Recently I joined the Cisco DevNet team as a Content Developer Engineer. This is exciting for me, because I have an opportunity to merge the two things that I love most: learning more about network automation and helping the IT community grow within their skills.

This year marks 20 years that I have been in information technology. I’ve seen the industry change multiple times, and right now we are in the middle of another major shift. That shift is being driven by organizations needing to expand and extend their networks, resources and services rapidly and at scale. In other words, automation.

By the end of this post, I will share my journey into network automation, Cisco Systems, as well as provide you with everything you need to join the #DevNetClassOf2020. Quick note: I am also going to let you know how you can get a 25% off exam voucher too!

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How I started with Network Automation

In my career, the greatest rewards have come when I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and taken some risks. From joining the Military (USAF), to starting my YouTube channel, learning Python, and now being a part of Cisco Systems. Each one of these moments has helped me get to where I am today. Now that I am here, I am committed to helping you walk, run, and fly in network automation! Are you ready to step outside of your comfort zone?

Three years ago, I was a Systems Administrator working in a comfortable government position. Back then, I thought I would never need to learn to code. To be honest, I could have stayed in that environment, but I decided to take a risk so that I could follow my passion which is network engineering.

In that position, I was tasked with some highly visible projects that drove me to learn the programming language Python. My road to this point has been awesome. I am DevOps certified, DevNet certified, and I have been in a NetDevOps role for the past year. Balancing software sprints and network engineering have prepared me for this new role within Cisco Systems.

Learning Python

People ask me often, “do you need to know Python as a network engineer?” The answer is no you do not… That is until you need a tool to perform a task that has not yet been created. Python gives you the ability to customize and create applications as you need them.

When I first began coding, I could have started with Ansible. However, I found Netmiko to be one of the best tools available for network automation. Because it allowed me to write my python scripts and then parse my return data exactly as I needed. So, I started there. My first automation script was to change the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) configuration for over 300 devices in our network. My second automation script was to update the enable secret password on 700 devices. All of this was achieved in under 50 lines of code. This task normally would take days, to manually login and update each router and switch. But with the power of automation, I took about a day to write and test my code in a nonproduction environment. Then about 30 minutes to run and verify the completion of my script in production.

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How you can get started

When I started automating, learning resources were scarce on these topics. Now, you have a great opportunity to leverage platforms like the DevNet sandbox. Here you can access multiple Cisco platforms and labs that will walk you through utilizing tools like Python, Postman, and Ansible to configure and manage your networks. Many of these resources are free and always available. If you are totally brand new to automation, I recommend you visit the “Start Now” page on DevNet to get started.

DevNet Sandbox page screen shot

Get DevNet Certified

One of the top questions being asked of network engineers right now is, can you automate? Organizations want to manage their networks more effectively and efficiently. The Cisco DevNet Associates certification can set you on the path to do that. The certificates not only validates your skillset but also will add value to your resume to help you stand out. Lastly, the DevNet Associates certification will give you the ability to speak the same language as software developers and other automation stakeholders.

Here’s a link for a 25% off exam voucher. If you pass before the end of the year, you will get a cool digital badge, free DevNet merchandise, access to special DevNet sessions with the one and only Susie Wee, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco DevNet & CX Ecosystem Success.  Learn more about how to join the DevNet Class of 2020.

DevNet Associate certification details

Call to Action

If I can automate, so can you! Change is inevitable and the more you embrace it, the further ahead you will be. I wish you much success on your automation journey. I look forward to welcoming you to the #DevNetClassof2020.

If you have any feedback let me know in the comments section below – leave me a message, ask a question, whatever you want.

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DuAn Lightfoot

Content Developer Engineer