Since computer networks are everywhere, so too are opportunities for computer networking technicians. They're highly-skilled professionals that make sure that networking hardware, cabling, and related technologies perform as they should. Without them, computer networks and all technology that relies on them would grind to a halt, taking much of the global economy with them.
Surprisingly, though, not all the qualities required to be a good computer networking technician are technical in nature. In fact, it takes a broad range of skills to thrive in what is a fast-paced and competitive field. For those who may be considering a career as a computer networking technician, it's a good idea to understand the qualities they'll need in advance so they can make an informed decision. To help, here are the 21 qualities of a good computer networking technician.
Excellent Communication Skills
Although a computer networking technician will spend quite a bit of their time working with hardware and software to resolve network issues, they will also have to interact regularly with the people who use and depend on the networks that they manage. That's why excellent communication skills are a must for any good computer networking technician.
To begin with, they will need to be adept at understanding others, so they can take in information from users who won't always know the proper terminology to describe a problem. Then, they'll need to know how to ask the right questions to narrow down an issue, to address it in the most efficient way possible. Computer networking technicians will occasionally have to act as translators between end-users and other IT staff, helping to make sure that everyone stays on the same page.
Sharp Problem-Solving Skills
Computer networks come in many shapes and sizes and encompass a variety of hardware manufactured by different vendors following different standards. In practice, this often turns computer networks into the equivalent of a large, complex jigsaw puzzle. When something goes wrong, it's up to the computer networking technician to figure out where the problem is and what must be done to fix it. Since no two networks are alike, a computer networking technician will have to draw on their own problem-solving skills to track down the source of an issue.
Anyone who has ever faced a mysterious issue within a large computer network can tell you that finding a solution isn't always a straightforward process. Instead, it often involves careful data collection and analysis, deductive reasoning, and keen intuition. Some of those skills come from years of working with computer networks and begin with good problem-solving skills.
The Ability to Work Within a Team
As previously stated, computer networking technicians build and manage the data networks that underpin different technologies and devices. For that reason, it is rare for them to work alone, and are most often found within larger, multi-disciplinary IT teams. To do their jobs, computer networking technicians must rely on others to provide them with critical support and information on a regular basis.
It is also just as common for the computer networking technician to have to turn to other team members for assistance in troubleshooting network issues, which can affect systems under the direct control of another IT specialist. They must work with those specialists to discover and fix the source of problems, and to minimize their impact while they're under investigation. In short, no computer networking technician can be effective working as a lone wolf, so they must stand ready to be a good teammate to succeed.
Networking technology can change and develop on a moment-to-moment basis, and it is rare to encounter a situation that has only one solution. Computer networking technicians have to think on their feet and come up with some creative solutions on the fly. Sometimes, they may have to find ways to repurpose existing networking equipment to remedy an issue while they wait for new hardware. Other times they must be creative in devising tactics to diagnose an ongoing issue.
Depending on the networking environment they're tending to, a computer networking technician may be called upon to use creativity to find ways to do more with less and stretch their department's IT budget as far as possible. That's a common scenario even for individuals working within large corporate environments. Getting approvals for the necessary equipment isn't always as easy as it should be. In those situations, a computer networking technician will be glad they've got creative thinking skills to turn to.
Even though creative thinking is one of the prized qualities of a good computer networking technician, it is still a field that revolves around logic. For that reason, analytical thinking skills are just as critical to the long-term success of anyone working with the technologies that make modern data networks function. In the course of their jobs, computer networking technicians must use their knowledge and experience to analyze network problems in a clear, rational manner.
They must also employ analytical thinking skills when making decisions regarding network capacity planning, hardware replacements, or other major network operations. That's because it's up to the manager of the network to determine what effects a change to the network will have on it, before putting anything new into production. Getting those decisions right is a crucial part of running a successful and functional network, and analytical thinking is essential to doing that.
Although it's an oft-overlooked part of the job of every IT professional, mathematics skills do play a key part in the role of the computer networking technician. All modern computer networks rely on numerical addressing to enable device-to-device communications. Those numbers, known as IP addresses, must be planned out by network administrators in advance and managed over time. To do that, network technicians have to understand how to deal with binary notation and other related mathematical operations.
Math also helps when building or upgrading networks, because it's how network managers can figure out needed capacity, parcel out available bandwidth, and manage quality-of-service policies network-wide. Anybody who has the responsibility of managing networks will find themselves using mathematics skills daily. That makes math skills one of the most important qualities of a good computer networking technician.
A Voracious Learner
As mentioned earlier, networking technology is developing and changing constantly, and it isn't easy to stay abreast of these developments all the time. Those that manage to do it tend to be voracious learners who have a passion for new knowledge and acquiring new skills. That's important for a computer networking technician, who will be confronted with new problems and unknown hardware and must find ways to learn the new skills they need with little to no lead time.
For further evidence of how important a desire to learn is in this profession, one need only look at any user guide related to a networking device. It is common for such manuals to stretch into the hundreds (or thousands) of pages, all of which contain information that the network's administrator must understand and be able to recall. It's a tall order for anyone, but those predisposed to learning stand a much better chance than others, and that's why it's an indispensable quality of every good computer networking technician.
The Ability to Thrive Under Pressure
At first glance, it wouldn't seem that anyone in the information technology industry would find themselves in a pressure-packed situation. That impression, though, is way off the mark, especially as it pertains to those who manage networks. That's because today's computer networks are so critical to the operation of businesses and organizations everywhere that any downtime or other network issues can bring all work to a complete standstill. When that happens, all eyes turn to the computer networking technician, anxiously awaiting word that work can resume. It's a position that can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking all at the same time.
Being able to work under pressure is one of the most critical qualities that any computer networking technician can possess, as it's something they'll need every time the network they manage has trouble. In most environments, it's expected that networks operate with 99.9% or better uptime, so there's little room for error and even less tolerance for failures. In such a situation, a computer networking technician must remain clear-headed, rational, and able to do their job at any cost, which isn't a skill that comes naturally to everyone.
Critical Thinking Skills
Another of the major responsibilities that computer networking technicians must undertake to understand and digest business needs and translate them into technology plans that support those needs. In situations such as those, it's not enough to react to every department manager or executive whim and try to cover every conceivable issue that may arise for a network. Instead, it's necessary for the network technician to ask one all-important question when trying to plan for future needs: why?
The question represents another of the most important qualities of a good computer networking technician, which is the ability to apply critical thinking skills to their daily tasks. As the person charged with making sure a data network operates in an efficient manner and that the care, maintenance, and strategic expansion of that network stays within strict operational budgets, every action undertaken must stem from logical reasoning and a clear business need. Without critical thinking skills, it would be impossible to set such priorities and do an effective job.
Active Listening Skills
In any job that requires constant interactions with others, the act of listening is a must. In most jobs, conversations take place with other people who operate within the same part of an organizational structure. That means all the involved parties understand the same concepts, speak the same language (from a professional point of view), and share common goals. For a computer networking technician, the exact opposite is true most of the time.
In the course of their everyday duties, a computer networking technician will have to interact with people at every level of an organization, and within every distinct organizational group. That means they need to have sharp active listening skills, so they can work with those who may not have a firm grasp on the more technical aspects of computer networking. Many IT professionals fall into the trap of dismissing non-technical employees because they believe they have nothing to gain from listening to them. For a computer networking technician, having an end-user describe a subtle system hiccup could be the key to diagnosing a network-wide issue, so they must listen intently and be ready to focus on what they're hearing from others.
Time Management Skills
If there's one thing that every computer networking technician must deal with, it's the fact that they always have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Even those working for small organizations with few networking resources to manage can become overwhelmed with the demands on their time, just because the scope of their responsibilities can be quite large.
That means computer networking technicians cannot ever afford to waste a single second of time, which makes having excellent time management skills another of the most important qualities of anyone seeking to do the job. A successful computer networking technician must set clear boundaries, strict schedules, and do whatever is necessary to keep to them. Sometimes, that will mean divvying up user requests with other IT staff to create some breathing room in their schedule. Other times it involves knowing how to prioritize requests based on who's making them and the severity of the issue they're related to.
A High Degree of Technical Skill
Although it should go without saying, it's impossible to be a good computer networking technician without possessing a high degree of technical skill. As the position requires working with a wide variety of technologies, hardware, and devices, a skilled computer networking technician must have a complete understanding of not just the components of the network they're managing, but also of how the interplay between all those components will affect the broader network.
Any successful computer networking technician can tell you that a computer network is far from a static thing. Instead, it's an ever-changing and constantly evolving collection of hardware, software, and infrastructure that defies comprehension by even the most ingenious of IT professionals. To manage this, plenty of natural aptitudes and a kind of knack for technology is required to bring together the knowledge learned through structured technology training and real-world experiences that comprise the technical skills of a good computer networking technician.
The very nature of the job a computer networking technician does daily means that no two days will ever be alike. Some days will be spent working with end-users to resolve countless small problems, while other days will be spent on network-wide tasks and future planning. Through it all, there will always be the possibility of an emergency causing previous plans to go out the window. To deal with all of it, a good computer networking technician must be adaptable and able to roll with the punches.
The need for adaptability doesn't end with managing day-to-day tasks. Since the technology that populates the average computer network is under constant development, a good computer network technician must be comfortable with turning to new and better technology options when they become available. Those who stubbornly cling to aging technologies end up handicapping the networks they manage. For that reason, good computer networking technicians must be adaptable when it comes to technology, as well as in their day-to-day routines.
One of the certainties of being a computer networking technician is the fact that no matter the network, there will always be issues that defy even the most skilled of professionals. In some cases, network problems can be fleeting or even affect such a small segment of the user base that they're difficult to diagnose at all, let alone find a solution for. For that reason, a good computer networking technician must have the tenacity to keep working to find solutions even when the challenge seems too great.
Tenacity is also required of a network technician when they're addressing intermittent network issues. When they occur, it's too easy to move on once the immediate symptoms of the problem disappear. A good computer networking technician would never do such a thing. Instead, they keep investigating a problem until they find the cause and identify a solution, even if end-users have already stopped complaining.
Attention to Detail
No matter how robust the network, something as simple as a transposed digit in an IP address octet can bring traffic screeching to a halt, causing difficulties for the computer networking technician. Since they already have hardware failures, infrastructure problems, and user errors to contend with on a regular basis, the last thing they need is to add to their own workload by committing unforced errors of their own. To make sure that doesn't happen, a good computer networking technician should pay strict attention to detail at all times.
The need for attention to detail extends to every aspect of a computer networking technician's job. They must discern the tiniest details contained in user problem reports, hardware logs, and network diagnostic readouts. They must take extreme care not to make any mistakes when working with DNS entries, routing tables, and firewall configurations. Even though today's data networks often include redundancy to remain resilient to a variety of problems, a good computer networking technician can never afford to be the cause of the problem, they must always be the one with the solution.
An understanding of Business Processes
Even though computer networking technicians spend their time working directly with hardware, software, and physical infrastructure, that isn't the full extent of their job. They also play a key role in designing and expanding the networks they manage to make sure that they meet the demands of the specific business or organization they serve. To do that, a good computer networking technician has to have a deep understanding of the business they work for, so they can set appropriate priorities and deliver the maximum amount of value for the budget allotted to their work.
For example, a computer networking technician working for a customer service-oriented business should understand that the uninterrupted functioning of a customer database application is at the core of the work the broader business does. That could mean allocating more time and resources to keeping the database optimized and committing a larger budgetary share to upgrade and maintaining the network components that the database depends on to function. A good computer networking technician must self-identify such priorities based on their understanding of the core business functions of their company, and act accordingly with no external impetus to do so.
In most organizations, IT departments don't get to call their own shots with regard to budgets and strategic planning. They're often subject to the decisions of executive management, who won't always understand the technical reasons that certain hardware or software spending has been requested. In the face of skeptical business managers, a good computer networking technician must be capable of making a persuasive case to illustrate the clear business reasoning for certain outlays and do it in a way that will win over a non-technical audience.
A computer networking technician's powers of persuasion are also called upon when they're managing projects related to network upgrades and end-user hardware changes. In most organizations, department managers and rank-and-file employees tend to be risk-averse and set in their ways, particularly when it comes to technology. Most are loathed to allow changes to the systems they use, and computer network technicians have to convince them to allow things like patches, upgrades, and other necessary modifications so they can complete their jobs successfully.
Keeping a computer network operating at peak efficiency while minimizing downtime and other service issues is always a challenge. For computer networking technicians, meeting that challenge can be approached in two ways: reactively or proactively. Those who react to issues as they occur often find themselves forever in pursuit of problems and unable to keep their networks running well. On top of that, they also have difficulty planning for their network's future, because they're too busy putting band-aids on problems happening in the present.
A good computer networking technician should always be proactive in their approach to network management. In practice, that means focusing on maintenance activities to the greatest extent possible and replacing aging hardware and systems before they have a chance to cause problems. The overarching goal is to prevent problems before they occur to assure the stable operations of the network. For computer networking technicians, the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is a sentiment to live by.
If you ask most people what their general impression of a computer networking technician is, there's a good chance they'll describe an image of an aloof, stand-offish, know-it-all. That stereotype didn't happen by accident. Many network technicians fall into that mold because it's not an easy thing to deal with those who aren't technically inclined and tend to ask the same questions over and over. To be a good computer networking technician a great deal of empathy is required.
It's important for computer networking technicians to understand that other employees have their own deadlines and pressures to deal with, which is why they sometimes become frustrated with the technology they rely on. For most, technical aptitude is not a part of their skill set, they just know that they need their devices and computers to work so they can get their jobs done. A good computer networking technician keeps these things in mind when dealing with users and makes sure to take the time to understand the fears of those that come seeking help. In the end, it's better for all involved and that's what makes empathy such an important quality for the computer networking technician.
In addition to empathy, patience is also required for anyone trying to become a good computer networking technician. The level of complexity of the work and the delicate nature of some of the technologies involved means that rushing through tasks is always a bad idea. As mentioned earlier, mistakes can be costly, and having the ability to remain patient, even during pressure-packed situations like hardware failures and network outages is essential.
Frustration is the enemy of the computer networking technician. It's never advisable to take shortcuts when dealing with networking equipment and infrastructure, and that sometimes means attending to tedious and lengthy tasks. Remaining patient while doing so helps the computer networking technician to maintain a high standard of work and helps them to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
A good computer networking technician must have excellent manual dexterity and be comfortable doing physical labor. The role of a computer networking technician involves the physical installation of networking hardware, some of which can be very heavy, as well as tasks that involve physical infrastructures like cabling, patch panel management, and power distribution systems. As anyone who has ever had to punch down a 48-port patch panel or crimp ends onto ethernet cabling can tell you, it requires a steady hand and hand-eye coordination.
The same goes for the kinds of work that a computer networking technician often must do in networking closets and crawl spaces. In those cases, it's often necessary to conduct delicate, detailed work in some tight quarters, and sometimes even without having a clear line of sight to the hardware being manipulated. The work can be quite a challenge, but a good computer networking technician should have the physical tools necessary to get the job done.
The Tools of the Trade
There are a wide variety of qualities needed to be a good computer networking technician. It's a demanding position that requires a blend of hard and soft skills, all of which come together to create an insightful, hard-working, creative technology professional. Many of the qualities listed can be learned or sharpened through training and experience, and some are the kinds of traits you develop over a lifetime. Together, they paint a picture of a good computer networking technician that knows what it takes to get their job done and loves doing it well.
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