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IT future?
April 27, 2012 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I have the opportunity for free education/certification in practically any IT field. Please help me decide the best route....

So, my boss was recently let go. She was essentially the network administrator. In light of her departure I am now being offered the chance to "pick your path".

I'm in charge of the helpdesk. Our company has about 300 users. A pretty vanilla Microsoft shop through and through. AD, Exchange, about 150 workstations, and an AS400 system that is in charge of inventory, ordering, ect. We're a large company (15 sites in 5 states), but the IT department is small and we all have our hands in a lot of pots. I handle pretty much all the mobile devices (mostly iPads/phones and some Android), and do admin work in the AD and Exchange servers. Nothing big, just maintenance and adding/removing users, ect.

I know I simply lack the mental facilities for any kind of programming and this is being offered more on the "maybe you can get 2 days off for a seminar" type education, not any kind of long-term schooling. Think CCNA, not a CS degree.

Basically, I would like to rack up as much future-proof, valid IT certifications/education as I can. I am slowly watching PCs disappear in favor of iPads, watching more and more services move to the cloud, and realizing the days of everybody having a server room nearing an end.

I know the common follow-up is, "what is your passion?". Frankly, IT is my JOB and my passions don't pay well. I would like to do this with the cold calculation of an investor. I never want to be at the mercy of crap company because I lack the skills to easily pickup another job.

Some of it needs to be geared towards our current infrastructure. For instance: our Exchange situation is a mess and bossman wants it to be either moved to the cloud or have our current Exchange (2007) whipped into submission. We are also using XenServer and currently paying contractors obscene amounts of money to virtualize a lot of systems.

PS Is XenServer a dead end? I've heard it mentioned derisively by friends of mine in higher-level positions. Seems VM or HyperV are more respected.

PPS I know should've gotten my A+ cert years ago, and at this point it seems silly. I have no certifications as is, but have been in pretty good IT jobs for 6 years now in various helpdesk/networking/sysadmin roles.
posted by lattiboy to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Learn that AS400 system and get a database (DB2) cert. Or go out on your own and get an Oracle cert. The highest paying jobs in IT are in databases.

You can also do very well as a networking expert, but you need a lot of experience with big expensive networks, not just a CCNA.
posted by miyabo at 2:36 PM on April 27, 2012


Oh, and if possible, could I get SPECIFIC certs to go for, that'd be awesome.
posted by lattiboy at 2:47 PM on April 27, 2012


One more bit of info: We have two full time IS/DB people, so that isn't someplace they're going to want me to concentrate on.
posted by lattiboy at 3:06 PM on April 27, 2012


First off, if you don't have a college degree, that's really what you should pursue. It's very common for companies to talk to you with a college degree and no certs, but not the other way around. In other words, a college degree is a requirement. It doesn't have to be a CS degree. You could pursue an MIS degree, which is often a lot less programming-intensive.

Ruling out any sort of programming, as a cold business decision, the money for you is in virtualization, SANs, databases and network engineering. There is also some money in continuing to learn the Microsoft technologies you're already using, but that won't be enough by itself, doesn't pay as well as the other things I listed and monoculture IT shops will become less common over time. The one upside of learning Microsoft technologies is that it's easy to setup test/learning environments at home. Still, you're better off with the other four that I listed.

I don't know if XenServer is a dead-end, but VMware owns the virtualization market. You'd be better off (from a personal perspective) implementing VMware. Also, you have six years of experience, so the A+ isn't worth anything.

All of these areas are pretty safe in the medium-term, but they will likely all go away long-term. As you noted, IT infrastructure is moving to the cloud, whether public or private. Once everything is virtualized and accessible remotely, there is little need for full-time, local network or server administration. These jobs are going to migrate to service providers who will source jobs in cheap labor markets. That doesn't mean all the jobs will all go away, but many will. Factor that in to your planning.
posted by cnc at 4:08 PM on April 27, 2012


Does your company have Cisco routers? Then think Cisco certification. The internet will always need routers. Cisco certified people are pretty highly paid too, as a rule.
posted by humpy at 6:19 PM on April 27, 2012


Pick something that will teach you a skill that will be useful to you day-to-day. Nobody cares what certifications you have.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:03 PM on April 27, 2012


tylerkaraszewski: "Nobody cares what certifications you have."

This is only sorta true. It's true that on a day-to-day basis, nobody cares if you've got your CCNA, or RHCE, or CCISP, or whatever.

But when it comes time to try and find a new job, those certs absolutely matter. The best career move I ever made as a Linux admin was getting my RHCE, because so often in the linux admin field, HR people look for "redhat certified" on your resume, and if its not there, you don't even get considered. It's one way to help your resume appear more wheat than chaff, in other words.

/anecdata
posted by namewithoutwords at 4:53 AM on April 28, 2012


Hmm if your a microsoft shop the microsoft related certs can get you far. They can teach you what you need to know about your current setup.

Ps We use hyper-v here at work because its free and 2008 r2 datacenter includes unlimited licenses for any virtualized microsoft OS. Xenserver and the others you need to buy a windows license for every windows OS that you virtualise (oem licenses do not transfer to another machine).
posted by majortom1981 at 9:01 AM on April 28, 2012


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