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Career Story: Network Engineer At A University

Network Engineer At A University

Job Title: Network Engineer

Type of Company: I work for a Boston-area university.

Education: AS in Computer Electronic Engineering, Franklin Institute of Technology

Previous Experience: I started as a data entry clerk for a Boston-based museum, then moved into programming, production and then management.

Job Tasks: I have day-to-day oversight of the data network on a 90-building university campus. Typical activities are to investigate and resolve service complaints, monitor the network for capacity and/or error issues and direct the activities of two field engineers who report to me.

In the absence of service issues, I research and evaluate new technologies as to their possible use by the university. I develop methods to test the new technologies as well as to incorporate them into the network. I also provide input and direction for outside wiring companies that provide cabling to/between campus buildings as well as the cabling within the buildings that delivers network service to the computers and telephones.

I also manage the university's Internet connections, providing network connectivity from the university to the rest of the world. Most of these tasks involve using a computer and various management programs that provide a connection to any one of over 700 network devices that make up the campus network, view the status of any single connection (of over 15,000), check to ensure the device is successfully attaching to the network, that data is flowing freely between devices and to issue commands to the network equipment to adjust or reset connections as needed.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the variety. Because much of it is in response to service requests or evaluating new technologies, you're unlikely to find yourself doing repetitive tasks that quickly become boring.

The worst part of the job is that your work can often be driven by the needs of others, making it difficult to focus on the more interesting projects you might find more enjoyable.

Job Tips: While my current job is somewhat focused on the network infrastructure, I feel like the wide-ranging skill set I developed in my earlier career is invaluable. I recommend that anyone pursuing a career in IT gain as much experience as possible. Data entry, programming, system management, networking, even basic electronics and cabling systems. The more you learn, the more you'll be able to see the "big picture" and understand how your work impacts, and is impacted by the devices and systems your organization uses to conduct business.

Additional Thoughts: To find success as a network engineer, I feel it is very important to be very organized and to possess a high level of attention to detail. When you're dealing with hundreds, if not thousands of connections, it is important to develop your work processes in a clear, consistent and predictable manner. This will not only make your job easier, but it will help your entire team provide an excellent quality of service to the community you serve.

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