Would you summarize the work you do? [This is the most important question.]
In my current role, I am responsible for designing converged voice and data networks. I am currently architecting our “branch of the future” network, which will allow us to increase bandwidth, reduce latency, and extend voice to all of our branches across a single WAN. I am also involved with redesigning our PBX infrastructure for our call center. I work extensively with advanced routers and switches, firewalls and load balancers. Over the past three years I have held multiple positions that focused LAN/WAN implementations. My daily work requires a strong knowledge base in the areas LAN/WAN infrastructure, routing protocols, switching, VLANs, IP subnetting, voice signaling and the TCP/IP protocol.
Who do you deal with in your day-to-day activity? Customers? Vendors? People in other departments of your company? How much of your time is spent with other people, either informally or in meetings?
In a given day, half of my time is spent working with other people. In my first role at the bank, nearly three-quarters of my day was spent working with the IT staffs at our processing customers. In my current role, however, I have limited customer involvement. Most of my interactions are with other IT departments and vendors.
What technology do you work with? Mention both hardware and software? Include network components (routers, PBXs) and tools (sniffers, management tools, office applications).
I work with a wide array of networking technology. This includes Cisco routers and switches, F5 BigIP and 3DNS load-balancers, Cisco Call Manager, and VoIP phones. Our LAN network utilizes FastEthernet, GigabitEthernet and 10-GigabitEthernet technologies. Our core WAN is comprised of multiple OC-12 connections, metro-Ethernet connections, and dark-fiber (DWDM) connections. Our branch and customer WAN networks are currently running on a frame-relay network, however we are looking into converting to MPLS.
I use a wide array of tools on a monthly basis. We use sniffers and ‘application probes’ in order to troubleshoot performance issues. We also use several tools for trending bandwidth, circuit errors, and device performance (memory, cpu, etc). We are also evaluating a suite of tools that will tie all of these together and further assist with finding the root cause of an outage.
What certifications, if any, do you hold? Working/planning any? Are they vendor-specific (e.g. CCNA) or general (e.g. PMP)? Any advice for students here?
I hold a CCNA, and am pursuing the CCNP certification. My advice for obtaining any certification is to be dedicated about it. Set aside plenty of time outside of work to study, and then take the test as soon as you’re ready. Without setting a schedule of when to study and when to take the test, it’s incredibly easy to procrastinate.
What about grad school? Have you entered, finished, considered, wished, or whatever grad school? In what?
I am currently filling out applications for grad school. I am pursuing my MBA, but have not yet picked any particular field as an area of concentration.
How are you compensated? Salary? Salary & commission? Salary & performance bonus?
Salaried. The company also provides percentage matches for 401(k) contributions and employee stock purchases. At the end of the year, the company typically awards ‘employee profit sharing’ which is placed into your 401(k).
Do you and/or your company have a career path/ladder for you?
Yes. Our IT HR department built career ladders for all positions within the IT organization. I am able to see what positions / titles I can pursue and get an idea of what qualifications are required for those positions.
Are you on call? How often are you on call and how often are you called in?
In my current role, I am not on-call. For the first two years at the bank, I was on-call once or twice each week. I was paged on less than half of the nights I was on-call. When I was paged, I was able to do the majority of work from home / remotely. I was rarely required to go in.
What’s your office environment like? Cube farm? Data center? Work at home? Downtown, suburbs? How do you dress (professional, casual, grungy)? Big building or relatively small?
I work in a cube farm within a very large building. Our dress code is business casual, however formal business attire is required if you are meeting with customers. If you are in during a change window (late at night), it is OK to wear jeans. We also hold several charity fundraisers throughout the year, which allow you to buy “jeans day” stickers for a couple of bucks.
Do you travel? If yes, how much and to where?
I typically travel only once or twice per year to attend outside training. The classes we go to are usually in Columbus, Chicago or Dallas.
How did you get your job?
From the OU career fair. Fifth Third wasn’t even looking for network engineers. The key is to be persistent with the recruiter and let them see that you know what you’re talking about.
What courses helped more than you thought they would? What do you wish you’d taken?
The most helpful courses I took were related to communication: group discussion, public speaking, and professional communication (writing). Most of the people I deal with aren’t very technical or aren’t concerned with the nuts-and-bolts of how networks operate. Being able to communicate a technical idea to management or other teams is a critical skill. Accounting and finance classes were also very helpful, as they help me build a business case for the projects I’m pushing. And, of course, the ITS and MIS classes I took provide the foundation for all of the work that I am doing.
Were you an intern? Any advice for next year’s interns?
Yes, I interned with NCR in 2001. My advice to interns is to look beyond the tasks and jobs that you are working on and learn how they impact the business. Study how the company is organized and learn how different tasks are accomplished (such as budgeting, project planning, and project implementation). Many companies operate the same way and have similar requirements. Understanding how these processes work will help out tremendously in your career. Plus, you might pick up something that will be beneficial to whatever company you work for in the future.
Any general advice for ITS students who may find your job interesting?
Find people in the industry and talk with them – get a good understanding of what they do. It’s easy to meet people in ITS: simply attend TSMA and other speaker events. The MIS department’s student group, ATIP, also has several events throughout the year that are worth attending. Don’t be afraid to ask for a business card and send them an email.
Please email Phil Campbell – firstname.lastname@example.org – with any questions.