Dec 19, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Codero Sr. Network Engineer: The Challenge is the Greatest Reward

network-mindOne of the complaints I hear most often from folks in network-related roles is that they feel like they’re being crammed into a little box. There’s plenty to learn and do in technical roles, but too frequently people are only allowed to work on a very small subset of tasks with limited responsibilities. Recently, I was interviewing a candidate and asked what technology they most wanted to work on. Their response was, “Well, I really want to be able to work on the core routing devices. Sometimes I can identify a problem, but only another team can work on them.”

The sad truth is that far too many minds are left to waste, pigeon-holed in a job that consists of far less than they’re capable of doing. Fortunately for me, Codero is no such place. Those of us on the Network Engineering team aren’t restricted to work silos, and it makes for a much more interesting workplace. My average day consists of myriad technologies and vendors and the list is always changing. Today for example, I worked on a VPN, planned for maintenance, wrote some code, started to test a new family of products, and authored some documentation.

Sure, it can be a little intimidating at first because there’s no fence over which to toss technical tasks, but as far as education goes, my time at Codero has been the single most challenging and rewarding role I’ve had. It’s afforded me the best opportunity to grow and learn that I could ask for. There’s always something you can learn, something you can learn better, or, in the unlikely event that you know everything there is to know about something–an opportunity to train others.

In another life, I worked with languages. Over the years, I’ve been asked the same two questions frequently. The first: “Is it hard to learn a language?” Yes, it can be difficult, even frustrating at times. Ask anyone who’s studied Arabic about the various components of the verb forms, and I’m sure they’ll have some thoughts on the concept. And that brings me to the second question: “What’s the best way to learn?” From my experience, the best way is simply to throw yourself into the culture and day-to-day life of the native speakers and you’ll find yourself starting to pick it up very quickly. The human brain has a remarkable capacity to identify patterns and it lives to draw connections between things.

network-eyeballLanguage and technology share certain similarities, and as one is exposed to more and more facets of technology, the brain starts to see more clearly how everything interconnects. It becomes easier to see universal relationships when one starts to understand that the way in which vendor X treats (for the sake of example) MPLS is similar, but not identical, to the way that vendor Y does it. You start to gain a solid, vendor-neutral understanding of underlying technologies. Rather than seeing something through narrow, vendor-specific “Cisco eyes” or “Juniper eyes,” you will start to develop more skilled “technical eyes” that allow you to see the bigger picture in play.

Working in a technical role at Codero will likely be the greatest exposure to diverse technologies that you’ll ever have. It can be intimidating – it can seem like trying to drink from a fire hose – it can seem insurmountable. But you know what? It’s not. The human brain is hardwired to learn and absorb information (it’s kinda its “thing”) and as you expose it to more and more data it’ll do exactly that. Not all at once, but it’ll happen. Think you’ve got what it takes?

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