How I Chose My Specialization

The IT field is kick a#% ! Working in tech is fun, it’s challenging, it can get boring (depending on what you define as boring), it’s ever-changing, and if you want to be good at what you do, you have to keep up with the latest and greatest technology out there. Not to mention, there’s so many different paths to go down (just to name a few):

  • Systems Administration
  • Network Administration
  • Systems Engineering
  • Network Engineering
  • Database Administration (DBA)
  • Cloud Engineer
  • Network Operations Analyst
  • Software Developer
  • Security Engineer
  • Web Developer

In my previous post , I mentioned taking a month break from certification studies. I did this for a few reasons:

  • I got overwhelmed because I was uncertain of what I wanted to do
  • I got burned out from non-stop studying and learning new things at work
  • I needed to get my health together
  • I never answered the question I asked myself years ago: What do I want to specialize in and why? 

I realized, if I couldn’t answer this question and define my why, then what’s the point of preparing for the next certification? How could I move forward without knowing which way I needed to go? I knew that I had interests in both Systems and Networking. I could do both, but my indecisiveness would have me all over the place.

What I did to find my way

  1. Write it out. I recently took out a piece of paper and made two categories: What I Like to Do and What I Don’t Like to Do. From there, I went to a career website such as Glassdoor and/or LinkedIn and put in keywords such as AWS, MCSA, Wireshark. Once I had my search results, I read the job descriptions and took notes on the title of the position and a snippet of the job duties. Doing this helped me see what else I needed to learn.
  2. Try everything. I’m not kidding. I got my start in IT as a Internet Tech Support Rep for a cable company, bounced to laptop repair, to Kindle repair, back to laptop repair, to working in a data center a few times, to my now role as a Systems Administrator.
  3. Ask to shadow (if you have this option). While working as a support engineer, I would shadow different escalation teams to get an idea what they do. Some of those teams were SQL, Cloud, Storage and Backup, and Network Operations.
  4. Check out the CompTIA IT Career Road Map. Looking at this road map gave me a visual path of the different routes I could go. You don’t have to follow this verbatim, but it’s a good starting point.

The month off from studies worked. I realized I am right where I’m supposed to be. I like being a Systems Administrator. I get to work on servers and networking equipment, I got to build an image deployment system and help troubleshoot issues in our environment. I know exactly what I want to learn and work on next to be a better admin leading me to become a well-versed Systems Engineer.

Sometimes it takes taking a step back to see the bigger picture. Sometimes you have to bounce around and try different things to figure out where you’re going. It may take some time to figure it out, so enjoy the process and be fascinated.




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