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.
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.
(My CCNP home lab)
So this morning I decided it was time to give my two weeks notice. I was extremely nervous and anxious because I have never done something like this before. As you know I am still young and have only held one IT job. I talked to a few family members and they gave me some good advice on how to approach the situation. I wanted to be as honest as I could with my employer because I knew this would be the last time that I could get things off of my chest. Obviously I would do this in a professional manner.
So when I went into my managers office and told him about the new job I have accepted he was surprisingly happy for me. He even said that he didn’t expect me to be working here very long because of how driven I was to work in the networking field. This calmed my nerves a lot and I really do hope to keep in contact with him. I really will miss the people I currently work with. Of course there are ups and downs but I do genuinely like the people and work I get. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but I know I am making the right decision to accelerate my career.
So I finally got my offer letter for the position of Network Engineer. I am super excited about the position; it has been what I have been working towards for the past year. I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity because I am still very young and also do not have much real-life IT experience. However the company that is willing to give me a chance sees the potential I have and is willing to give me a shot. I study very hard just about everyday and certification is very important to me. The company sees this passion I have and they think it will be of added value to their network team. They even told me that I can setup a lab at work so I can practice topics in my free time. Finally! A company that encourages me to go towards higher level certifications! I really hope I exceed expectations in this new position, but I know it will be a huge transition for me. I only have about two years IT experience (1 year interning, and 1 year as desktop support). I believe that as long as I continue working hard in my studies everything will work out for me and I will grow into a great Network Engineer. Wish me luck.
So I have been coming across this question quite often lately. “Should I wear a suit to my interview?”; we are strictly talking about IT jobs here ranging from a helpdesk to director interviews. Personally, I wore a suit to both IT interviews I have had. One was for a desktop engineer position and another was for a network engineer (I got the job both times). I have read comments online saying that suits aren’t necessary for any kind of IT support role rather a suit should only be worn when going to interview for a management position. My response to this is that it is better to be over dressed than under dressed. Don’t you think an employer wants to hire someone that knows when/how to dress professionally?
I am going to be honest, I actually do really enjoy wearing a suit whenever I get the chance. I feel that it gives me added confidence during the interview. Even if the position allows the employees to “dress-down” I think the suit is still the way to go for the interview. Perfect example is Google, they allow all their employees to wear jeans and t-shirts to work, however they expect all their interviewees to be dressed professionally.
You have nothing to lose wearing a suit to an interview so I recommend you go out and buy yourself a nice tailored suit. It does not need to be super expensive or made by some famous designer. Their are plenty of alternatives including Jos A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse. I personally recommend Jos A. Bank because they always have great deals and offers year round.
Caught between a rock and a hard place…an expression I never fully understood until I began my Cisco Certification journey. I often find myself having to make tough decisions, for example, going to the bars with my friends or staying in for the night and working towards my CCNP. Just a little over a year ago I wouldn’t have even thought twice about the answer to this question; I would be out having a good ol’ time with my friends. However since graduating college I feel that I have changed, and personally I think it is for the better. Most of my free time now is filled with studying/labing various Cisco topics. I usually give myself one free day a week to go out with friends, sadly though going out to the bars is no longer as appealing to me. People always tell me that I spend to much time in the books and that I need to go out and “enjoy” life. Why does going out to bars and drinking mean your enjoying life? I just don’t get it. I want to make a good life for myself and for my future family (I am still young, 23). I want to be able to travel and visit beautiful parts of the world, which thankfully I have been able to do once a year for most of my life. I need to push through with my studies, the results are already showing everyday. Job calls are coming in daily, and without my determination and motivation I know for a fact I wouldn’t have half the success I have now.
Staying focused and keeping track of your goals is often a very hard thing to do, especially during times when you can be easily distracted. Perfect example is the Easter holidays. We often overlook our goals after the holidays end and think that we owe ourselves some sort of vacation. Well not for me, I had a great Easter weekend but now that the family is gone its time to buckle down and get back to studying. Staying determined is a key to your success. Only you control your fate and how successful you can/will become. Also never take for granted the time you have, make every second of everyday count. Exercise your brain every day and never settle for anything but the best. So remember to stay focused, stay determined, and stay CISCO!!!
So I have always found it tough to stay organized, not only in my studies but also with work related tasks. So a few months ago I decided to try and find an application that can sync between all my devices that would allow me to add pictures, notes, and even whiteboards in an organized fashion. I tried out Microsoft OneNote for a short time however I was not a fan of their interface. I continued my search and stumbled upon Evernote.
All I have to say is that YOU NEED this application. Ever since downloading it, it has helped me stay organized any way I need. I even have my CCNP study schedule uploaded into it. It really allows me to see what I do on a day to day basis and also stay on track with work, life, and my studies. SO give it a shot! I promise you will not be disappointed.