March 14, 2000

We are so smart.

As network management professionals, most of us are constantly working to become better at our jobs. Network technology is moving faster than ever, and we?re struggling to stay current with the most popular systems (and even some older ones!). Weekly trade magazines keep us updated on the latest news, but they can sometimes cause more confusion than they help. The press releases from the technology companies all tout themselves as the best in the industry. How can we plan for the future, if we can?t keep up with what?s happening today?

New network administrators are ?created? every day. The proliferation of networks has created a need in many organizations for knowledgeable network administrators, regardless of their prior experience. Indeed, a network administrator who has been working for three years is probably just as versed in the generalities of ATM, Gigabit Ethernet, and Linux as any other network administrator. It?s the specifics that challenge every network professional.

There are many ways to become better at our jobs. Let?s talk about some of the more obvious, and some of the not so obvious:

* Read the Manual ? No, really! Once upon a time, manuals were the worst part of any hardware or software installation. These days, the product manuals have been written by people who have training and experience specifically in writing technical manuals. In some cases, the manual writers have won awards for their work! There?s a wealth of information hiding in those books that sit on the shelf and collect dust. Take advantage of them!

* Hands-on Training ? Product manuals are great resources, but there?s no replacement for working hands-on with a product. Many companies have non-production servers, test equipment, and demonstration gear that is unused most of the time. A person studying for a Cisco or Microsoft certification can make great hands-on training use of a system that normally isn?t used during non-working hours.

* Trade Shows ? If you?ve never attended an industry trade show, you?re missing a great opportunity for growth and learning in the technical field. Most companies bring their latest and greatest products to show at trade shows, and you?re bound to find a piece of software or hardware that you didn?t even know existed! The big national trade shows are a great place to gather information, but don?t discount the local trade shows. The local shows offer similar product demonstrations, but also provide opportunities to interact with people who live in your local area.

* Internet Resources ? Web pages are great places to gather technical information, but most professionals forget that Usenet newsgroups are available for thousands of different topics! Most browsers also include some type of Usenet news reader, so take advantage of this world-wide forum of beginners and experts!

* Books ? Remember books? There are now technical tomes written on nearly every topic, from network analysis to security. Visit or your local bookstore to gather powerful information for your career mobility!

Between the fire-fighting, technical people should remember to get their daily dose of personal training and education. Good luck!

Posted by james_messer at March 14, 2000 09:09 PM

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