Lokesh Mehra, Regional Manager, Corporate Responsibility, South Asia, Cisco Systems
Networking plays a key role in all sectors, be it government and defence, service provider, enterprises, manufacturing, banking, finance, insurance, IT/ITES and even in small and medium enterprises.
Networking’s growing importance as an industry and as a sector for emerging job opportunities, through good network education, are evident in the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) report which predicts 1,37,000 new jobs in this sector in 2009, while Evalueserve predicts 87,000 openings in 2008. According to NASSCOM report, while growth in the IT sector faces stagnation, the multimedia grew at 32% and networking industry grew at 29% in 2007.
Network education trains the professionals for immense opportunities that are available in the networking industry which is divided into six sub-sectors - routing and switching (R&S), service provider, design, storage, voice and network security.
R&S is basic Local Area Networking (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN).WAN is networking of big zones, like the RailTel of Indian Railways and majority of jobs in India exist in this domain.
Service provider sector works either in the fixed wire line domain or mobile domain. Some of the companies involved in this technology are Bharti, Reliance, MTNL, BSNL, IDEA, TATA among others. Meanwhile, BSNL and MTNL are planning an investment of 50 billion pounds in Wimax technology in this segment, which would facilitate State Wide Area Networking (SWAN), Data Centre and Common Service Centre(CSC) where the Indian government is planning 1,00,000 centres across the country. Hence, a large number of networking professionals in the coming years would be required.
In the design sector, the professional would design the networking like in the case of RailTel that proposes to lay optical fibers across the country.
Storage networking is at a nascent stage in India due to lack of policies on collating data. A lot of data is being collected and to collate and analyse them would require a large number of data centre specialists for knowledge management.
The fifth segment is voice. At present all corporates are putting their voice, video and data on different networks. Next stage of networking is a converged network where all the data would flow in the same network.
Sixth sector is network security. All corporates are using repositories of information. In fact, till the end of 2007 there were 250 MB of information per person stored as data. The security of this information is a concern and of high importance. For example, the information in a bank database or in the defence sector of a country.
Almost all domains accept professionals with networking education certification, like Certified Network Associate (CNA) followed by Certified Network Professional (CNP) and Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) respectively.
But is a networking education certification good enough to find you the right opportunities? There are definite industry specific skill-sets an employer would look for during tests and interviews.
At the entry level, besides the technical know-how, the employer during the process of interview will get opportunities to know whether the candidate is from the grey market or from an authorised training centre. So all aspiring network professionals are advised to go for globally recognised training. Another must skill-set is communication skills, where we assess whether the candidate can present presentations and talk to a large audience and customers.
The third aspect we look for is whether he or she can work in a team.
One of the most important 21st century skill-set is ‘goal driven’. The professional may be good otherwise in his communication and technical skills, but is he/she able to deliver the projects on time?
As we climb up the ladder, say in the case of recruiting experts, we primarily look for domain experience. For example, in banking, is the candidate aware of the core banking scenario and can he/she work in a global environment. Also he/she should be innovative and be able to adapt to any customer’s demand and situation.
A very general skill-set, yet a must at all stages, is whether a person is willing to learn. It is vital, more now then ever before since the work environment and technology changes are taking place at a much rapid pace. So apart from problem-solving skills and innovation, life-long learning is a must.
So how much does a networking professional earn?
The entry level in this industry is associate and depending upon the kind of certification and the employee the salary ranges from Rs. 8000 to Rs. 20,000 per-month. The next level is professional where an individual with five years experience can earn anything up to Rs. 50,000 per-month. At expert level an individual is expected to earn Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 2 lakh per month.
Besides, there are professionals who can get into qualified specialists for advance R&S as well.
As most of the network education certifications are globally accepted, a certified associate in the US would get anything between Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 50,000 per-month, while a professional could get over a lakh rupees per-month and in case of certified expert the salary would start from Rs. 1.2 lakh per-month.