I was in the garden a few years ago when my wife drove home in our car and parked on the drive. I immediately noticed that the car was at an angle.
Upon closer inspection, I could see that one of the front tires was completely flat. When I asked my wife if she had noticed something wrong, she told me she hadn’t! When I sat in the car, I was literally leaning to the left. How could she not have noticed?
The truth was that my wife, like many other car drivers, just got in and drove. She had no idea how to check tire pressures, check the oil or washer fluid, or change a tire in the case of a flat. You can actually get by without knowing this I suppose, but you are taking a risk. Much of the country I live in (Australia) is very remote. If you can’t change a flat tire, you are going to be stuck alone in extremely hot temperatures, and you risk death.
Of course, this post isn’t about cars. It’s a no-so-clever attempt to point out the importance of knowing the basics and the fact that just because you might be able to get away without knowing them doesn’t mean you should because it could all go very wrong for you one day.
There are so many career choice in IT that it boggles the mind: Storage engineer, network design, installation, virtualization, desktop support, firewalls, Linux, NetApp, Data Center, voice/video, programming, penetration testing, ITIL, project management, etc.
The mistake I see so many people making is to miss the basics. I’m talking about TCP/IP, VLANs, network security threats, WAN connection types, cloud computing, troubleshooting methods, and so on. There is no excuse for any IT person not to have a reasonable knowledge of these technologies and concepts.
Having a grounding in the above has several benefits:
- You can converse easily with various IT departments
- You get exposure to various aspects of IT
- Your confidence increases with knowledge
- You can ask intelligent questions during meetings
- You will probably know when you are being lied to
The last one is a biggy. Think Scotty from Star Trek telling Captain Kirk that it will take 4 hours to fix the engines and Kirk replying “you’ve got two.” You just know that many department heads and techs will try to tell you it will cost more and take longer than it actually will.
So, my recommendation is to either pass the below exams or, at the very least, study the books or courses and acquire the valuable knowledge. The syllabuses are set by leading companies, such as IBM and Cisco Systems, and based upon what they feel IT engineers should know in order to do their jobs adequately.
The above, in my humble opinion, are non-negotiables. If you understand the subjects taught in the above courses, you will be very knowledgeable indeed. A huge bonus, of course, is that CompTIA exams are recognized by all the major IT companies, and in fact, they won’t hire you unless you hold the certification.
The below are great to have but not what I’d consider compulsory unless you plan to be an actual hands on network engineer:
- Certified IPv6 Network Associate
- Cisco Certified Network Associate
- ITIL Foundation and/or Project Management
- Wireshark Certified Network Analyst
Having the above four certs would put you in the top 5% of network engineers. Others may have one or two of the above, but put them all together, and you will be a force to be reckoned with.