Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been really good with computers. One of my first computer troubleshooting memories is when my fourth grade teacher, Miss Kesler, had problems with our classroom printer. Turns out someone had changed the LPT port inadvertently. I actually solved this after an IT professional had already looked at it. Then in fifth grade I had set up my first network between two computers in my classroom so we could share files.
This comes to one of the most commonly-asked interview questions I almost always give and have always gotten: why did you choose to be a network operations guy? Honestly, I’ve never had a great answer for that because I’m a little weird. The concept of two machines communicating with each other fascinates me. And I don’t know why. The computer alone was a pretty cool invention, right? Two computers talking to each other? Bro, this is Star Trek stuff.
Job security is awesome in this field. Last I checked, after inventing the Internet, Al Gore didn’t put an expiration date on it. This is an industry that is constantly growing and prospering. In fact, according to a report released by Cisco Systems, Internet traffic will quadruple in many countries like China and India over the next several years. We’re probably going to need to hire more talent, eh?
So how does one get an awesome job in Network Security at Rackspace? The journey is long and perilous (not too perilous), but definitely worth it. I can honestly say that at this point in my life, I’ve never been happier or more relaxed in my life because I get such a thrill at doing what I’m paid to do and where I live.
The first thing that we look for in a candidate is their skills. It’s important to get as much experience as you possibly can. I’m more interested in how well a person understands basic networking concepts rather than quizzing them on which port SMTP uses. You can look that up on Google, but it’s much more challenging to the average person to explain why two hosts on different subnets can’t communicate with each other and how to solve that problem. Not only that, but I want to know how well someone can learn new things. Demonstrating this is a little tricky, but being a lead on a new project or something similar shows that you’re a trailblazer. I’ve learned more working at Rackspace over the last several months than I have in my entire life about networking, and that’s no exaggeration. The ability to learn and adapt is crucial here.
Relax, college students, there are ways to get some experience early on. College internships and co-ops are an excellent way to catch our eye. Before graduating from university, I had worked at Bombardier Transportation, Sprint Nextel, an architect’s office, and my hometown’s public school system all doing technical work. Take advantage of the summers and get a job that’s not flipping burgers. Not only does it show that you’ve got experience, but it also shows that you have a strong personal drive to excel in your career. Getting certifications like a CCNA is also a great idea, and many of our positions either require it or require that employees get it 90 days after their start date. (Why not get a leg up on the competition?) And, yes, we do hire people directly from university to our Team New Talent in Network Security.
Finding a mentor or at least someone in the field to talk to is always a great idea, even if it’s not through a “mentoring program.” One of my neighbors in my hometown gave me valuable advice at multiple points through my networking career. I’m flattered when others come to me for advice, and there’s no harm in asking for help. Perhaps your mentor could also find you a job. Even if you interview somewhere for a technical and don’t get the job, it’s okay to ask what you can improve on.
Network operations and engineering has to be about one of the most unusual career niches one can enter. It’s not uncommon to know colleagues in this niche who have anywhere from a high school degree to a post-doctorate. I’ve met other network operations staff who have been to engineering school and others who have a degree in History. Everyone has a different story about how they ended up here, and if someone asked me to name the biggest, most important reason to me why I love being a Network Security Administrator, it would be hard to give them an answer because there are so many of them. And that’s probably a good thing.
Category: Rackers Tags: Administration, Austin, NetSec, Network Security, Technical