Photo: Karnig Kazandjian, networking department head and program instructor at Herzing College Montreal
Computer networking training is one of the most popular diploma programs at Herzing College Montreal.
The field has grown tremendously over the past few years, with increasing demand for roles like network administrator, IT support specialist, and network technician.
If you're considering this path, you're probably wondering what kind of training you need to get started. Or what jobs you can qualify for straight out of college.
There's no one better to answer these questions than Karnig Kazandjian. Karnig is the computer networking department head at Herzing College Montreal. He teaches the Microcomputer and Networking Systems Technology program, and has been an instructor at the college for over 30 years!
In this interview, Karnig answers our most frequently asked questions about training and careers in networking.
Meet the teacher, tour the program, and see if computer networking training is right for you.
Q: Karnig, can you tell us about your education and professional experience in computer networking?
Karnig: I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, and my career has been primarily focused on education.
Having been involved in teaching electronics, computer, and networking courses for three decades, I have experienced the evolution of these exciting technologies throughout the years.
I have also worked on research projects related to fiber-optic communications and provided IT consulting services.
Q: How long have you been teaching computer networking training at Herzing?
Karnig: I started teaching at Herzing College Montreal in 1988 as an instructor in the electronics department. We progressively modified and updated our courses to reflect market needs and changes in technology.
Accordingly, the department name was changed to Microcomputers & Networking, with course content increasingly focused on networking technologies.
In recent years, the networking department has been experiencing significant growth, with many instructors and teaching assistants working hard to satisfy the educational needs of a growing number of students.
As a result, I have been acting as department head while still fulfilling my teaching duties.
Q: What jobs are students qualified for after completing the computer networking program?
Karnig: Our program is versatile and gives students the opportunity to develop sharp technical skills. Therefore, successful graduates are immediately qualified to work as junior network administrators or network technicians.
At the same time, the computer networking program provides a solid foundation in IT knowledge and practice, which enables graduates to access a variety of entry-level IT positions.
Q: What’s the most common entry-level position for new graduates in this field?
Karnig: Many of our graduates start their careers as junior network technicians immediately after completing their internship. But again, our program is versatile and gives access to a variety of IT-related positions.
As an example, I have just heard from a recent graduate who has been hired as a technical support analyst for IP cameras and network security only four months after completing his internship.
Q: You cover a lot of skills in just 15 months! What’s the toughest part of the computer networking program?
Karnig: Yes, we cover basic computer hardware and software, fundamentals of networking, Microsoft Windows servers and clients, Microsoft Exchange, Cisco routers and switches, Linux enterprise-level servers, and cloud computing.
Many students find the Linux portion particularly challenging. I don’t think Linux is hard as such, it is just different from the computing experience that students have been exposed to before taking the course. It takes effort to learn something new, right?
It is worthwhile though, given that Linux skills are increasingly in demand in the networking technology field.
Q: What computer networking skills are most important right now? What are employers looking for?
Karnig: In general, a network technician is expected to have good skills in computer hardware and software. They need to know how to set up, configure, and troubleshoot servers, client stations, and network connections.
The Microsoft Windows operating system is widely used and graduating students are expected to be fluent in it. An increasing number of employers are also interested in Linux skills.
Virtualization and cloud computing skills are increasingly in demand as well.
Q: Herzing's computer networking training includes prep for several networking certifications. Do you need these certifications to get hired?
Karnig: Most of our graduates find employment without going through any networking certifications. This is because employers who offer entry-level positions want candidates who have hands-on skills and the ability to learn new technologies. This is what our program focuses on.
Certification will be more relevant to graduates after they acquire some experience in the field. At that point, certification combined with work experience would be valuable in terms of pursuing a promotion or other employment opportunities.
Having said that, our computer networking training does prepare successful and motivated students for certification exams. Cisco CCNA and cloud-related exams such as Amazon AWS are good examples of certification objectives.
Q: What kinds of projects and assignments do students work on in class?
Karnig: We focus on hands-on networking skills and give students practical assignments on a daily basis. At the end of every course module, we conduct a lab test to measure the student’s hands-on competencies.
Some course modules also include practical projects that simulate an enterprise IT environment. Examples of such projects are setting up network services in a Windows Active Directory environment, or configuring web services and firewalls on enterprise-level Linux servers.
More importantly, these lab assignments and projects help students build their technical skills and self-confidence in configuring and troubleshooting network components, regardless of the specific operating system or subject.
This is a very dynamic field in which change is constant and new technologies emerge on a regular basis.
Therefore, what really counts in the end is the student’s ability to adapt to change and confidently face new challenges.
This is what we're preparing students for in the computer networking program.
Q: What can students expect from the internship? What kind of networking tasks will they perform?
Karnig: The internship runs for 12 weeks. The tasks interns do will depend on the size of the company and the nature and structure of their business.
But most interns will be responsible for routine tasks, like IT front-line support and customer service, resolving hardware and software problems, troubleshooting operating systems and desktop or web applications, network planning and support, and configuring routers and switches.
The internship is a great way to transition from an academic environment to experience in the field, and gives students the chance to explore different career paths in computer networking.
Q: What are some of the fastest-growing specialties in computer networking right now? Where’s the biggest demand for talent?
Karnig: Cloud technologies are growing fast and they are shaping the present and future of networking.
SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) is an example of a hot technology that helps enterprises adapt to the cloud.
Network security is another area with big demand. I would also mention IP version 6 rollout which is accelerating.
Q: How do you know if computer networking training is right for you? What qualities are needed to succeed in this career?
Karnig: I would say motivation and the ability to adapt to change are the most important requirements. Students must realize that what they learn in school is only temporary.
The most valuable assets we provide are the technical foundation, mental process, and attitude you'll need to keep on learning and growing.
This can be a very exciting journey for someone who is passionate and has a genuine interest in computer networking.
I would also like to stress that this is not rocket science, but you do need mental discipline and patience to set up and troubleshoot computer networks. And I would finish on this quote by Thomas Edison: ‘There is no substitute for hard work’.
Thank you, Karnig, for giving us a tour of the computer networking program plus some helpful advice for starting a successful career in this field. We're very lucky to have you on the faculty at Herzing College Montreal!
Still Have Questions About Computer Networking Training?
If you want to learn more about Herzing's Microcomputer & Networking Systems program, we strongly recommend speaking with an admissions advisor.
An advisor can explain courses, career options, class schedules, financial aid, and admission requirements.
They will also talk with you about your interests and goals, and help you decide if computer networking is the right fit for you.
Chat live with an advisor right now, or click below to explore the program in more detail. We're here to help!