Date:28/07/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/edu/2008/07/28/stories/2008072850780100.htm
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Every industry needs you

DEEPA KURUP

Good at maths and logical thinking? Get into networking

— Photo: K. Ananthan

In demand: Networking professionals on the job.

A career in networking is not entirely about monitoring a system or being a system administrator. It is a common misconception that it entails the more tedious part of a software job, and involves very little on the innovation front. Yet, the ongoing Information and Communication Technology revolution in India is already changing all of that.

With the dynamics of this industry constantly changing, experts say that networking, which connects several disciplines, is one of the hottest growth areas in this field.

The world today seems to be on an omnipresent network. According to a survey conducted by industry analyst IDC on the “growing networking infrastructure,” there will be a large skills gap by 2009 in both India and China. While other fields might even out by then, the study predicts that the skills gap will reach 137,200 (26 per cent) by the end of this decade. Industry experts attribute a lack of awareness about this subject and common misconceptions to this increasing gap.

The study also estimates that with every industry relying heavily on its networking infrastructure to tap new growth opportunities, the demand will continue to spiral irrespective or any slowdown or decrease in projects.

Crucial

In a recent interview with The Hindu, Milind Gurjar, director, learning @Cisco, said that he believes that the top three skill-sets needs in India are in security, wireless networking and network designing. Since Indian organisations are growing across sectors (retail, hotel, financial services and telecom, to name a few), the report is significant. “As the business relevance of ICT grows across sectors, the demand will rise. What students and professionals must realise is that 55 per cent of the projected shortfall will be for professionals with advances networking skills in the areas of IP telephony and wireless networking, and these are quite high-level jobs,” he explains.

The reason why students harbour misconceptions about this field is because the certification is open to those from different backgrounds. Contrary to belief, international opportunities are aplenty and though entry-level salaries could vary from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 15,000, the specialisations can command salaries up to Rs. 2 lakh a month.

Generalist jobs can have designations such as Network Systems Administrator, Network Engineer, Network Manager and Systems Analyst. For a professional with an advanced skill-set, the designation could be Systems Architect, Wireless Specialist, Voice Specialist or NOC Specialist.

Certifications

So, how does one go about being part of this seemingly promising sector? There are several options available for those looking for professional networking certifications — be it in India, abroad or even on the internet. These include storage courses by Storage Networking Industry Association and Cisco-certified courses which are at three levels: Cisco Certified Networking Associate, Cisco Certified Networking Professional and Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert.

The duration of the courses may range from 16 weeks to even a year or two for the advanced level.

While the latter courses deal with common routing and switching certification at the lower level, network professionals can enhance their core knowledge by obtaining specialist certification in more exciting and even challenging areas such as security and even advanced forms of wireless communication. Each certification track equips a student for a specific role in varying areas.

Though there are several courses, those by Cisco have been very popular. Cisco Networking Academy provides online courses, interactive tools and lab activities to help individuals develop the skills needed to fill ICT positions in virtually every type of industry, says Jagan Jothivel, area academy manager for India and SAARC countries.

Available in nearly 190 academies in the country, the course is free but the certification test costs around $ 200.

While only 300 professionals in India are CCIE certified, about 26,000 have been CCNA certified since the programme’s inception in 2000. Though faculty members are trained at the institution level, most of the learning and assessment is online. However, a big part of the course involves practical work, which makes it difficult to adopt a self-study model, especially for the more skilled levels.

Mr. Jothivel points out that the best part of the certification is that once you enrol, it’s a lifetime learning process because all the certifications need to be reviewed every year.

Dispelling all fears that a certification by one company will restrict work to one particular product, Mr. Jothivel says that only the technology is taught and not the product. Other leading companies that rival Cisco, such as Juniper, also value this certification and recognise its merit.

Prerequisites

Unlike other technology-based courses where a science/engineering background is mandatory, this one is a free-for- all. Anybody with a basic understanding of mathematics and more importantly, with a logical thought process, can apply and get certified. So, you could have graduated in Commerce, Arts or Geography, and it isn’t too late to start.

“We need a lot of demystification in this area. People need to understand that networking is not only about system administration. There are different verticals: network designing infrastructure, network communication, and voice and mobile. There is a great shortage in all these fields,” Mr. Jothivel adds.

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