Sustainable Employment: Top Training Tips for a Data Center Career

Data centers need skills in a number of areas. These jobs pay different levels of average salary and come with different long-term career prospects. Before you embark on a career choice in a data center, you need to gain some familiarity with the different career paths possible and the kind of qualifications you will need.

A look at the different careers possible at a data center

Data center positions tend to be named and described in ambiguous ways. It can be difficult for a newcomer to a data center career to look at the title of a job or its description and guess at the specific kinds of responsibilities that might be required.

The network administrator's job is one of the most common entry-level positions at any data center. Advertising for these positions, though, many companies use sweeping job descriptions that can make them sound extremely demanding. For instance, an advertisement for a network administrator may ask for a professional with experience configuring, building and maintaining data centers, taking care of firewalls and routers in every part of the company and working with third-party tools.

Many young network professionals reading these job advertisements find them intimidating and hold back from applying. These job descriptions shouldn't be taken at face value, though. No matter what the description might say, data center administrators need to do no more than basic network building and maintaining data centers. These are jobs for entry-level networking professionals.

In general, data centers offer work in the following kinds of positions:

Data center administrators and engineers work on the same kind of responsibilities - they build basic, in-company networks, contribute to their day-to-day management and offer basic security testing.

Data center technicians have the vendor-specific skills needed to configure, troubleshoot and repair networks made up of networking hardware and software from specific vendors. Often, technicians need to travel to remote server sites to keep the company's networks and data centers running smoothly.

Data center programmers specialize in data center management and maintenance. They have the training necessary to monitor data center networks, diagnose problems and write software scripts to correct the problems that they discover.

Training for a data center career

At many data centers, a computer- or electronics-related college degree is seen as the basic anchoring qualification for any job. While degrees in computer science, information systems and electronics engineering only include a couple of networking subjects, data center employers still find these qualifications valuable. Picking a candidate with a college degree, they feel assured of a certain level of maturity and basic technical knowledge - even if the technical knowledge in question isn't the specific kind that they can use.

A few companies tend to be more informal about their data center hiring practices. They are known to consider applicants with nothing more than a high school diploma and qualifications specific to the job under consideration. While aspirants to data center jobs should consider getting a college degree when they can, job-specific networking qualifications can allow quick entry into the field and a quick paycheck. A college degree can be worked in, later in one's career.

You can choose to gain your training at a number of different learning destinations

Cisco: Cisco Systems is more than just a major manufacturer of networking hardware. It also offers extensive certification programs to help data center employers recognize competence at the skills that they need. Not only does Cisco offer well-recognized certifications like CCNA and CCNP it offers specialist education programs for its Cisco Internetwork Operating System, too. The Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist education path can lead to well-paying jobs, as well. There are specialist companies that provide more information on these certification paths.

Hewlett-Packard: HP is a major vendor of servers and related networking hardware. They have long invested in data center education. You can sign up to an HP Data Center Technology Training Program (at hp.com/education) for in-depth training on practically every area of running a data center - management, applications, infrastructure and so on. While HP's training focuses on HP's equipment, the training they offer easily ports to equipment by other manufacturers.

NetApp University: NetApp is a data storage and management corporation that sells everything from servers to networking equipment for data centers of every size. NetApp University, its training and education wing, provides extensive training in the operation of NetApp data center equipment. Their certificates are widely recognized.

Red Hat: Red Hat, the maker of the popular Linux distribution, runs the Red Hat Certified Data Center Specialist training program. You qualify for enrollment to this course if you have Red Hat's RHCE certification. Once in, you learn a number of skills, Red Hat's storage, directory and virtualization services, included.

APC's Data Center University: If you want a basic introduction to every area of data Center power management, APCs Data Center University offers the full list.

A number of possible certifications exist

Not every data center certification comes with its own training program. A number of corporations offer important networking and data center certifications, but leave the training to others. Countrywide Training, for instance, provides well-respected CCNA training.

You need to gain every certification that the companies you hope to work for, demand. Many ask for Microsoft's MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certification, for instance. Other popular certifications include Project Management Professional, CompTIA's A+ Network + and Security+. The IT Infrastructure Library's Foundation, Practitioner and Manager certification are well-regarded, too.

With the vast range of qualifications and certifications possible in the networking field, it can be difficult to know which way to head at first. Practically any major certification course route, though, should help you get a foot in the door. Once you start, you should gain enough knowledge on your own find the specific career path that's right for you.

 

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