Nothing is certain in the life of an IT pro except for death, taxes, and the need to constantly improve their skills. In a recent SolarWinds survey, over 49% of our tech peers ranked network management as an area they need to upskill in for the sake of their careers.
Unsurprising, what with more and more businesses offering remote work arrangements to employees. Among other things, the future worth of an IT networking pro may hinge on how efficiently they keep the network from crumbling under heavy loads.
The need for efficient network management is constant, but the means to achieve this is constantly changing. The most successful IT network pros can look beyond the technology and invest in upgrading critical skills or capabilities they need to remain ahead of the curve.
Here are the four areas today’s IT networking pros should sharpen their teeth on;
Learn to read between the lines of code
Gone are the days where troubleshooting the network involved popping off server racks and inputting UNIX commands. The move to cloud server networks has ‘sterilised’ this process.
Networking techs now find themselves staring at code frameworks like JSON whenever they need to dive in to configure the business network. This shift from physical to virtual has led to the emergence of “network as code,” and seasoned IT pros would be wise to adapt.
Specifically, a sense of code – the ability to follow and understand the scripts or code logic – is now essential to reading the lines of code on any cloud network interface.
Anyone can run Serverless SDKs and create network infrastructure, but when things stop working, IT pros better be prepared to wade through YAML code to find out what’s wrong.
But while nurturing this sense of code should be their top priority, IT pros would do well to also revisit the basics of networking – particularly those running networks for the first time.
Double down on your networking basics
Routing, switching, managing access controls, and most importantly, monitoring. These are the basics IT networking pros are expected to have, because even virtualised, much of network logic remains the same. Knowing how things connect together is basic sense.
How else would you manage something as complex and vast as a business network?
I’d especially stress the importance of network monitoring. Assessing the network’s health through logs, error codes, or data is a fundamental skill requiring time and practice to master.
Network monitoring solutions with granular information help, but IT networking pros must now determine the metrics important to their network, then establish and perfect the best practices and processes needed to monitor them in the process.
Work on your… networking capabilities
Human interaction isn’t exactly something IT networking pros jump out of bed for – but it remains a skill that determines their career success in the future.
Especially with the prevalence of remote and hybrid work, IT pros will face a greater variety of human-induced networking issues beyond the business network’s well-controlled climate.
Only those able to cultivate the vocabulary, resiliency, and most importantly, patience will do their jobs well – and emerge top of the pack. One area to invest in is communication.
That is, explaining complex ideas in varying levels of simplicity – without sounding too condescending. Practice breaking down complex network concepts and expressing them in clear, simple, jargon-free language. Learn to use visual aids, like graphs, bars, or charts.
Here’s an idea: search ELI5, or Explain Like I’m Five online.
Googling “ELI5 Networking” uncovers a rich trove of great – and hilarious – posts demonstrating how best to explain complex tech ideas to less savvy coworkers.
And then build your business acumen
I wish more IT pros had a rough understanding of how businesses work. How market forces, EBITDA considerations, or economic stress impacts the firm and their networking budgets.
Only then can they draft up proposals designed to balance the costs side of the network – run costs, scalability, time to ROI – besides the technical aspects of an improved network.
Suppose IT pros could align network proposals to business goals the C-suite cares about.
They’d get easier buy-in from decision-makers or stakeholders, leading to faster approvals for associated tools or necessary software. This would allow them to do their jobs better.
In other words, gone are the days where networking IT pros could silo themselves from the rest of the business. As business operations become more dependent on the network’s health, networking IT pros can expect greater attention from coworkers and employers.
The faster they invest in improving their technical and social skills, the better their careers.
Sascha Giese is the Head Geek at SolarWinds