Do I need a product qualification?

As an infrastructure technician, I can handle most network support problems, but I do not have a formal "branded" product...

As an infrastructure technician, I can handle most network support problems, but I do not have a formal "branded" product qualification. Is a specialist skill and qualification necessary for the future IT contractor to secure a contract? If so, would you suggest cross-training and/or specialist software skills for me, or should I market myself as a generalist with broader vision and experience?

Integration will be a key skill
An increasing number of employers are looking for specific skills rather than generalisation. The problem is that there is currently little structure in the IT industry to equate levels of experience to specific skills across platforms.

A Microsoft or Cisco qualification would stand you in good stead as a foundation qualification, but if these don't appeal I would suggest focusing on your data migration expertise.

As the market matures, it is moving away from bespoke development and towards integration of packages with specific functions. My personal view is that we will see more of this, and you will suffer if you try to buck the trend. However, whichever packages are chosen by IT buyers, integration at the data level will always be required to allow one application to share data with another - a complex and vital skill.

Alternatively, highlight your broad implementation experience. Making plans a reality is the hard bit of IT. If you could extend your skills to encompass the implications of implementation planning you would be well positioned to find challenging and well-paid projects.

Finally, if you can develop your portfolio of deliverables - network or data diagrams and project plans - you will make it easier for a prospective employer to see what you have done and be confident of taking you on.

Solution by: Jane Standley, E-Skills NTO
The panel: MSB International, Best International Group, Computer Futures, Computer People, Elan, E-Skills NTO, Monarch Recruitment, Reed Computing, Netheads Consulting

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