WATERBURY, CT—Reflecting wistfully on what he might have made of himself had he chosen a different profession, Dynatrend Solutions network engineer Alan Miller said Wednesday that he would be a systems manager if he had the chance to go back and do it all over again.
Despite a long and successful career of identifying and solving network-infrastructure-based problems, the 47-year-old told reporters there will always be a little part of him that regrets not having instead followed his youthful ambition of designing technology solutions as a systems manager.
“If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to go with your gut and take a shot with systems management, because if you don’t, you’re always going to wonder what might have been,” said Miller, who by his mid-20s had established himself as a network engineer, passing up the prospect of a more fun and rewarding career as a systems manager. “Who knows where life might have taken me if I hadn’t spent the past two decades devising, configuring, and supporting communications networks? What if, instead, I were managing, planning, and coordinating IT systems?”
“I mean, I could be doing that right now,” he added.
Although he acknowledged that trying to make it as a systems manager would have been a “more unorthodox choice” for him professionally, Miller also stressed that throughout his many years in network engineering he had often daydreamed about what it would be like, just once in his life, to analyze project workflow and perform systems upkeep, or to have a workday in which his hours were filled with opportunities to brainstorm and implement ways to resolve end-user systems issues.
Miller stated that when he chose to become a network engineer he was too young and inexperienced to grasp the full repercussions of turning his back on what he referred to as the “career of my dreams.” Although he realizes now how much he passed up when he decided against applying for jobs that would have allowed him to monitor server metrics, automate technology services, and measure business performance in real time, he confirmed that such understanding has only come with the benefit of wisdom and age.
“Of course I sometimes fantasize about dropping everything and starting over again as a systems manager,” said Miller, nonetheless conceding that such a dramatic professional shift was surely a pipedream at this point in his life. “If I were 10 or even five years younger, I might give it a shot. After all, I already know how to ensure secure connectivity to protect sensitive systems data—I could do that part. I might not be able to perform systems troubleshooting right away, but I could learn. It’s too late now, though. I’m a network engineer, and that’s not going to change.”
“And maybe it was inevitable,” continued Miller. “Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for the sort of crazy, fast-paced life of routinely performing systems maintenance upgrades in the first place.”
Despite his continuing doubts about whether he made the right career choice, Miller noted that his accomplishments as a network engineer have given him “plenty to be proud of,” including a 23-year record of dependable tier 4 support and network disaster recovery, and a solid reputation for ensuring software installations always adhere to corporate licensing laws.
Still, Miller said, he often finds himself thinking back to a joint project in 1998 when he briefly worked alongside Dynatrend’s systems management team to fix an overheated server farm, an exciting and rewarding experience in which he witnessed up close the life he might have lived had he simply been slightly bolder in his youth.
“Maybe I’m romanticizing what it’s like to spend your days applying systems technologies to meet a company’s organizational goals,” said Miller, speculating that perhaps even systems managers occasionally wonder what it’s like to be a network engineer. “But whenever I hear my buddy in systems management mention how he just executed some new systems strategy that allowed a project to better adhere to its timeline, I can’t help but sigh and think, ‘That could have been me.’”
“That really could have been me,” he added.