180,000, according to Experis.

Network Intelligence Engineer

This role requires knowledge and hands-on experience in security with an emphasis in engineering design, configuration, implementation, operations, and maintenance of a variety of security technologies, according to Experis.

Professionals in these positions, who can expect to earn between $60,000 and $215,000, must also have the ability to construct network visualizations (diagrams, terrain maps, reports, etc.); and have an understanding of network security products and techniques; IT network-based attack methodologies and tools; and security operations and incident response technologies and methodologies.

Other requirements are highly developed research and analytical skills, strong organizational skills and attention to detail, and the ability to think ahead of attackers.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) Security Engineer

With so much focus on the Zero Trust model today, naturally there will be roles emerging that are specifically tied to the cybersecurity architecture.

These professionals need to have experience in enterprise security, including familiarity with data architecture and identity management, access control, network segmentation techniques, as well as expertise in cloud and hybrid infrastructures, applications, and security.

They also need to have an understanding and delivery experience with Zero Trust network access frameworks, and advanced knowledge of application concepts. Salaries range from $95,000 to $163,000, according to Experis.

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