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For networking pros, career success lies beyond skills

Matthew Moran has made a career out of helping IT professionals. He has served as a chief information officer, project manager and technology consultant with a background in programming, network integration and automation, as well as project development and management.

@8896 He recently authored the new book The IT Career Builder's Toolkit: Your Complete Guide to Building Your Information Technology Career in Any Economy. Moran spoke with about the book, the future of networking and the skills necessary for dynamic IT career growth.

What inspired you to write the book?
I left a job as a CIO for a client that bought my consulting company in 2001. I consulted independently and pursued a writing interest; I published articles on professional development. Correspondingly, I was posting advice via an online career discussion and was getting great feedback. The forum members encouraged me to put my ideas into a toolkit of sorts. Is it getting easier or harder for networking pros to develop their careers?
In many ways it is harder. However, I want to temper that. It isn't harder because the career is not a good one. Instead, it's because the market was skewed in the late '90s when people were left with an unrealistic expectation for what it meant to build an IT career. It is not, and never has been, about your pure technical talent. There is a whole set of other skills that should be mastered and incorporated into what you do on a daily basis. If a networking professional sets out to learn those skills, they can rapidly advance in their careers. What are some of the career-building obstacles that thwart IT pros?
One big issue is that IT pros fail to network with peers and management outside their direct department. People move from company to company, and careers combine your ability to perform with the relationships you cultivate.

Another issue is the idea that pay is the only determiner of job growth. Remember, opportunities, mentoring and learning environments are also critical. I want IT pros to understand that career development is an ongoing marketing and branding endeavor. If you are qualitatively superior to others in your field or with a particular discipline, let people know it. If you look on paper exactly like the next guy, you are [the same] -- regardless of actual performance. What impact is network management automation having on careers?
Contrary to what some believe, I think network management automation is a good thing for IT pros. Some think automation is taking away jobs. I see it as a way for network professionals to automate away their mundane tasks. If networking professionals can build more standardized and automated networks, they can concentrate on solving the actual user and management level problems within a company. By learning how to automate effectively, an IT pro learns skills that provide user-level automation, and that's a great overall career strategy.

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Are there areas of IT you see disappearing in the foreseeable future?
The vision of a network administrator who can add users, change passwords and move PCs around isn't so much disappearing, but it is being relegated to a significantly lower spot on the professional totem pole. Technologist jobs morph just like technology does, but part of the pleasure of being in the field is the learning process. Can you pinpoint a few vital skills for IT pros to possess?
XML and Web services -- from concept to support -- are very important. The ability to see the similarities between Linux, Windows and mainframes is critical, too. Many technology pros are intimidated to take on another OS because they fail to see they are similar in many respects. My advice to IT pros in this situation: Concentrate on similarities -- you already know those things -- all you need to learn now are the differences. Why do you think it's always been a good time to get into IT?
Because technology is so performance-based, you can master the full suite of skills and promote the value you bring, wherein your career opportunities will be limitless.

However, the IT professional -- and I am one -- has typically been a bad employee. Network professionals need to be better chameleons and adapt more to their ever-changing environments. Companies are now seeing technology as a tool to help achieve strategically defined business objectives. If you can make your organization's technology meet and surpass its objectives, it is a great time to be in IT.

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