One of the interesting aspects of the IT industry is the continuous need to update current skills and learn entirely new ones. There are far too many skills for an IT pro to even attempt to master, however there are some skills that IT pros who are serious about managing their career should know. The following list includes some of the key IT skills, and while there are ten skills mentioned in this article, this list should not be considered as all-inclusive.
Virtualization and VDI
Virtualization has been adopted by companies of all sizes as a means to reduce costs through the consolidation of physical servers and lower overall cooling and electrical usage. Application Virtualization has become very popular with businesses. Having the skill set to deploy applications that connect securely through a browser is critical for companies with numerous offices and remote users.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is another facet of the virtualized environment. Using VDI, a virtualized desktop is stored on a remote server, and when clients work on their “local” system, the applications, data, processes, and programs are kept and run on a central server. This enables a local system with older hardware to run more advanced operating systems and applications than would normally be the case with their current systems. This also means that you might be able to use non-traditional platforms, such as a tablet, to run these applications, in addition to their traditional systems. Virtualization can aid in near real-time response to network conditions by providing for more disaster recovery capabilities.
“To the Cloud” — that seems to be the current mantra in the business world. The cloud can compose one of several business models including:
- SaaS (Software as a Service), where a single application is available through a browser
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), the most basic model, where you may “rent” servers or VMs
- PaaS (Platform as a Service), where an entire computing environment is available
The cloud represents the next phase of computing (with VDI as part of this environment). Knowing how to leverage and configure clients for cloud computing will be an invaluable skill for IT professionals.
Interoperability is the key here. There are a few medium and larger IT departments with only a single platform type or a single manufacturer of networking equipment; these are the exceptions, and they are rare. In a typical IT environment, we tend to work in a highly connected world of disparate platforms, communications modalities (BYOD — bring your own device comes to mind), and operating systems. As an IT Pro, you should understand how these devices and platforms communicate and what communication protocols are used in this process. This also includes connecting and securing wireless networks, as well as the use of open source programs and operating systems.
Database Administration and Business Intelligence
Corporations are even more dependent on a quick and reliable means to process and retrieve information. This means they must operate their own servers or have access to databases and business intelligence software to access this information in order to grow and become more successful. Regulatory compliance has had a huge impact on database management and data retention. Corporations are required to retain financial information, emails, and other communications for a number of years. Storage space and solutions have become much cheaper, so there is more emphasis on data retention. Having the ability to create and extract information from one of these databases is critical.
In our highly connected world, we expect to be able to connect wirelessly from almost any device, from practically anywhere at any time, with seamless transition. Wireless experts who can install, configure, and maintain secure wireless networks are in high demand, with the emphasis on “secure.” Implementing a secure wireless environment also means being able to plan and troubleshoot for growth and interferences (as well as possible compromise). Anyone managing wireless environments must be able to handle the calls that come in from remote users who are having problems with their wireless equipment running on different operating systems
Disaster planning and recovery is as much a methodology as it is a skill set. IT Pros must be able plan, test, and implement a disaster recovery (DR) plan. The planning part seems be done more frequently than the testing of the actual plans. Having a DR plan is critical for the survivability of a data center or network, but testing a disaster recovery plan is one of the most difficult tasks to schedule. There is rarely enough time (or budgetary resources) available to perform the critical tasks that need to get done in a network without adding a yearly or semi-yearly test of the DR plan. An integral part of the disaster recovery process is implementing fault-tolerant systems and providing for redundancy in your network.
Network and computer security concerns and requirements have dramatically increased. Security professionals are in high demand and this will only multiply in the coming years. As an IT Pro, you must have a good understanding of both physical and electronic security. Some of the most difficult tasks with IT security involve educating users and implementing effective security measures. There is a lot of information that can be gleaned through social media sites and social engineering that most companies would rather not have divulged. Training users (and IT staff) to be aware of these vulnerabilities is extremely difficult. IT Pros must always be aware of security issues and understand the vulnerabilities within their networks (from operating systems, servers, down to the cable closet). This does not mean that every IT Pro must be able to perform a penetration test against his or her own network, but they must understand and prevent attacks against their network and prevent disclosure of confidential information.
Pick your imaging software/platform of choice as imaging will continue to be a valuable skill for some time (despite the rise of virtualization). Systems imaging is a critical skill as companies are shifting to standardized desktops and deployments. Part of this is done to deploy a consistent and secure platform as well as to provide ease of management. There are many imaging programs available, as well as Microsoft’s Windows Deployment Services and imaging utilities.
Helpdesk or People Skills
Knowing how to interact with non-technical people is a critical skill. This interaction must be based on the ability to effectively communicate in words and language that the client can understand. A companies’ help desk tends to be the “face” that most users will have with the IT department, and this should be a positive experience. IT Pros are very good at their jobs, but sometimes (and I know that this will come as a shock to everyone) they are not skilled in relating to their non-tech colleagues. Users just want their computers fixed or their data recovered and are not concerned with the processes behind our actions. IT Pros should have some experience working at the Help Desk.
The Noble Art and Science of Troubleshooting
There are some IT skills that simply do not lend themselves to a short description, and troubleshooting is definitely one that falls into this category. Is troubleshooting a skill, an art, or is it both? If you ask any seasoned IT professionals, they will tell you that having troubleshooting knowledge is important, but not as important as knowing how to troubleshoot. This is one IT skill that cannot be easily taught (some might even say that you are born with the skill). The problem with troubleshooting is that it is a unique skill set that corporations are continuously seeking but simply do not have the time or money to invest in training. If you are talented at troubleshooting a specific program or system, then you become the “go-to” person – a valuable skill and commodity for your company. One would think that there would be more emphasis on teaching and sharing even the basics of troubleshooting, but sadly, this is not always the case.
The range of IT skills can be a tricky thing to quantify and qualify. What is useful in one environment may not be so in another. This article lists some of the most common skills that an IT Pro should know. If you don’t know some of these areas, now is the time to learn them. One thing to keep in mind is that you are your own best career manager! You are the only one who can determine which career path to take.
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