One of the best things about the CertMag.com Web site is that it gives you readers out there a means of communicating with one another directly. And thankfully, some of you have had a whole lot to say—offering all sorts of information, advice and examples from your own professional lives. We’ve been paying attention, and we must say that we’re impressed by all of your insightful and—contrary to extant stereotypes of IT professionals—fairly lucid and skillfully expressed comments.
To illustrate this point, we’ll take a look this month at some of your comments on the forums. (Editor’s note: Quotations contained within have been edited for grammatical purposes.) We hope you enjoy the showcase of your analyses of various issues in the IT industry. And, as always, you can read and write whatever you like at www.certmag.com/forums.
In our anything-goes General Discussion forum, CertMag.com member jojeje asked which certification, given a choice between the Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNA) or Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP), would be the way to go after getting the Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) credential.
In response to the question, U.K.-based site member wagnerk said, “(L)ooking at the Cisco diagram, the CCNP and CCSP are the same level, so it boils down to what field/area do you want to progress to. Saying that, however, the security field is currently expanding and there is a ‘shortage’ of skilled/certified staff in this area of IT. Not sure if that’s a good thing, ’cause as soon as there’s a shortage, it seems like everyone rushes out to do the certs in that field, and that makes a surplus. (For example the MCSE, now that becoming a standard for help desk—why????) On the other hand, another report shows that in 2010 there will be shortage of suitable qualified network engineers/professionals.”
Another member, SanKilla, said, “I actually toiled with this same question. So I would say go for the CCNP. Very simply, this certification really gives you a good platform to stand on. If you go CCSP, this will lead you into the security pieces of Cisco, but will leave you wondering about more advantages and concepts of the CCNP level. However, if you have a true understanding of what networking is about, you might be able to go for CCSP and really take off. By the way, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on these certifications. Get the books, and I would suggest getting a test-taking engine.”
Meanwhile, over in the Salary Survey forum, SynAckFin inquired what a person with four-and-a-half years of IT experience, A+, Network+, CCNA and Cisco Specialist certifications in firewall and VPN—should be earning annually. “Without you knowing my age, race or gender,” SynAckFin asked, “what do you think is a reasonable salary range?”
Most of the answers to the question mentioned that it was very difficult to take age out of the compensation equation. Although it might be oversimplifying a bit, the general rule is the longer you stay in the workforce, the more money you make. “The fact is that older people make more and oftentimes do less for their jobs,” T_bone said. “It might not be right, but them’s the breaks. It’s what’s referred to in popular parlance as ‘paying your dues.’ Just stick around long enough and you’ll make a healthy wage.”
“Age really does have bearing on what you’re going to make,” ceadmin added. “There is just no way you can have as much experience in the market as someone that started out at 18 but is 40 (and) going for the same job. Like everything else, (if) you move jobs, you start over on the totem pole. But like others have mentioned, weigh your options. Sometimes waiting a year or two in your current job pays off big dividends further down the line. Also, I know you said you’ll see what you get offered, but at least in my case I have never been offered a salary, they always ask me for one. I always respond with a range after plenty of research in my area and my profession. If you give them too high or too low of a salary, you’re not hired most times. So that’s why it’s important for you to know beforehand.”
The Career Development forum features another question about which certifications would be most beneficial for a particular professional path. Member Jivedaddy recently transitioned out of a career in sales to start an IT company that specialized in Web site development and catered to residential and small-business clients, and wanted to know what credentials to pursue.
“I think that you should obtain certifications that add value and credibility to the services that your company provides,” Brooklyn, N.Y.-based member porengo said. “For example, on your Web site you’ve listed network installation and security as services you provide. You may want to consider going for Network+ (or CCNA) and Security+ certifications. I would also suggest you obtain your MCP in Windows XP Pro. If I were a potential client and saw the words ‘Microsoft Certified Professional’ on your Web site, I would hire you over someone that isn’t certified.” Another recommendation from porengo and other members was CompTIA’s A+ Authorized Service Center (ASC), a certification for businesses.
In this forum, there’s a discussion about what role open-source technologies and techniques will play in the future of the IT industry, especially with regard to younger workers entering the field.
“Part of IT’s future is in open-source,” wagnerk said. “A lot of companies (and countries) are adopting the open-source way. The younger and entry-level professionals will be split: open-source for developers and ‘closed-source’ for support staff. Let’s face it—while open-source technology like Linux is catching up fast, it still has a long way to go.”
“(H)onestly, I think open source gets younger IT people thinking about spending, cost savings and alternate solutions, and that is a good thing,” added Chris Lehr, a CertMag.com member and editorial contributor. “However, I also think open source has its place, and some open-source solutions are not ready for prime time, and many corporations and companies (read: ones with no IT department) cannot afford to go open source, because when something is down, they can’t rely on their IT person asking the ‘community’ for help. They want answers now.”
Wireless Speaking of Chris Lehr, he’s set up a discussion thread over in the Wireless forum to discuss a piece he wrote for the CertMag Web site in December 2005 titled “Monitoring & Preventing Problems on Wireless Networks,” and invited readers to share any thoughts or ask any questions they like. (Read it at www. certmag.com/articles/templates/CM_COMM_Net_ article.asp?articleid=1533&zoneid=159.)
CertMag.com member zedsdead asked, “Are there any stats out there that show how often laptops are compromised in public wireless access settings? I think that’s a real threat, to be sure, but I’m not convinced that it actually happens a lot.”
Lehr responded, “Honestly, I am not 100 percent sure it happens all that often either. This is one of those cases where you just want to be preventing it, rather than have it happen to you. On my home network, I use exclusively wireless. Not a single wire in the house. So I have it locked down pretty tightly, as my client data, my personal data and all of my finances are on there, so I treat it with the highest security I could stand, WPA-PSK with MAC address filtering as well. I might be an optimist, but I believe most people using other people’s wireless are harmless, just