How It All Began

This started out as a response to Matthew Norwood’s recent post regarding his transition from corporate IT into the realm of the VARs.  As I sat and thought about what I wanted to say it began to grow far beyond what fit well into blog comment, so I decided I would instead start my own blog to respond.

I was intrigued by Matthew’s decision to make the move from corporate IT into a position with a VAR mostly because I recently made a career move in the opposite direction and can’t imagine wanting to go back.  At least not any time soon.

Then I started thinking about the career path I have taken and why I’ve made the decisions I have, and why I feel good about the choices I’ve made along the way.

My career in IT really started when I was a junior in high school in 1999.  I got a part time job with a local computer shop where we sold computers we built in house, and also did repair on whatever computers people brought in.  I started out delivering new computers to customer’s houses, getting everything connected and setup and doing about 30 minutes of “here’s how to use your new computer” training.  Between deliveries, I worked in the repair department, upgrading hardware, removing malware, installing software, and solving other crazy problems on the computers people brought in.

After high school, I spent three semesters at a state university pursuing a degree in computer science.  I determined that wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be (I’ll tell that story another time) and transfered to a two year tech school and completed their Professional Network Administration degree program.  I spent most of my working hours during college at a local ISP’s helpdesk taking calls, mostly about dialup with a bit of DSL mixed in.

After graduating, I took a job as a network engineer with a small startup installing, managing and supporting guest wireless networks that lasted for about a year and a half before I got burned out from the crazy hours that are necessary when working for a startup.  When I left this job I thought I wanted to dabble more in the server realm, so I was excited to find myself working for a small VAR as a systems engineer.

Being a small shop, we were all jacks of all trades, and most of our clients were small businesses.  This made for lots of tight budgets and tight time lines.  Therefore, there wasn’t time to refine systems and designs, and there wasn’t much time to refine your personal skills either.  There was also an extreme pressure to obtain vendor certifications.  Not to learn the material, but to just cram, take the test and get the cert so we could maintain our vendor status.  As I spent time doing projects and studying for certs, I found myself wanting to hone in on certain aspects of IT.  I never really had the opportunity to do that though because I felt stuck in a cycle of finish a project ramp up another take a test.  So about two years into that gig, I started to look again.

My next (and current) stop on my career path landed me in corporate IT.  My current role is as the network security engineer for a mid-sized business that I’ve been told is on the list of the 30 fasted growing companies in the country.  For the life stage I’m in, this is the perfect fit for me.  I can focus in on honing our network infrastructure, and improving our security posture.  I am able to spend time learning new concepts and network technologies.  I am able to really learn things and not just cram to pass a test.  I love where I am right now, and I wouldn’t want to change any time soon.  I definitely wouldn’t want to move back into VAR space yet.

So what’s the point?

As I look back on the path that has brought me here today, I see value in every stage along the way.  My part time job in high school solidified my interest in computers.  The work on the ISP helpdesk taught me how to deal with difficult users, how to troubleshoot blind over the phone, and the importance of quality customer service.  The time with the startup showed me that a lot can be accomplished with very little.  My stint with the VAR helped me to figure out what my true IT passion was.  And my current position is allowing me to pursue that passion.

Does that mean I want to stay in corporate IT for the rest of my life?  Maybe, but probably not.  I wouldn’t completely discount a career move back into one of those other IT venues.  Though I doubt I will ever be able to stop learning networking, I hope someday to reach a level of expertise.  If I were to come up with the right business plan to go with that expertise, I might consider starting my own company someday.  If I were to find the right VAR/consulting company who had a position that fit my expertise I would consider making that move.  But I don’t see that happening any time soon.  For the foreseeable future, I’m going to dig into the trenches of corporate IT and use my time here to learn and grow.

  1. Interesting how our paths mirrored – right up until ending college – I went off and became a corp IT ( Linux/Unix ) server guy, and then got thrown into networking along the way. After about 10 years of that, I am now finding myself at a VAR doing the consulting gig — but with the added value of 10+ years sitting in the shoes of the people I am helping. Ive been where they are, ive seen these things — and I know what to do – and what not to do.

      • ctalsness
      • July 29th, 2011

      I think that’s the key, never forget where you came from, or what you did before. Let your previous experiences impact your current role for the better.

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