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What does a Network Systems Engineer do?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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A network systems engineer handles the hardware part of a computer network. Depending on the engineer’s exact position and the size of his company, this job can entail everything from crawling through vents to wearing a suit. Typically, this person has a degree in a computer-related field. It isn’t uncommon for engineers in large companies to advance into administrative positions.

Computer networks are vital to many businesses. These networks are built and maintained by a network systems engineer. It is her job to make sure the network functions smoothly and efficiently. Depending on the exact nature of the job, the methods used to do this change.

The size of the engineer’s company, and her position in it, can have a dramatic effect on the nature of the work. In smaller companies, the engineer may work alone or as part of a small team. In this case, the network is usually small and stable, which means the engineer may also work as a systems administrator or in-house tech support.

Larger companies usually have an entire staff of engineers. They install switches and hubs, run cable through conduits, and connect servers. The staff typically do not do tech support, programming, or systems administration. An engineer in this type of environment often has a more hands-on job than the majority of computer-related professionals.

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In larger companies, this job has a high potential for advancement. Since being a network systems engineer can be a very technical and complex job, it is common to promote people internally rather than bring in new people. The current staff’s knowledge of the company’s specific network is often seen as an asset too important to overlook.

There are many education paths that lead to a career in network systems engineering. Many people in this position have a degree in a computer field, which can be anything from programming, to computer engineering, to Web page design. While the degree is more common, entering this job without a degree and learning by experience is possible.

As a manager, a network systems engineer has a slightly different job. She is still required to know all of the different areas within the department, but she also needs a grasp of basic business skills and the ability to translate computer-talk into business-talk. Instead of crawling under desks, she is more likely to assist in the designing of the buildings network while managing the department’s staff and budget.

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clintflint
Post 3

@bythewell - It depends on the engineer, I think. It also depends on the business. If it's a small business, they might not have anyone else to deal with people and it might be all up to him or her.

I don't know if a computer networking job is a good job to get into if you don't like people though, because it does involve working with people who won't have as good an understanding of your work as you will and that can be frustrating, even for people who do like working with people.

bythewell
Post 2

@umbra21 - To be honest, I think that most systems engineers would agree that it's the people they don't like dealing with, rather than the systems themselves. Generally you only get into the job if you like tinkering with that kind of thing and I know they get really protective about their "baby", particularly if they were the one who set it all up in the first place.

But it can be really difficult to get some concepts across to the people who have to actually work on the systems and it's all too easy for them to mess it up.

The engineer isn't usually the one who has to deal with that, I think, it's generally left to someone lower on the totem pole, but I know they can get really impatient when they do have to deal with people.

umbra21
Post 1

One of my friends worked as a systems administrator once and he invited me to go in and see the hub that his company used for networking while I was waiting for him to finish up.

I'm kind of a geek, I guess, but I thought it looked really cool and sort of space age. It was a huge bank of drives, bigger than I am, with a bunch of different wires coming off it.

I don't really know enough to know what everything did, but it made me pretty impressed with people who are network specialists, since it looked really complicated to me and they must have to deal with it all the time.

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