Spoiled for choice?
I have a broad-based computing degree and five years' experience contracting in Lan admin and technical support; systems support with operating systems such as Windows NT and Unix; and configuration of 3Com devices and Cisco routes. I want to move into a permanent post, but I am unsure which skill set to use to market myself. I have invested in training materials for Solaris Administration certification as well as a Cisco router. Should I continue with Lan admin and support with network operating systems or concentrate on Cisco routers and pursue CCNA accreditation?
Plan a different mix
Once you get into a permanent job, it can be more difficult to change direction than it is for a contractor, so you are right to give your next move such careful consideration.
You should not package the decision up into these two choices. It seems that you would be better placed to go down the Cisco route and combine this with Unix rather than Windows NT. NT 2000 is a completely saturated market, and is subject to a lot of churn. This means there are often opportunities, but once you reach a certain level it is much harder to progress.
Unix, on the other hand, is a more technical, higher-level and better-paid skill. Used heavily within the financial and banking sectors, there are currently more opportunities for IT personnel with these skills. Unix ties in very well with Cisco-based operations, and is a great skill to have for networking. Combining these skills gives you the best of both worlds and opens up a greater range of career options.
These skills enable you to become a network security specialist, an area which is currently very much in demand owing to the distribution of many larger networks over a number of sites. This also opens up opportunities in network management and data networking.
This was first published in December 2002