Shrinking

The length of time between each of my posts seems to be growing. I think what is happening is that I think of little things to write about all the time, but I don’t take the time to actually write about them. So, of course, by the time I am ready to sit down and write something, the idea has been forgotten. I should start keeping a text file with snippets of stuff to write about and come back to it later. This is a personal blog about my professional development. I don’t have any real reason to create a following or pump out content at a frantic rate. But I do feel bad sometimes that I don’t update very often anymore.

At work, I have been placed into a technical writing / unofficial “Tier 2” support role. Prior to this, I was in a “Tier 1” role directly supporting end-users. Now I support the support staff and am able to answer a very good portion of their questions, despite still being the comparatively new guy. It is a very good feeling to have adapted to the environment so quickly that I can answer technical questions for people that have worked here for years. If I don’t have the answer to something, it is usually because I don’t yet have the deepest level of access to the systems in question, and I can intelligently phrase the question to what I would basically call “Tier 3” support. I put the tiers in quotes because there really is no strict support structure in this environment. Anybody can pretty much be expected to do just about anything at any time. I would imagine it is actually like that in most IT environments of small-to-mid size, but I have not yet had the opportunity to experience this. I am working toward the goal of my next job being with an extremely large organization.

On that note, it’s pretty interesting how quickly environments shrink for me. With my last job, when we took on our first “big” client, which consisted of a couple of servers, an Active Directory domain, and about 30 workstations, it really felt big to me at first. The more comfortable I became with their particular environment, the smaller it became. The exact same thing happened where I work now. I moved into an environment with about a hundred servers and over 15,000 client devices, plus nine different connected sites with an enterprise routing and switching infrastructure in place. It seemed huge to me at first, but over time it keeps getting smaller and smaller.

I am hoping that my networking studies will progress in a similar fashion. Quite often I feel like I am not moving as fast as I could or should. I am serious about obtaining the CCIE certification, but there is so much information out there to master to become an honest CCIE. I read about people that achieve their CCIE with only a single year of studying, but they study 4+ hours every day and 16+ hours every weekend. For some reason, I just can’t yet seem to bring myself to dedicate that much time. Additionally, I find it difficult to focus solely on the CCIE Routing & Switching certification. I feel like there is so much other knowledge out there that I should attempt to conquer along with it to make me more well-rounded and a better network engineer. I do study at least something every single day, and usually for multiple hours, but it’s not 100% CCIE R&S-related. I know that I can’t know everything, but there are so many people in my field that I look up to that seem to have an infinite base of knowledge on all things related to computer networking that sometimes it feels like despite how far I’ve come, I still have so far to go.

The CCIE is not the be-all and end-all, nor will it be the pinnacle of my network engineering studies. For me, it mostly represents a framework in which to learn on my own. Because I am using it as a framework, I feel like this might be why it is taking me longer to achieve instead of taking the approach of just studying for the test itself. As I cover each topic domain, I want to get deeper and deeper into the technologies and really understand them, instead of just memorizing arcane facts. This is a very time-consuming process as there are literally thousands of pages of material for me to read and take notes on. I am really hoping that taking notes will be the key for me, as well. I am very proud of the amount of notes I have taken so far, and though I can’t do it for hours upon hours at a time, I really do enjoy reading everything and taking the notes. My mind wanders pretty rapidly though (usually after about 30 minutes of being on a single topic), so I have tried to set myself up so that I can change topic domains when that happens and keep studying. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

I could just memorize the two CCIE Official Cert Guide books, and a CCIE lab workbook, but I really feel like I’d be cheating myself out of the knowledge. Where I work now, I have demonstrated myself as being one of the top guys with regards to networking knowledge, and it is a really good feeling to have people ask me questions. I love providing the answers when I am able to. But the next environment I move into will be much larger than this one, and I don’t want to have to start at the bottom of the ladder. That is why obtaining both the breadth and depth of networking knowledge is so important to me. I don’t want to be someone who just fakes their way through, that isn’t me.

So in relating my studies to the shrinking size of the environments I have been exposed to, I am hoping as I get deeper and deeper into my studies, they will continue to feel smaller and smaller. As I said, I know I can’t know everything, but I want to know as much of it as I can. When I started studying for the CCDA and CCNA four years ago, the amount of information at that level seemed huge at the time. Of course, looking back now with my CCNP and CCDP in hand, those topics seem so small. Hopefully as I study each major topic domain in the CCIE, I will experience the same effect. I just hate that it takes so long.

But, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I just need to keep that in mind for myself.