Prepare for the Networking Jobs of Tomorrow - Page 2

As networks evolve, so too do the technical skills needed by netadmins and by IT professionals looking to enter the networking field.

 By Julie Knudson
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Networking skills to learn

Bakan sees several core skills as critical for tomorrow’s networking professionals, including virtualization of network services, orchestration and policy automation. “One should also generally look to increase skill sets in designing, implementing and assuring these types of software solutions,” she said. An increasing use of automation may lead to an evolution of the network administrator’s role to include software skills that build upon their existing networking skills. “Network administrators should ultimately prioritize accelerating application-centric network service delivery,” Bakan said.

Several foundational security skills are likely to be in greater demand. One Shannon points to is a good understanding of how technologies such as encryption and two-factor authentication can be implemented to eliminate some of the errors enterprises commonly make when using these platforms. “There are mistakes you can make as you deploy various encryption solutions,” he said. “Part of the challenge is that someone can propose or sell you a sophisticated solution, and you’ve got to have an ability to understand if the solution is working well or not.” Developing targeted statements of need, conducting meaningful technical assessments, and analyzing the effectiveness of the resulting solutions will become much more valuable skills as enterprises continue to ramp up their security postures.

The skills a network administrator or other IT pro chooses to develop may depend on where they are in their career. Networking is taught differently in many computer science departments today than it was just five years ago. Pitt believes it has shifted toward being more of a science and less of a trade. As the technologies and architectures have evolved, he said, “There are a whole lot of tradespeople, and those trade skills won’t be nearly as in demand as they have been.” He encourages administrators and others to develop a better understanding of computer science, of different kinds of languages, of newly-popular constructs such as containers, and how software really works. “I think anything that a current professional can do to have a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of software in all its dimensions will be really worthwhile.”

Networking skills being left behind

A side effect of all this change is that some skills traditionally seen as important will eventually become less necessary. Among the things on the decline are many of the skills that deal with the manual configuration of routers. “All the CCNE, CCIE certifications that people have probably put on their resumes and their business cards for a long time, those are starting to turn into more of a liability than an asset,” Pitt said. Automated software will likely take over much of those areas. “It will be more important to understand how to assemble software pieces that give you what you want.”

For IT professionals, compliance was a very hot topic five years ago. Going forward, Shannon doesn’t believe that will continue to be the case, pointing to the notion that compliance belongs more in the legal realm rather than as a strategy for ensuring security and privacy. “It’s been shown too many times that organizations that are compliant are still weak, they’re still vulnerable,” he explained. “It’s legally important to the institution but from a technical point of view it really doesn’t deliver.”

Next page: Deciding which networking skills to develop and finding resources for training.

This article was originally published on Jan 15, 2015
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