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.