How to Get Experience for a Networking Job Where You Are Now

By Peter H. Gregory, Bill Hughes

Most networking professionals didn’t have a non-networking-related job one day and a networking job the next. Instead, they gained and built upon networking skills in their current IT job or in places where they volunteered.

The following are a number of examples of non-networking roles in IT organizations:

  • Computer repair specialist

  • Webmaster

  • Software developer

  • Database administrator

  • Business analyst

  • Information security analyst

  • Project manager

  • IT auditor

Even if you never want to perform these functions, it’s good to know about them because you’ll interact with people in these roles.

Computer repair specialist

A computer repair specialist is the person who saves the day when an end-user’s hard drive crashes or the laptop screen is cracked.

Webmaster

The webpage of the company is a critical part of how people outside the organization learn the vision of the organization and connect with the products and services offered. For each website, one person is identified on the Internet as the webmaster, and this individual has the responsibility for what is posted.

In practice, the web is a compromise of priorities among the different functions in an organization. The two greatest challenges in this role are: Everyone thinks they are an expert on what the web page should look like, and each department believes that their area should be more prominent on the home page.

Although most organizations chose to have their web page hosted by a professional service, the development of the site and the testing of the links typically reside in IT.

Software developer

A software developer (also referred to as programmer, software development engineer, or programmer-analyst) develops systems software, application software, tools and utilities, and system interfaces. Software development involves several activities, including the following:

  • Coding: Developers use programming tools to develop application solutions to reduce cost and improve customer satisfaction. A great deal of time is spent enhancing existing systems. The glossary includes a list of typical corporate applications.

  • Testing: Developers perform extensive functionality testing to ensure that their software is free of defects before it is distributed to the end-users.

  • Code reviews: Developers should be checking each other’s work, looking for flaws that could permit their software to be compromised by an attacker.

Database administrator

A database administrator, or DBA, is responsible for the care and feeding of databases that reside on servers as well as external storage systems.

A large portion of the intellectual assets of a firm, including information on the depth of key customer relationships and ways the companies performs its business, are found in these data. This data needs to be protected, but it also needs to be available for people to do their jobs. Making the data available to those who need it and keeping it away from the folks that don’t are the responsibilities of the DBA.

A database management system is a sizeable piece of software in its own right, often with myriad configuration settings and its own user accounts and related settings. The database administrator must follow sound principles with regards to system hardening as well as user account management. Further, the DBA also controls access permissions to databases and their components.

Business analyst

Depending on the organization, a business analyst may be a jack-of-all-trades or focused on one set of activities. Examples of business analyst activities include

  • Running reports

  • Analyzing the content of reports to assist other workers in their jobs

  • Conducting research tasks and projects on internal business matters

  • Organizing information into usable or readable form

A business analyst can also be thought of as a technical assistant.

Like other IT workers, a business analyst must be familiar with the concepts of safe computer usage and prudent handling of sensitive data, so that they don’t unwittingly bring harm to the information by compromising sensitive data and systems.

Information security analyst

An information security analysts work can range across the entire spectrum of security management, security operations, and security administration. A security analyst may spend time conducting research — interpreting current events, new encryption algorithms, or many other things, and then figuring out how these external developments should shape the organization’s short-term operations or long-term strategy.

Project manager

Have you seen those sleek racing rowboats, with the coxswain in back shouting, “Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!” to keep the rowers in sync? Similarly, project managers keep a project going in the same direction and at the right pace to ensure that it is completed correctly and on time.

Project managers, or PMs, keep projects running smoothly and ensure that all required resources are available as needed.

IT auditor

An IT auditor (also known as an IS auditor or a security auditor) determines the effectiveness of security controls, and communicates that level of effectiveness to others through written reports that describe controls, their intended function, and how well they carry out that function.

If you’re picturing an auditor as someone with a checklist, you’re right: Experienced auditors use checklists to make sure they don’t forget any aspect of a control they are examining. However, they also have a deep understanding of the technologies and details involved in the controls they examine, and they understand that the true effectiveness of a control requires more than a checklist.

IT auditors must be independent and objective, so it is best if they are not members of the department they are auditing. Otherwise, it might appear that the auditor was being controlled by the department that he or she was auditing.