A Career in Wireless… Whatever That Means

by Don Willmott

Last week I decided to upgrade my antiquated home WiFi
system by installing the new Cisco
Valet, a WiFi router that I picked specifically because it’s designed for
idiot-proof 1-2-3 installation. After 30 minutes on the phone with tech
support, that’s what it was. Now that I’m equipped for a 21st-century
wireless lifestyle, it’s time to think about all the career paths opening
up in this exploding space.

A Career in Wireless... Whatever That MeansAfter all, what isn’t wireless these days? At recent product
preview days, I’ve examined WiFi-enabled printers, cameras, home security
systems… everything but the kitchen sink, and I’m sure we’ll have one of those
soon too. A recent test drive in a tricked-out Ford Taurus was equally
inspiring (and intimidating). I felt like I was sitting inside a giant $30,000
iPhone. The only thing missing was a touch-enabled windshield.

When I chatted last week with Kanani Masterson, VP of
Business Development and director of the technology division of San Diego-based
recruiting firm TriStaff Group, she told me that many of her clients are in the medical
devices arena, and many of them are working on an array of wireless devices
including heart pumps. "Wireless will be the future in all sorts of
markets," she says. Now all we have to do is figure out what
"wireless" really means. 

Because wireless/WiFi/mobile is an overarching technology
that’s becoming part of everything implemented everywhere, it’s hard to become
a "wireless expert" the same way you can become, say, a "Java
expert." Still there are ways to dive in. For example, one five-day,
$5,000 boot camp from Tonex, covers
"RF, microwave, Bluetooth, RFID, ZigBee, Wireless LANs, 802.11n,
802.16/WiMAX, HF/VHF/UHF, SATCOM, GPS, GSM/EGPRS, CDMA, CDMA2000 1x, 1xEV-DO,
UMTS/W-CDMA, HSPA/HSPA+, OFDM/MIMO, LTE, SAE/EPC, Wireless core network
technologies, IP/MPLS, Mobile IP, Security, QoS, Ethernet Backhaul, Services,
VoIP, SS7, SIGTRAN, and. SIP." Wow. I bet the final exam is pretty hard.
There must be some great career paths hidden in there somewhere.

You can also seek out vendor-specific certifications like
the popular CCNA Wireless Certification from Cisco which "validates
associate-level knowledge and skills to configure, implement and support of
wireless LANs, specifically those networks using Cisco equipment."

At Dice, a search on "wireless" brings up more
than 1,700 job listings. A search on "mobile" brings up more than
2,400. In both cases, the positions lean more toward software than hardware,
although many of them also have "networking" as part of the job description.

If you buy into the vision of the future in which everything
you touch, from toasters to trucks, has its own IP address, then you can also
envision the army of consultants and experts that will be needed to figure out
how to make wireless protocol A talk to wireless protocol B so that you can
turn on your toaster while you’re driving your truck. It’s happening quickly.
ABI Research reported in June that WiFi integrated circuit shipments are
forecast to surpass 770 million units worldwide in 2010, up almost 33 percent
compared to 2009, and that number may more than double by 2015 as all sorts of
new devices (toasters?) become WiFi-enabled and the new 802.11n standard takes
hold.

Impressive, isn’t it? With literally billions of
intercommunicating wireless devices destined for our hand, homes and offices
in the next few years, this is a market very much worthy of your attention as
you plot the trajectory of your IT career. The recruiters have spoken: If
you’re the person who can add the necessary wireless twist to an app, to a
network, to a device, to a business process, you’re going to be in demand. You
may think the world is already pretty much wired for wireless, but there’s
clearly much more to come.

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