I’ve been blogging on this site for more than three years now. A lot has changed in the past three years, most of which has been in the last year, and most of that has been in the last six months. You would think I would have more to write about, instead of the very sparse postings I’ve had for awhile. I’ve heard suggestions to post about the stuff I’m learning about as a way to generate more content. I did that to some extent in the first two years, but it was mostly as a form of self-validation. I didn’t have any peers to bounce things off of. With my last job, I thought I would be entering a world where that was no longer the case, but there were very few people who were at my technical skill level, and those that were had no interest in me truly becoming a part of their team.
Going into the job, I was not yet aware of my own skill set – having studied for the CCNP didn’t seem like much to me because I had my eye on the CCIE, and the skills gap between CCNP and CCIE is actually quite large. I knew the gap was large (though I really didn’t know just how much so until I started studying more seriously for it). Because of that large gap, I wasn’t able to see how much of an accomplishment the CCNP itself is until later on.
When I first started at the school system, I did not have much confidence in myself, and I assumed everyone knew the things that I knew with regards to networking (and IT in general – I still get a chuckle about me being asked in my first interview if I knew about the various RAID levels for hard drives (which I did, and explained in detail each one) – yet it turned out the job I was being hired for had absolutely nothing to do with handling servers). This goes back to me not having any professional peers up until then.
I found out pretty quickly that it was not the case that everyone knew the same things I did. I’m not trying to discount anyone I worked with, I was just very surprised to find myself much further along than I had given myself credit for. I tried to get myself involved in projects that were more interesting to me and actually utilized my skills, but those involved were not interested. The only reason I can think of is that most (if not all) of them had spent many years to get where they were, and here comes this new guy who thinks he can join in without putting in his dues.
That was my major motivation for leaving in the end. I tried many times to mention certain skills or training that I had, and to try to get involved with various projects, and do things that benefitted the IT department as a whole, but as I’ve blogged about before, it was never truly appreciated by anyone above my job title level. I wasn’t going to wait around for five years before things started to happen like the rest of them.
The new (or at this point, six months in, “latest”) job has been a complete 180 from the school, and has been really great for both my confidence and my career overall. I get to actually utilize the skills I have trained myself on, and I get plenty of time to study to make myself even better. Perhaps more important, I finally have actual peers that I work with and can exchange ideas. It is definitely a great feeling whenever my ideas are accepted and put into action.
To go back to skills and studying, in the past month I have taken a break from studying strictly for the CCIE R&S exam (though I do still study for it), and have decided to take in a broader scope of materials so that I can gain some deeper-level knowledge in more areas. After all, there are very few high-level IT jobs out there that are strictly “routing and switching”. This is why I am now also going over materials related to both data center and service provider technologies. I don’t currently have a goal set for certifying on any of these things, but like the CCIE R&S, there is still a nice framework of learning in place.
I’ve blogged about this aspect before, but the nice thing about studying for things that are not directly related to the pursuit of a certification is that I don’t need to try to write down and memorize every detail. For me, the goal is to familiarize myself with the general concepts and know what the various technologies are capable of. With that foundational knowledge under me, I can then more quickly go into specifics as needed for future job-related tasks. I used to be afraid that by not taking notes, I would simply forget everything, but I am finding out as time goes on that that is not the case, and I believe that is due to me having a good foundation of knowledge at this point.
As for the CCIE R&S, it has now been more than two years since I passed my last CCNP exam (in some ways it feels like it was not long ago, and other ways it feels like many years have passed), which means I need to take and pass the CCIE R&S written exam before the end of September 2016. I definitely believe that is an achievable goal. After that, I have 18 months to take and pass the 8-hour lab exam. That is going to require a LOT more dedicated work on my part to reach that point. But from this point in time, that is up to two years away. I just might be able to make it happen by then 🙂