My wife has been a full-time mother for the past six years. She’s looking to get into full-time employment and so went to see a recruitment consultant for advice. My wife used to project manage multi-million dollar marketing campaigns for a major UK bank.
She returned home dejected, saying that she was advised that she needed to start back at the bottom and work her way back up over several years. My wife likes to follow rules, whereas I like to break them. I pointed out that this recruitment consultant was clearly giving her some very bad advice.
When I decided to start my own company, I had advice from people telling me I needed an MBA first. When I decided to franchise it, people told me that I needed to expand the company first. When I decided to emigrate, people told me that I was making a mistake and it would be too hot in Australia and it was full of snakes and poisonous spiders!
But I see this all the time in the IT industry. People who have no clue hand out advice, but worse still, people who don’t know any better follow it. In particular, they see job adverts posted on the web by HR people (who have no clue about IT) and it is basically a wish list of skills. It reads “Cisco CCNA to CCIE, Microsoft MCSE, Unix expertise, network design, firewalls, cabling, VMware, etc.”
Sprinkle in some shift work, some 24/7 on call working for no extra pay plus weekend work and you have all the makings of the job from hell. Even if you could get somebody with expertise in all the above fields, they would usually be at a consultant level and not working in a job doing a bit of everything.
Now, you do what you want with your career and life, but hear me when I say that you will never reach your potential in the IT industry if you try to be all things to all people. Get a strong base and then choose the path you want to follow, be it Cisco, Microsoft, security, wireless, voice, or whatever. So many to choose from.
I understand the person who works for a smaller company who can’t afford to employ an entire IT department. They need to know a little about a lot of stuff, but the trap here is that there is nowhere for them to go in their career. I’ve seen this time and time again. You may be an invaluable resource to the company, but you will be stuck there forever.
I’ve met the jack of all trades many, many times over the years. They might feel important and they might have a lot of freedom at work, but they are always tied to the pager, and their family and personal time is always stolen by the company when there is a network emergency or change (done at midnight or the weekend). The sugar high of the status and money will only last so long.
So, my first point is to take advice if you wish, but then use your common sense. Most advice is plain wrong. Would you hire somebody for a job if they could do ten things at an average level? Doubtful. You’d get somebody who was great at one or two things.
My second point is to encourage you to build a base with CompTIA A+, Net+, Security+, and maybe Storage+, then learn your routing and TCP/IP with the Cisco CCNA and CCNP Routing and Switching.
By this point, you will be both confident and knowledgeable and have a very strong foundation to go into a specialization if you so wish.
This is my advice. Please feel free to use it, adapt it, or ignore it and choose your own path.
Check out www.howtonetwork.com if you are considering any of the above exams. You can join for one dollar.