What should I do?

adrianm68adrianm68 Member Posts: 65 ■■□□□□□□□□
Hi Guys,

I need your help. I am in my late 40's and have returned to study after taking about 9 years off travelling the world. I used to work for Netapp, and have had a few certifications in my past - but never Cisco.

I have come back to get back to work in a technical role, only to find I have pretty much destroyed most of my technical currency having been out of the industry for so long. So mid last year I started studying again, getting my A+, then my CCNA, and now working toward my CCNP.

I have a job - as a project manager in the food industry - which I really dislike. It pays well, but it is leaving little time to study - I do about 90 minutes before work, the hour for lunch, and about 2 hours at night. I've spent 6 months preparing for Switch, and going by the general consensus, Route will be that long and then some. Then Tshoot, and perhaps some security, cloud, and vmware, and I am looking at maybe 3-4 years to get back to where I think I need to be.

Or alternatively, I ditch the awful job, smash out 60 hours a week of study, and get 2-3 certs in the next year. I have some money put away that I can support myself.

What would you do?

At risk is not being able to get a job even when I do get all that learning under my belt, because employers prefer to hire employed people over the unemployed, or because I have no recent experience. On the plus side for leaving is that the job I am in is having additional negative effects on my life/health - no different from most people who dislike their working environment.

Am I crazy walking away from good money on a chance? Do I stick it out and part time study, or take the risk? I have applied for entry level tech positions at less than 1/2 my present salary, but no one is presently interested in someone who has been out of the industry for 9 years.

I see in other posts people being glad to have ditched the work to study for a job they want to do. But most people around me, including my spouse (and probably me) believes you should not leave a position without having another lined up. Or am I simply crazy asking for career advice on an online forum, with such little background information to base any real decisions on? icon_smile.gif

Is there anyone out there that has been in a similar situation? What did you choose to do? Are you glad about your decision?
2017 Goals: Cisco: [x]Switch [ ]Route [ ]Tshoot

Cisco engineer's command to teach his dog to sit: "no stand"

Comments

  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    Hello there, firstly you are right to be serious about staying in work until you secure a new gig.

    As a hiring manager I see your 9 year break as a huge waving red flag. Anyone who can do without a conventional job for that long is going to be risks for a few factors:
    - you obviously don't need the money otherwise you wouldn't have been able to do this for so long, so the conventional incentives of bonuses, raises and ovetime are not going to work, so you will be harder to motivate than most
    - your ability to live an aspirational lifestyle is possibly going to affect your co-workers, leading to more being inspired to leave
    - technology and its application have changed drastically in the last decade so getting up to speed with the state of play and rapid pace of change is going to be an overhead.
    - Your age is going to start working against you now too. I'm 10 years older than you and have had an increasing problem with this so have settled for a management route where age is actually an asset.

    If you jump to being unemployed again of your own free will, the red flags just wave faster and then the sirens go off and I'm out.

    Some of these are fair and some aren't but they will be on most hiring managers minds and you will have to prepare a response that will set their concerns at ease - it can be done.

    On the practical side, I think you are placing too much importance on the certs and need to focus on which sector you want to work in - support, infrastructure, storage, networking, security etc. By finding a focus you can find the recommendations on where to study and more importantly, where to try to get experience. Experience is what will open the doors for you so you should look at where you can volunteer for some weekend or out of hours just to learn what the books don't show you.

    Get networking with IT professionals - LinkedIn is a great source but also look for local places that offer training for the technology and pick their brains after a cheap course to get in the door.

    With a career background in NetApp you should probably try to capitolise on this and focus on the current wave of storage from NetApp, Dell, Nimble etc. The technology has changed but the concepts are still recognisable so you will find it familiar in no time.

    Why focus on networking? My experience (in the UK) is that this is a shrinking job pool as more and more companies move they estates out to the cloud, leaving the few remaining in-house techs to look after a simple on-site config with the cloud bases services moving unstoppabely towards SaaS. It won't be such an issue for larger companies or those with specialist requirements but in the last 4 years I've seen about 75% of network specialists get laid off or moved to other teams. This is in the SME sphere of up to end 1,500 users.

    The growth areas are security and general cloud services so in your shoes, I would focus on getting to run IT projects where you can move sideways, keep the salary and take time to get to know the technology and possibly get a sideways move back to the coal face if it still actually interests you in the end.

    Look carefully at how long it is taking you to earn the certs you go for - those 2-3 certs in a year would be closer to between 6 and 10 if you are working on it full time. You may benefit from rationalising how you study to get more efficient at absorbing the material and sharpening time management skills.

    There are a few prickly points on here so fire away with anything you want me to go into more depth on or that you disagree with - this is aimed at giving part reality check and part honest & blunt offer to help.
  • adrianm68adrianm68 Member Posts: 65 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for the different perspective. You covered alot of points that I had not thought about - particularly about the perspective around how I might be perceived by potential employers - from a motivational and threatening to the status quo of an org.

    I've been very specific in my search for work - limiting to tech jobs only. Perhaps if I can get back into the tech industry as a PM, then it's certainly heading in the right direction. I'll look around this week and see what's available.

    All throughout my working life I have really valued people from a networking perspective. I've hired a few people with Cisco creds in the past they didn't let me down. The cert is always something I have wanted to achieve, hence my attention now, perhaps too late. If I get my CCNP, then move into security, then that may expand my options.

    I'm hyper aware of not getting any younger so getting where I need to go at the expense of 6-12 months salary might be the right thing to do.

    You have given me alot to think about, and I appreciate the thoughtful honesty.
    2017 Goals: Cisco: [x]Switch [ ]Route [ ]Tshoot

    Cisco engineer's command to teach his dog to sit: "no stand"
  • KyrakKyrak CISSP, PMP, MCSE CP&I, VCP5/6, CCNA R&S/Sec/Cyber Ops, ITIL, A+/N+/Sec+ Member Posts: 143 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I was in a similar position where I took 10 years off traveling and then starting a few businesses of my own only loosely related to technology so I can relate to your struggles. I initially didn't have any certs and found it very difficult to even get an interview much less a job. I was able to find a job with an MSP doing more or less the same work I did 15 years previously for only 52K a year which was over 20K less than when I left my last technical position. This MSP position was so horrible (imagine installing wifi routers in ice cold meat lockers and unethical leadership that lied to customers at every turn) that I ended up quitting after just 4 months.

    At that point I had already been studying for my PMP which I passed in August 2015. I ended up traveling a bit more then started looking more seriously for a PM job in October without much luck. I ended up signing up for the VMWare classes at Stanley Community College online (check the virtualization forums for details but you have to be unemployed to qualify for it) which led to me getting my VCP5-DCV in February 2016.

    Around that time I was contacted by someone from New Horizons that I might qualify for a government grant called WIA and they had a program that gave me classroom training and paid for the exam costs for A+, Network+, Security+, CCNA, and MCSA. I ended up passing all of those in the February - June time frame (only the CCNA was challenging for me really given my previous experience). Once I had all those certs I certainly got more interviews but the job gap was still a big problem. I ended up getting hired on at a company from a referral of someone I met in those classes. Here I am overworked, underpaid (but up to $93K at least), but am getting amazing experience. While I've been working I added a CCNA Security and just passed my CISSP.

    My advice for you if you are a PM now would be to try to pivot into a PM position in technology. Keep in mind that PMs get paid more than a lot of technical roles (which is why I was focusing on the PM route first). They say the best way to get a job is to network and I am proof that is true. A good word from a current employee is worth 100 applications. Your CCNP without current networking experience may get you interviews but you won't get past the first one unless you get lucky. The most important thing at this point is to get back in the technology field one way or another. Once you have a year of experience it will be like you have never left. I wouldn't quit your job to focus on certs. That is what I ended up doing in a manner of speaking and wouldn't recommend it. It too a ton longer than I thought it would even after I was certed up to find something. Just keep interviewing and you will find someone to take a chance on you. Any salary decrease will be temporary while you pay your dues in the trenches.

    Kyrak
    Up next: On Break, but then maybe CCNA DC, CCNP DC, CISM, AWS SysOps Administrator
  • adrianm68adrianm68 Member Posts: 65 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for the detailed replies guys. I hear "Don't leave your current job" loud and clear. I'm going to start looking for a management/project role in IT and go from there. There are two things at play motivating me to quit - 1. I dislike my job intensely, irrespective of the role, and 2. I'm not heading in the right direction within that role.

    If I am honest with myself, my present job is playing a large role in my dedication toward technical certification. It's kind of an avoidance tactic - "If I get alot of certs under my belt, I can avoid working in a job like this".

    So its time to re-write the CV, and head for an IT department in any capacity.

    Question - Linked-In - Its great for networking, but how to advertise myself when my present employers also look at linkedin?

    Thanks again for your help!
    2017 Goals: Cisco: [x]Switch [ ]Route [ ]Tshoot

    Cisco engineer's command to teach his dog to sit: "no stand"
  • Repo ManRepo Man Member Posts: 300
    adrianm68 wrote: »
    If I am honest with myself, my present job is playing a large role in my dedication toward technical certification. It's kind of an avoidance tactic - "If I get alot of certs under my belt, I can avoid working in a job like this".

    I'll give a different opinion on this. Having a motivation like this is huge to advance your career no matter which path you decide to take. Getting complacent at a job is very easy so milk this time for all that it is worth and study up as much as you can before getting back into IT full time.
  • ande0255ande0255 Banned Posts: 1,178
    I worked with a guy in a kitchen who read Architectual Engineering books while omelets where cooking during rushes, even if it was just for a paragraph, and would continually do that for months while I worked with him.

    He finished school and got an Architect type job, like a building architecture job right from the restaurant, he was also a kitchen manager so had to deal with all those duties like inventory / receiving / balancing books.

    Employers are looking for those type of people, you just need some soft skills to properly present yourself as an asset in the interview, and hard work to show as proof of said being an asset icon_thumright.gif
  • ekoplexekoplex Member Posts: 35 ■■□□□□□□□□
    UncleB wrote: »
    Why focus on networking? My experience (in the UK) is that this is a shrinking job pool as more and more companies move they estates out to the cloud, leaving the few remaining in-house techs to look after a simple on-site config with the cloud bases services moving unstoppabely towards SaaS. It won't be such an issue for larger companies or those with specialist requirements but in the last 4 years I've seen about 75% of network specialists get laid off or moved to other teams. This is in the SME sphere of up to end 1,500 users.

    Can someone chime in on this paragraph, is this really a representation of the job market for network engineers? I'm working on my CCNA in the hopes of entering the field. It kills my motivation reading this.
  • scaredoftestsscaredoftests Security +, ITIL Foundation, MPT, EPO, ACAS, HTL behind youMod Posts: 2,781 Mod
    Where do you live?
    Never let your fear decide your fate....
  • scaredoftestsscaredoftests Security +, ITIL Foundation, MPT, EPO, ACAS, HTL behind youMod Posts: 2,781 Mod
    I am talking to you. icon_wink.gif
    Never let your fear decide your fate....
  • ekoplexekoplex Member Posts: 35 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Currently South Africa, but have England and New Zealand as options. I just meant in general, is the CCNA still relevant?

    Don't mean to highjack OP's thread.
  • scaredoftestsscaredoftests Security +, ITIL Foundation, MPT, EPO, ACAS, HTL behind youMod Posts: 2,781 Mod
    I would think so. Look at the job postings there and look at the requirements...
    Never let your fear decide your fate....
  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    ekoplex wrote: »
    I just meant in general, is the CCNA still relevant?

    Yes it is relevant but the market is part smaller and part different. The smaller part I described above and the different part is where there are more roles in working with virtual networking in the cloud as the same principles for setting up environments from a comms perspective needs to be done in a virtual environment too. Admittedly there are more and more templates to do this so the basics are needed less, so there remains a core requirement for the packet sniffing, border gateway patrolling, firewall filtering binary geeks and I mean that with respect.

    The old days where you could move into a smallish company and work on networks seems to have gone now - it is a side task of the infrastructure team most of the time. Where I work now it is the helpdesk that look after the networks / switches etc via a support contract for making any changes or making repairs.

    My advice would be to look at growth areas like security or cloud services as the competition is less fierce.
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