Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Create Post

What you don't know won't hurt you. What I wish I knew when I started in IT (Part One)

Level 10

There is something to be said about ignorance being bliss, and then there are times when it is good to know a little bit more about what you are getting into. My IT journey started over 20 years ago.  All I knew going in was that I liked IT based upon my studies and that the university I attended had 100 % placement in IT positions of it graduates.  That’s not a whole lot of detail to start from, but I was all in.

At the time I certainly didn’t have the foresight to understand how big this IT thing would become.

Done with college, done with learning

So I was done with college, and I was done taking tests forever right?  Wrong!  I would be forever learning.

IT becomes part of you. It becomes natural to want to read a book, search the web for new insights, or start working with some of the latest new technologies.

Always learning

The best part of working in IT is the always learning and growing nature of the industry. Even more exciting is that people who never spent a day studying IT, but are willing to learn, can easily move into this space. I have worked with history majors, music majors, sociology majors, and more. You name it. When you think about it, this is really cool!

As long as you have the drive to learn, keep learning, and get your hands dirty in technology, working in IT really is an opportunity for many.

Just getting started in IT?

Today, there are countless varieties of IT jobs. Organizations around the world are looking for very smart and driven individuals. Be willing to research the answer to questions, and spend time on certifications. Certifications are important to everyone, but especially when you are getting started in your IT career. It shows drive and it also prompts you to learn enterprise technologies that will benefit you both personally and professionally.

This approach will also provide a good foundation for your entire IT career. IT is full of opportunity, so also be sure to keep an open mind about what you can do. You will be sure to go places with a position-driven approach.

Best of luck!


it is not just for a career in IT.  It is for any career. I find myself challenged just as much to learn in the fire service as well as the world of IT.

My motto is that the day I stop learning is the day I die...

I've occasionally been asked to speak to high school and college students on the IT track.

Their questions have been solely focused on salaries they hope to earn.

Becoming "life learners" isn't part of their plan.  They know how to Google something, and that's been good enough for them so far.

I was young once, too.

Learning ethical behavior when you finally (and legally) are "root" on multiple networks, learning the value of quiet nights and clean air, and learning that keeping up with the Jones is a never-ending race one cannot win . . .  These are some of the lessons students may learn over time.  I haven't seen them all formally covered in a syllabus.

The key items I hope they can take away from my time with them might be summed up here:

  • Stay out of the rat race
  • Be happy with what you can achieve, but TRY to achieve good things!
  • Always be learning

Part of your title caught my imagination:  "What I wish I knew when I started in IT".

I wish I'd known:

  • The entire big picture, from a high-up architect's point of view.  Today I tell Management "Show me what you want the network to do and look like in five years, stick to your wish list, give me the budget to do it right, and you won't regret it."
    • Don't let the tails wag the dogs.  If the vendors continue getting unfiltered access to our clients, no one knows where those vendors devices will send us tomorrow.  Many products aren't compliant with our needs or with best security practices.  And the users don't know anything about networking or security, so they can't vet the vendors' claims.
    • Knowing the big picture, and the little bits that make it up, account for great designs from the ground up.  Too many times have I learned too late about the value of standardizing something that goes enterprise-wide, and then rued my ignorance.   Some observations I've had over time:
      • If you have a great naming convention, you can do wonderful reports and massive amounts of powerful things with NCM.
      • If you have a consistent WAN IP design, you can make enterprise changes with a single click in NCM and not have to remote into every single router manually to accomplish something simple--like changing snmp strings or TACACS servers or routes.
      • If you have consistent VLAN ID's and SVI's, you can quickly and efficiently make changes both granular and global with simple scripts and NCM.  If you don't have consistent deployments, you'll waste a lot of time in the future.
  • If everyone gets the right training:
        • Your burn-out is much less. 
        • Employer turnover reduces, resulting in lower cost of learning curves and reduced duplication of training.
        • Your team can provide the right advice and direction for your organization, rather than having to spend on outside contractors for professional services that get used once and are forgotten until someone needs to contract out again for that same service.  What a waste!  And to think it could be avoided by training everyone correctly and continually for a fraction of the price of the outside contractors' charges ($250/hour and more!).
  • Use Change Management ALWAYS and you'll become trusted by the other departments to NOT be doing "cowboy networking" and unapproved / unannounced changes.  You won't be hearing "It's the network" nearly as often.  I don't hear that phrase EVERY anymore, now that Solarwinds proves we've done it right.  Instead, things are triaged better and sent to Apps or Systems or Security instead of the Network team wasting time on MTTI.
  • Create interesting and stunningly helpful documentation and procedures, then share it with the Help Desk so they can properly triage things.  Your team won't have to do the triage at stupid o'clock in the morning, only to reassign to another team.  Now I can sleep through the night, where I used to deal with L1 problems or broadband ISP issues that aren't network issues at all.
  • Get Management to buy-in to a standard router and a standard switch model and brand.  Then keep one of each on the shelf for testing and fast replacements.
  • Understand that customizing hardware to the Nth degree so a site has no more capability than they need saves only pennies.  Using standard hardware across all sites save big bucks.
    • Your team doesn't have to have dozens of skill sets, and you get it right the first time.
    • Troubleshooting time decreases.
    • You don't have to keep a lot of service contracts or many one-off sets of hardware on the shelf.
    • Making changes in the future comes with a greatly decreased cost in down time.

There's so much I wish I'd known about networking before I started in it.  And about life in general.  Things like

  • Working hard and reliably won't necessarily advance you.  You might stay in a dead end job because you do it well.
  • Learn whether you want a promotion and an increase in responsibility, just to get more money.  Maybe Management is your cup of tea.  Maybe you'll discover you like hardware better because it can always be upgraded, downgraded, rebooted, or replaced.  Not so with employees you may be managing.
  • Find an organization that will promote you (if that's your goal), and be always striving to learn more (and get official training) so you can fill the needs of the promotion.
  • Pick your life targets and goals early.  Then seek out people who have achieved them already--how did they do it?  What should you do to get those same things out of life?  Make a plan and follow it until you have those goals!  Maybe your goal is to earn enough to buy a lake home, or to travel, or to afford a family, or to collect cars or boats or horses. Maybe it's to receive recognition and become president of a Fortune 500 company.  Just focus on what you want out of life, learn how you should get it, and DO IT!
  • Listen twice as much as you talk.  At LEAST twice as much--maybe more!
  • Take public speaking classes.  They'll introduce you to important connections, and you'll learn how to speak with confidence to others.
  • NEVER lie.  NEVER break a promise.  And realize that philosophy extends into MANY parts of life.  Like driving the speed limit, for example.  Your signature on the driver's license is your promise to obey the laws, and even driving one mph over the speed limit is breaking that promise.  Sounds ridiculous?  Get right with being patient, drop out of the rat race, and you'll realize it's not unrealistic at all--especially if you can do it without causing road rage or endangering anyone.  And you'd be surprised what driving the speed limit will do for your cars fuel efficiency.  Sigh.
  • Keep physically fit.  Once I left tenth grade I had no more regularly physical group exercise activity, and I miss it.  A person's health benefits from it.  Make it a priority and be active every day.
  • Limit entertainment, no matter the source, but ESPECIALLY sedentary entertainment like watching videos, playing online or home video games, reading too many books, eating, eating while reading or watching movies, etc.  Get out and be physically active, and you'll feel better and be happier and receive recognition and opportunities that others may miss out on.
  • Limit physical entertainment, too.  It's possible to damage joints and muscles and lose too MUCH weight.  Do all things in moderation, and do it consistently.
  • Limit your moderation, but only occasionally.  Once in a VERY great while, splurge.  Don't have an ice cream coffee drink every morning, don't eat out every day.  Do it once a month, or once every few months.  That's enough.
  • Learn to be happy with who you are, and with what you have.  There'll always be someone with more money, more things, a fancier car, a bigger boat, more-more-more, and you'll never beat them.  Once you accomplish this, you have beaten everyone in the rat race, and you'll live happier and longer than many of them that can't leave their competitive ruts.
  • Let the past take care of itself.  Mistakes are so easily made, so don't dwell on them.  Learn from them, get over the hurt or embarrassment, and move on.
  • Don't put in too much time at work.  No one went to the grave wishing "If only I'd spent more time at the office . . .!"  They ALL wish they'd focused on their family or their hobbies or their health or their friends.
  • If you're going to make a baby, understand that your FIRST priority from then on is to make a great human being.  Do it by example.  Do it by interacting.  Do it by learning with them.  Do it with laughter and sharing, and by stepping away so they can make their own mistakes once in a while.  It's no coincidence that folks say "Raise children up in the ways they should go, and they will not stray from that path."  There'll be exceptions, but you'll end up with better kids than if you avoid them when they're growing up.
  • Do your share of the work.  Whether at home with your spouse (cleaning messy babies, feeding them through the night, taking care of them when they're sick, cleaning the house without being asked, acting like a responsible adult--remember, you're setting examples here), or at work (pick up that loose piece of paper or that empty pop bottle on the sidewalk and recycle it, keep a neat desk and a tidy network room, don't use your computer's desktop as a storage for dozens of files--be orderly, put 'em in folders and store them where anyone would intuitively find them if you were hit by a truck).
  • Pick a spouse based on more than just outward appearances.  Maybe he or she doesn't look like a movie star, but if you have a few shared interests, and some diverse interests, you might just stay married to them for a lifetime instead of for a year or two.
  • ALWAYS treat others the way you'd like to be treated.  On the roads, at work, at home, in the movie theater.  ALWAYS.
  • Don't hold grudges.  They'll weigh you down and get in your way and keep you unhappy. Forgive and put the incidents behind you.  You won't forget the problems right away, but you won't dwell on them to your demise.  Frodo, when told he shouldn't forget he'd been arrested, said "I won't.  Never.  But I may forgive you."
  • Don't criticize others--especially where your words can embarrass them in public or in front of peers or friends or family.  Grown-ups don't do this; you should avoid it, too.

And smile more.  It helps your attitude, it can be heard in your voice on the telephone, and people like seeing you that way.


Level 21

IT becomes part of you.

This couldn't be more true.  IT is more than a job or a career, it's a lifestyle.  When I try to explain this to other people including my wife they just don't get it.


I agree, I don't know how to do anything else

I started by working for a computer store back in '89. I had no interest in computers at the time but the job sounded interesting. Lucky for me, they hired me!

Level 20

That's pretty much what I think college is really for... to learn to learn.