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Cross-Training and Your Career

This will come as no surprise. The more you know, the more you’re worth. In the IT industry that great truth has been growing year-by-year for decades.

There was a time when you could categorize yourself as a “desktop guy”, or a “server guy.” A “storage guy” or a “networking guy” or any of many others.

The economics of the business changed as more firms took on more clients and more responsibilities. The trick to managing costs involved sending out the right “guy” at the right time to each call with the right skills and the right tools.

Some members of some tech teams were “certification hounds” who grabbed every opportunity to take a training course and get a new certification in something they didn’t already have. Soon dispatchers found it much easier to manage the call flow as they gained more flexibility in who they had available with the right skills to be assigned to a wider variety of calls.

Any experienced IT support professional will tell you that users don’t distinguish between a hardware problem, a software problem, a server problem, a network problem, a bandwidth problem, or any other kind of problem. So, when any one thing goes wrong, everything is wrong in their perception; and user  perception is everything.

Fewer “broken” calls yields higher service levels. If the first support professional dispatched to resolve a particular service issue can resolve the problem themselves on the first visit, response and resolve times naturally improve. Latency is introduced to the process when they need to redirect the ticket to someone else with the appropriate skills. Fielding more support specialists with broader skill sets, therefore, will almost always result in less latency, higher service levels, and more satisfied end users.

Making Better Connections

This cross-training created combinations of skills that helped technicians better understand what they were working with when confronted with problems for which the cause wasn’t readily identifiable. For example:

  • When configuring a server, it is highly valuable for the server specialist to understand how that server will communicate with the rest of the devices over the network and how the network will impact server performance.
  • When designing and implementing a network to support voice, video, conferencing, application sharing and other high-demand data types, it is critical for the network engineer to understand the end-user applications that will deliver the data to the users.
  • Security is a discipline that straddles both worlds, and na deep understanding of the interaction between the various hardware, software, and bandwidth management components is crucial to assuring full data and network security from the core to the perimeter of the network.
    • The growing breadth of end-user client devices demands deeper knowledge on both the systems and network sides of the access equation. While management of desktops and laptops has been somewhat standardized new tablet solutions, handheld smartphones and other “smart” devices require far more and far broader intelligence on the part of those who will be supporting their use in a secure and fully-compliant networked environment.

    In the Cloud, No One Can Hear You Scream…. For Help

    Anyone working in a cloud environment appreciates the importance of cross-training to furthering their career. At the core of cloud computing is a “layer of abstraction” between the user and the network. On the user’s side, everything is far easier to do than ever before. Resources are accessed easily from a self-service portal. Nobody needs to remember server names or letters, they simply pick from easily-understood menus.

    All of the complexity users used to face had to go somewhere, and that somewhere is the other side of the abstraction layer. Cloud experts need to understand the hardware, the software, and the intrinsic services architecture of networks, servers, storage, endpoints, security, and much more. The acceleration of the expectations of the user community means you need to be able to resolve problems quickly. Trying to find someone else to solve a software problem when you’re a “hardware guy” just doesn’t cut it in the cloud.

    Bottom Line

    If you’re working in an on-prem environment, the more you know, the more diverse your skills, the more you’re worth and the higher you’ll climb in your organization.

    If you’re working in a cloud environment, cross-training and broad skills are the entry stakes to admission.

    New Horizons

    New Horizons helps you identify the training you most desire based on the skills you already have, the environments you want to work in, and your own personal growth plan. Talk to your New Horizons counselor today to get you on the path to your future.

     

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