People that know me know that I like to be open on sharing thoughts, insights, things I’ve learned, and my struggles. Many people have put their trust in me and I consider it important to show that perceived leaders of the networking industry have the same thoughts and struggles as everyone else.
I wrote this tweet which gained a lot of response and positive comments (thank you).
I’ve dabbled with Python a couple of times the last couple of years. I know the very basics but I haven’t done much more beyond that. Why haven’t I done more automation? There are some different clues as to why, including the fear of not being very good at it.
Job role – I’m a Network Architect. What I enjoy the most, my passion if you will, is to engage in discussions with customers and create good network designs. This is where I feel my talents are used to the maximum. I can combine my technical knowledge with ability to listen, discuss, and then produce good documentation. As I don’t work in operations, and I’m not always around for the implementation of the design, the use cases for automation are more limited than if I was in a pure engineering role. The other part is that someone with my background bills at a certain rate and it would be quite expensive code if I were to write it.
No CS background – Although I have three years of studies at the university, I don’t have a CS background. I’ve done my fair share of math but only very limited studies in programming and other classes often part of CS programmes. Many of us in networking didn’t expect coding to be part of our job role. With this limited exposure to CS topics and programming, can I get any good at it?
Talent – You don’t become good at something without working hard. Still, we can’t ignore that talent is always part of the equation. I feel that design and writing comes naturally to me. There is some inherent talent there. When I’ve tried coding in the past, I don’t feel that it comes naturally to me. That may just be because I need to get over some hump to feel better at it, but it’s a struggle.
Guided learning – In the past I’ve dabbled with Python but I didn’t really have a good project to work on. I didn’t know what to learn. I started with Python when perhaps I should have started with other things first such as learning YAML, JSON, more on APIs etc. I find that I study better when there is a path to follow, a blueprint, and a light at the end at the tunnel you are traveling towards. With the release of DevNet certifications from Cisco, there are now such paths. That’s why I’m likely going to do the DevNet associate certification.
So why am I looking to learn network automation? It’s not because I’m looking for a career change. I’m happy with what I do, there’s a demand, I’m good at it, it likely pays better than most developer roles. I like interacting between technology and business. The goal is not to become a developer.
So what is it? For me it’s about recognizing where you need improvement, and going after it, even it it’s going to be a struggle. As a network architect, I want to be able to have discussions on network automation and have enough fundamentals to know what I’m talking about, what customers are experiencing, even if it will never be my main expertise. The way I see it, network automation will be a base skill, such as knowing OSPF, but not all networking people will become developers.
I will start studying for the DevNet Associate, in fact I already just started. Hopefully you will join me on this journey and I will put up some posts as I learn. Thanks for reading and stay safe!