Road to MCSE: Advice for a Newbie Page 2

Thomas Shinder

Get A Job

Get a job. Yep. Get one. No matter how menial or scut is seems to be, take it. Do everything that nobody wants to do. Swap out hard disks, repair Compaq desktop systems (yuk!), inventory RAM, benchmark end user machines, color code the cables in the NOC so that you know where all the wires come from and go to, document the network you're working on, including hardware and software. Try to solve long-standing problems that no one has had the time to figure out, or that no one thought was important enough to take the time to figure out.

Know Thy TCP/IP

OK. Now you have a job. You'll learn a lot there, but you still need to keep studying. The next phase is to get a good intermediate level understanding of TCP/IP and get a little deeper into how IP routing works. This means you should go for the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). The CCNA track won't make you a routing Pro, but if you study the material well, you'll get a good basic understanding of how TCP/IP and routing work on internetworks. Study for the CCNA like you did for the other exams. Get some good books and practice on a live network if you can. Don't spend an arm and a leg on expensive CCNA classes.

After you complete your study, pass the exam. Don't go onto the next step until you pass the exam. Self-study first, and if you don't pass the first time, consider taking a class with a good instructor. NO SLIDE CLICKERS! You want an instructor that sees in his own mind's eye the entire outline of the class, and doesn't need slides to "remind" him of what to say next.

Chose Your Path to Enlightenment

Now you're working in the field  and you've got your Network+ and CCNA Certs. At this point you'll have a better idea of what area of computing and networking you want to get into. If you find you like working on the routing infrastructure side, continue with your Cisco training. If you like working with operating systems and Server applications, then move onto the Win2k curriculum.

Don't fall into the trap of figuring out what the hot certification is at the moment. Remember the basic sports adage that "yesterday's hero is today's bum". What's hot today may well be dead mean tomorrow. Your best shot at a successful career and personal fulfillment is to find something you love to do, and do it as well as you can. 

Believe me, the financial rewards will come if you take this approach. If you try to do something you think will pay a lot of money, but that you don't enjoy doing, you won't be successful. You won't do it well, and no one will want you since you can't do it well. Follow your heart, and you can't lose.

Next week we'll talk about how to put a home network together that will help you get a leg up on the Windows 2000 exams. If you choose to study Windows 2000 and get the Windows 2000 MCSE, you will need a network. I give some suggestions on how to put one together that will help get you there.

This article was originally published on Oct 18, 2000
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