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Top 5 mistakes network / system engineers make that can cause their career to stall

Note: We do not get any form of payment if you choose to buy any books or courses recommended below. Our recommendations are purely based on what we believe to help network professionals secure and grow their careers.

IT is a dynamic sector of our economy. That means that it is critical that you are a dynamic employee and participant. At its core, being complacent and resistant to change can drastically decrease your career prospects and promotions. The things I talk about below are some of the common complaints I hear from hiring managers about network / system engineers.

1. Poor communication skills

One of the most common missteps of any network / system professional can make in their career is a lack of communication with your boss and other stakeholders. 

In today’s business world, IT touches everyone.

That is why it is essential to always keep leaders and other company stakeholders informed of potential outages, bottlenecks, and suggestions on how to improve the overall performance of the network. This shows your employer that you care about how your work impacts the overall goals of your company which in turn demonstrates your ability to handle more complex and high level responsibilities.

Failing to communicate timely with your boss can often lead to missed opportunities since you are not thought of as someone that they can count on.

Another important aspect of your communication skills is how you communicate with your boss and other employees especially those that fall outside of the IT realm (e.g. finance, marketing, sales, etc). When working with other individuals, it is important that you appreciate that you represent the entire IT department. For some, the nature of IT work is complex to understand, so the simpler you can make it for someone, the better. It can be easy to get frustrated and have a short fuse when someone does not pick up quickly on what you are saying. But, it is crucial that you maintain a level-head and try your best to reword it in a way that makes sense to users. If your boss is able to see you as someone that communicates effectively, efficiently, and passionately you will set yourself miles ahead of your IT peers. 

My experience over the years in helping hiring managers fill Network / System administration roles, those with strong communication skills are hard to find and are elevated in their career quicker than most.

2. Network outages

Although this may seem painfully obvious, you would be surprised at how many hiring managers tell me that their network engineers have brought their network down and then have troubles getting it back up. To say the least, employers want their network reliable and up and running.

3. Being resistant to automated scripting and DevOps

Resistance to any technological advancement is a detrimental habit in any career especially in IT. But, key technological innovations that have made significant impacts in IT infrastructure space are:

  • DevOps
  • Automated Scripting.

According to McKinsey 2017 IT-as-a-Service Survey, 82 percent of respondents stated that they had implemented DevOps practices in some part of their organizations. 

In order to stay competitive in the IT marketplace (especially one rocked by a pandemic and a looming recession), network engineers and system administrators should make the effort to learn about DevOps and how the mindset can add great value to a company.

Learning new automated scripting languages may not be an essential skill right now. However, in the near future, you will start to see this skill as a requirement on job postings. Or perhaps your current job will change to require some basic automated scripting/programming knowledge.  

The future of network / system engineering lies partly in Software Define Networking (SDN), and in order to keep up with SDN you must have basic skills in programming languages and automated scripting.If you’re interested in learning DevOps, automated scripting and the 3 other trending skills of Network Engineers, read our blog on the top 5 ways network / system engineers can stay competitive in today’s market.

4. Certain outsourcing can be beneficial to your career

Being resistant to change can sometimes hold you back in your career. Being open and even suggesting outsourcing certain IT functions can improve your career and opportunities.

If you’ve been keeping your skills up to date and are able to save your company money while maintaining equal network performance, you will become a prized resource within your company. Sometimes by being the catalyst of change, you show that you are willing to put the company’s best interest in front of your own. Hiring managers will often reposition your role or promote you. By showing them that you have the mindset and skills to think of the big picture, you will be rewarded.However, if your company still does not see the value you give to them, it might be a time to consider a change. One way to explore opportunities in IT infrastructure is by contacting a recruiter in your area. At Emerald Resource Group, one of our specialties is helping A-player IT professionals advance their careers. If you are ever interested in learning more about what we can do for your career, feel free to contact us here.

5. Not learning outside of work

As we all know, the only thing that is constant is change.  The IT industry is constantly evolving. In order to keep pace and advance your career you need to always be learning and developing new skills while you are not on the clock.  A good habit is to pick one new skill you’re going to train yourself on and come up with a schedule.  Such as knowledge of automation tools, DevOps, and security and how to learn them are discussed in our article: top 5 ways network / system engineers can stay competitive in today’s market

Hiring managers look for employees that can demonstrate the ability to learn new skills on their own long after their formal training has ended.   

By not over relying on your employer to teach you new technologies, it can allow you to teach yourself things you’re personally interested in and keep your job fresh. This also will allow you to introduce new technologies that can help the business and your career.

Taking time each year to learn about new tools or platforms will keep you actively engaged in your own career while demonstrating a great way to set yourself apart from others in your company. Some new technology that CIO’s are asking for include:

  • Cloud Virtualization 
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Kubernetes
  • Docker
  • AWS

Emerald’s advice

When it comes down to it, slight adjustments can have positive results on career trajectory and prospects. Avoid these mistakes by investing into yourself by reading books, getting a mentor, and being mindful of your work. Happy networking!

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