IT Certifications: A holistic approach

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When choosing a certification in IT, however, one needs to map personal interests and aptitudes with the course sought to be mastered. For example, the career progression of an expert in software development would be very different from that of a cybersecurity professional. While the former will develop software products , the latter is supposed to proactively seek threats and test firewalls and system defenses against penetration along with building a resilient network for the organization. Both career paths require different skill sets, attitudes and aptitudes.

Careers in IT will still entail the four building blocks of a digital organization – applications, infrastructure, database and security. However, what we observe today is that all these discipline are more interconnected and generic knowledge of each of these blocks are necessary irrespective of the career tracks.

Information Technology continues to be a Sunrise sector
Information technology continues to transform the way we live our lives, entertain ourselves and do business. IT, a broad term that encompasses everything computer-related, and more synonymously, everything technology-related, is still the fastest growing career field. IT is expected to cross the threshold of USD 2 trillion by 2020 by market size. The digital sub-segment is the fastest growing sector in India at a growth rate of 30% annually. To support and implement the development of digitalization across industries, network technicians, administrators and security experts play a crucial role.

How to Choose the Right IT career Path
IT certifications, today, are numerous and diverse. One must be very careful when choosing an IT certification because many courses are vendor-specific and have their limitations when an employee needs to change jobs and discovers a different system at work.

IT Basics
Before one can begin preparing for a course in IT, one needs to check whether the individual has an aptitude for the field. It is always wise to choose a career that hones your most natural skills. Next, the most basic certification one needs to be useful to any employer is a general ability to fix and install and troubleshoot computer systems. This will help a prospective job-searcher get a foot in the door. The CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ exposes the candidate the the above mentioned blocks and imparts knowledge on each of these disciplines, thereby setting a platform from where the candidate can choose their respective areas of interests.

CompTIA A+ then builds on that credential and covers IT Infrastructure in details. This program goes in depth to explain the concepts of devices, how the connected world looks like, practical trouble shooting, all varieties of operating systems, peripherals and information security. These two programs are currently the most industry relevant and comprehensive assessments in this direction. Beyond this, one can move on to deeper practical understanding of wired and wireless networks , learn how to configure IP addresses, DNS servers, different types of cable and wireless networks, security protocols and implementing permissions for different levels of users. The Network+ is an apt certification for gaining basic networking knowledge, network implementation and trouble shooting.

IT Security Career Paths
One of the most sought after skills in today’s era of massive data availability and ease of access to unsecured systems is the implementation of security protocols. But there are many levels of IT security professionals. To become a cybersecurity analyst, for example, one needs to be able to perform data analysis, interpret the results and identify vulnerabilities, threats and risks to an organization. She should also be able to configure and use threat-detection tools protect applications and systems within the organization.

The Security+ course meticulously validates these skills for a first level security professional . Once the candidate has the fundamentals clear, the next step would be to gain experience in the defensive security area within a SOC (Security Operations Center) environment. In this level, they are expected to have practical knowledge of SIEM (Security Information and Event Management Tools) along with data analytics and incident response. CompTIA’s CySA+ certification is ideal for people interested in defen side security.

On the other side of the line is offensive security professional. Vulnerability Management and Penetration testing (VAPT) is another vital mid-level security skill that is used to determine the resiliency of a network against attacks and communicate them via reports and best practices. The CompTIA Pentest+ is an excellent certification for proactive security analysis. Hardcore technical experts who are concerned with operations and architecture of systems and networks and on improving upon current designs, anticipating risks across platforms and form-factors and implementing cryptographic techniques and block chain technology need more specialized training for greater job-relevance and can opt for courses such as the CASP. There are various aspects that security experts need to be deal with including integrating clouds and other virtual servers with an enterprise system, which call for a holistic approach to running IT systems.

IT Administrators
Similarly, novice system administrators need to be able to implement vendor-neutral servers and open operating systems such as Linux. They also need to be able to versatile enough to pre-empt shifts to virtual servers including cloud systems.CompTIA’s Cloud+, Linux+ and Server+ are great places to start and cover each aspect of IT administration at working-knowledge depth.

Business users and non-IT staffs that need to get familiar with aspects of managing a project for an organizational purpose may also opt for vendor-neutral certifications such as Project+ or Cloud Essentials. Clearly, IT careers extend to various comprehensive and challenging domains that are very pertinent to current skill requirements of all organizations. To sustain oneself through changing times and technologies, one needs to constantly upgrade relevant skills through an intelligent choice of certifications to cover the broadest ground.

(Pradipto Chakrabarty is Regional Director – CompTIA India. Views expressed in this article are of the author.)

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