Q

How can I get out of my user support mold?

I have about seven years of IT experience, mainly on the user support and office automation side of the shop. I have just completed my MCSA and plan to take 70-217, 70-221 and 70-220 for the MCSE. My problem is that I haven't been able to get out of this user support mode and really get into the meat of things, such as infrastructure, design and implementation or security because when employers see my resume, it cries user support....

I make a decent wage but I have just not been able to grow. Do you have any suggestions with regards to further certs that might help me along the way? The problem isn't certs per se but rather what kinds of experience you can garner or claim for yourself. To begin, you should share your aspirations with your boss, and see if you can't spend at least some of your working time supporting the kinds of things you want to study: infrastructure matters, security and directory services stuff.

You might try to make a case that it's a good idea to include support staff in projects from the design phase forward, because this will make the support group more effective when new systems go online, and because those groups can benefit from input from the support side. (You'd be amazed how many dumb decisions can be avoided when a support tech says, "How will this functionality be supported?" "How will we train the users?" "What happens when x breaks?" and similar questions.)

Worst case, if you can't grow where you are, you'll have to seek out other employment opportunities where growth is part of what's available to you. Even so, you'll still want to gain as much experience as you can in the areas where you want to develop skills and competence. This may mean unpaid volunteer work outside normal working hours -- quite a sacrifice, I know -- but sometimes such sacrifice is the only way to open doors to a brighter future.

Good luck. Please keep me posted on your progress, and feel free to ask more questions.

--Ed--

This was first published in February 2003

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