A few weeks ago, something remarkable happened. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) had its first in-person meeting in over two years. Typically, the IETF meets in person three times per year to “make the internet better” through interoperable standards. These IETF meetings connect representatives from vendors, network operators, academia, and other interested network nerds. While quite a bit happens throughout the year on email lists, the IETF’s in-person meetings are a chance to put aside vendor differences and work together to achieve rough consensus and running code.
These meetings of the minds give us IP, HTTP, and the real-time communications that connect us. I could write a whole series of blogs on the IETF process and its traditions, but I wanted to focus on something slightly different in this article. The reason why having that first in-person meeting in so long was so exciting was because it allowed me to get back together with an amazing team of engineers and do what I love: automate network operations.
That IETF meeting gave me a chance to reflect on my own network automation journey. In addition to participating in IETF working groups, I help in the Network Operations Center (NOC) spun up to support each meeting. As such, the IETF meetings and my time in the NOC there have played a huge part in how my journey continues to evolve. For one, they give me an outlet to practice what I learn around automation.
The timing of that IETF meeting was perfect. At Cisco, we were in the process of finishing the exam for the Cisco Certified DevNet Expert. One of the big things we’ve been discussing is how candidates should prepare for the Cisco Certified DevNet Expert certification. The path from the DevNet Professional certification to the DevNet Expert is non-linear. One needs to experience the trials and tribulations of making something work to think critically and creatively about solutions to problems.
“Find those who want to learn along with you,
challenge you to be better, and keep you motivated.”
In addition to having a practical means to exercise my automation chops, the IETF provided me with a team of like-minded individuals who also love to learn and experiment. It was there I was introduced to Ansible—but it wasn’t me that walked into it.
I was looking to automate the generation and deployment of configurations for our monitoring tools (Nagios, Smokeping, and Netdisco) when someone suggested Ansible. It was a great suggestion!
Within one meeting, I had working roles and a push-button way to spin up all our monitoring for each meeting.
Every IETF meeting offers the opportunity to learn and experiment with something new; Prometheus, Grafana, CI/CD, etc. However, IETF meetings are more than chances to keep learning. It’s also about overcoming challenges and building experience.
Start your learning journey
Let’s say, for example, that you would like to pursue the Cisco Certified DevNet Expert certification.
Here is what your first steps might look like:
- Define your goal by learning more about the Cisco Certified DevNet Expert certification.
- Determine how you will go about preparing by downloading the exam topics.
- Compile a list of training resources available and how you will learn the technologies listed in the exam topics. (We did the heavy lifting for you. Download the Cisco Certified DevNet Expert v1.0 Learning Matrix here.)
- It’s time to challenge yourself to start learning. These free DevNet Expert Training Videos can familiarize you with the content before you commit to an exam topic or training resource. (You will need to know all of the exam topics to earn the certification, but it helps to start with an area where you are familiar or have a particular interest.)
- Find support that will hold you accountable and help you stay motivated. You can find and connect with others on the same learning path in a Cisco Learning Network Community, like this one on the topic of Automation and Programmability.
As you continue your learning journey, be it in network automation, securing and connecting hybrid workers, or whatever your passion is – find ways to not only learn but to put those lessons into practice. And as importantly, find those who want to learn along with you, challenge you to be better, and keep you motivated.
How do you learn best? How do you stay motivated when you face challenges? Leave a comment and share what has worked best for you.
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