So I thought I'd write a post, from my perspective, about what some of the skills are that it takes to work as a consultant in this Microsoft Unified Communications world. Engineers and Architects that can do this type of work WELL are a rare find. They posses knowledge from multiple disciplines (data, voice, server apps, security etc) and combine them all to help a customer deploy a solution that fits their needs. My hope is that this will finally convince some people that are on the fence to jump in (and increase the pool of talent).
... and no you don't have to be an Architect to jump in, you can start out being an Engineer or working the support desk. You can learn as you go.
The Hard Skills
Here is the bottom line... the more of these the better.
The more of these you are excellent at... the better consultant or support engineer you'll be for your customer.
Nobody... Nobody will be an expert at all of these. But sometimes the secret is knowing others that are experts in that area... or knowing where/how to find the answers.
If you are weak in most these areas... no problem... go buy a computer, create a lab of your own and pick something and start to learn. With Microsoft based software there is usually no lack of freely available knowledge you can learn from and there are certainly plenty of books out there on all of these topics. Don't expect you will learn all of this in two weeks. I've been gathering knowledge for as far back as 20+ years and that knowledge still applies to what I do today. But everyone has to start somewhere.
Here is the list that I've come up with...
- Active Directory
- SQL Server
- Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1 etc
- Server 2008 R1/R2 and 2012 R1/R2
- Office Communications Server 2007 R1/R2
- Lync Server 2010/2013
- Exchange 2007/2010/2013
- System Center 2007/2012/2012 R2 via @fabriziovlp
- Hyper Visors (Microsoft, VMWare etc) via @fabriziovlp
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (Microsoft, VMWare, Citrix etc)
- .Net Regular Expressions (RegEx)
- Private Key Infrastructure/Certificates
- Layer 2 Networking (Switched)
- Layer 3 Networking (Routed)
- Quality of Service
- Network Sniffer (Wireshark, Message Analyzer)
- Audio Codecs (G.711 etc)
- ISDN PRI and the associated protocols/capabilities
- T-1 (Telephony based digital circuit)
- DS-1/DS-3 (Data based digital circuit)
- Frame Relay
- Avaya Blue (Nortel)
- Avaya Red (Traditional Avaya)
- Cisco Unified Call Manager
- Inter-tel (owned by Mitel now)
- PBX Dial Plans
- PBX Features
- Analog device types
- Fax and Fax Server
- T.38 Codec (for Fax over IP)
- Modem (Yes credit card and postage machines still use this)
- Gateway/SBC (Sonus, Audiocodes, etc)
The Soft Skills
- Good listening skills
- Good presentation skills
- Good communications skills (verbal and written)
- Attitude toward constant learning
- Self starter
- Working alone
- Working in teams
- Working with other teams
- Juggling lots of tasks/jobs at once
- Prioritizing tasks
- Bing/Google searching for information
- Networking (the people kind)
This one is all on you. My unique path took me from being a network manager/admin at a University, to working 11 years for Nortel and then combining all that experience into what I do now. Some of this is hard to learn in a lab unless you are loaded with money.
You need to surround yourself with people that know about the skills you need to work on. This is where the networking (the people kind) really comes in handy.
How do you do this?
How do you do this?
- Go to local users groups
- Go to local conferences.
- Go to some industry conferences.
- Get on twitter and follow people that tweet about the things you want to learn about.
- Get on LinkedIn and make some connections and join some discussion groups.
- Read the Technet forums
- Read some books
I'll keep updating this as I think of things... but bottom line is that this stuff isn't easy, but it is something that is able to be learned given enough time and effort.