Simply put: network engineers are responsible for computer networks. All organisations and businesses, from government departments to national branches of multinational businesses, need these networks to communicate internally and externally with suppliers, clients and staff. Network engineers are the people who install, maintain and upgrade these networks. In order to do this challenging job, they need to thoroughly understand the hardware and software required for networks to function.
What the role involves?
Typical activities include installing new server hardware and software infrastructures; allocating network resources; providing technical support and training; implementing and monitoring network security; diagnosing and fixing faults and problems; as well as planning the ongoing development of the whole system. In larger organisations network engineers often start in a technical support role and progress over time to the position of network engineer.
What skills will you need?
They need to have a very strong technical background, particularly a good knowledge of LANS (local area networks) and WANS (wide area networks), but softer problem-solving, teamwork and negotiating skills are also hugely important. Often the nature of a network engineer’s job will depend on the size of the organisation for which they work. In a large organisation, such as an investment bank or semi-state company, a network engineer could be responsible for just one small aspect of a very large system. In smaller organisations they could have responsibility for every aspect of the network’s smooth functioning. Whatever the size of the operation, however, network engineers need to be quick on their feet.
How your role can develop
The nature of computer networks is ever-changing. There’s been huge development in the field in recent years, which means that the systems of major businesses have needed, and continue to need, ongoing upgrades and continuous development. This has provided ample opportunity for thousands of programmers and engineers to showcase their skills. Progress in the field is showing no sign of abating, which means there may be many exciting career development possibilities on the horizon. Ultimately, however, career success will be down to the graduate’s ability to work under pressure. Indeed, if and when systems fail, and an organisation’s operations grind to a halt, all eyes will be on the network engineer.