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Help me evaluate my experience level as a network administrator

Posted on 2006-06-30
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I am in the process of doing a job search for a network administrator position. Right now, I am having trouble with the evaluation of my experience level. Specifically, I don’t know whether to assign my level as being “level-level” or having “6 months of experience”.  Let me give you an overview of my background first.

I have a Computer Science degree from a respectable 4-year college in my area. I graduated with honor. I recently discover that computer networking is the area I really want to work in. With this motivation, I study and obtain my Network+ within 2 months. I decided that I need specific networking skills, so I pursue the MCP certification and pass exam 70-291 on my second attempt. During my MCP study, I built my own Microsoft Windows Server 2003 network infrastructure. I install, configure, and manage all of the major network application such as DNS, DHCP, NAT, printer server, AD, and many more. My network now consists of 3 servers and can accommodate up to 50 clients. I built all this from scratch so I can get hands-on experience and be able to pass my MCP exam. It has been a little more than 6 months since I first started building my network.

Now I feel ready to apply for a network administrator position. On my resume and cover letter, I don’t know if I should ask for an entry-level position or an experienced position. Do you think “my experience” constitute the “real-world experience” that employers are looking for? Can you give me an accurate assessment of my current skill level? I really don’t want to sell myself short; at the same time, I don’t want to mislead any employers either.  Any relevant input will be greatly appreciated.
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Question by:qball419
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by:jhance
jhance earned 100 total points
ID: 17019401
As a new college graduate witout much "real world" experience, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a company to hire you in anything but an entry level position in spite of your Network+ and MCP certifications.

I would say, however, that if I were evaluating you, I would consider the CS degree as MUCH more important than the certifications.  The degree proves (IMHO at least) that you know how to learn and think rather than just to memorize a bunch of (often out-of-date) information that some certification tester thinks is important.

I'm not saying that the tests are useless, but your degree is a much more powerful thing on the resume.

BTW, be up front and honest about your background and experience with potential employers.  It's much better to not get the job due to not having what they are looking for than to get it and then have them later find out you lied or exaggerated.  Even if you don't have exactly what they want, explain to them how great you are at learning new things and building on what you already know.
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by:fm250
fm250 earned 50 total points
ID: 17019516
Some other people would consider the experience first and the degree second. So if I am to choose network assistant I would consider somebody has a degree and little bit of experience. So of course the entry level is suitable for you as jhance mentioned, however, you may not get the job as some would consider the experience from the point that they need somebody that can handle the work right away,  so if you can't get the system admin you may start as computer support where you can assist in system admin then when you get real experience you can then apply and get system admin easily. you may even consider to do internships first.


hope this helps!
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by:-_-aaron-_-
-_-aaron-_- earned 200 total points
ID: 17019564
Looks like you've looked at the basics of getting a network going.  Depending on the company, you'll be doing different things as an 'administrator'.  If you are in a smaller company, you'll be asked to do pretty much everything.  In this case, you'd better be prepared to know the intracacies of administering mail systems (exchange, open source), web systems (iis, apache), database systems (access, mssql, mysql, and many more), security (firewall hardware, os security), various operating systems, advanced troubleshooting of network problems etc.  The nice thing is you have pretty much free reign in implementing the technologies you see useful to your organization.  Less bureaucracy typically.
Larger organizations will have you dealing on more focused areas such as managing their clusters  of dns servers, mail servers, blah blah, 20000 AD user's, etc.  You'll likely be on a team of similar admins.  In this case, you'd better have experience dealing with large clustered systems and likely multiple locations.  
Personally, I'd say if you've never been in the role of an admin to list yourself as a newbie.  It's one thing on paper but what happens when you're hired and they tell you that you've got Windows 10 2000 servers to work with (3 DCs, 7 member), they're moving their apache web services over to an IIS base, they are in the middle of upgrading 300 users from windows 98 to windows xp and they want to move from web based email to in-house exchange server AND this all needs to be done asap, you hope you know what you are doing.  
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by:Scotty_cisco
Scotty_cisco earned 35 total points
ID: 17019567
Well; as a network engineer all I can say is I have 10 years experiance and most people are looking for 3 years plus I know it is hard to start at the bottom and work your way up but that is going to be the only way you will get real world experiace and I agree with fm250 entirely.  When I am looking for someone I look at experiance first then ask questions about general networking IE OSI model troubleshooting and from there depending on the answers I will progress to much harder topics like design and implimentation planning and availiability of a network enviroment and how it is achieved.

Thanks hope this helps as well
Scott
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by:
dalsym earned 35 total points
ID: 17019592
Also, alot of what goes into administration isn't just the nuts and bolts of How to Do A. You have to also think about :

Is A the best solution?
How will A affect Q through R?
What are the best practices associated with implementing A?

Documentation and process management are major considerations as well. Sometimes, the best way to learn that sort of this is to essentially learn it from someone else. See it in practice. The certifications really don't teach you that sort of thing (well...some of the Microsoft Active Directory tests get into directory mapping, but...) So I would agree with the other posters that your degree demonstrates your capabilities more than your certs AT THIS point. The degree shows that you have the ability to follow instructions and complete tasks, learn new concepts and implement them, peseverance, hard work, etc...

After a couple of years in the industry though, when you have racked up some experience, your college info will be placed pretty low on the resume (if there at all other than the school name and degree)

Find a good company that has good management and a good team that you can learn from and you'll be happy in your position until it is time to advance.

Good luck!
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by:jar3817
jar3817 earned 80 total points
ID: 17019603
6 months is not much experience. I'm guessing that most of the entry-level people will have more experience than that. As a Network Administrator all the entry-level people will look to you to solve the problems that they can't or aren't qualified to. Knowing how to setup a bunch of network services and having all those certs is great, but nothing can substitute for real world experience. They can't teach you to deal with the pressure everyone puts on you when a production database server fails and they need it back up 5 minutes ago. Being an entry-level person will let you in on the action but not the ultimate person responsible.  Anyone can setup active directory or exchange server, but being able to get these and other services back in shape after a failure is or problem fast and preventing future problems is what makes a good admin. And one of the only ways to get like that is with experience.  

just my $0.02
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Author Comment

by:qball419
ID: 17019774
Thanks for all the response guys. You have given me quite a bit of insight and information regarding this situation. Based on your input, I think that it will be in my best interest to pursue the position at the entry-level or jr. level. I want to take small steps and gather as much learning experience as I can. Your guys really made me realize the difference between "lab experience" versus "real-world, production experience". I am not going to pretend that I can come in and be able to perform all the duties from the get-go. The best situation for me would be to come in, see how the entire network is manage, see what the day-to-day tasks are like, learn from the people who have been there, and just kind of soak it all in. I want to feel comfortable in the environment first and foremost and go from there. With hard work and effort, I will someday gain the experience to administer the entire network and have greater responsibilities within the company. Again thanks for all your replies..your input has been extremely helpful.
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