Modern Network Architecture

Dec 11 2011   11:02PM GMT

Technical Glass Ceiling

James Murray James Murray Profile: James Murray

I saw it ten years ago, I see it today.  A network is built.  The business systems are built on the network.  As the business grows, the technology remains the same.  As the business grows further, the technical systems begin choking the productivity of the organization.  The next step in the cycle is that the business stops growing because the network capacity has stopped growing.  What I’ve found is that the IT expert before me was doing the best he/she could.  The problem was that their experience was with smaller businesses and smaller business systems.  Once the business outgrew the knowledge of the IT staff, the productivity stopped growing as well.  I call this limitation in technical knowledge the IT departments technical glass ceiling.  The modern network architect must keep raising his/her own technical glass ceiling. 

If you think about it… well it makes sense.  A kid out of high school can connect a few computers together.  The concept is not that big of a jump.  Many teenage boys spend their weekends connecting up their computers in order to play computer games together.  While the principles the same, does it lend itself well to a business that that has grown from 10 to 100 employees.  Now the knowledge level of the high school kid has been exceeded.  Not that the kid realizes it yet.  Nor does the owner realize it yet.  When it becomes obvious is when the network goes down for days or weeks rather than hours. 

When that network goes down a new technician comes along.  Yet the cycle repeats itself.  Now the technician grows the technology until his/her technical glass ceiling is reached.  The technician doesn’t want to give up the contract and keeps trying “work-a-rounds” to keep the business running.  Until one day… the network fails again.  Now an IT Consulting Company takes over.  This IT Services Company has an even higher technical ceiling. 

I’ve found it’s not uncommon for this cycle to happen over and over again.  

The problem is further complicated as technology changes so quickly.  Experts at NT 4.0 had to re-invent themselves to work with Windows 2000.  Then again become experts in Windows 2003 technologies and finally 2008 technologies.  In the meantime new technologies like email servers, database servers, web servers, security and many other issues on the network distract the technician from relearning their basic technologies.  What worked in NT 4.0 doesn’t work in Windows 2000.  Windows 2003 is a new design problem from Windows 2000 and Windows 2008.  Many technicians are flying by the seat of their pants.  Nobody knows it all.  Yet technicians are being asked to do more and more and more.  It’s no wonder we reach our technical glass ceilings more and more quickly. 

What do you do to compensate for the drastically quick changes in technology?  Some ideas I’ve tried, 

  • Teaching in the local community college
  • Writing more technical documentation
  • Finding mentors on new technologies
  • Mentoring others on technologies I know
  • Developing expertise in Technical business processes like ITIL and Project management 

I’ve been in the industry and re-inventing myself for almost 20 years.  What are you doing to re-invent yourself for the new technology changes to come?  Two technologies that I am seeing will change the face of technology more than we’ve seen since the DOS 3.0 days are cloud network architecture and unified communications.  What are you doing to keep yourself ahead of the curve?

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