3 Ways to Reinvent Yourself as a Network Engineer

October 3, 2017 - 1 Comment

As the Network Engineering job role changes, Learning@Cisco and DevNet provide resources for skills transition.

Network engineering, as a job role, has shifted dramatically over the past 20 years. In the past, network engineers were responsible for keeping the network up and running, but the job role today is much more complex. Digital transformation, automation and orchestration, as well as changes in infrastructure, have opened up new possibilities and expanded the bandwidth of the role. In this new digital era, optimizing business outcomes has become a priority across industry.

With the advent of intent-based networking, the role of the network engineer is bound to shift even more. Additionally, since the half-life of newly acquired skills is now roughly 2.5 years, keeping pace with this rapid, and accelerating, pace of innovation calls into question – what’s the best way to attain the right skills and ensure future success? Last week, I met with industry leaders at the Software-Defined Enterprise Conference and Expo to discuss just this. Here are three ways that you can reinvent yourself as a network engineer:

Learn from your team
It takes a really long time to become an expert at something – Malcolm Gladwell has popularly defined expertise as 10,000 hours of experience. How can you get ahead of this incredibly long expertise development time? Speak to those who have been there, learn from their mistakes and challenges, and continually refer to them as a resource.

Your team is one of your most valuable resources. Listen to them, talk to them and learn together. Don’t just take knowledge from others; share yours with others as well. Set aside time explicitly for the purpose of sharing ideas and collaborating. And don’t just look to your team for new knowledge – look to the larger organization, to different areas of the business. Contribute to a culture of sharing, learning and teaching in order to foster your own growth and development, and to reinvent yourself as a network engineer.

Legitimize your learning, then celebrate your success
Team sharing helps accelerate learning and development; training and certification make this growth tangible. Eight of ten managers agree that Cisco certified individuals are more knowledgeable and valuable to their organization. They can take on more responsibilities, are more respected by peers and are more promotable according to Cisco’s Value of Certifications Study. So what are you waiting for? You want to reinvent yourself? Start training to become certified; it’s the best way to flex your career muscle and prove that you are truly capable of taking on a larger role or switching to a new position. Once you’re certified and have succeeded in accomplishing your next career goal, celebrate your success, but don’t think that’s where your reinvention ends.

Embark on a journey of continuous learning
No longer is learning a point-in-time occurrence, but instead an ongoing journey. To become a continuous learner requires a change in mindset – from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, as referred to in Carol Dweck’s popular book. Having a growth mindset means opening yourself up to new possibilities, new tactics, new technologies and ultimately, becoming more flexible. Taking advantage of both team learning and more formalized training, and becoming a flexible, continuous learner with a growth mindset will create new professional opportunities and will ultimately set you up for long-term success.

There are resources available to you to continue your learning. Learning@Cisco offers extensive learning opportunities in network programmability through training and certification.

To learn more visit:  https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/community/network-automation-analytics-and-virtualization.

Search for additional learning tools and resources at Cisco DevNet:

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  1. Something facing all of us – which way now?
    I have been networking for a long time, my first Cisco product being an AGS+ and at the time, c2500 routers were dominant. Change is a constant, however the rate of change is accelerating to a near breakpoint; so specialisms evolved reflected in the growth of certification tracks. The most significant recent development in networking has been in data centre technology and cloud services. This is where the new networking frontline is at. I see in house skills diminishing to access technologies and most other technologies being external or cloud sourced. So which way now? If you enjoy sunshine and near social hours working, stick with CCNA – go for them all if you’re keen. TEN to choose from at time of writting !
    If you are dedicated and determined it will take significant effort to command a technology thats fading (pace of change outstrips human endeavour). SDN will help our work go further but its a tool not the answer – yet. SDN based virtualised environments will take networkers down a new rabbit hole along with developers and i think this will be a brave new world.
    So. my first CCNA (about 20 years ago) didnt magically open any doors but it did start the learning habit. I continue with formal and informal training every year but did not actively maintain certifications. BIG mistake btw. recruiters dont care if you have two heads full of CCIE grade info – if you dont have a tick box cert’ youre not a viable candidate. right or wrong its the truth.
    So again – which way now?
    programming will likely affect our working day somehow, soon. Python seems popular and some great resources out there. David Bombal leading the charge on utube in gns. great instruction.
    For as long as i can recall Cisco has been the benchmark in the network arena and accreditations are trusted, so we are in a good place. get a 3 year plan – CCNA R&S is a great place to start – then wireless for IoT access and analytics { could become programming heavy i think) then security. Learn something new every day; proper learning not just remembering. Join study groups – play knowledge games whatever it takes. Dont be afraid to “not know” recognising your weakness identifies your interests and an opportunity for learning. For seasoned engineers i think the options are very similar and the choice of direction is subjective. The opportunity to develop in a radically new direction is better now than i can ever recall – to break out of the drone work into something more interesting has to be the biggest pull.
    Put in the work and it will be possible to maintain a good command of at least three technologies, then ratify with certification. Start hereabouts and i think you could have a decent stretch as an engineer and be well prepped for whats comming next.