Networking Job Titles - dummies

By Peter H. Gregory, Bill Hughes

The titles associated with networking jobs are vexingly similar. Despite this frustration, you will need to know which job you want to target. Here are the titles you should know and the skills typically associated with networking jobs:

  • Service desk analyst

  • Network administrator

  • Network engineer

  • Network architect

  • Network manager

  • Wireless network engineer

  • Telecommunications manager or specialist

  • Pre-sales engineer

Service desk analyst

A service desk (or help desk) analyst assists users who have problems with their computers, user accounts, or business applications. In many ways, service desk analysts have one of the most important positions because they are in contact with users in all levels of the organization. For many non-IT employees, service desk analysts are the only IT people they will ever contact.

A service desk person must be able to recognize several types of issues, including the following:

  • Trouble with network connections

  • Forgotten passwords

  • Requests to install software

  • Phishing messages

  • Unsafe practices, such as sharing passwords or visiting malicious websites

A service desk analyst is a good entry-level position for those with good customer service skills.

Network administrator

A network administrator often administers the following:

  • User accounts

  • File server access

  • Remote access

Network administrators are on the front lines of access control. A network administrator will find violations such as active user accounts for terminated personnel, granting excessive privileges, group accounts, and user accounts with nonexpiring or noncomplex passwords.

Much of this work is performed in front of a computer terminal, and communication with end-users is conducted through email.

Network engineer

The network engineer has more technical responsibilities than the network administrator role. Network engineers focus more on system upgrades, evaluating vendor products, and testing for security flaws.

Some companies use the title network administrator and network engineer interchangeably. The latter title sounds more serious, and the former has the connotation of a passive clerk. This role should be taken seriously, regardless of the naming choice.

Network architect

The title of network architect implies that the network engineer is focused on technical issues and free from administrative tasks. This role only makes sense in larger organizations where this kind of specialization is necessary.

Although no organization likes network downtime, some organizations face serious issues if the network is down for an extended period of time. A network disruption to the military or to emergency first responders may be measured in lives lost.

Adding a wireless broadband connection through satellite or microwave to augment the landline solution is prudent. Ensuring that these wireless alternatives achieve the objective requires someone with more technical chops than a typical network administrator. That person is a well-trained network architect.

Network manager

The network manager is the boss of the department. This role often includes the administration of the following:

  • Budget tracking and forecasting

  • Personnel decisions

  • Resource acquisition

The network manager does not need to be the most technical person, but it helps if he or she understands the department’s importance to the business and has credibility in the rest of the organization to prioritize the needs of the department as business priorities evolve.

This role typically is involved in negotiations with third-party solution providers, both network services and hardware. The network manager needs to be able to walk the tightrope between pursuing new network technology for technology’s sake versus achieving the business needs of the organization.

Wireless network engineer

A wireless network engineer uses his or her training and skills to complement the network design of cables and landlines with wireless technology. Adding wireless offers the following features:

  • Users can access the full resources of the organizations computer system when away from their desks.

  • Fewer cables must be pulled during office moves.

  • New applications that increase customer service and lower costs are possible.

  • Companies can increase productivity when management knows the goings-on of its mobile assets at all times.

At the same time wireless technology has several issues:

  • Some doubt the reliability of wireless in mission-critical applications.

  • There is a sense that wireless is less secure because it is easier to snag a wireless connection from outside the doors of the company.

  • Wireless signals propagate in strange ways. You may be able to get a wireless signal in a given location one day and not the next.

A wireless network engineer can design a system to ensure that the wireless part of the company’s network is every bit as secure and reliable as the wireline network.

Telecommunications manager or specialist

A telecommunications manager or specialist has responsibility for planning for the voice usage of the network.

Unified communication (UC), which employs Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, allows voice and video communication to take place over the same network, and this convergence blurs the distinction between data, voice, and video technologies. Many companies find it more economical to have a single data network for all communication.

A consideration of the different communications types (voice and data) has an effect on planning. Voice packets need to arrive on time but can take some loss. Data packets need to arrive perfectly and can tolerate some delays.

Plus, the type of equipment used by employees is different. The result is a different title that refers to telecommunications instead of just network. Again, different companies have a different spin on the use of this title.

Pre-sales engineer

In companies that offer solution sales, the ideal is to have such a close working relationship with your customers that you provide network-engineering services on their behalf. The customer does not need to hire a well-trained network specialist.

To make the customer/vendor relationship work, the vendor must have competent network engineering staff. The presales engineer role is a good fit for individuals who like new networking challenges and are willing to forgo the satisfaction of seeing the fruits or their labor and watching the network perform on an ongoing basis.