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IT networking is always evolving, and this is especially true now with the current state of digital disruption. IT managers need to keep pace with the dynamic nature of enterprise networking technology in order to advance their networking career path.
The dramatic rate and scope of change in networking can overwhelm IT professionals. However, proactive network managers can take three important steps to thrive in the changing technology tides. These actions can help IT managers master their current roles and lead to ongoing job growth as they venture through their networking career path.
Step 1: Acquire and maintain credentials
Preparing for and attaining basic network credentials, such as the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) accreditation, can provide essential foundational knowledge to build and maintain critical network infrastructures. These certification courses outline the necessary elements to support an optimally performing network.
These programs delve into areas such as how to track operational levels of physical systems and what tools to use to troubleshoot software programs. Many of these courses are offered online, giving IT professionals more flexibility.
To keep their credentials, network managers need to renew these certifications after a certain time period -- every three years in the case of the CCNA. This renewal process requires network managers to keep up with changes in network equipment, software and overall operations.
Typically, to renew a major certification like CCNA, network managers need to pass a test or tests in specific networking areas to ensure they are up to date on any changes. Although these credentials do not replace operational experience, they confirm a network manager has the fundamental knowledge to support the enterprise.
Step 2: Specialize with education and experience
As in other fields, continuing education is important to augment your networking career path. Specialization is one way to advance in the networking field. Certifications like the CCNA offer opportunities for more specific credentials in areas such as security, data center, wireless, and routing and switching.
Network managers can also assume more responsibility beyond their initial roles to continue to gain important operational experience. IT professionals need to heed opportunities to expand their expertise by taking on new tasks when they arise, particularly in critical areas such as network security.
Step 3: Catch up on what's next
The importance of understanding both emerging networking technologies and areas adjacent to networking has never been greater. Sectors such as cloud incorporate data center technologies and connectivity, which makes learning about that intersection a necessity.
Being informed on upcoming technical advances and changing IT consumption models is critical to a network manager's role. Conferences and other networking events can provide valuable insights from across a spectrum of technologies and experiences.
On a day-to-day basis, collaborating with colleagues can and should yield important insights into current technology approaches and advances on the horizon. Industry associations and trade publications also offer a wealth of resources to expand a network manager's knowledge base.