Evolve. Be Relevant. Get Certified.

Why are a bunch of CONEs (Crusty Old Network Engineers) rallying around a certification focused on programming? The short answer is that we, too, must evolve and keep our skills relevant. The new Cisco DevNet certifications announced at Cisco Live US 2019 give us a chance to do just that!

The Motive

The networking industry is in a long-overdue transition. We have severely lagged behind other disciplines when it comes to how we provision and operationalize networking. That’s a fact. While we have talked about concepts and benefits of “SDN” ad nauseam, many of us are still hand-jamming configurations through the CLI.

The evolution of “SDN” has led us down two paths in networking. First, OEMs are making the transition by developing controller-based solutions to provision and operate the network centrally. Second, there seems to be a substantial push to ensure that every controller and network device has an API. We get it. Everything gets an API!

While we understand that things like APIs allow us to program the network, the reality for us CONEs is that we must learn new concepts, frameworks, and tools. Lots of them. Quickly.

Fortunately, the DevNet certifications provide tangible goals, structured learning, and, most of all, an opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

The Effort

So how are we approaching the certification? The engineers at World Wide Technology (WWT) formed a study group. The study group helps keep everyone focused on the learning track, fosters discussion of each topic, and each member is encouraged to share their understanding and perspective.

“A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points”
-Alan Kay

Our study group consists of 10 engineers from different roles within WWT. We have varying degrees of programming or automation experience. Each week, someone volunteers to present on a subject from the exam blueprint. The delivery format could include hands-on demos, group discussions, a formal presentation with slides, or a combination of them all. The topic always sparks some questions and debate that drives us towards a better grasp of the concepts.

In addition to our discussions and presentations, we have been writing challenges for the team to practice. They have been helpful to cement concepts we have already learned. One additional benefit is becoming better prepared for customer workshops and presentations.

To create and maintain the challenges, we make an effort to use the standard development tools and processes that we are learning. We maintain a ‘challenges’ repository where the group members create a Git branch of the main repository to submit a solution to the exercise. Specifically, we use the tools within GitHub to review and comment on each other’s solutions before merging them. The challenges have ranged from writing simple Python games, to working with SDKs, to writing code using test-driven development.

“Repetition is the key to learning.”
– John Wooden

The collateral developed in preparation for the Cisco DevNet Associate certification exam is also refined into a lab guide available on the WWT Advanced Technology Center Platform, named Programmability Foundations Lab. The idea is that others will be able to use the content in their preparations in addition to the great resources available on Cisco DevNet like Coding & APIs.

The Goal

Our study group is focused on the Cisco DevNet Associate certification exam’s first availability date of 24 February 2020. The goal is for everyone to successfully pass the written exam during the first quarter of 2020.

Wrap Up

This group of CONEs is viewing the Cisco DevNet Certifications as a way to improve our craft and move forward in our careers to align with the evolution of the networking industry. We are excited about learning new ways to use our deep understanding of networking combined with the new skills learned through the certification process.

The Cisco Certified DevNet Associate, DevNet Professional, and DevNet Specialist certifications will be available February 24, 2020, so back to work!

Learn more about Cisco DevNet certifications

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Jeff Andiorio

Technical Solutions Architect

World Wide Technology