Also what else would I need to land a good job? And how can I get the much needed experience? I've been googling this and I'm just not finding satisfying answers, I'd like to have an actual conversation with someone who knows.
Also what else would I need to land a good job? And how can I get the much needed experience? I've been googling this and I'm just not finding satisfying answers, I'd like to have an actual conversation with someone who knows.
What kind of town do you live in? Big city....suburb.....BFE farmtown? Are there any small mom and pop shops where you could job-shadow somebody? Even if you have to do it for free, just get some experience under your belt. I did that my freshman year of college at a local dial-up ISP. By my sophomore year was doing desktop support on-campus and by junior year I was a network admin at one of the campus computer labs.
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Now a days, get a bachelors degree, in anything. It's an employer's market, it's super competitive and HR departments scan hundreds of applicants sometimes for jobs. When I got into IT 12+ years ago, there was barely any formal schooling for most IT positions and being able to prove you could do that job was all that was needed.
That said, figure out exactly what you want to do, and where. Being a 1-trick pony as a net admin for a small business can be fun, and super frustrating. Being an IT engineer for a global company may make you feel like a cog in the machine. There's a fine line of happiness between "help, my printer won't print" and "sh*t's muffed up, we're losing money, fix it now!!!!"
Oh, and get learned on everything you can, all operating systems, all hardware, databases, servers, etc...
Honestly I have no clue what I want to do with my life. I don't know if I can really see myself sitting in front of a computer all day, but I seem to have a knack for it. I'm just trying to move out of my parents house as soon as possible, hence the two year degree. If I need a BA, I might just go for a computer science degree and go for a computer software engineer position. Anyone have a walkthrough for how to get to this position?
Also I live in a small town in Pennsylvania, but I'd love to move.
OP: I can tell a lot is going on in your mind. Would be a good idea to really just do some soul-searching and figure out you want to do in life. However, I'll be the first one to tell you that you'll probably change your mind at least once.
Here's what I did...
I always had an interest in things related to computers and wanted to be involved in it. I got an associate's degree in computer programming, and then eventually got a bachelor's degree in Information Technology. A few weeks before I graduated, I contacted a few companies and basically offered "free work" for the experience. I worked there until I graduated, then asked for a position and they made an offer I couldn't refuse. I'm like a system admin for about 30 different small business (5-20 computer networks). I handle their workstations, servers, peripherals, network, offsite backup, AV, vendor management, etc.. Basically, I (and my boss) handle everything related to their network.
Fast forward to now, and I have learned A LOT more more on the job that in college. Even just from a non-technical standpoint, like probing customers for information. Man, talking to end users can be a challenge. They literally will give you a completely different story if you do not ask the right questions in the right way.
Here's the short of it and this my humble opinion...
If you have the money+time, as well as an aspiration of moving up into say, a management position, then I think a Bachelor's degree is a good idea.
Otherwise, take a few applicable classes at your local community/technical college and then get a couple of certifications to fill out your resume. Then just start applying.
If there's a way for you to do some type of an internship, or just volunteer somewhere, I would strongly recommend it. I did it and it was a great way to gain experience and test the waters. It's good for the employer because it means you're being trained for little to no cost to them, and they'll likely be compelled to keep you around (if you're good of course). I think others would agree that often times experience trumps school/certifications so keep that in mind.
You're not going to find satisying answers by google searching... Every IT person has an opinion and many of them don't jive with other IT people's opinions. Get a grasp on what exactly you'd like to learn and go into, then start researching the certifications that relate and give an easier one a try... If you don't like it you haven't lost much. This can also work as a test of your learning capability in a technical field (whether you pick things up quickly or not).
I would honestly plan on obtaining a Bachelor's degree. I did mine in 3 1/2 years but it was mostly paid for by my employer so I had a leg up and some free time working the evening shift (plus no kids). In the future, IT is going to be extremely competitive (It kind of is now, but it'll just get worse), especially when employers can get people in other countries for a quarter to an eighth of the cost they would pay you with benefits.
If you think you like networking:
Read a few chapters of a Network+ certification book
If you think you like PC Repair/Sysadmin:
Read a few chapters of a A+ certification book
If you do both of these and feel like you need a little extra than just reading a book, enroll in a class at your local community college (DO NOT PAY MORE THAN $2K for either one of these classes - Your local CC should offer both of them).
You can do all this while enrolling at your community college to take your GenEds... Chances are there is some kind of AA that can transfer to a state school where you can get a degree in something computer related.
That said, here is the path I took (This is long, if you don't read it skip to the end):
Junior in High School I worked for the Navy as a contractor on a help desk (I was 16 when I started). I worked there for almost 2 years, completed an A+ Certification in my junior year and CCNA before the class ended in my senior year. Once I completed my CCNA I started doing network related stuff in that job, which is really how I got into networking in general. I moved on from the Navy to the Cisco partner.
Starting at the Cisco Partner I had my CCNA but quickly polished off a bunch of other Cisco certifications all within a year (CCDA, CCNP, CCDP and CCIE written). I worked on a help desk in this job also but more network related instead of desktop and also did design and troubleshooting work for other customer contracts that we had. Finally I worked onsite at NIH and eventually got a TS clearance and worked at another customer for a couple of years... This employer gave me a lot of good experience and honestly the best experience was getting to work in an environment with other professionals more knowledgable than I was... I hate the feeling in my current job now of not really having anyone around to learn from anymore. After this job I left to work as a field tech for a telecom company (This is about 5 years later).
I worked at a telco in northern virginia installing and configuring customer CPE and troubleshooting network and phone issues. I took this job mainly to get good experience with the customer end of the telecommunications world... Most techs you talk to will have no idea how circuits are wired throughout a building, how to configure access equipment and how to pull stats from telco equipment without working for them ... This was invaluable experience and I recommend it to anyone who plans to troubleshoot networks to try for a year (that's about all it takes to learn most things useful and you will eventually get super bored). After a year as a field tech I wanted to get back inside, get paid more and get back to what I liked doing, planning, designing and implementing networks, so now I do that for a global telecom.
At this point I had basically let all my certs expire which wasn't a big deal as I had a good amount of experience in many areas of networking from layer 1 to 7. I had actually gotten a call via a headhunter for this job and it was a 6 month to possible perm position and I took it as I had gotten bored of being a field tech. This was a pretty big risk as I had minimal savings and after 6 months I could be without a job and the one I was in was very stable and had decent benefits. Ended up being a great move and I started out doing semi-challenging work but after about 3 years it is all pretty much the same every day and kinda boring. I still get to do some pretty cool stuff but the fun wears out kinda fast in a large organization. They paid for just about all of my bachelor's degree though and I get some pretty amazing benefits. Of the 10 contractors hired on for 6 months, only three of us were hired and my skillset easily exceeded even employees that were working there for quite some time. Right now i'd like to get into engineering enterprise MPLS and VPLS networks but i've gotta transfer into our engineering group to get some experience first.
What I take away from my entire experience is that you will be surprised where some opportunities come from and sometimes they fall into your lap!
My first job right out of high school was a result of attending a job fair at the local Army base... I applied in I think March and did not hear anything back for 3 months... all of the sudden I got a call and they needed someone for the summer to fill in for a lady on maternity leave on the help desk. The command like me enough to offer me a position on a contract for an entire year part time while I was finishing school. In high school I was making $12.50/hr and then $17.50/hr after I got my CCNA and was still in high school... Pretty amazing when your friends all make $6/hr!
So I pretty much worked from high school, got a bunch of certifications within a couple of years and rode them out for about 8 years and didn't end up renewing them. Not until recently did I feel the need to get a degree because of the economy but I am glad that I did!
Take this for what it's worth, but I kind of did things a little backwards and many don't go back to get a degree and it works for them... I will say my parents were disappointed that I didn't stick college out in the first place, but I always told them that my certifications will pay for my degree, and they did... I think it will be less common that people will succeed without a degree in the future, or the opportunities for them will be harder to get.
Last edited by 1stRabbit; 10-09-2012 at 11:29 PM.
I realize some of my last post isn't totally relevant to you and I wrote it because we get this type of question a lot and someone will find it useful...
You're already in a Cisco class which is great... Your school should have resources to get you some kind of temporary job placement... TAKE IT and put more effort into it than most things you have done in your life so far.
If you can keep a quiet but a yearnin for learnin type attitude you'll do well. The people you get in some of your early positions since you are young will feel a need and a desire to mentor you and this is exactly what you want... Learn from them and their experiences as it will help you a lot. I am still really fond of my first job at the Navy and it's almost one of those "remember the good old days" nostalgia type of moment... Those people really cared about me and how well I did and you will see throughout your career as you get older that eventually people are drones and just want to get in, do the time and go home, so they won't spend the time to mentor and build the relationship.
Now a question for you... How are you liking the Cisco Network Academy? I thought it was a great program but was a little slow for my tastes at the time so I buzzed through it really quick... I also thought it wasn't thorough enough and was well supplemented by the Cisco Press exam cert guide.
I don't usually like Bill O'Reilly, but he did say something good with his closing thoughts to us young folks (I still consider myself young and i'm almost 30!)... "Find something you are good at and find a way to make money doing it". For someone starting a career, I can't think of better advice.
Wow, that's exactly the type of post I was looking for haha, thanks for putting the time into typing all of that. If the Cisco program was slow for you, the pace were taking it at in high school would be intolerable. It's split into two different courses , Cisco 1 and 2, each a year long. It makes it hard to concentrate, but we do get some hands on opportunities.
Of course we're only in that class for 40 minutes a day so...
Again thanks a lot for the post .
Last edited by Grassten; 10-10-2012 at 09:29 AM.
That's awesome that you're taking it in high school. There was no such thing where I went to school. There was a technology class, but it consisted mostly of learning the "home keys" and typing fast. Of course, this was 10+ years ago.
Quite frankly, I think middle school kids are fully capable of learning entry level computer/networking principles. Hell, motivated elementary kids probably could. A lot of the early stuff is simple. Not to mention, it's a skill that comes in handy everywhere.
It would be awesome if our "education" system was properly effective, and there was a true technology track where when kids graduated, it was the equivalent of having a certificate, or even an associate's degree in a field like computer programming, or hardware maintenance. Then it wouldn't matter if college was expensive, because they wouldn't HAVE to go unless just to better themselves.
Regarding the market, it really depends on your flexibility. The national market was never really hit for skilled, experienced network engineers. I've had positions open perpetually over the last five years, all ranging from $50k to 100k. It is very difficult to find the right people and when we do, they often leave for another company paying more money. I also get five to ten calls from recruiters every week trying to offer jobs. When it comes to hiring skilled network engineers, no one cares about your degree. It means absolutely nothing for the hardcore jobs. I'm talking global WAN and large datacenter LAN stuff. There just aren't enough people who really know the right skills. Now, if you are in a small market, unwilling to relocate, and there is no large company with big teams of engineers, you'll probably need every bit of help you can get. It's ironic that small businesses found in smaller markets are usually more picky because they tend to hire for smaller scale networks and the people with those skills are far more common.
Let me briefly give you my background and then my advice. I dropped out of high school, have no college and no certifications. I got my start while in high school doing internet tech support (dial-up) was promoted into tech support for business customers (T1, Frame Relay, lease line stuff) and I've been working for one of the largest companies in the world for nearly ten years working their WAN and data centers.
If you want to do networking, keep learning the Cisco stuff. CCNP level is where most of the demand is. Additional BGB practice is a plus. No need for fancy equipment, download Dynamips, Dynagen, or GNS3. This will simulate Cisco router hardware and let you run a real IOS. While you are learning, after high school, get a job doing internet tech support. You put to use some basic network skills but also, as previously mentioned, you'll pick up skills such as communicating with customers. Having to solve a problem while a layman is describing symptoms is a very good skill. If you manage to get some Cisco certs while doing Internet tech support, you'll be a god among nerds.
If you WANT to do college, go for it. It will help you if you want to change careers, break into management, or if the market turns really tough. Personally, I wish I had a BA because as I get long in the tooth, I would like an MBA to help me climb the ranks of management. MBA is long way off with no BA. But if you think you NEED a degree, you'll be wasting your money.
Oh yeah, another note: I think the most valuable skill in the market right now is advance load balancing. Its blown up over the last few years and requires a broad set of skills from networking to advanced TCP and up through layer 7, knowing HTTP headers, requests, replies, etc. Also, most load balancers are run on Linux platforms and use TCL programming for the advanced stuff. So networking, web application, server, and programming skills. If you got all that, and are good at it, especially in F5 products, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, or any number of major players will pay 100k-150k to start if you are willing to move to Redmond or Palo Alto. No degree or cert necessary.
I will tell you I fall somewhere in between Loke and 1stRabbit as far as education. I graduated H.S. and eventually got a CCNA when I was in the service, got out and have ridden on experience and reputation since. I've got no other formal education (i.e. college) and started out repairing PC's at the local mom and pop computer shop when I was a kid (~15).
I've always simply tried to learn a little about everything I could get my hands on. I spent about a year or so doing strictly Cisco work but all the while asking a lot of questions about other equipment that other groups were charged with maintaining/troubleshooting and getting invovled where possible to learn what I could from them. Eventually I got into servers/OS's (I'd been playing with linux for kicks since kernel 1.2.13) working in a datacenter, then storage (iSCSI) and then virtualization which I had also been tinkering with purely for entertainment before VMWare had a product for sale. I now work for one of the largest software companies in the world providing architecture consulting services (more or less) for our largest customers (Think GE, Verizon, Apple) in the virtualization space. While the Cisco stuff is great (and an excellent place to start IMO) try not to pidgeonhole yourself because when the times get tough like they are now, it's the broad skillset that will save your ass, a one trick pony is only so valuable.
There are going to be a lot of guys out there in the workforce who will appreciate your thirst for knowledge, and there will be people who are tight lipped and not willing to help so find some more senior guys and pick their brains and even if you've solved a problem see if you can learn more about it from a conceptual view so you can apply it again in the future because you will at some point.
An Associates will open doors for sure. I have been fortunate enough to move up the ranks with an Associates Degree and a few certs.
I started working in collections and wiggled my way into IT while working on my associates. My boss at the time promised me if I worked for him 1 year he would help me get into any department I wanted. At the time I had already started working on going to school and was 6 months into the program. I met with the Director of our IT department and CFO. They loved everything I was about and offered me a Helpdesk position.
I worked for this company for close to 3 years doing everything from solving simple helpdesk issues to server upgrades, and data center moves. After working there for 3 years it was time for me to move on.
I began working for a rather small healthcare company. I began as 1 of 2 technicians that supported the 20 small locations. My experience quickly moved me into a IT Supervisor roll supporting all aspects of IT for this company. Eventually I was responsible for all future acquisitions and their IT duties (Networking, Telecom, Working with Vendors, Contracts etc.. ) After 5 years of wearing EVERY hat in the Dept. I was "promoted" to Telecom Administrator it was a way to get a bump in pay duties were still the same and included planning for a telephony refresh at our corporate facility. After completing the Telephony refresh I thought I was a shoe in for IT Manager since he was on his way out. Unfortunately for me I wasn't the type to blow smoke up peoples asses so all I got was the Sr. Title. Sr. Telcom Administrator with a little more pay. My responsibilities were now to integrate multiple sites 75+ sites telecom systems with our corporate system, upgrade to MPLS , Refresh the network at our CoLo and a few other projects.
After 6.5 years I decided it was time to move on. I am currently a Telecom Analyst making a hell of a lot more money I was making at my last job. With a lot less responsibility and a team that knows way more than I do on the Telecom side which is helpful when I run into a pinch. The company I currently work for is a global company. I really miss the small company atmosphere but am happy to be where I am at with my "measly" associates degree and a couple certifications. I am currently working on my Bachelors taking classes PT.
I would like to think that the associates opened doors. My ability to learn on the Job made things easier for me to climb the corporate ladder. I learned Theory in school and how to deal with situations in a real world environment on the job which was extremely valuable.
I guess to answer your question if an AA is worth anything.. My Answer would be it opened doors for me. Salary wise it has tripled what I was making 6.5 year ago. Every answer is different but I am a believer that you can get your money out of an AA. Certs will also help and sometimes be more valuable than that AA.
Don't ever let anyone tell you that you don't have xyz degree or certification for a position you are more than capable of doing.
I'lll just give you my story for anther point of view
I have a degree in Criminal Justice. I specialized in forensics, but I've been a computer guy all my life. I built computers in high school for anyone willing to buy one from me and that sort of thing.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. I need a job, and working on campus seems like a great gig. I had a friend in the campus tech department, and my particular university used all students for their help desk and hardware tech support. Help us build a resume and what not. Anyway, I met the boss of the tech shop and we basically just chatted about our computer no what projects we've done. At he time I had a computer cooled by mineral oil in a mini fridge and he got a kick out of that.
Anyway, I worked for my university tech shop for 2 more years until it came time for me to graduate. I had a degree in Criminal Justice - so I cold go down that path - and 2 years experience in IT. I had worked up to be the lead Mac hardware tech for the university. 3 years later they still call me to ask questions lol.
I had just gotten engaged so I decided to go the IT route - good pay and it won't keep me away from home at odd hours of the night. The school district where I graduated from college was hiring a tech 1 and through common friends word got to their director I was graduating. The IT world in a small town is a pretty tight community where we know at least who most workers even T other employers are. The director called me and hired me based on reputation alone
To this day I regret leaving that job more than any other - but more on that later. A small school district was the best place to get experience I could imagine. We had 3 techs, 1 says admin/ net admin / servers etc. we were a small group doing a big job. I learned everything because we did everything. I became a very well rounded tech just from on the job training.
My wife graduated college and was offered a job in another city, so with much sadness I left that school district. I jumped around a couple corporate IT jobs but I could never find a group of people I really enjoyed working with.
I had thrown an application in with all the districts in my new city - but no one knew me. By this time I had 4 years experience, but no formal training or certifications. One of the local districts gave me a call and and I went in for an interview. I was of course a natural fit, as many school districts in Texas use similar software and technology.
So that's where I'm at now. I've worked up to a tech 2 and I'm in my 5th year of IT work. I have people who work under me, and what I want to talk to you about is our interns.
Your district may do something like both of the ones I have worked in. We hire high school seniors that can do a cp-op program to intern with our tech department. They lend a hand and get valuable insight to the industry before even graduating. Many of our interns come back to work full time after they finish college.
You might want to see if your schools offer a similar program. Maybe even drop the It director an email and just mention you would love to help out their department (free for experience) after class on your campus. The worst they can say is no.
Anyway, I may be out of the ordinary but I done have much on paper that says I know what I'm doing - but anyone who sees ,e work quickly knows I'm a valuable employee.
My personal opinion is that IT in education is the place to be. There is good job security, and the school holidays don't hurt. We work during the summer, but its usually projects like upgrading infrastructure. You may be ale to make more money in the private sector, but I like having teachers as my user vs a crazy lawyer or a huge corporation
Your mileage may vary, but you sound like you are on the right track. See if your high school, and later on your college have programs in place that could help you reach your end game.
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