Are your skills ready for the opportunities in networking?
"The future's so bright I gotta wear shades?" Well, pull out your Oakleys, my friend, because career prospects are looking up for network professionals, and hiring managers are looking for skilled people.
According to the fourth quarter 2010 Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, the technical skill set most in demand by a majority of CIOs is networking. What's more, network managers will see average starting salaries rise 4.3 percent, to the range of $79,250 to $109,500 per year, according to the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide 2011.
A few months ago, Denise Dubie identified "network engineer" as one of the 10 best IT jobs right now. Dubie's article cites research from Gartner that indicates skills in networking, voice and data communications technologies will continue to be in demand. "The future of IT and enhanced competitive advantage requires social interactions and greater collaboration and that is why the importance of the network continues to grow," says Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research, Gartner Executive Programs. "Even though revenue was down in 2009, CIOs reported that transaction volumes and communications requirements continued to grow, making it imperative to focus on network technologies."
So there you have it. The industry experts agree that the career opportunities are there if you have the right networking skills, and now you have more choices than ever on how to "skill up."
Last week at Interop New York, the HP Networking group announced an entirely new portfolio of networking certifications available through the HP ExpertONE program. The new certifications span the entire data center, from the edge to the core, and include specialization areas such as video, security and wireless.
All of HP's networking products and services were completely overhauled following the company's acquisition of 3Com, which also included H3C and TippingPoint networking products. Once combined with HP's own ProCurve brand, this broad range of new networking products necessitated the development of all new certifications. The majority of the new certifications launch on Nov.1.
The new HP ExpertONE program has an emphasis on skilling people to work in data centers built on the Converged Infrastructure architecture, and the new networking certifications are no exception. Candidates for HP certification can expect to receive an education about what the underlying technologies deliver; how the products work together; how the products form architectures that solve relevant contemporary challenges; and how it all links holistically with the other pillars of a converged data center, that being compute, storage and management. HP also places emphasis on how to build an infrastructure based on open standards and in a multivendor environment.
HP offers training and certification at various levels. Those levels and the corresponding certifications include:
HP Master Accredited Systems Engineer (MASE) -- Network Infrastructure
HP Master Accredited Systems Engineer (MASE) -- Wireless Networks
HP Accredited Systems Engineer (ASE) -- Network Infrastructure
HP Accredited Systems Engineer (ASE) -- Wireless Networks
HP Accredited Systems Engineer (ASE) -- IP Telephony
HP Accredited Sales Consultant (ASC) -- Networking
HP Accredited Sales Consultant (ASC) -- Enterprise Networking
HP Accredited Integration Specialist (AIS) -- Network Infrastructure
HP Accredited Integration Specialist (AIS) --Network Security
HP Accredited Sales Professional (ASP) -- IP Telephony
HP Accredited Sales Professional (ASP) -- Networking
HP Accredited Presales Professional (APP) -- Network Security
HP Accredited Presales Professional (APP) -- S-Series Networking Products
Networking professionals who already have certifications from Cisco and other vendors can become HP certified via a fast track. "We know that people who have other vendors' certifications already know networking protocols," says Mike Banic, vice president of marketing for HP Networking. "What they need to learn when they come to the HP ExpertONE program is HP's approach to networking, and how to build a network based on open standards. A fast track path lets them skip the basics and move right into what they need to know."
Get more information about HP networking certifications here.
Also last week, Cisco announced new or refined certifications that more closely align with employers' expected needs over the next three to five years. These certifications focus on what a person would do on a day to day basis in the areas of security and voice.
The Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Security program aligns to the specific job role and responsibilities of the network security engineer who is tasked with testing, deploying, configuring and troubleshooting the core technologies and devices that make up network security. Technologies covered include the Cisco IOS security features built into Cisco routers and switches, zone-based firewalls, high-availability virtual private networks, and intrusion detection and prevention systems.
The revamped CCNP Voice certification (formerly CCVP) validates the advanced knowledge and skills required to integrate voice and Cisco Unified Communications solutions into underlying network architectures. It also validates a robust set of skills for implementing, operating, configuring and troubleshooting a converged Internet Protocol network.
These new or updated networking certifications (and their associated training) from both HP and Cisco are designed to develop and hone the skills that are so in demand today and into the next few years. Just remember to take off your shades before you go to class.