job description: A network administrator who is primarily concerned with software and whose responsibilities include security, implementing network policy, managing user access and network troubleshooting, as well as designing, installing, configuring, administering, and fine-tuning Windows operating systems and components across an organization. Some career experts say the evolution of IT’s business role makes this job a possible career path to CIO.
why you need one: Because so many businesses run Microsoft software on their networks, the Windows administrator’s role is key to keeping a company’s operations running smoothly. That role will become even more important as companies move to Vista. Moreover, organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on this person to get things done. “Hardware isn’t what defines chunks of work as much as the applications,” observed Dave Van De Voort, a principal in the Chicago offices of Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
desired skills: Knowledge of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange, domain and configuration controllers, global catalogs, LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and Active Directory. Minimum education is two-year degree in computer science; general business degree with software training also valuable. “They have to know their way around network operating systems as well as desktop operating systems,” noted John Estes, vice president of Robert Half Technology. Be prepared to give a 10 percent premium to IT staff who possess Windows 2000/2003/XP administration skills since a vast amount of U.S. businesses run Windows networks and that skill set is in high demand.
how to find them: People in advanced production, service or support positions. “It’s not a job that a person could move up from a purely administrative kind of role without much technical background,” Estes says, “but it’s certainly a job that could be done by somebody from the operations side or the help desk side who has pursued training in software development and system integration.
what to look for: The ability to make complex technology topics accessible to laypeople. Must be able to take direction from a variety of people, as well as give direction. Can lead and rally teams. Grace under pressure. Quick learning curve as applications change. Experience negotiating with vendor support. Familiarity with operational metrics used in service-level agreements.
elimination round: Van De Voort recommends asking candidates how they dealt with the last service interruption they faced. “If somebody’s answer is, ‘No system I ever managed went down,” I’d say, ‘I don’t want you for this job’ because I’m assuming that someday my system is going to have problems. Keeping the thing purring is important, but how you handle customers and the technical demands when it’s not purring is also very important.
salary range: $40,000 to $88,000
growing your own: “Black Belt” desktop support people are ripe candidates, as well as desktop architects and developers. Another fertile area is quality control: people who know the processes behind system installation, support and functionality. “This is a job where an employer can bring in people with a basic degree in computer science or a degree in business with a computer background and grow their own to a greater extent than some other areas,” Estes notes.