Becoming a Network Engineer — Reality versus Expectation
Network engineers have the hefty responsibility of setting up an organization’s IT network, ensuring that it is as efficient and as secure as possible — but their role doesn’t stop there. They also need to maintain and develop the network on an ongoing basis, while this might seem simple, it can be very demanding. Good network engineers are vital to a company’s success.
Network engineers must be able to work as “free agents,” while being an effective member of a team, meaning they prioritize their own workflow and responsibilities while being mindful of their overall contribution to the company. Another important task is troubleshooting any issues the network may face, as well as helping upgrade and develop a network depending on the organizations current and/or probable future needs.
The complex and many demands made on network engineers means that the expectations of newly graduated professionals sometimes don’t match the reality of the job at hand, so let’s explore what network engineers can expect when entering the job market, and what makes an effective and sought-after network engineer.
What does it take to be a network engineer?
First things first, a network engineer needs to be a very organized multi-tasker. This is intuitive, considering the varied tasks that are asked of him/her. The ability to maintain an effective and professional approach to different tasks, sometimes at the same time, is a must-have. Though most new graduates understand this, they tend to assume that they will have to concentrate on the technical aspect of the job when the truth is that the communications and leadership demands of the profession can take a greater share of their working day than most expect.
Excellent communication skills are another quality that early graduates should cultivate before entering the job market, since the engineer will be called upon to explain and train colleagues, staff and clients. Communicating with people from different backgrounds and who may have a limited understanding of IT is another important role for the engineer. If you want to be successful in your career, customer service tends to be just as important as network design and technical skills.
Creativity within Budgetary Limitations
Creativity and the ability to think outside the box is an important trait for a successful network engineer, too. The employer will require the most effective network possible (sometimes with limited resources). The engineer may be asked to work and improve on an older and obsolete design, putting a premium on engineers who are able to balance the needs of creating and maintaining an effective network with the available resources and equipment. Shopping and finding the right equipment and software is also within the engineer’s domain. Having a sense of costs and the financial impact of purchasing equipment or implementing solutions can be another unexpected skillset for people in this position.
New graduates should work on developing their leadership qualities. Creating a network is one thing; enforcing the standards needed for maintaining the effectiveness and security of said network is another. An efficient engineer needs to be able to guide, educate, and impose a certain degree of discipline and accountability amongst network users — preferably without being heavy-handed and dictatorial.
Continuous Learning and Self-Improvement
The ability to learn on the job and move with the times is an important aspect of the job description, the engineer will need to stay updated on new software, equipment and techniques so as to provide the best service possible for their company. This necessitates continuous professional development, while still balancing daily demands of the work at hand. A love of learning will help network engineers feel professionally fulfilled in their careers and make them more valuable employees, too.
A Dynamic Approach
Flexibility and adaptability are premium attributes of today’s successful network engineer. Engineers need to adapt their work schedule and troubleshoot on a regular basis, jumping from task to task. Successful candidates and new graduates will benefit from an attitude that allows them to get the job done regardless of the challenges. Most network engineers enjoy solving complex problems and like having the answers and figuring things out until the desired goal is achieved.
These are some of the qualities and issues facing newly graduated network engineers. Aside from book learning and technical proficiency, today’s network engineers need to stand out with a goal-oriented, professional approach and possess a high degree of communication and leadership skills. For those that choose this career, it is a dynamic and ever-evolving position that is integral to the success of any business.
At Concero, we help people in all phases of their IT career. Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned director or IT manager, we will be your guide on the side connecting you to the right people and right positions.