9.2 The role of a network professional
Finally in this session you will find out more about the roles of networking professionals. In the following videos you’ll hear from three networking professionals currently working in the industry for large or small companies:
- Jason, who works for a computer networking company, designing and installing networks
- Laura, who works for an e-discovery house, identifying and collecting data for legal proceedings
- Toby, who is Head of Applications at a large accountancy and business advisory firm.
They each talk about their role, what it involves and how they got into networking and IT.
Watch the video below, which is about 2.5 minutes long.
Early career interests
[Laura:] I wasn’t really interested in IT at all at school. It was more kind of after-school tinkering around with computers and just kind of figuring out how to get around the restrictions my parents put on the computers that was kind of my motivation.
[Jason:] When I was in school, I was interested in sciences and I did a lot of diving and I was heading towards marine biology. But I also had an interest in computers and
[Laura:] It was more kind of after-school tinkering around with computers and just kind of figuring out how to get around the restrictions my parents put on the computers that was kind of my motivation.
I did GCSEs then went to college and studied computers in general and then specialised in computer networking as I went further down the route.
[Toby:] At school, all I really wanted to do was make money and survive, really. Post that, my father was in IT already, so it was just kind of a natural progression into an IT-related learning, really. And so finishing or going through GCSEs and everything like that I then choose IT and then went to college and got to actually be a bit more hands-on and technical.
[Laura:] So we did some IT, like basics, how to use Word, things like that. And it was just boring; it was so boring. It was just like how to type, how to use Excel, and it wasn’t interesting at all until you got to sort of college and then it was kind of like ‘right, take this apart, put it back together again; if you’ve got screws left over,well you’ve got to find out where they go!’. And it was that kind of hands-on, take it apart, put it back together and it worked, that was actually more interesting. And you’re actually seeing like how this would apply to everyday life and into the workplace as well.
[Toby:] I then choose IT and then went to college and got to actually be a bit more hands-on and technical.
[Jason:] I did GCSEs and then went to college and studied computers in genera and then specialised in computer networking as I went further down the route.
Whilst at college, there was a few good tutors that were pushing me towards networking more than software development and I found it personally easier to get along with networking over software development. And that was the route that I took in the end.
[Laura:] From college I was adamant that I wasn’t going to go to university, that I was going to get an apprenticeship or placement and go from there. But then when I met with some lecturers at an open day at the university, they had such passion which led me ultimately into a degree in security and forensics. And from there, there was guest lecturers and I got a placement year for my third year at university with a digital forensics company who threw me in right at the deep.end and I was performing network collections, digital collections. And then from there t
[Jason:] Whilst I was at college, there was a few good tutors that were pushing me towards networking more than software development and I found it personally easier to get along with networking over software development. And that was the route that I took in the end.
[Laura:] They offered me a job when I finished my degree.
Activity 4 Think about
1. What contribution did the interviewees’ study at school make to their choice of career as a network or IT professional?
The interviewees’ school studies did not inspire them to get involved with networking. Two of the speakers had other career plans, and one said that IT lessons were boring.
2. What/who encouraged the interviewees to embark on a career in networking?
Generally, their interest was captured by their college studies. In particular, the ‘hands-on’ element of networking and IT appealed to them, as did the links to everyday life and work. They were also inspired and encouraged by their college and university lecturers.
Now watch the video below, which is a little under 3 minutes long.
[Laura:] So now I work in an e-discovery house.
[Toby:] Head of Applications at BDO, so that covers five distinct areas.
[Laura:] Collecting lots of different types of data from lots of different data systems. Some of those are networked and can be more tricky to get the data from as you have to sort of traverse the networks in order to get those. But collecting the data and preserving that along with the metadata for use in legal proceedings.
[Toby:] What I really do is problem solve. So I will have people come up with issues or wanting to try and get something done. And it’s trying to find the right parts around our environment or the company to then make things work. And normally from an IT side but half the time it’s also people related as well. So it’s really about finding the right people and tools and bringing them together.
[Jason:] Recently we went to Spain to do a large network install. And walking away from that and seeing it working was quite a good day to have. And just knowing that the network is now going to work and improve their day-to-day work lives is good to know..
[Laura:] No two days are the same, which is brilliant. You can go from spending 14 hours collecting different types of data in one country to being in London investigating a network breech the next to doing all the paperwork the next day. Yes, it’s very varied.
[Jason:] Recently we went to Spain to do a large network install. And walking away from that and seeing it working was quite a good day to have. And just knowing that the network is now going to work and improve their day-to-day work lives is good to know.
[Toby:] A meaty problem which I’m dealing with at the moment is really a merger between ourselves and another organisation and having to just look and see what they’ve got in terms of their environment and their technology and then working out what’s the best to bring together and deliver to people as a single solution. That’s actually a really – it’s a lot of work – but it’s a really fun problem to have to deal with.
[Jason:] On a day-to-day basis, I’m looking at networks all over Luton, mostly. We go to smaller companies and if they have issues we resolve them, we install new networks – networks being anything from computers to CCTV because that’s all network based now, door-access controls and so on.
[Toby:] Probably just knowing that you’ve been able to get something working. So that idea of becoming a part of a unit and working for a company and believing in their values or their principles, and then being able to help them achieve or deliver something. When that pulls off and it’s after a long piece of work – and we’re talking like a good 6 or 9 month piece – that point where you just actually get to take a step back, relax and then kind of go OK, yeah, that’s a useful piece done, that makes me smile.
[Laura:] So if there’s something that’s kind of got into the category of you know, ‘above my pay grade’, ‘that’s too tricky’, ‘we need to outsource this’, and then through perseverance you’ve managed to get to the bottom of it, you’ve managed to get the job done. Yeah, that really sends me home with a smile on my face.
Activity 5 Think about
1. What surprised you most about what is involved in being a networking professional?
Perhaps you were surprised when Jason mentioned that he had recently travelled to Spain as part of his work? Or when Laura said that her work involved preparing for legal proceedings? Or when Toby said that much of his job was people-related?
2. All three interviewees identified aspects of their jobs that they particularly liked and that gave them a sense of achievement. What were some of these?
Variety (‘no two days are the same’); problem solving and sorting things out; achieving things ‘above their ‘pay grade’.
Activity 6 Think about
Below are links to three websites that provide information about careers as a network professional. Pick any two of these links and spend no more than five minutes looking at each one. Jot down a few notes on the kind of work a network engineer does, and routes into a networking career.
- https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/ job-profiles/ network-engineer [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]
- https://www.prospects.ac.uk/ job-profiles/ network-engineer
- https://www.newhorizons.com/ article/ how-to-become-a-network-engineer
Depending on which of the websites you visited, you will have seen that a network engineer can be involved in the following aspects of computer and communications networks:
- Planning; design; analysis; installation; development; maintenance; repair, troubleshooting; administration; management.
The sites identified the following entry routes:
- University (entry at A level): Foundation Degree, Higher National Diploma, Bachelor Degree or Masters
- College (entry at A level or Diploma): Professional Certificates and Diplomas
- Apprenticeship (entry at GCSE or A level): Professional Certificates and Diplomas
- Work experience (for example, from IT helpdesk or entry level IT support): Professional Certificates and Diplomas.
All the sites identified recognised technical training courses, for example:
- Cisco Certification Program
- Comp TIA Certification
- Jupiter Network Certification Program
- Microsoft Certification.