I have been told by a few individuals over the years that you can not plan out your career, and that things will always come up that you never expect throughout your entire career. I do agree with this to an extent however I think having a 3 or 5 year plan is crucial to your success. Of course their will be occurrences that you never expect to happen; some will be good and some will be bad. What matters is that you are able to deal with them and continue with your 5 year plan.
Since starting full-time in IT I made myself a 5-year plan and have achieved so far every goal I had initially set for myself. This included passing my A+/Network+/CCENT/CCNA and also getting into the networking field within my first year of working full-time. This is not a coincidence or luck. I am living proof that if you set your mind to something and you want it more than anything else you will achieve it. Some other goals of mine in my 5 year plan include passing CCNP/CCDA/CCDP, become a mid-senior engineer, become a network consultant, and finally passing CCIE. Passing CCIE may not happen in my 5 year plan but I feel that if I stay at the pace I am currently keeping I should be able to pass it by the time I am 26-27.
So please do yourself a favor and literally write yourself out a career path and follow it. Don’t lose sight of your goals and don’t let other people tell you that you are taking the wrong path. Trust me you will run into tons of people that think certifications are a waste of time. Get those kind of people out of your life. I guarantee you will surpass their skill set much faster then they took to get their.
I had a pretty successful weekend in my studies. I was able to knockout almost all the Chris Bryant OSPF videos. I have only one more left that I will finish up tonight. After finishing up the videos I will dive right into heavy OSPF labing. First I will start with the Cisco Student Lab Manual and after I complete that I will lab from the 101 CCNP labs. This should take about 3-4 days to complete.
The reason I am doing the SLM Labs first is because I have noticed that they are somewhat easier. The 101 CCNP labs incorporate redistribution and manipulating your routing tables very early on. At least that is what I noticed from labing the EIGRP section last week. I like that they are more challenging because it will better prepare me for when I go and study that topic again. I have already read all of the CCNP Route Foundation Learning Guide and watched CBT Nuggets so I already have a decent grasp of what to expect.
What is your motivation for your studies? Is it for the pursuit of a bigger paycheck? Or is it because you actually love what you are studying? Or is it both? For me I would have to say it is a mixture of a lot of things. Of course I want to have bigger paychecks so I can provide for my family in the future, but also at the same time I feel that what I am studying has become a hobby. Which I think is very important in order to become successful in any particular field. My main focus for the past year and a half has been studying networking, particularly Cisco. When I first started studying Cisco I never expected it to become a hobby of mine like it has. At the time I was just trying to make myself more marketable to employers.
However as time went on I started to see that I actually really enjoyed what I was studying…I could even say I was having fun at times. Yes having fun studying! I never had this kind of feeling all four years during college which made me come to this conclusion. I do not like being told that I have to study a particular topic. I want to study the topics I want to and not have a teacher giving me deadlines. I came to this realization rather quickly after graduating school. Another thing that I learned about myself is that I much rather self-study then going to a classroom. Nothing beats sitting in the comfort of your own home and studying at your own convenience. I think I study much better on my own because I have time to gather my thoughts and think things through in my own way.
So to find your motivation you have to look deep within yourself. For me every time I walk into my lab area and see the certifications I have already achieved gives me a boost to push through and add to the wall. So remember to always follow your dreams and you will achieve your goals.
I had an interesting conversation yesterday with one of the network engineers at my current job. We began talking about the new position I had received and he seemed very happy for me. This engineer has always been someone that I could pick the brain of. He is very humble and also loves to teach people that are willing to learn. He was a very valuable resource of mine during my studies. I truly will miss him and I hope that at my new place of employment I find someone similar to mentor me.
He began telling me that their are two types of network engineers. Ones that specialize in a certain niche and ones that are more generalist. By that he meant they handle the servers, voice, networking etc. At my current job the network engineers are more on the generalist side since they often need to wear different hats throughout their day. Their are pluses and minuses to being a generalist or specialist. However in my opinion I think being a generalist is good to be during the beginning of your career and then as you grow and learn you pick a specialty and make that your main focus. Of course it is always good to be “well-rounded” however I believe you can only get so far. I much rather be a master in one specific thing then being decent at everything. Reason being is that as you move into more senior roles you will be required to have very in-depth knowledge of a particular niche.
We both agreed on this, and I am very happy to say that my niche will be Cisco. My new employers network infrastructure is all Cisco gear so I know that my studies and day to day work will go hand-in-hand. I feel very fortunate to be given this opportunity and I hope that my transition will go smoothly.
So I received a few messages asking me what I did to get myself into a networking position with under two years IT experience. I am going to be honest here and say that you need to be dedicated 110% all of the time and never take your eye off of your goal. So here is basically what I did.
During my senior year in college I had an internship where I worked with various IT departments at a law firm. This included desktop, network, telecom, and application services. It really did give me a good feel for various roles of a functioning IT department, but what it also showed me was what interested me the most. Out of all the groups that I worked with networking was by far my favorite. At the time I had no idea what all these switches, routers, and servers were but all I knew was that they looked cool and I needed to know more! During my internship I also learned about IT certifications, so I took it upon myself to pass my A+. The reason I decided to go for my A+ was because I figured the law firm would offer me a full time position as desktop engineer upon graduation. I definitely knew they wouldn’t bring me on board as a network engineer since all the experience I had was from interning.
So upon graduating I received a full time offer to work as a desktop engineer, as expected. However, my sights were still set on the prize, to work in networking. Immediately I began my studies for my Network+, which I passed in about 3 months after starting full time. After that I began studies for my CCNA, I decided to take the two test route since I was not working in the networking field. I figured the more knowledge I have to consume the better off I will be. It took me about 6 months total to pass both parts of my CCNA.
Upon passing my CCNA I immediately started applying for networking jobs in my area. I talked to tons of recruiters as well since they have pretty large networks. You might ask yourself “Why didn’t I ask my current employer for a promotion?” Well I did ask however the IT department is rather small so it is hard to just give out promotions unless they are absolutely needed. So I continued applying and talking to as many people as I can, and then one day I received an email from a company that was interested in me. The rest is history. I went through about 5 interviews with this company until they finally gave me an offer letter. They were extremely impressed with my dedication and determination to obtain certifications so they are willing to give me a shot. The best part of all is that they will even allow me to set up a lab at work to help with my CCNP studies!
So what you want to remember from all this is that you have to stay focused on your studies. Every day! Give yourself one day a week off to relax if you need too, but honestly when you aren’t studying you should be thinking about it. Its should be a constant thing in your life. Make studying a hobby not a chore and I promise you that you will achieve your goals.
So a new addition to my Cisco home lab arrived to my house yesterday. Finally! I got a console server! I decided to go with the Digi CM32 because I read reviews that it was a great alternative to the Cisco 2511. The Digi CM32 is also a lot cheaper! I bought mine for $50 USD off of eBay. Great Deal! The setup was also super easy that even a caveman can do it All I did to configure the server was change the static IP and also I turned off authentication on each of the serial ports. The reason I did this is because I do not feel like typing in my username/password each time I log into a different device. Another great thing about the Digi CM32 is that all the console connections are done through Ethernet! It’s as simple as plugging one end into your router/switch console port and the other end into the Digi CM32. All in all I am super impressed so far by the Digi CM32, also I can’t believe I waited so long to get a console server. Labing is a lot less tedious now without always having to move the console cable around. Below is a picture of the Digi CM32 racked at the top.
Sorry for not updating the blog lately, I have been pretty busy with my studies lately. In the past 4-5 days I have gone through the entire EIGRP section from Chris Bryant’s Video Series, and yesterday I began labing from the Cisco Student Lab Manual. I have been very impressed from this manual so far. Very nice clear and concise instructions. I went through about 3-4 labs yesterday which took me about 2.5 hours. Took me much longer than I had anticipated.
So that is pretty much my goal for this week. I want to finish up all the EIGRP labs from the Cisco Lab Manual and also the EIGRP labs from the 101 CCNP Labs. This should take me about 2 more days to complete. After that I plan on jumping into the OSPF video series.
So two days ago I decided I was going to start the Chris Bryant CCNP Route series a few days early. The reason for this is because I really wanted to start getting back into my home lab and personally I enjoy following along with Chris Bryant as he configures throughout his lectures. Basically my plan is to do 3 lectures a day and lab along with them (1-2 hours). After that I will work through the 101 CCNP Labs workbook (1-2 hours per day). This book is a beast. I printed it out and it was over 1700 pages!! I have to take a picture of this monster and show you guys, and yes I did print double sided.
At this point I have gone through about 6 lectures and have been enjoying them a lot. Chris Bryant is very knowledgable and I really like his teaching style. However, I do wish the eBooks were included with the purchase of the course. So far I have gone through a review of routing fundamentals and EIGRP fundamentals. Both sections were a nice review of the basics. I hope to move into Advanced Eigrp lectures tomorrow since tonight I will be going out with a friend.
Lastly I do recommend the Chris Bryant CCNP series for anyone considering going for their CCNP. You will not be disappointed, I promise.
Oh a question that has been asked time and time again….What should I use for my Cisco certification studies? Should I buy a home lab or use packet tracer/gns3? I am going to come right out and say this. If you are NOT in the networking field and are pursuing Cisco certifications you need to get a home lab. Period. The troubleshooting experiences that you will experience through your home lab is something no emulator/simulator can teach you. I can honestly tell you this because I am speaking from experience. I am someone that started out as a desktop engineer and have worked my way up into a networking position within a year. Not only does a home lab make you a better engineer but it will also impress employers during your interviews. Again, I am saying this from my own experiences. Why would employers want to give you a shot at becoming a network engineer if you have never even touched Cisco equipment? Think about that. Would you rater hire someone that has a year of hands on experience in a home lab environment or someone that has a year experience messing around in GNS3. Having a home lab shows your potential employer that you are dedicated to your studies.
I am not trying to knock GNS3 because I do use it often when I am traveling. It is a very useful tool to have in your arsenal. However it should not be your means of getting “hands-on” Cisco experience. Yes a home lab may be expensive, but truthfully the experience you will gain from it will pay itself off. Also do not go out and spend a ton of money on a home lab if you are just starting out with your CCNA. Start off with 2x switches and 2x routers. Add things to your lab as you find necessary.
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