It’s easy to get blinded these days by all the talk about cloud, SDN and automation leading both new and existing people in networking to make decisions in their career which may not be the best ones long term. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting and working together with a lot of prominent people in the industry. Based on this I have identified some skills that all of these people have to some degree and that I believe to be crucial to succeeding in the IT industry.
Ability to write – Many of the successful people in the industry like Ivan Pepelnjak, Russ White, Nick Russo and so on have either authored books, write blogs or both. The ability to put your thoughts down into writing is critical. For someone like me that is working in network design, it is probably the most important skill, not only to write technical documents but to interact with customers, colleagues, managers and so on. It doesn’t matter if you are a technical savant if you can’t put a brief document together describing why and how a certain technology should be implemented.
Ability to speak – A lot of people in IT are a little introverted, myself included. I’ve worked hard on becoming more comfortable with speaking and interacting with people in different environments. Why is this important? In order to build a successful career you can’t do it on your own. You will need to interact with customers, colleagues, managers, vendors and many other people. Are you asking yourself why you aren’t getting the opportunities you deserve? It’s probably because you haven’t made your intentions and capabilities clear to the decision makers in either speaking and/or writing. Being able to present a complex technology to people in other roles/verticals is a very important skill.
Curiosity – You have to be curious. You need to have an interest. Why did they design this technology this way? Is there a better way to do it? Isn’t this technology very similar to this older technology? Being in IT means you need to stay updated and unless you are curious and enjoy working in the field, it will become a big chore to keep updated with the trends in networking. You will never reach your full potential unless you are curious and love to learn.
Analytical thinking – There are plenty of engineers that have decent technical skills. That can learn to implement something. Throw them a curveball though and they have no clue how to proceed. Analytical thinking is important in network design. What happens if this link goes away? What about if this router goes away? How large is the failure domain? Is there any fate sharing? I have a problem in a network with these symptoms, what could be causing it?
T-shaped skills – In order to be successful you need to have a broad skillset. You need to understand many different verticals, technologies and different businesses. However, you also need to be really good at something. In my case I’m really good at RS technologies and at network design. But I also need some understanding of security, wireless, storage, applications, operating systems and so on. The most important is to know what you know and to know what you don’t know. If I don’t know something I can find out through either asking someone more knowledgeable or by searching. The most dangerous situation is when a person thinks they know something but they really don’t.
Some of you may agree with me and some not. The point of this post is to give people some insight in what it takes to be successful. Being proficient in Python or Ansible or the SDN solution du jour is not enough to have long term success. Technologies, tools and vendors may change over time but the skills above are timeless. So how does one get these skills? That is perhaps a topic for another post but the tl;dr is anyway you can.
16 thoughts on “Most Important Skills in Networking”
I can Say, “MasT”(Gujarati) Superb!
Great blog post, thanks Daniel! Soft skills are so incredibly important and often overlooked.
Thanks, Simon! Indeed they are.
…do not know if it counts, but I would add one more – ability to keep mouth shut when situation demands it as wrong attitude is disqualifier right at the start and sparks counter-productive results…some people find it really hard to learn…
Tnk u, very clear…
Can I propose an addition to your list?
“Personal Workflow and Information Management System”.
Whether it’s GTD, Seven Habits, etc, the point is to have a system for processing information. generating, prioritizing, and tasking tasks. filing information.
I see a lot of people who are self limited through lack of organization and ability to prioritize. Whenever I start to wander away from my system I notice a distinct dip in my productivity. When I commit to it every day, it’s amazing what a difference it makes.
Thanks, Steven! Yeah, I haven’t tried one of those yet, maybe I should give it a try.
I’ll admit when I clicked on this link I was worried that this would be a post about specific technologies folks should learn or know about. I was happy to see it wasn’t that at all 🙂
This was a good read – I will however suggest one other skill that might be worth adding to the list and it does fall somewhat on the skill side of the fence. Know the fundamentals. I’ve seen a curious trend in networking over the last few years and I’m not 100% sure what’s causing it but there seem to be more and more folks that are skipping the fundamentals. Maybe “skipping” isn’t the right word, but they don’t seem to have the basic underlying knowledge of how networks work. How data gets encapsulated in a frame – then a packet – etc, etc. And while I’m not advocating that a network engineer needs to know all of the possible headers in an Ethernet frame of IP packet, I do think that by not having any understanding of how it works you’re missing critical information. For instance – if you don’t know how framing works then you likely don’t understand the consequences of changing an interfaces MTU.
I’ll admit that this treads the line on “specializations” and I’m not suggesting that a network engineer needs to be an expert at “ALL THE THINGS” in order to proficient. But to me – without a working understanding of the fundamentals of networking – the higher level concepts and technologies mean very little. How can I understand if an overlay encapsulation like VXLAN is a good or bad thing if I don’t understand it’s impact on the frame? Specializations are great – but those need to be built on top of something. So if you’re just learning how a specific piece of the technology works (cough, overlays, cough), but don’t concern yourself with how they actually run on an existing network, you’re setting yourself up for failure in my opinion.
You seemed to be hinting at this with some of your comments on skill set in the blog post, but its such an important item (at least to me) that I thought it worth calling out.
Good read, thanks for sharing!
I’ve noticed the same trend which is why I’m trying to balance the view a bit. Podcasts like Packet Pushers etc do a great job of covering technology. However, for obvious reasons it’s more interesting to cover new technologies rather than older ones. This leads to that for the people that perhaps have less experience than you and I that their world becomes very colored by podcasts, blogs etc. If prominent people are moving on towards newer technologies, why should I learn old technologies? This leads to putting too little time into the fundamentals and everytime something new comes out, it’s like sipping from the fire hose again.
Russ, Ethan, Jordan did a great job with the network fundamentals book. Some people mistakenly assume fundamentals means beginner which is not the case. Like you said, all the new stuff like SDN, containers, cloud all run on TCP/IP and some form of Ethernet etc. If you’ve learned one overlay, it won’t be difficult to learn the next. When your stuff breaks, and it will, then you need a little more understanding than just knowing it based on the abstractions.
It’s definitely worth highlighting the fundamentals again and I’ve done this in other posts in the past. Thanks for reading!
Pingback:Worth Reading: Most Important Skills – rule 11 reader
Pingback:مهمترین توانایی های موردنیاز در حوزه شبکه | نتورک باز
Yes, for Manager in Network Engineering is a good advice and is true when they are hiring new employee. But for HRD, it is a different, the first things HRD see was certification and job experience. The first person employee meet is HRD. Only a little HRD understand what it truly needs to find good Network Engineer.
Overall, nice article 🙂
Så bra at du deler innsikten din med oss Daniel, ser bloggen din dukker opp oftere på diverse forum og medium, tyder på at du gjør gode ting for industrien. Stå på!!
Tack så mycket, Svein! Vill gärna hjälpa andra att göra det bästa av sina studier och karriärer. Tack för att du läser!
Pingback:Most Important Skills in Networking by Daniel Dib – Fernando Herrera