Connections For Neophytes

Published Date
01 - Nov - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Nov - 2006
Connections For Neophytes
India is rapidly developing into a tech-hungry country. Sales of Desktops and laptops combined crossed 5.43 million units in the fiscal year 2005-06. The number of Internet subscribers rose from 3.12 million in March 2005 to 4.12 million in March 2006. This is the connected age, and these figures, from the Annual Review report by MAIT-IMRB (Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology-Indian Market Research Bureau); give us a comprehensive picture of how much connectivity is now required!

Chisel career that makes and uses the connections that count!

Connectivity is provided by networks. The requirement for those who will connect computers through networks will soon increase. These people are identified as networking professionals.

"Networking professionals are individuals capable of planning a wired and wireless infrastructure to support network connectivity by installing, configuring, and troubleshooting network devices for Internet and server connectivity," says Ranajoy Punja, Vice President, Business Development - Advance Technologies, Cisco Systems, India and SAARC.

Stepping Stones
A keen interest in, and knowledge of, computer hardware are the foundations for procuring entry into the networking field. "Clarity in the basics of computers, and a good understanding of the hardware and software of computer systems are the primary requirements to begin with," says J Sheshadri, CTO, Emerson Network Power India Ltd.

Along with the sharing of data over the network, arises the issue of security-security of data over the network is a serious concern. The field of networks and security are dynamic: with rapid developments happening in various areas of networking, existing technologies are challenged. By the time one gets well-versed with a particular network technology, along comes another.

Those willing to make the best of their drive can complete formal education and earn a college degree. The precise names of the degree programs vary from institute to institute, and most colleges do not offer a special degree program focusing solely on networking. A suitable graduate or master's degree program for networking would be any of the following: computer science, information technology, computer engineering, electronics and telecommunications, electrical engineering, information technology and telecommunications.

These degrees can be procured from leading engineering colleges across India. The degree programs cover topics such as basics of computer networks, network management and security, working with various network protocols, operating systems, and other networking-related topics.

There are also short-term courses that focus on networking topics offered by some institutions as an alternative to a four-year degree program.
Continuous Learning
Learning in this field is unlimited. With rapidly-changing network technologies, networking professionals have to keep themselves constantly updated. "Networks today have become very complex, and learning is a continuous process. The challenging part of this field is to maintain a balance between individual learning interests and keeping track with technological advancements," says Tarun Hukku, Head - Resource Management Group of Microland, an IT infrastructure management and technical support services outsourcing company.

Global certifications keep one above par, and those with one have a definite edge over the others"
Muthu Logan,Founder and CEO,BroVis Wireless Networks Ltd

Short-term courses may help in quick acquisition of basic networking knowledge by more focused programs on networking topics. Degree programs, on the other hand, lay in-depth foundations and reflect a level of dedication to prospective employers.

Today, international-level certifications are available from various vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft, Red Hat, Juniper, and IBM. Also, the international-level certification of the CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association) is now possible to acquire by an examination: for more details, visit Pursuing training from the authorised training centres of the vendor companies and taking examinations, help in gaining knowledge, to be at par with the requirements of the industry. For further details on certification courses and the authorised training centres of international vendors, see box A List Of Popular Certifications.

Many branches of private institutes such as CMS Institute, Jetking, Aptech, Accel, and more, are spread all over India, which provide coaching and training on hardware and networking topics irrespective of the vendor platform.

At the time of recruiting freshers, employers look at what projects the applicant has undertaken, and whether there is any relevant working experience. While recruiting network professionals through basic-level technical written tests, organisations check for the clarity of the fundamentals of the applicant.

Besides qualifications and certifications, soft skills such as good communication, presentation skills, self-confidence, application of logic, and leadership qualities are also examined by employers at the time of recruitment.

Which certification is the best? The answer depends upon the individual's interest in a particular area of networking, and also the preferences of the hiring companies. Certification courses are designed for three levels-Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert or Advanced, and are awarded to accredit anyone who has proved eligible after passing the examinations. A few ambitious students acquire multiple certifications-sometimes more than four!

"Certification is a must nowadays. It provides in-depth knowledge of the technology along with practical exposure. Certifications really help when they are done along with the job in the same field, and you can link the knowledge to your day-to-day work," says Manish Macwan, now an Assistant IT Specialist (messaging and groupware), CMS Computers Ltd.

Passing the tests and getting a global certification naturally keeps you a notch above those who do not possess one. Along with the certification, some working experience in industry gives a complete picture of what organisations want, and how can one fulfil that by acquiring qualifications and certifications which the organisation basically look for in.

Also, pursuing certification in specialised areas such as network security, servers, systems, etc. depends upon an individual's personal interest. Besides this, the benefits one gets from global certifications are global acceptance, better monetary returns, greater confidence, and better growth opportunities.
The Career Growth Path
The networking segment is one of the fastest growing in the IT industry. Services such as broadband, VoIP, videoconferencing, and VPNs have spurred the need for networking professionals who can set up, manage, and provide solutions in these areas.

Getting hired successfully in a company doesn't mean an end to learning: it is an ongoing process. Companies organise or sponsor internal training and education of their employees in order to enhance their knowledge and bring out better solutions with their knowledge for the organisation. After entering the networking segment as a fresher, they can reach to the top designation passing the following positions.

Beginner level (approx. salary per annum:
Rs 1.8 lakh to Rs 4 lakh) 
End-User Support Specialist
Information Technology Technician
Help Desk / Customer Support

Middle level (approx. salary per annum:
Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh)
Network / System Administrator
Network Design Engineer
Network Systems Technician/Specialist
Network Engineer

Top level (approx. salary per annum:
Rs 8.5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh) 
Chief Technology Officer
VP - IT / Systems
Diploma holders can expect a start from as low as Rs 85,000 per annum.

After entering at the beginner level in technical support, it takes about two to three years for one to advance to the next level. At a middle level position such as a Network Engineer or Network / System Administrator, the variety of tasks and the work profile are as complex as the network itself! One acquires knowledge and experience of managing, maintaining, and providing solutions for the networks primarily at this level. Advancing from the middle level to the next level-as in from Network Engineer to Network Administrator-takes around five to seven years, and sometimes more than that. Finally, to get to a top-level position such as VP-IT or Systems, eight to 12 years or more of experience could be needed.

All these time periods are just indicative: it's the inner drive and interest in constant learning in an individual that takes him to the top.

The Roles At Each Level
After joining the networking department of an organisation, the roles as an individual advances from one level to another are different. Certain activities may overlap at the beginner and middle levels. Here is a snapshot of what kind of role is played at each level.

Service Technician / Technical Support
The first step and the entry-level position in networking. One is sent to customers' sites to perform field upgrades and support functions. One acts as a support to the Network Technician by physical installation of hardware and software, setting up switches, routers, cables, etc. The true test of one's basics and the training acquired is observed here.
Network Technicians
Network Technicians tend to focus on the setup, troubleshooting, and attending to the problems and repair of hardware and software products. They take care of the entire network within a company, and attend to the problems in the networks with the help of Service Technicians. This is the stage where one gets in touch with the practical aspects for application of their knowledge and basics of networking.

Boot camps and other training programs should teach one how to perform in the real world rather than how to pass tests and make them paper-tigers"

Arun Eapen,Technical Consultant and Networking Specialist,Red Hat India

Network Engineer
The Network Engineer focuses on functions such as cabling of networks, installation of routers, switches, day-to-day operations, etc. Also, he takes care of system upgrades, evaluation of vendor products on networks, security tests of the network, and so forth.

Network Programmers And Analysts

Network Programmers write programs or scripts that help evaluate third-party network products and help in network analysis. They try to integrate new software technologies into an existing or new network environment. Analysts analyse and monitor traffic, the use of bandwidth, and data transfer over the network.

Network / System Administrators
They perform the tasks of configuring and managing LANs, WANs, and VPNs for an organisation. Providing access to the network from the remotest locations of the organisation is their responsibility. They have to provide security by configuring firewalls; good knowledge of security implementations, routing, TCP/IP, virus protection applications and spam filters is required of them. Their daily routine involves monitoring network performance, maintaining network security, and troubleshooting.

Network Information / Design Managers
They supervise the work of administrators, engineers, technicians and programmers. They also work on the long-term planning and strategy of an organisation's network. At the entry level, one would focus on tasks such as troubleshooting, monitoring, evaluation of LAN performance, adding and deleting users, adding new servers, and such.

The Opportunities
Network professionals will always be in demand-for as long as IT fuels the economy. Today, a shortage of network professionals is faced in sectors such as ITES / BPO, telecom, banking and financial services, manufacturing, and even government. Retail is an upcoming part of the Indian economy which will fuel the need for even more network professionals.

The demand for more than two lakh network professionals will go up within the next one year; only about 1.4 lakh Indian networking professionals are in existence today-the demand for network professionals is higher than supply. The BPO/ITES sector will witness the highest growth in demand for network professionals; also will other sectors such as Banking and Financial Services, Telecom and Retail.

Summing It Up
Job seekers are ever haunted by the word "experience"; "organisations only hire people with relevant experience" whenever they apply for jobs! One needs to take the initiative-by taking up full-time programming projects or help-desk internships in networking.
A good way to stand out is to demonstrate prior working experience by selecting projects or getting work experience in the area of your interest. This prior experience could serve as a launch-pad, advancing you to the next level. Networking technology changes every few years, so organisations look for individuals who can adapt to upcoming technologies: this happens when there is a constant hunger for learning-in which case, the sky is the limit!  

A List Of Popular Certifications

To know more about the entry level, professional, specialist, and expert-level certifications, courses, and their authorised training centres, visit the following sites.

Red Hat:
Sun Microsystems: training

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