Please help me plan my career

Operaghost

[H]ard|Gawd
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Jun 4, 2004
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I'm not exactly sure where I ultimately want to end up in the IT field. I'm leaning towards Network Systems and Data Analyst. What I do know, is I've always loved working with computers. I'm pretty good with general hardware, and have a very basic understanding of networking.

I have a small amount of help desk experience from the dial up days. Other than that I don't have any IT work experience. I work full time in another field at the moment and have a 10 month old daughter. That should give you an idea of what kind of schedule I have.

I'm confident in my knack for this field, and I'm dedicated to accomplishing my goals.

With this said my plan thus far goes something like this:

  1. Work on some basic certifications geared towards networking/data communications
  2. Hunt for any type of entry level job. (I'm going to need to earn at least $15 am hour for me to financially be able to accept this position)
  3. Begin career "networking" to establish potential job leads, etc (my mother in law works with cisco so this is probably a good place for me to start)
  4. Once I have my basic certifications complete, begin some practical experience at home, such as setting up different networks with different configurations, software, securities, etc. Then try to "hack" these networks/systems for kind of an opposite angle of learning.
  5. After I have my entry level position and/or practical experience I want to start working on an associates degree.
  6. Continue to gain certifications (hopefully paid for by employer) and work experience
  7. Pursue BS degree in Computer and Information Systems Management
  8. Celebrate, that should pretty much put me in good position to excel in this field

Some questions/feedback request.


  • Would you change anything in the "plan" above? If so, why?
  • What "basic" certs should I start out with?
  • What types of degrees should I be looking at for networking & data systems, security, etc?

p.s. Out of curiosity, if I were to minor in a language, what would be the most beneficial I guess you would say, for the IT field? Chinese? Hindi? For example, if I were going for a culinary arts degree, then I would consider a minor in spanish, since there are so many spanish speaking cultures working in the food industry.
 
Joined
Oct 17, 2004
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41
Greetings,

For starters how old are you and where are you located?

For starters forget about the BS degree. I'm serious. I have a BS and Masters in Computer Information Systems and have been working in the industry for 16 years. Right now I'm the Network and Security Manager for a regional bank and have a staff of 6 and am looking to hire another person. When I look at the stack of resumes there are only at 2 things I care about: Certifications and years of experience. I don't give a rats ass about what school or how many worthless degrees you have.

Why don't I care? Because colleges these days are nothing more than expensive deploma mills. (I'm looking at you Sullivan, ITT Tech and DeVry.) They all imply that upon graduation you'll get a six-figure job with the corner office. The reality is they sold you a worthless "education" that barely qualifies you to pull cable for $8.00/hr.

Want to go to a "real college" like a state school? Fine but, be VERY careful. Unless their programs teach the actual Cisco classes and you get a REAL Cisco cert at the end then don't bother. You're wasting your money.

OK, this post is getting long so I'll end my rant right here and comment on the rest of your post.

Networking and network security is a good field and I feel will become a hot skill to have. The recent very public hacks have brought to light how insecure our networks really are and companies will be forced to do something about it.

I assume by your post that you have no experience at all in the field. That's fine. Start with the Network+ and Security+ certs to get your feet wet and try to get a job with your mother in law. Don't worry about trying to hack your own network. You don't know enough yet. Focus on learning the basics and how to do it right. You'll fix 95% of all network and security problems just by having stuff configured correctly.

If you want to learn stuff at home that's fine. Don't rely on that for your formal training and for gods sake don't put that on your resume. If you want to get experience then do it while working for a company and getting paid to do it.

Second language? Spanish. If you're in the USA we'll all be speaking it eventually. Don't worry about Chinese or Hindi as those countries teach English as a second language.

I could go on and on but, I'll let someone chime in.
 

adam30k

Gawd
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
710
Always be looking ahead in terms of career goals but don't try and plan everything. Once you get your first entry level job you'll get a better idea of which direction you want to go in the industry. If you choose to goto school, look into 2-year colleges that you can transfer to another college if you wish. They will save you money vs a private school and you're not in it for the whole four years especially since most companies don't require Bachelor degrees. College can be good for networking with students, faculty and local companies. Remember that experience is ultimately what you will always need and getting a job, even part-time, while in college will be a huge asset for you. Certifications simply help validate your experience.
 

tdg

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Messages
3,816
I believe your plan looks pretty reasonable. I've been in IT for 13 years now and started off entry level, gaining certs, etc. but without a degree I hit a lot of roadblocks as my career went along. I think starting out with some certs and trying to work into entry level is a good way to start, but don't lose sight of a degree. I finally finished my BS at 30 and finally have better job prospects, some companies care about experience (certs help) others put a lot of emphasis on having a degree, having BOTH is a good formula for future success. Good luck.
 

ShadowStriker

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Oct 8, 2009
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Biggest question: What country?

You're looking at $15/hr, but some countries 15$/hr is the minimum wage, Canada is like 10.25$/hr minimum (let's not talk about the US :p), certs for sure, and like thedude0901 said BAs aren't really worth much without real hands-on experience. The BA from Canada that I'll have is this one and all the college professors are all Cisco Network Academy Instructors (last I checked) and the university professors are mostly PhDs in networking with grants from the government and some big companies, and best of all, as you go through the courses you can actually end up getting all the way up to your CCNP certification.
 

NetJunkie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Mar 16, 2001
Messages
9,682
Greetings,

For starters how old are you and where are you located?

For starters forget about the BS degree. I'm serious. I have a BS and Masters in Computer Information Systems and have been working in the industry for 16 years. Right now I'm the Network and Security Manager for a regional bank and have a staff of 6 and am looking to hire another person. When I look at the stack of resumes there are only at 2 things I care about: Certifications and years of experience. I don't give a rats ass about what school or how many worthless degrees you have.
Respectfully disagree. There is a difference here. You started 16 years ago...and I did so around that time as well... The IT world is a very different place today for entry-level people than it was then. You may not care, but a lot of other people do...especially as you move up to higher levels. There are a lot of companies that won't give you a manager title without an undergrad degree. Some are now requiring Masters for Director and higher spots. Just the way things are going...

While someone starting out now may think "I don't want to be a manager!" that might change as you want to lead a team or division. I know it changed for me and I went back to school for my BS and MS. Trust me, do it while you're young and not when you have family, travel for work, or other obligations.
 

NetJunkie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Mar 16, 2001
Messages
9,682
Also..your plan seems fine though you don't always get to plan things. :) Doubt you'll get much opportunity at Cisco for entry level right now as they are just starting a significant downsizing effort.

EDIT: One more thing. What you really need to excel in IT is passion and work ethic. There are a lot of very mediocre people in IT. Work hard...learn...look for ways to help your customer (whether it's your company's customer or your own company, if you do internal support). IT isn't about keeping things running, it's about helping the business get work done as efficiently as possible.
 

Operaghost

[H]ard|Gawd
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I'm 31, I have a family and I live in the US.

To answer some of the above inquiries.
I think I will try and stick as close to this plan as I can. Of course I know nothing always goes as planned, I'm sure it won't play out exactly as described, but I don't want to completely dismiss getting a degree. Especially since I may not spend my whole career in IT, in which case my degree might become more relevant.

Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate hearing from experienced people in the industry.
 

adam30k

Gawd
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
710
A degree isn't just about meeting the job requirements but also enriching yourself. Yeah that sounds cheesy but I find most people who recommend against degrees are the people completely comfortable teaching them self things and we aren't all like that. You can learn a lot and improve yourself in your classes even the English and History ones. No it's not a replacement for experience and no you aren't going to walk into a six figure job and yes be careful which school you get it from.
 

Operaghost

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
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A degree isn't just about meeting the job requirements but also enriching yourself. Yeah that sounds cheesy but I find most people who recommend against degrees are the people completely comfortable teaching them self things and we aren't all like that. You can learn a lot and improve yourself in your classes even the English and History ones. No it's not a replacement for experience and no you aren't going to walk into a six figure job and yes be careful which school you get it from.
That's how I view it as well. It makes you a more well rounded educated individual. Another good thing about getting a degree is you meet some people for professional networking. It's not always what you know, but who you know right?

Anyways, a degree is a long ways away for me. I need to make the job change first, which I'm hoping won't take me more than a year. Until I'm qualified to make 16 bucks an hour or more, I'm gonna be suffering through my shit job and studying as much as I can for the IT field.
 

SirViro

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Mar 24, 2003
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Personally I have a BA in Management Information Systems and a Masters in Business Admin on the way. I hold several certs and I'd say the education is worth it. The BA helped me get leadership positions as well as having a clear direction of where I want to go in my career and how to get there.

Certs are great if you're wanting to do satisfying technical work. If you want leadership, be prepared to show you mean business by doing the hard work.
 

tdg

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Messages
3,816
I'm 31, I have a family and I live in the US.

To answer some of the above inquiries.
I think I will try and stick as close to this plan as I can. Of course I know nothing always goes as planned, I'm sure it won't play out exactly as described, but I don't want to completely dismiss getting a degree. Especially since I may not spend my whole career in IT, in which case my degree might become more relevant.

Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate hearing from experienced people in the industry.
It's a valuable trait to be able to chart a coarse and stick with it, plans rarely go exactly as they were designed but overcoming the challenge is another valuable skill in itself. Your plan is good, stick with it and you'll do fine.
 

Operaghost

[H]ard|Gawd
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Oh and I wasn't implying to get a job with cisco. I was merely pointing out that knowing someone who works for them could potentially be a good human networking resource for me
 
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