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Career Path (Sys Admin, Network Eng?)

This is a discussion on Career Path (Sys Admin, Network Eng?) within the Certification & Career forums, part of the Tech Support Forum category. I am looking for advice about career progression and what to go into (Syst Admin, Network Engineer?). I have a


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Old 09-19-2013, 12:55 AM   #1
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I am looking for advice about career progression and what to go into (Syst Admin, Network Engineer?).

I have a BSc in Computer Science.
I previously spent one year working on a Helpdesk as a Second Line Engineer for a medium sized company supporting over 5000 users.

My general tasks including
- Troubleshooting application issues
- Troubleshooting network issues
- Exchange server management
- Imaging and rebuilding computer workstations
- Active Directory Administration (Creating and removing user accounts, managing access permissions etc)

- Fix hardware issues
- VBscripting for Task Automation
- Deal with specialised network setups and technology configurations (troubleshooting segmented and secure networks, non standard devices etc)
Right now I work for a quasi governmental organisation, with a bit of a strange set up (for security reasons). I manage a specific site with over 200 users.

The set up means half of the systems are centrally managed (as a government organisation). Most of my job is managing the other half, as well as considerable input into other issues.

My job title is ďSupport EngineerĒ but I may be more of a Systems Administrator as I tend to cover a bit of everything.
As it is a small organisation I am the only IT staff member on site and I pretty much get free reign on how I manage my time and the systems we have here (within reason).

My general tasks include Ė
- Troubleshooting application issues
- Managing Domain controller and servers
- Active Directory (user management, access controls, group policy)
- Managing network equipment (routers, switches, patch panels, cable termination etc)
- Managing telephony and video conferencing facilities
- Updating and patching servers
- Software deployment to users
- System Backups
- Implementing adequate security in compliance with audit requirements

There are proís and conís to this job. The main pro being they are very supportive of learning and development, so I have a group wide subscription to a learning provider so there is as much material as I need for taking certs (Microsoft, Cisco, Linux, VMware, CompTIA etc), they are happy for me to take some of exams to get these and cover the cost.

There is also a lot of down time so I go do studying for the certs, and I have set up a virtual lab environment on a spare server to practise on. (We also have a lot of decommissioned networking equipment I can mess about with).
Whilst these aspects are great, there is no opportunity to progress any further because of the company structure, and I could just end up being stuck here for a decade doing the same thing (Iíve seen people do it at other cites).

I just wondered what people think would be a good area to go into, as I am really not sure. Iím doing the CCNA and Microsoft Enterprise Admin training, and Iím also doing CEH training (Iím really into security right now), but not sure what to do. Would be grateful for peopleís suggestions!
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:30 AM   #2
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As you have mentioned, you already ARE a systems administrator. So it's not like you need to decide whether to "go into" the systems administrator career field. Doesn't matter what your job title is. Titles are irrelevant. Experience is what matters.

Further, I don't think that systems administration and network administration are mutually exclusive fields; although network administration is typically a step beyond systems administration, both involve IT administration. Just because someone is a network administrator doesn't necessarily mean they never touch systems. I was a network admin for a healthcare company, yet I was also responsible for ALL of the servers. I know systems admins who do a fair bit of network administration (and, for what its worth, this is how you gain network admin experience as a systems admin if you ever want to take the next step into becoming a full-fledged network admin).

My advice: push your career towards whatever interests you. If you want to do network administration, get some experience doing network administration in your current job. If that's not possible, make a lateral shift to an equivalent position, but one where you CAN do some basic network administration. Or, if you want to do systems administration, do that. Both are good areas. It all depends on what you WANT to do.

Keep in mind that certifications alone aren't going to help you make that jump. You need to gain real-world experience, and from what you say, it sounds like you might need to make that "lateral shift" that I mentioned above. Labs and test environments are great learning tools, but they're not a replacement for real-world environments. Still, you say you've got experience with routers and switches... if you're configuring them and troubleshooting them, that's network admin experience.

Also, keep in mind that you will need two years of experience directly related to IT security (or take an official CEH class) before you will be allowed to take the CEH exam: link

Hope this helps. :)
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