A while ago I answered a few questions that Dan Novak from University of Maryland sent me, and as they might be relevant to someone out there decided to publish the answers.
Dan started with a soft one:
What circumstances led you to choosing network engineering for a career?
It was pure coincidence.
One of the reasons I started creating ipSpace.net webinars was to help networking engineers grasp the basics of adjacent technologies like virtualization and storage. Based on feedback from an attendee of my Introduction to Virtual Networking webinar it works:
I am completely on the Network side of the house and understand what I need to build for Storage/Data replication, but I really never thoroughly understood why. This allowed me to have a coherent discussion with my counterparts in DB and Storage and some of the pitfalls that can occur if we try to cowboy the network design.
Every time I’m explaining the intricacies of new technologies to networking engineers, I try to use analogies with older well-known technologies, trying to make it simpler to grasp the architectural constraints of the shiny new stuff.
Unfortunately, most engineers younger than ~35 years have no idea what I’m talking about – all they know are Ethernet, IP and MPLS.
Just to give you an example – here’s a slide from my SDN workshop.
In a recent blog post Tom Hollingsworth made a great point: we should refocus from fighting one fire at a time to preventing fires.
I completely agree with him. However…
One of my readers sent me a heartfelt email that teleported me 35 years down the memory lane. He wrote:
I only recently stumbled upon your blog and, well, it hurt. It's incredible the amount of topics you are able to talk about extensively and how you can dissect and find interesting stuff in even the most basic concepts.
May I humble ask how on earth can you know all of the things you know, with such attention to detail? Have you been gifted with an excellent memory, magical diet, or is it just magic?
Short answer: hard work and compound interest.
Several of the conversations I had at the recent RIPE70 meeting were focused on career advice (usually along the lines of “which technology should I focus on next”) and inevitably we ended up discussing the benefits of T-shaped skills versus I-shaped skills… and I couldn’t resist drawing a few graphs illustrating them.
I recently read a must-read blog post by Russ White in which he argued that you need to understand both theory and practice (see also Knowledge or Recipes and my other certification rants) and got a painful flashback of a discussion I had with a corner-cutting SE (fortunately he was an exception) almost two decades ago when I was teaching my Advanced OSPF course at Cisco.
The IPv6 Security Summit at the Troopers conference always has a few awesome IPv6 presentations (many people claim Troopers is the conference to attend if you’re serious about IPv6), and this year was no exception. A day after the MLD bashing, Enno Rey delivered a great in-depth presentation on DHCPv6 features and shortcomings.
It seems the DHCPv6 intricacies presented in that talk were too much for some of the attendees – that afternoon I accidentally stumbled upon a visibly distressed gentleman who started our chat with “How could anyone expect us to deploy IPv6 in a production environment?”
I was speaking with a participant of an SDN event in Zurich after the presentations, and he made an interesting comment: whenever he experienced serious troubleshooting problems in his career, it was due to lack of understanding of networking fundamentals.
Let me give you a few examples: Do you know how ARP works? What is proxy ARP? How does TCP offload work and why is it useful? What is an Ethernet collision and when would you see one? Why do we need MLD in IPv6 neighbor discovery?
I got a lengthy email from one of my readers a while ago, essentially asking a simple question: assuming I want to go return to my studies and move further than CCIE I currently hold, should I go for CCDE or the new VMware’s VCIX-NV?
Well, it’s almost like “do you believe in scale-up or scale-out?” ;) Both approaches have their merits.
One of my readers sent me this question:
I am already CCIE and work as a network engineer with pretty good salary. But I think that I am losing some passion for Cisco networking and have interests in many other technologies. Currently I am very interested in Linux and Python development. Is it worth to add some Red Hat certification along CCIE or should I pursue another CCIE?
I think “should I go for CCIE or RHCE” is the wrong question.
The current explosion of SDN hype (further fueled by recent VMworld announcement of Software-Defined Data Centers) made some networking engineers understandably nervous. This is the question I got from one of them:
I have 8 plus years in Cisco, have recently passed my CCIE RS theory, and was looking forward to complete the lab test when this SDN thing hit me hard. Do you suggest completing the CCIE lab looking at this new future of Networking?
A reader of my blog sent me this question:
I am a Telecommunication Engineer currently preparing for the CCIE exam. Do you think that in a near future it will be worth to be a CCIE, due to the recent developments like Nicira? What will be the future of Cisco IOS, and protocols like OSPF or BGP? I am totally disoriented about my career.
Well, although I wholeheartedly agree with recent post from Derick Winkworth, the sky is not falling (yet):
Every so often I stumble across a blog post (or receive an e-mail) complaining how hard it is to learn the material needed to pass a certification exam. That’s definitely true if you try the memorization approach to networking: trying to cram as many facts as possible into your grey matter. However, it’s impossible to make any reasonable progress that way; to move forward, you have to handle networking like you would math or physics: having a firm basic foundation, you slowly expand it, all the time trying to fit the new concepts into a coherent model (let’s call it “the big picture”).
Scott Berkun has (yet another) fantastic article on his blog: a teacher was complaining that the students use Facebook or check their e-mail in class. Scott’s response? Maybe it’s the teaching skills and the fascination with one-way lecturing, not the Internet, that’s at fault. Read the whole response; if you’ve been faced with too many narrow-minded teachers in your life, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.