What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

Working with Systems and Network

1. System and Network Job Overview
2. System Administration
3. Network Administration

1. System and Network Job Overview

The sector of system and network is hot in IT. Simply speaking, IT cannot live without it. All of today's organizations, large or small, rely on computer systems and network to carry out their mission. The number and size of distributed networks and systems are increasing everyday in all industries. The dramatic growth of system and network in the business world has created a tremendous demand for more, and better trained professionals and specialists in this sector.

The work with systems and network is a unique area in IT career. Unlike programming and database, system and network jobs are not focused on code and data. Instead, they are functioned on configuration tasks and often deal with hardware.

System and network positions, such as systems administrator and network administrator are experience-based jobs. That means hands-on experience is more important than academic knowledge and analytical intelligence. On these jobs you develop problem-solving skills through real-life experience.

System and network jobs are service oriented work. The work is not delivering products but supporting other staff working on the IT infrastructure. Thus strong inter-personal and communication skills are necessary.

On the technical aspect, the following knowledge and skills are essential for system and network professionals to carry out their duties successfully:

  • Operation system (Windows, UNIX, Linux, etc.)
  • Network protocol (mainly TCP/IP)
  • Server hardware (server box, hard disk, RAID5, etc.)
  • Network hardware (switch, hub, router, etc)
  • System scripting language (UNIX shell, Perl, etc.)

2. System Administration

The common position in system administration is Systems Administrator. Systems Administrators perform a wide range of varied tasks. The best systems administrators are generalists who draw on knowledge from many fields.

System administrators come from much diversified academic backgrounds. Most of them get their skills through on-the-job experience and self training.

System administration tasks

The most common tasks include:

  • Install, configure, maintain, and update operating system software.
  • Install and use system administration utility software.
  • Install and configure server application software, i.e., database server, web server, application server, etc.
  • User and security management - manage user account and access control.
  • Performance monitoring and tuning on system resources (CPU, memory, etc.)
  • Data backup and restore - using tape device or other media.
  • Storage management - hard disk configuration.
  • Writing system administration scripts to automate common tasks.
  • Debug and troubleshoot system and network problems.
  • Repair and replace hardware devices (hard disk, network cable, etc.)

Knowledge and skills

It is important for system administrators to build soft skills - inter-personal and communication skills; capable of writing proposals or papers, acting as a vendor liaison, making presentations to customer or client audiences or professional peers, and working closely with upper management.

A system administrator must have the ability to solve problems quickly and completely and the ability to identify tasks which require automation and automate them.

On the technical side, the following qualifications are required:

  • A solid understanding of a UNIX-based operating system; understands paging and swapping, inter-process communication, devices and what device drivers do, file system concepts ("inode", "superblock"), can use performance analysis to tune systems.
  • A solid understanding of networking/distributed computing environment concepts; understands principles of routing, client/server programming, and the design of consistent network-wide filesystem layouts.
  • Ability to program in an administrative language (TYK, Perl, a shell), to port C programs from one platform to another, and to write small C programs.

3. Network Administration

The job of network administration is Network Administrator which may also specifically called LAN Administrator, Novell Administrator, Network Engineer, etc. Network administrators are among the most in-demand IT professionals as there is hardly one business application without networking capabilities nowadays.

Network administration tasks

In general, network administrators perform the following tasks:

  • Install, configure, and maintain local area networks (LAN)
  • Manage wide area networks (WAN) - this is an optional task.
  • Install network devices, - network card, hub, switch, router, cable, etc.
  • Extend existing network.
  • Design new network system.
  • Network performance monitoring and tuning.
  • Troubleshoot and resolve network connection problems.
  • Provide end-user support.

In some situation, network administrators also perform system administration tasks such as operating system management and user security administration.

Knowledge and skills

Work on network administration requires strong communication skills and problem-solving skills. In addition, the following technical skills are essential:

  • twork operating systems - Windows server, Sun Solaris, Novell NetWare.
  • Network protocol - TCP/IP
  • Internet technologies - http, IIS, Apache.
  • Server software - Database server, Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino.
  • Network hardware - routers, switches, hubs.
  • Network design and network topologies.

The basic networking knowledge really gives you the insight of data flow existing in the today's IT environments. This knowledge is the indispensable base to allow extend your knowledge to reach the coming technologies that form the e-commerce sports ground. It gives you the luxury and comfort to absorb, adapt and conquer any acronym beasts, HTTP, SOAP or WSDL, to name a few. Once you grasp the basic concept of modern networking, you would feel that actually the ceiling is not that high and different faces do not make things that differently inside.

There is certain compressed way of engaging in networking knowledge. Given example, Microsoft provides an exam named Network Essential. The coverage of the exam truly represents the basic networking knowledge. Similar exchangeable exam is also offered from network product vendor such as Sun Micro system.