Moving forward… The IT Career Builder’s Toolkit

Things are beginning to look upward with regards to my progressing career. Even though I am 33, sometimes it still feels weird to acknowledge that I do, in fact, now have what I would consider a career and am on a path to what I believe will bring great things for my wife and I. I recently received a significant raise, and at my current company I have picked up a new business client whose network I now support.

The support I provide for this client is mostly help-desk level. So far it has mostly involved little day-to-day things like managing user accounts and dealing with people’s issues like installing/repairing software, printer drivers, installing new PCs, and things of that nature. In the past, I had the attitude that I am a network engineer in development, and since I have my CCNA and CCDA, and am studying for my CCNP, this kind of stuff was beneath me. This was absolutely the wrong attitude to take as I have learned quite a bit in the couple of months that I have been supporting this new client. That attitude has only held me back in the past.

Further proving to me that I previously had the wrong attitude, I just finished reading an excellent book called The IT Career Builder’s Toolkit by Matthew Moran. The book is very much all-encompassing of practically every aspect of an IT person’s career (though much of the information is general enough that it really could apply to any career). I will definitely be using this book as a reference and reminder to myself for years to come. However, by far the biggest thing I took away from it is that attitude is everything and every situation, good or bad, provides learning potential and will only further serve your base of knowledge.

Going back to my new business client whose network I support, more than ten years ago I learned all about Active Directory, back when it was a fresh product with Windows 2000. Because of this, I know all of the major concepts of what Active Directory is and some of the things that it can do, but I haven’t had a lot of actual hands-on experience with it simply because I haven’t needed to — I was either working with comparatively small networks, or different technologies were being used (such as a Macintosh-based network).

Part of me was worried about diving right in simply because I didn’t have the exact technical skills memorized (such as menu locations and things like that), but because I knew the concepts very well, it ended up not being a big deal at all to dive right in and learn the things I was missing as I went. This book also emphasized that aspect of learning and so it reinforced what I had already discovered on my own. It wasn’t long after getting to know their internal network (of which there was no documentation left by the previous IT service provider, of course), that I successfully migrated their entire business from hosted Exchange (provided by their previous company) to Microsoft’s Office365. There were little problems here and there, but I was able to fix all of them as they arose, and I think the migration went smoothly overall. My next major project will be to create a design proposal to migrate their PBX-based system to 100% VoIP.

The other thing I took away from the book is that even though I am working for the official title of “network engineer,” the fact is that anyone in IT is considered a “technologist” whose job is to find solutions to support the business needs. This means that I need to look less at the technical aspects and underlying details in the beginning and instead focus more on the business process: what the business is trying to accomplish and how to support those business goals.

In our capitalistic society, the end goal is to make money. I am a technologist whose goal is to help enable whatever business I support to make money. I need not have the attitude that I only fit into a certain container. That attitude restricts learning and only serves to hold me back.

*UPDATE May 2013: Shortly after reading this book, I discovered Matthew Moran’s site and he was offering entries into a drawing for a free signed copy of the 2nd edition of his book. I won and received a copy of the book (not signed though 🙂 ). I plan to have a look at it sometime, but I have to admit, at this point in time I am so used to ebooks that the fact that I don’t have an electronic copy is probably the only real reason I haven’t taken a look at it yet!