Considered working as a Network Operations Specialist? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more.
I have spent the last three years as a Network Operations Specialist in the IT department of a Fortune 500 company.
For the most part, my daily responsibilities involve the day-to-day operation of our company's network. My team and I are responsible for ensuring that necessary elements of our network such as the internet and company databases are available around-the-clock by the other employees of the company. While this is most often thought of as a “back-end” career, there is actually a substantial amount of face-to-face interaction with the rest of the office to ensure that the network is running as intended.
Overall, I would rate this job as an 8 out of 10 in terms of satisfaction. There is a fair amount of stress involved, particularly in times of outages or network failures. In such cases, long hours are required to correct what may have gone wrong.
I definitely enjoy the feeling of responsibility that accompanies this job. I currently maintain a network with over 2,000 daily users with thousands more granted access at any given time and it is my job to ensure that this technology is constantly at their fingertips.
Not only do I maintain the network, but I am also one of those protecting it from outside attacks and vulnerabilities. While we are not constantly bombarded with malicious users, it does happen on occasion, and I have to be ready to guard against those attempting to access our network without permission.
My first experience in this field came in high school when I worked with a teacher of mine who was doing a similar job for our school. He taught me the basics of computer networking and showed me the ropes that were the foundation to my career today. In a lot of ways, he took me under his wing and is directly responsible for my success. If I could go back and do it over again, I would concentrate more on practical application in the college classroom as opposed to theory. I face real life challenges everyday, something I was not fully prepared for when I started.
One of the first things I learned in the professional world was the importance of communication. As I said before, one of the biggest misconceptions regarding this job is that IT professionals sit in a back room and don't interact with anyone. During my first week, I learned that one of the biggest mistakes you can make is “winging it”, or making changes without consulting those above you or those who use the network on the daily basis.
In the classroom, there is a lot more room for error when compared to the real world. If you make a mistake on an exam or an essay, you may receive a failing grade, but you'll have a chance to recover by working hard throughout the rest of the semester. In the real world, the quality of your work must always be at its peak. An error in judgment or mistake, especially the kind that costs a company money, could lead to termination. In this way, there are no second chances. That's a lot of pressure.
During my first six months, one of the employees accidentally unleashed a virus on all the machines connected to the network by opening a malicious email. Inside contained a piece of software that connected to the internet and downloaded all sorts of adware, spyware and other software on the machines. My team and I spent nearly three straight days correcting the mistakes and had to do most of the work one computer at a time on a network of over 250 computers.
I am able to get up and go each morning because I truly enjoy what I am doing. I think that's the key to anything. As long as you can find joy in your work, you will be a happier, more productive worker. I feel most proud of the four people I have under me who I have also personally trained. Teaching others to do what I do is one of the most rewarding parts of this job.
Occasionally, my workload demands that I meet some deadlines that are less than ideal. This leads to long nights on occasion when I am usually able to maintain a more normal schedule. I also get frustrated when the mistakes of others create more work for me, like the story I mentioned. That sort of thing happens frequently, and while I enjoy the opportunity to help people, I sometimes wish people would be more careful and realize that the company network is not the same as a home internet connection.
The high standard of work required of me leads to a decent amount of stress, but I am careful not to take my work home with me if at all possible. My work and life balance is usually in check as long as I stay rested and focused throughout the day. If I allow distractions from home or my personal life to cloud my mind during the work day, my work suffers, leading to even more stress than before.
The salary for those in my field with similar education, experience and background is between $50,000 and $75,000. I am fairly pleased with my current financial situation as well as the opportunities I will have for advancement in the future.
I take anywhere between 1-2 weeks of vacation on a given year, depending on whether or not I wish to bank the vacation time for the future. Being in the same job for a few years has allowed me to build up a good amount of time, and I feel like I have more freedom to take more time off if needed now.
In order to enter this line of work, you need an intricate knowledge of cooperate networks and the hardware that runs them on a variety of operating systems. A college degree in Information Technology is a great starting point, but many employers are now looking for those with more specialized Masters level education in addition to this foundation. A diverse background working in the field in some capacity is also a huge plus.
I would tell a friend considering this line of work to do their research beforehand, and even job-shadow me or someone they know to get an idea of what the day-to-day duties entail. Jumping into a new career is difficult, but it can be compounded by not knowing what exactly someone in my position actually does. Many people may think they know, but it's difficult to get the feel for it without seeing it for yourself.
In the future if it were up to me, I would love to teach those who want to do what I am doing in a classroom setting. I feel my experience in the field is valuable, and I can give those seeking to work in this field an idea of what to expect.
This is a true career story as told to ComputerJobs.net and is one of many interviews with computer professionals which among others include a Software Analyst and a Systems Engineer.