Let me introduce you to a dear friend of mine called Mark. We served in the police force together and then left for careers in IT. We worked together for an IT service management company and then at Cisco, doing network support.
When our jobs were outsourced to India, we went in two different directions. I started my own IT training company, and Mark went into project management and then into supporting desktop apps.
Mark is actually highly sought after. He has been given high level security clearance and travels around the country as a freelancer, supporting Microsoft Sharepoint for government departments and large organizations. It’s actually a pretty good role, involving a broad range of tasks, including running training sessions for staff, walking around the office, offering help if people get stuck using it, and supporting the software in general.
How did this all happen? It’s pretty easy really. He was working on another role and saw that the company was struggling to find a suitably qualified person to support Sharepoint, so he got a few books, got access to the software, passed an exam, and became the go to person.
Mark found the perfect niche: An IT field that was in high demand and yet had very few qualified people available. This means two things: Lots of work offers and a high salary. Pretty much a perfect situation if you ask me.
Perversely, competition for low paying and low demand jobs is fierce. Everybody is fighting to get into helpdesk or junior support roles. Employers can push down salaries and make unfair demands because they are being inundated with applicants.
The smart person looks around for what we in business call “the starving crowd.” Who is it that urgently needs help but can’t find it?
Here are a few IT careers you should consider if you want to stop the insanity of throwing your resume into the pot with 1000 other desperate applicants and praying somebody will call you back.
Application Support: There are a huge number of bespoke and commercially available applications out there that are a vital part of a company's survival. At some point, a business decision was made to put all the HR, intranet, or some other function onto a certain platform, and now it needs supporting.
Think SAP or, better still, Microsoft Sharepoint, which was created in 2001 and is still being improved and developed.
Start with the MOS Sharepoint 2013.
Network Design: I'm always baffled that most students want to go into network support or installations, but few chose network design. Design is far less stressful; the certifications consider the entire network as a service rather than just focusing on routing, switching, or security. You can consider design far more holistic.
Few vendors actually offer design certifications, which is insane if you think about it. How are customers supposed to plan and prepare for integration if there are no design principles to follow?
Consider the Cisco Certified Design Associate.
Cloud Computing: I've actually mentioned this in other blog posts, but the Cloud seems to be something everyone has heard about but most don’t understand. While there are some cons to moving there, most companies will be using at least part of their services on the Cloud in the next 12-24 months.
The decisions around moving to the Cloud are business critical, and the entire process will need to be carefully planned, managed, and executed. Will you be ready? I can tell you from experience that most IT engineers are not.
Consider the CompTIA Cloud Essentials as a first step.
IT Governance: You need only mention the word “compliance” and you will strike fear into the heart of most IT managers and business executives.
I’ve worked in companies with no governance, and I've worked in those who take it very seriously. Guess which ones are still in business? I know the title sounds dry and boring, but to me, the person who understands IT and how it integrates with the business will never be short of a job.
Most companies strive to gain government approval and ISO recognition either because it’s now a legal requirement or people won't do business with them without it. It’s the same with car manufacturers who voluntarily submit their cars to car crash testing with NCAP.
Consider ITIL Foundation as an excellent start.
Virtualization Engineer: Virtualization represents a huge cost benefit to companies and represents a critical part of the IT infrastructure. The usual goal of virtualization is to centralize administrative tasks while improving scalability and overall hardware-resource utilization.
Somebody needs to understand this technology and how to utilize it to the benefit of the company. This is where you come in.
Consider VMware certification.
Storage Engineer: The amount of data now stored by companies boggles the mind. It’s the role of the storage engineer to ensure this is done safely, securely, and efficiently with zero downtime and fast retrieval.
This can be a very labor and cost intensive exercise, but companies such as NetApp have created ingenious solutions to deal with this issue. By now you will have guessed that there must be a qualified engineer to manage this process.
Consider the NetApp Certified Storage Associate.
Juniper Network Engineer: What do you mean who? Juniper manufactures high performance network equipment. Their revenue last year was $4.7 billion, and they employ over 10,000 people. Their equipment is used by major banks, ISPs, and governments.
The trouble is most budding network engineers want to study Cisco or Microsoft because it seems everyone has heard of them. Does it sound like there is a gap in the market to you?
Consider the entry level Juniper Network Certified Associate course.
Technical Project Management: Most of the project managers I've met aren’t technical. That always struck me as somewhat strange, considering somebody should really know if the IT team are making promises they can’t keep or overestimating how long a particular task will take.
A project manager who understands the technical side of the business will be in high demand. Consider adding a project management qualification, such as the CompTIA Project+, to your technical certifications.
I hope this helps.
Paul Browning is the author of several best selling IT books and the creator of www.howtonetwork.com, a learning IT certification website.
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