New Year’s Day Job

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The start of a new year inevitably inspires a desire for change. Even for those not given to such traditional gestures as New Year’s resolutions, the onset of January is likely to bring about hastily jotted to-do lists, and somewhere between “lose 30 pounds” and “call landlord about broken towel rack,” you throw in “get new job.”

Examples of such fledgling ambitions can be found on discussion boards. New member ebiz introduced herself in a thread titled “Getting back into the swing of things.” She’s a stay-at-home mom with experience ranging from working at an auction-based Web site during the dot-com boom to selling computers, teaching introductory computer classes and working in computer repair.

“I have no certifications but will have an AAIT completed in June,” she said. “I have done minor programming and Web site design using Front Page, Dreamweaver, etc. I was going to continue pursuing a BSIT/visual communications degree but am worried if I wait on getting that, I will have been out of the field for too long.

“I have been looking to get back into IT and have had one (interview) where I was the runner-up but no other calls. What do I do to get back in now? Do I really have a chance at anything decent before my associate degree is completed? Are certs more important than a degree, or does the degree hold more weight?”

Those with advice for ebiz can go to the general discussion board at to offer their thoughts.

Career Development
Another new member, midnightowlrob, also finds himself looking for the best on-ramp to IT, as he described in a thread titled “Career change limbo.” He’s worked as a carpenter for 21 years and is facing the possibility of being laid off. Meanwhile, he’s been preparing himself to get into IT.

“Two years ago, I wanted to change career paths. I enrolled at a tech school and learned so much in the (next) two years. I was able to pass both of my A+ tests, then passed my Network+ test, got my MCP, my MCSA, passed my Security+ test and got my Security portion of the cert by passing both 70-298 and 70-299. After a few tries, I finally passed my 70-293 test. In March of this year, I obtained my MCSE/Security cert.”

Meanwhile, midnightowlrob has set up a home lab with four cheap computers and a router. He wants to quit his day job and find an entry-level IT job but with a family to support, he can’t see his income cut in half. He’d like some suggestions on how to get part-time IT work with no experience. CertMag forum regular wagnerk had this to say:

“First of all, I would stop taking exams until you actually enter the IT profession. Unfortunately, these types of certs (Microsoft, Cisco, etc.) are practical qualifications, and if you don’t have the experience to back them up, you may find yourself in a stalemate. Employers will find you overqualified for entry-level posts, and the posts that require the MCSE will find you don’t have the necessary experience. Don’t fall for salespeoples’ stories of getting a 50K job once you get your MCSE.”

Wagnerk suggests midnightowlrob volunteer his IT services to get things rolling.

“Get in contact with local schools, churches, charities and small businesses to offer them your services. There are also a lot of Web sites out there looking for volunteers, so do a search for ‘volunteer IT,’ etc. They won’t pay you, but it’s the experience that you’re after.”

Another member, One Old Jedi, is coming into IT the opposite way. He’s already gotten experience by volunteering and now wants to know what certification will best help him build on that.

“Although I don’t work directly in IT, I have extensive experience in networking and troubleshooting PCs. I currently volunteer at my church, assisting in maintaining their server, along with (their) graphic design. I’ve become adept with wireless networking and related security issues. Would the CWNA certification be of benefit, and is there a demand for people specializing in wireless?” member Mister Multipath, new to the forums, offered a qualified opinion.

“As someone who has been teaching the CWNA and CWSP classes for almost five years, I can testify to the value of both certifications. Many companies across the globe recognize the 802.11 wireless certs and often require their employees to hold the CWNA and/or CWSP cert. As with any certification, the most important benefit is knowledge and experience.”

As in IT overall, information security remains a hot topic on our forums. New member ISSFirewall reminded forum members that the biggest — and perhaps not publicized — information security threats from within can be as potent as those from without.

“As most security experts know, inside threats are the worst out there, whether they are witting or unwitting. In many cases, it’s simply the ignorant that leave their password on a Post-It stuck to their monitor or choose the simplest, easiest-to-guess password they can think of. Then there are the employees that deliberately hinder the security of the network, whether (it’s because of) vengeance, boredom or just maliciousness.“

Systems & Networks
Last month, we reported in this column on a community forum discussion of the difference between the Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) and the Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), with members wanting to know the difference between the two. Since then, CertMag forum regular wagnerk has brought some clarification to the discussion, as well as a comment on which is more valuable these days.

“To be honest, the MCSE is also for networking but using Microsoft technology. The CCNP is for networking but using CISCO technology. From a level point of view, the CCNP would be around the same level as the MCSA. As for which one is more valuable nowadays, it depends on what your job entails and what environment you work in. In my opinion, (you should) try to achieve both. Most environments use some sort of CISCO switch (from the hardware side) and use MS technology (from the software side).”

Over in the trainers community forum, new member bandit648 has started a thread with a question about boot camps.

“I was wondering if anyone here has much experience with certification boot camps. I’m considering a few camps for my A+/NET+ certs. Are these camps worth the high price tag? For lower level certs like A+, am I better off just reading the books and taking the test? I already have 2.5 years of experience in IT as a network operator and an administrator assistant. I want to get certified ASAP so I can advance my career.”

He also said the impression he’s gotten is that if he combines a couple certifications with his already established experience, he can get a job as a network administrator.

Those with any experiences with boot camps to relay to bandit648 should go to the Trainers discussion board at

General Discussion
Back on the general discussion board, member NSComp would like to know what to make of an IT consultant elsewhere on the Web predicting that home computers will be extinct within five years. Instead, the IT consultant figures they’ll be replaced by devices such as cable boxes that will consume less energy, operate more efficiently and reliably and will provide a PC’s functionality over the Internet for a small subscription fee.

Any of our members with a reaction to this soothsaying should go to the General Discussion board thread titled “Home PC extinction?”

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