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As technology advances, we need to develop our teams’ skills to keep pace. This is especially true now, as we are supporting a new kind of work environment, with the majority of workers at home, not in the office. Recently, even our software has left the office: For many businesses, the majority of workloads have moved to the cloud.

Fortunately, with today’s networking products, we can now manage and control entire fabrics of equipment and cloud services through software. And we can program (automate) manual tasks, greatly increasing the capabilities of our network managers.

Today’s networks have entirely new capabilities. And with a few additional software skills, network professionals can use these capabilities to help their companies solve today’s most pressing business and technology problems. It takes their networking skills plus software knowledge to securely connect business-critical applications together through the cloud.

For example, network engineer Du’An Lightfoot — now part of the Cisco team — learned Python on the job to improve his efficiency dramatically. He writes,

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. Normally [it] would take days. But with the power of automation, I took about a day to write and test my code … then about 30 minutes to run and verify the completion of my script in production.”

Similar skills can be applied to other critical tasks, like gathering telemetry from networks to create dashboards for business stakeholders. Once a telemetry framework is in place, analytics can be applied to detecting and troubleshooting issues, and optimizing network usage to improve application performance.

Today’s networking equipment, and the cloud services they connect to, are highly programmable. For example, at Cisco we built API access into our latest networking hardware, and we created links into the main business cloud services (Amazon AWS, Microsoft Office365, and Google Cloud),  so we can programmatically manage the interface between business networks and these clouds.

Networks that can be managed by software are fundamentally more powerful business tools than networks run the old way, and the people who run these responsive networks will become more valuable to the businesses they work for.

Transform Your Talent

We believe it’s worth it for everyone in the networking field to have software skills, such as using APIs and code repositories. We’re not saying that every networker has to become a full-time coder, but every networker should learn enough about software, APIs, and today’s developer tools so they can use the full capabilities of the new network. Cisco has been helping network practitioners learn how to run complex networks since 1993, and we think it is important that the people running the network are conversant in one the most important business languages today: software.

That’s why we launched a new series of courses under our DevNet program to provide software skills to networkers, such as our DevNet Fundamentals course. We also have DevNet certifications that allow networking pros to prove they have the chops necessary to tackle the modern challenges of combining business smarts, software skills, and network engineering. If people on your teams have been picking up software skills recently and need a refresher to add to their networking skills, I encourage you to check out the latest training and certifications.

Historically, Cisco certifications have proven valuable. Over two million people have been certified as network professionals under our CCIE, CCNP, CCNA, and other programs. A quick scan of LinkedIn in the U.S. shows over 15,000 jobs available right now that ask for one of those certifications.

The world is changing. Networking is changing with it. We all need to keep our skills sharp. Continuing education programs and the new DevNet Certifications can help people pick up the skills they need — and prove to their current (or next) employers that they are the right people to solve the most challenging business problems.