This month I started as a member of the Cisco DevNet team as a Network Automation Developer!!! I will be contributing now to Cisco DevNet learning labs, blogging, and working with all things network automation at Cisco.

A bit of history about me to start with here. I have been a network engineer for just over ten years, mostly working at Internet Service Providers starting at 1st line NOC level and working my way up the Network Engineer ladder. I started at Cisco in 2012 which was very exciting for me. I learned a lot in my six years with the Cisco Security Business. Building entire data centers from the ground up, designing an .IXP (Internet Exchange Point) model for Cisco. Being at the front of all operations and projects for the business.

Dealing with the fast pace of change in network engineering
In joining Cisco DevNet, the most common question I am asked is ‘What did you have to know to join the Cisco DevNet team?’ It is not a case of just knowing stuff, it is being aware of how the network engineering industry around us is changing and growing at such a fast pace. And how we need to continually evolve our skills to keep pace.

For years it seemed like networking had really stood still. One quote that reminds me of this was ‘In networking, the only major change was that we moved from telnet to ssh for network management’.

Like most network engineers I templatized my common/standard configurations. If a new VLAN or BGP peering is required. Create the RFC (request for change) copy/pasta the change syntax (I did use the word pasta on purpose there). Change what you need by adjusting the IP address, numbering, etc. Then on the day of the deployment do the same thing copy/pasta the configuration to the hardware, check the change is good, then you are done – coffee time! But as Engineers, we know this is prone to errors (I have read that this method accounts for at least 40% of network failures – some estimate this could be as high as 80%!).

Turning coffee into code

DevNet began to change the way I worked
In 2015 I heard the term ‘devops’ mentioned and started to see a lot of people blogging and tweeting about this (one of those people being Silvia Spiva). I started to follow Silvia’s tweets and blogs and saw there was more to this than what I first thought. Through Silva’s tweets, I found Cisco DevNet and Hank Preston and followed them too. I started to look at what Cisco DevNet was all about and the content and culture. Needless to say, was hooked immediately. What I learned through Cisco DevNet began to change the way I worked, I started to look at ways of streamlining my workflows. I started with Python as I need to improve my Python coding. Moving on to Netconf/Yang and Rest API, these were all new to me. As they were being used to configure IOS-XE I could see how this automated changed on the router compared to the manual changes and how quickly I was able to grab information from routers I was using in our production network.

My coding buddy

Engaging in the DevNet Community paid dividends
At this early stage, I was not ready to use what I was learning on our global production network (that time would come), but I could start to improve both my work and our team’s planned work with a higher degree of accuracy over manual changes. As I saw how this impacted and improved my work and our team’s work, I started to share this over social media more and more as a way of showing other network engineers like me how they could benefit too. I started to interact with other members of the devops community and other people on the Cisco DevNet team over time, having ideas and sharing knowledge of our experiences. One of my friends (a former co-worker from a previous Cisco team) on the Cisco DevNet team told me my support for Cisco DevNet had been mentioned at a recent team meeting. (I guess you never know who is watching you!)

As luck would have it last year an opening came up on Cisco DevNet’s team. Being interviewed by people whom you have networked with for last two years is quite amusing as you already know these people and what they do and they too knew who I was too. For anyone wanting to get involved with Cisco DevNet there are many ways to do this – through social media, the call for papers, attending DevNet Express events or the now yearly DevNet Create conference.

I look forward to meeting you at one of the DevNet events or at Cisco Live events.

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Stuart Clark

Senior Developer Advocate Of Community, AWS