Category: certifications

Interviewing a Network Engineer Using a Single Scenario

I always said that the Trivia Pursuit certification tests (or job interviews) are nonsense and that one should focus on fundamentals.

In a recent blog post, Daniel Dib described a fantastic scenario: using a simple “why can’t I connect to a web site” question, explore everything from ARP/ND to DNS and TLS.

Obviously, you’ll never see anything that sane in a certification test. An interactive interview doesn’t scale (beyond CCDE), and using humans (and common sense judgment) creates potential legal liabilities (there were rumors that had been one of the reasons a talk with a proctor who could flunk you was dropped from the CCIE test).

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Response: There's No Recipe for Success

Minh Ha left a lengthy comment to my There’s No Recipe for Success blog post, adding an interesting perspective of someone who had to work really hard to overcome coming from a third-world country.

Ivan, I happened to read “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” recently so I can attest that it does provide some valuable advices on how to do things well. Some of the overarching themes are stay focused and cut off unnecessary noise/drain the shallow. The author also suggests removing your social media account if you can’t see how it add values to your work/business, as social media can create attention disorder, seen in many young kids these days.

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Interview: What New Technologies Should You Aim to Master?

In the last part of my chat with David Bombal we discussed interesting technologies networking engineers could focus on if they want to grow beyond pure packet switching (and voice calls, if you happen to believe VoIP is not just an application). We mentioned public clouds, automation, Linux networking, tools like Git, and for whatever reason concluded with some of my biggest blunders.

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There's No Recipe for Success

TL&DR: There cannot be a simple and easy recipe for success, or everyone else would be using it.

My recent chat with David Bombal about networking careers’ future resulted in tons of comments, including a few complaints effectively saying I was pontificating instead of giving out easy-to-follow recipes. Here’s one of the more polite ones:

No tangible solutions given, no path provided, no actionable advice detailed.

I totally understand the resentment. Like a lot of other people, I spent way too much time looking for recipes for success. It was tough to admit there are none for a simple reason: if there was a recipe for easy success, everyone would be using it, and then we’d have to redefine success. Nobody would admit that being average is a success, or as Jeroen van Bemmel said in his LinkedIn comment:

Success requires differentiation, which cannot be achieved by copying others. As Steve Jobs put it: “Be hungry, stay foolish”

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Interview: Is Networking Dead?

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a long-overdue chat with David Bombal. David published the first part of it under the click-bait headline Is Networking Dead (he renamed it Is There any Future for Networking Engineers in the meantime).

According to Betteridge’s law of headlines the answer to his original headline is NO (and the second headline violates that law – there you go 🤷‍♂️). If you’re still interested in the details, watch the interview.

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Worth Reading: Career Advice for Young Engineers

David Bombal invited me for another short chat – this time on what I recommend young networking engineers just starting their career. As I did a bit of a research I stumbled upon some great recommendations on Quora:

I couldn’t save the pages to Internet Archive (looks like it’s not friendly with Quora), so I can only hope they won’t disappear ;)

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Growing Beyond Networking Skills

One of my subscribers trying to figure out how to improve his career choices sent me this question:

I am Sr. Network Engineer with 12+ Years’ experience. I was quit happy with my networking skills but will all the recent changes I’m confused. I am not able to understand what are the key skills I should learn as a network engineer to keep myself demandable.

Before reading the rest of this blog post, please read Cloud and the Three IT Geographies by Massimo Re Ferre.

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Worth Reading: Iron Chef - Certification Edition

In one of his recent blog posts Tom Hollingsworth described what I semi-consciously felt about the CCIE lab exam for at least 25 years: it’s full of contrived scenarios that look more like Iron Chef than real life.

I understand they had to make the lab harder and harder to stop cheating (because talking with candidates and flunking the incompetents is obviously not an option), and there’s only so much one can do with a limited set of technologies… but forcing networking engineers to find ever-more-devious ways to solve overly-complex problems is nothing else but fuel for rampant MacGyverism.

Anyway, I don’t think this mess will ever be fixed, so the only thing we can do is to enjoy the rant.

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From CCNA to SDN: Interview with David Bombal

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting video chat with David Bombal in which we covered a wide variety of topics including

  • What would you do if you started networking today?
  • How do you increase the value of your knowledge?
  • Networking hasn’t changed in the last 40 years and whatever you learn about networking will still be valid 20 years from now;
  • Why should I learn and implement network automation?
  • When should I start learning about network automation?

Note: David posted the whole list of topics with timestamps in the pinned comment under the video.

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Should I Take CCIE DC or Data Center Online Course?

Got this question from a networking engineer who couldn’t decide whether to go for CCIE Data Center certification or attend my Building Next-Generation Data Center online course:

I am considering pursuing CCIE DC. I found your Next-Generation DC course very interesting. Now I am bit confused trying to decide whether to start with CCIE DC first and then do your course.

You might be in a similar position, so here’s what I told him.

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Couldn’t Resist: Cheat-Proofing Certifications

Stumbled upon this paragraph on Russ White’s blog:

I don’t really know how you write a certification that does not allow someone who has memorized the feature guide to do well. How do you test for protocol theory, and still have a broad enough set of test questions that they cannot be photographed and distributed?

As Russ succinctly explained the problem is two-fold:

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How to Become a Better Networking Engineer

Got an interesting set of questions from one of my readers. He started with:

I really like networks but I don't know if I am doing enough for this community. Most of my work is involved with technologies which are already discovered by people and I am not really satisfied with it.

Well, first you want to decide whether you want to be (primarily) a researcher (focusing on discovering new stuff), an engineer (mostly figuring out how to build useful things by using existing stuff), or an administrator (configuring stuff).

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Hard Truths Not Taught in Schools

J Metz published a great article describing six hard truths not taught in school. As all good things should come in 7-tuples, here’s another one I was told ages ago when I was a young hotshot full of myself:

Professions were created for a reason – they enable people to do the work they’re qualified to do.

Needless to say, it took me decades to fully understand its implications.

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Few Secrets of Successful Learning: Focus, Small Chunks, and Sleep

One of my readers sent me a few questions about the leaf-and-spine fabric architectures webinar because (in his own words)

We have some projects 100% matching these contents and it would be really useful this extra feedback, not just from consultants and manufacturer.

When I explained the details he followed up with:

Now, I expect in one or two weeks to find some days to be able to follow this webinar in a profitable way, not just between phone calls and emails.

That’s not how it works.

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