IT Career JumpStart

Dec 24 2008   4:01PM GMT

More on Entry-Level Certs from the Trenches

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I play pool two nights a week on leagues that belong to the American Poolplayers Association (APA). My Thursday night 9-ball team is composed primarily of people who work in IT. Of the seven people on the team, one is a paralegal, another a hairdresser, and the other five work for Dell (1), IBM/Tivoli (1), NetQoS (1), Megapath (a network management subsidiary of T-Mobile), and me/himself (self-employed technology writer).

One of our number has recently earned his CCNA, by finally completing the second of the two exam sequence for that credential (640-822 ICND1 and 640-816 ICND2), about 9 months after completing the first exam. The second time around it took him three tries to pass, primarily because of the many draws on his time away from studying and toward other things in life: family, leisure, plus a baby on the way. He’s 32 and has worked for the same high-tech company for the past 5 years.

When I asked my friend–let’s call him Joe–whether or not his newly-earned credential would provide him a salary bump, he thought about it for a minute and then said “No. Probably not. I’ll see when my next annual review comes around.” When I asked him why he thought that was the case, he observed that his employer is notoriously attentive to the bottom line and that employees tend to come late into their calculations and distributions even when times are good, more so when times are not so good. Right now, 2% raises are about as much as anybody is getting, under any circumstances.

He’s getting ready to start on the CCNP for Routing and Switching next, with a goal of earning that credential by the end of 2009 or early in 2010. At that point, he plans to start down the CCIE path for both Routing and Switching and Security, and also plans to start looking around for another job. I’ve seen this young man grow significantly in skills, knowledge, professional stature, and maturity in obtaining his CCNA and expect him to continue further down that path in pursuing and obtaining his CCNP, and ultimately, his CCIE.

But this story is entirely typical for many early to mid-career IT professionals (Joe has 7 years of full-time IT experience now, and has worked his way up from help desk, to technical support, to infrastructure support along the way). He’s also got a bachelor’s in Computer Science from a middle tier Texas University and now, of course, the CCNA. When I ask him how he feels about his progress and prospects he’s brutally realistic about his situation: “I had hoped to be doing better by now, but with the economy so shaky, I could definitely be doing worse.” This only appears to strengthen his resolve to do better in the future, and to turn his advancing certifications into more earnings and improved job security.

So do we all, Joe; so do we all. As we make the transition from a crazy 2008 to an uncertain 2009, I hope all of us can appreciate what’s good about our current situations, and resolve to improve them as best we can in the times ahead. What else can we do? You tell me…

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