The first two weeks have been great for me. This is the first job I’ve had where I have not been either the sole or lead technical talent for an organization. Though my new starting position is at the bottom of the technical ladder, it is interesting to me to be surrounded by a pool of technical people will different ranges of skill sets. Based on the people I have met and worked with so far, I feel like my level of technical knowledge is in the upper 50% of everyone in the technology department, but my current enterprise-level real-world experience is in the lower 50%.
Because working in this environment is brand new to me, I have been very careful to step lightly in anything that I do. I fully appreciate the level of permissions I have been given into the organization’s systems and I make sure I know exactly what I’m doing and what the consequences of my actions will be before I perform them. If I have questions about the way things should be done or why things are set up in a particular way, I always ask and never just assume. By doing this, not only have I learned quite a bit in just two weeks, I have also been able to teach different technical things to people here and there, even senior-level technicians.
On that note, it has also been very interesting to me to find out that I actually have a lot more enterprise-level training and education than many of the people I work with, including many of those who are higher up on the corporate ladder. The difference, though, is they have the real-world experience that I don’t yet have. But, having worked in the SMB sector for the past 15 years, I know I’ll be able to approach certain problems from a different perspective than others who only have enterprise experience.
I have been observant of how different processes are implemented, and done what I can to learn more about them whenever possible. Last weekend I read a book on enterprise-level Macintosh integration and operations. It is interesting to see, in an enterprise setting, how the smallest changes can have dramatic effects. For example, one slight configuration change can have unanticipated consequences affecting thousands of computers. Whatever the change may be, it may seem innocent enough at the time, but in the end it has the potential to create lots of extra work for people. In the past, I have always tried to properly plan and test things out in the SMB space, but never before has it been so apparent to me just how critically important it is to test EVERYTHING before deployment! Unfortunately, it seems like perhaps time doesn’t always allow that to happen.
I have been told that some of the top-level people in the organization were where I am now, witnessing firsthand the major effects of little changes, yet they seem to have forgotten this when they finally became the ones making the changes. Because I know I will reach that level someday, it is my hope that keeping this blog going will help to remind me of where I was at a particular point in time and help me keep perspective for the future.
I’ve already experienced lots of different attitudes among different people. Just like any group, some people only have negative things to say. Some people you can tell are just there for the paycheck and they don’t care about anything else (they don’t care about how something works, just as long as it works). Others maintain a positive attitude and are forward-thinking. I feel like I definitely fall into the latter group, and I don’t believe that it is just because I am new. I have no intention of being worn down because I don’t intend to stay in my current position for years and years. I have heard about others moving up the ladder in a relatively short period of time, and I am going to be one of those people.
Just like my last job, my education does not stop for me just because I am currently employed. The only time your education needs to stop is if you intend to stay where you are forever. I’ve mentioned to a few people here how excited I am to finally be working in an enterprise-level environment. Some of those people don’t really consider this to be at that level. I can understand how they might see things that way, because we are a relatively small operation compared to, say, a multi-national corporation. However, it is still a generous order of magnitude larger than the previously largest network I’ve worked on, and there are enterprise processes (and equipment) in place. Plus, the more experience you have with a single network, the smaller it becomes over time. I went from working on networks of 50 or fewer clients to one currently containing about 14,000. That’s quite a large jump.
Yet, with my current level of knowledge, I feel like I understand the network as a whole as well as its individual components better than some of the people I work with. I love being able to share with people why things work (or don’t work) a certain way, and the reason why things are configured a certain way. Being able to explain things to people reaffirms my own knowledge to myself and it feels great.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. I feel like as I progress toward the Cisco CCIE, this organization will also be a stepping stone in the path of my total career. Though it’s only been two weeks, I can envision myself outgrowing this level as well, though not for several years. And of course, who knows what kinds of interesting technological changes will come my way in the next few years. After all, I am now working in a government-funded organization, so budgeting works entirely different from a corporate profit-driven business. This is very exciting to me.