Managing Success in the IT Industry
Name: Philip Alan Wilson
Certs: Engineer-In-Training (EIT), CCDA, CCNA, HP OpenView Certified Consultant (in five areas), HP STAR Certified Professional, HP STAR Certified Consultant, HP OpenView Certified Integration Expert (in two areas), FC-SAN Professional, FC-SAN Specialist, APC Certified PowerStruXure Engineer, Network+, CNA, CNE
Home: Suwanee, Ga.
Position: Principle Consultant
Words To Learn By: “There is no substitute for real-world experience.”
With a long list of certifications, Philip Alan Wilson’s only career-related stress is managing his credentials. For many, the time studying or the cost for certifications is a burden, but Wilson’s systematic approach has helped him in an often-demanding IT industry.
If asked, Wilson would say his 12 years of success in the industry has been driven by his desire to stay current. However, his meticulous organizing has helped him along the way. Wilson makes sure he’s aware of when his certifications expire and what the recertification requirements are. He believes there’s a reasonable amount of effort that one should put into understanding the certification tracks. “There’s no standards,” he said. “HP does theirs one way. Cisco does theirs another way. CompTIA does theirs completely different.”
In order to keep up with all of his certifications, Wilson has created a spreadsheet detailing when he received each certification and when each one is set to expire. He takes his diligence a step further by setting his Outlook tasks to remind him to check on the status of his various certifications.
Working on networking as well as HP OpenView at every location, Wilson figured he would need to keep his Cisco and Network+ networking certifications current. “My work has always been related,” he said. “I’ve always obtained certifications related to my current assignment, so my outside work investment hasn’t been a terrible burden.” According to Wilson, this practice should also hold true when you get an IT degree. “You ought to get whatever certifications are relevant to the courseware track that you choose, because that’s going to differentiate yourself between the competition in the job market,” he said.
Wilson remembers having to pay his dues early on in his career. “I had to study a lot for my CNE stuff, and I didn’t get any support from that particular employer,” he said. Wilson remembers the late nights and only being able to study at home. However, recently that hasn’t been the case. For his Cisco certifications, he said, “I just went and took the exams after some brief studying.” He was able to pass the exams without a lot of studying because at the time, he was a member of a Cisco study group. “I was actually leading some of the sessions,” he explained. After leading a session, he realized that he should probably hurry up and take his exams. He didn’t have to spend a lot of time studying for his HP OpenView and storage area networking certifications either; they were all related to his current work assignments.
During his time as a contractor for IBM Global Services, Wilson earned his OpenView certifications. Although it wasn’t a requirement for him to get certified, he felt he needed to earn his certifications while he was doing the work. “I had the real-world experience, but I also wanted to have the certifications as well. At the time I was a professional contractor, so when you’re a contractor you need both the credentials and the experience. It was to round out my resume,” he said.
With almost nine years in networking, Wilson has decided to pursue additional Cisco certifications. He already has the CCDA (Cisco Certified Design Associate) and CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certifications, and he plans to get the next certification on the track but not without making sure that he saves time and money. He knows if he gets his CCDP (Cisco Certified Design Professional), it would update his CCDA and CCNA. “So, instead of going back and taking those two, I can get the next one,” he said.
Return On Investment
Out of 19 certifications, Wilson has had to pay for eight or nine of them. His employers funded his other certifications. From the looks of his achievements, Wilson has received a return on his investment. In addition to being invited to be a featured speaker at the 2002 HP Software Forum because of his abundance of OpenView certifications, Wilson believes his certifications have opened doors for him because they prove that he is qualified. “I feel like as I progress throughout my career, I continued to either obtain or renew my certifications, and I feel like it’s helped me both land contracts when I was a contractor or actually land full-time positions,” he said.
Since receiving a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1993, Wilson has worked for companies such as Arrow Electronics, AudioFAX, IBM Global Services, InteQ Inc., MCI/WorldCom, The Coca-Cola Company and WorldSpan LP. He recently took a job as a principle consultant for Network Management Solutions, an engineering consulting company focused on network and system and performance management. His work has allowed him to travel all over the country. While working for Coca-Cola, he traveled to Europe where he worked as a networking engineer responsible for the SAP deployment.
Another reason Wilson’s career has developed is because of the professional organizations he belongs to. As an electrical engineer, he decided to join IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and the IEEE Computer Society. After joining, he let his membership lapse, but, he said, “since the IEEE has actually grown in it’s IT presence, they have expanded their computer engineering society, and because it’s been an industry-wide blur between IT and engineering, I renewed my membership.” He’s currently the vice-chair for Area 3, in Georgia, his home state.
Wilson is also an active member of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), a vendor-independent organization that he said is trying to create standards for the new storage area networking industry. Wilson first got involved with SNIA while working for Arrow Electronics, a company member of SNIA. “I volunteered, and then my manager agreed and assigned me to be an active member of SNIA,” he said. As a member of the organization’s Management Application Protocol Steering Group, he spends time every week on conference calls planning to author or revise standards. He’s also a member of OpenView Forum International (OVFI), an international user group.
Taking Time Off
Working 40 to 50 hours a week and handling extracurricular career-related activities, Wilson still manages to find time to spend with his family in their home near Atlanta, Ga. He and his wife like to relax on the lake in their boat and on their two wave runners. He’s able to enjoy the lake from April to September because of Georgia’s warm weather.
Planning For the Future
Looking ahead, Wilson said he couldn’t imagine not being in a technical role. “I don’t have plans to go into management. I prefer to do technical-related stuff,” he said. He’s open to considering a research-based electrical engineering job in the future. Judging the system that Wilson has set up for himself, it seems inevitable that he will manage to succeed.
Tanisha Blakely is editor of electronic media for Certification Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.