Editors Note: A former colleague of mine looking to advance their career reached out to me and this post is merely a more formal versions of what I spoke with them about. Agree or disagree let me know in the comments section.
Step 1: Love it or Leave it
Plain and simple here really. Having passion for what you do is the number one element for success and you’ll be more inclined to naturally want to work and improve your craft. Networking Engineering is no different and at the rate that technology changes it’s absolutely critical. If you don’t love it you’re not going to be around very long because your work will show your lack of interest. Love it but just not right now read my post titled “Burnout” and go from there.
Step 2: Servers
More often than not servers aren’t a specific scope of our jobs but having an understanding of them and especially how they connect is critical for a couple of reasons. Reason one being the server admins that you will be working with usually aren’t all that helpful. Reason two with the popularity of Cisco’s Nexus switches you’ll most likely be writing quite a few mops for installing them if you work in a Data Center type environment. This means Virtual Port Channels, HSRP or some type of redundancy protocol, and likely FEX turn ups as well. Understanding how the different blades on the servers correlate to your switch is crucial and like I said before you likely won’t get much help.
Step 3: Embrace F5
F5 is on the rise and this goes hand in hand with step 2. The more servers, the greater the chance you’ll end up doing load balancing and F5’s LTM and GTM load balancers are the go to choice from what I’ve seen these last few years. Outside of a Cisco CSS I’ve only worked with F5 recently. Big IP is the name of the GUI and it is easy enough to navigate and use but the CLI is Linux based. Same with their Firewalls which are also seeing an uptick in popularity across various segments of the industry. Currently it is a good way to earn yourself a nice pay day as well because there seems to be a dearth of engineers experienced enough on the platforms at multiple companies based on some of the offers I have received since the end of 2016 and already this year.
Step 4: Scripting
SDN is here to stay and with that comes the need to learn scripting. I won’t say this is 100% fact but python appears to be the leader of that pack. A former colleague of mine tried to warn me about it and I admit I missed the boat initially so this applies to myself as well. As I take meetings or view requisitions I see Python popping up at a rate that’s much faster than a few years ago. I’m not advertising for them but it is beneficial to learn some sort of scripting language because the way we operate is changing whether we like it or not. I wrote about the potential impact of SDN here.
Step 5: Share
And by share I mean teach. We are constantly training and seeking improvement or you wouldn’t be here reading this. Have a coworker that’s struggling a little bit understanding route-policy and you’re a rock star at it? Plan it out, type it up, and present it to them individually or as a group. There’s nothing more satisfying, to me at least, than presenting a concept and having someone actually grasp and utilize what you’ve taught them.
Are there other ways that may be more effective? Sure there is and feel free to share them in the comments below. And as always feel free to make suggestions via the contact page!