The days when the IT support person was jokingly referred to as “the geek” have long since gone. All but the most backwards companies now recognize that without the IT systems, the company would die overnight.
The IT function is now a core part of the business model, along with sales, marketing, HR, training, finance, and so on. For this reason, the IT person is expected to be able to integrate with the business. Sure, some will want to remain technical only, but that option will leave you as a one trick pony.
The smarter IT people realize that they need to build a portfolio of both technical and non-technical skills if they are to survive in the industry. When I worked at Cisco systems, the high flyers all had a mix of high level technical (CCIE) and non-tech skills. They were also the ones to survive when the redundancy axe fell.
So, without further ado, here are the 5 top non-technical skills to consider adding to your resume this year.
1. Project Management
It’s exciting and rewarding. Project management gets you involved with multiple departments, including top managers, IT, finance, HR, and vendors. No two days are the same as a project manager, and the best bit is that these skills never go out-of-date.
If job variety and responsibility appeals to you then look no further.
Consider CompTIA Project+.
2. IT Governance
IT Governance is defined as the processes that ensure the effective and efficient use of IT in enabling an organization to achieve its goals. Sound important? It surely is.
This ties in with what I said at the beginning. IT is no longer seen as spreadsheets and e-mail. A business cannot survive without a robust and scalable IT infrastructure, and IT governance is the glue that bolts this onto the business strategy.
The leading certification for IT Governance is ITIL, and the ITIL Foundation Certificate is the place to start. It’s an internationally respected framework used by many thousands of companies.
3. Cloud Computing
There are two parts to cloud computing: The technical part, which is usually taken care of by the cloud provider, such as Amazon or Google, and the business part, which is your domain.
What is cloud computing? What will it do for your organization? What are the pros and cons, and how will cloud computing impact your growth, compliance, and security? These are all key business considerations, and somebody will need to take ownership for them or at least be the go to person for the business management to get advice from.
Consider starting with the vendor neutral CompTIA Cloud Essentials.
4. Security Policy and Compliance
As with cloud computing, there is a technical and non-technical part. Technical includes penetration testing, device hardening, firewall configuration, authentication, etc. All very important stuff, of course.
But before that somebody has to decide on the company policy. Who will be allowed to do what? Will you permit home working via VPN? Who will take care of compliance and risk management? What level of training will be provided to network users? How will people authenticate and by how many methods?
Advanced certifications for security include the CISSP, but before that, consider laying a strong foundation first by taking the Microsoft Technology Associate: Security Essentials course.
5. Network Design
You could consider this borderline technical, but because there is no actual configuration involved, I’ve put it into the non-technical camp.
Without the network designer, there would be no network. All networks are built from the schematic produced by the network designer. They take the customer’s requirements and translate them into a diagram.
The designer considers budget, projected growth, redundancy, security, resilience, capacity, and much more in order to create a network that meets the customer’s requirements. Once this design is approved, it is handed over to the implementation team for building and testing.
There are very few design certification courses available, but check out the highly regarded Cisco Certified Design Associate. Cisco offers design certifications all the way up to design architect.
Paul is the creator of www.howtonetwork.com, one of the leading IT certification websites. He is also the author and co-author of several bestselling IT certification guides.
Mark Howie says
Great article! However, I have discovered that the IT profession is a 3 legged stool., with three braces for the legs: Leg 1. Experience–nothing beats it. Leg 2. Education–college and advanced degrees are a pathway to career advancement. Leg 3. Certifications– find the right ones and get them. There are over 1500 IT Certs out there. Find a path!
Support brace 1. Confidence in your abilities. 2. Competence 3. Character.– without character, the stool will fall no matter how strong the legs are.
C.D. Reimer says
I once worked for the help desk of a Fortune 500 company that made it goal to have everyone certified in ITIL Foundation. Except for one small problem: the company wasn’t paying for the entry-level certification. The help desk folks didn’t want a certification that the company wasn’t willing to spend money on. Needless to say, no one got certified in ITIL Foundation and that goal like so many others fell to the wayside.
My current job as a security remediation support specialist is at an ITIL-certified organization. I’m going to knock out the CompTIA Security+ certification in two months, and get the ITIL Foundation after that. Most of my coworkers have the CompTIA trifecta (A+, Network+ and Security+). Senior coworkers have ITIL Foundation and higher security certifications.
Paul Browning says
You can’t rely on your employer to train you. Their mentality is that you will leave once you get qualified!
You’re absolutely right!! Employer’s most of the times won’t spend a cent in your training. Either because you’ll leave or either because they’re afraid of you asking more money.
Either way, most of the times, they think you’re perfect where you are and they support you moving roles.
CompTIA Project+ vs Prince2 Foundation which is better? Or are they two sides of the same coin?
The old saying goes………”Train people well enough so that they can leave; Treat them well enough so that they don’t want to.”
Paul Browning says
PRINCE2 seems to be widely known but CompTIA certs are a requirement for Department of Defense and many large blue chips.
Mr Paul Browning, your are the best! You are the best!! you deserve a national award or something special from IT world, i just finished reading your network+ book, which is the best to me and so affordable. I’m about to take my network+,security+, and A+ at the end of this months, wish me good luck.
love blog, you are guys are so cool