A career in IT has many advantages: It’s a quickly-growing field with ample growth opportunities; it remains relevant (even vital) as companies transition their infrastructure to the cloud; and it’s an area that continues to provide new challenges as technology advances.
So then how do you choose what aspect of IT you want to focus your career on? What do people in various IT positions actually do? We’ll explore 11 common IT roles and discuss what they do in this two-part blog series.
Network and computer systems administrators
Network administrators and systems administrators, informally called “network admins” and “sysadmins,” maintain the daily operations of an organization’s networks and software. The administrators set up and maintain computers (from desktops to laptops to building security systems), software (patches, upgrades, licensing), servers, and more. Administrators also set up the networks that connect computers and hook up all the hardware necessary to keep a company online and able to do business.
For companies with large data centers, network and system admins install and remove large server hardware, keep thousands of ethernet and fiber optic connections functional, ensure all data is secure from intrusion, make sure power and cooling are sufficient for all the hardware, keep software up to date, keep inventory of all the hardware and software owned by the company, and also take IT helpdesk tickets when someone can’t remember their laptop password.
For cloud native companies, network and system admins maintain all the virtual cloud-based infrastructure in systems like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, or something similar. Instead of managing physical hardware and connections, they have to configure virtual connectivity and hardware. They manage machines and services they will never physically touch, but perform a lot of the same work they would if they had a physical data center. And they’re also helping people who forget their laptop passwords.
Information security analyst
An information security analyst maintains security tooling (both software and hardware) to protect an organization’s networks and information. They create plans to keep files safe from unauthorized access, encrypt data, test computer systems to ensure they function properly and within security guidelines, and monitor security procedures for violations. Information security analysts often examine reports to discover threats within the organization’s security systems. This type of work requires someone able to identify patterns to spot trends.
Information security engineer
An information security engineer is often the next step up from an information security analyst. Where information security analysts do the discovery, information security engineers build the security systems and resolve problems as they arise. They also install and provide ongoing configuration of security tooling, making recommendations to network and system administrators as well as teams with varying data needs.
Information security engineers have a deep understanding of networking and computers and understand how they work together. This is useful when examining how a hacker might get into a system or how an internal employee may be misusing information. Information security engineers usually have an understanding of cryptography, systems and programming, and understanding of how threat actors from around the world work in different ways.
The DevOps engineer is an IT technician who works with software developers, systems operators, and others to balance the changes or development to an application and the stability of the application over time. This means that IT, which wants to make sure that an application is secure and user-friendly, and development, which wants to create an application that performs discrete functions, can get along better and product updates get released faster.
DevOps engineers must have skills in project management, source code optimization, automation tools, containerization software (e.g. Docker, Kubernetes, Amazon ECS), configuration management, and more.
Associate network engineer
Network engineers are the designers, builders, maintainers, and fixers of all things networking. They set up routers, hubs, switches, virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, and make sure nothing unexpected happens on a company’s network. An associate network engineer is usually an entry-level position responsible for firewall and router configurations. When two computing devices need to interact and there’s nothing unusual about the need, an associate network engineer is likely to do the implementation.
Being a junior-level position usually means they do not do network design or major network implementations. For example, they will most likely handle internal networking requests for pre-production environments where there’s no customer data or access to the public internet. They’ll work on lower-risk projects and tickets. Most importantly, they’ll allow the mid- and senior-level network engineers to do all heavy lifting.
There are plenty more IT positions to discuss, so whether these sound intriguing or you want to keep learning, keep an eye out for our second post discussing more IT positions and what people in those positions do!