According to career marketplace Glassdoor, one of the top 25 best jobs in America for 2015 is “network engineer.” No surprises here. Network engineering is a high growth industry: interesting and challenging work, tons of autonomy in how to solve problems and come up with solutions, well paying, and most importantly, the knowledge that you’re building something and bringing creations to life.
Indeed, the complexities of modern networks make network engineers indispensable, with the mix of virtual and real servers, cloud services and data centers, and of course, the integration of SDN into your network. On a good day, you get that rush of power from doing what is essentially mad science.
It should be noted that network engineering was one of eight IT-based jobs to crack the top 25. Clearly, technical skills are in demand.
You know, it brings me back to Nicholas Carr’s books “Does IT Matter?” and “The Big Switch,” which expanded on a 2003 article he wrote in Harvard Business Review claiming that “IT Doesn’t Matter.” Essentially, Carr predicted that cloud computing and virtualization would create a world where network engineering was far less prevalent, as the role would move outside of organizations and almost exclusively to service providers. Certainly, Carr was right on the money when he predicted the growth of services such as software as a service, platform as a service, network as a service, and infrastructure as a service.
Carr compared it to early electrification efforts in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as electrical engineers would be required to build out the power needs for entire factories. Nowadays, for all but the largest factories, power comes from the electrical grid without a second thought.
But it’s the future, now. And by that, I mean that it’s been twelve years since the publication of “IT Doesn’t Matter,” and now’s a good time to look at the retrospective. It is true – a lot of what Carr predicted has come to pass, but notably, far from shrinking, IT is growing, to the point where eight out of 25 “top jobs” are IT-based. Why is that?
I think, quite frankly, it’s because we’ve only begun to really hit the stride of what network computing can accomplish. For the most part, an electrified turn of the century widget factory, once electrified, will make more widgets, faster widgets, and make them more cheaply, but ultimately there is only one “application” for the electricity in that industry – widget making.
What IT does, however, is reinvent itself all the time. With cloud computing and SDN, for example, we are doing the same things essentially, but doing them better, faster, and cheaper. When IT or the business comes up with new applications, each one has to be, well, engineered to be production-ready. So IT workers have to continually reinvent themselves to keep up. Those who do are assured of a keeping their career status on track.
In other words, progress doesn’t eliminate the IT worker; it enables the IT worker to do more and take on new projects and problems. And learning new things, taking on new projects – that’s another thing that leads to job satisfaction.
So, yeah, it’s a great time to be a network engineer!