How can I make the transition from programming to networking?
First, thanks for your help. I have been working in programming (C/Unix) for five years. I no longer get any satisfaction from this career and I would like to move to the hardware/networking side of the IT house. Do you have any suggestions about what might be the best way to make such a transition? Do I need to start at an A+ cert and work my way up? Will my experience help me in finding a higher than entry level position (and salary)?
The hardware/networking side of things, alas, doesn't tend to pay as well as the programming side does (in fact, salaries are about 25% lower in that area, other things being equal). Thus, it will be difficult for you to maintain parity, and that only if you can claim significant relevant experience with the operating systems, tools, platforms and technologies that you'll be using in your new incarnation. Only if you can speak directly and compellingly about that experience, and demonstrate its relevance to your new job role, will you be able to make it pay!
As for making the transition most effectively, certifications may not be the most useful or expeditious mechanism to employ (they take time, require effort and cost money) unless they're the only way to get a foot in the door in your new chosen work life. Your best bet, if possible, is to talk to your current employer and see if they're open to letting you make a lateral move within the organization. That's probably the best way to keep your pay as high as possible and to get as much support as you can in making the switch. Otherwise, you'll have to claw your way into a new job situation and compete against others who may have the difficult combination of lower salary requirements and more relevant work experience than you currently possess.
This was first published in November 2005