Network engineering can be really frustrating sometimes. Sometimes the root cause is technology, sometimes it’s broken process or poor systems. Mostly, the frustrations stem from interaction with humanoids, otherwise known as people.
All too often we engineers end up blindly actioning tasks without questioning the true requirements driving the request. Even if you are ‘efficient’ at deployment, doing the wrong task well is not ‘effectiveness’.
Picture the scene when a project manager walks into your workspace. “Hey junior-engineer-I’ve-never-seen-before, I need to you to install a 3750E-48TS in the Phoenix branch office. It’s a straighforward task, so I expect it complete by Friday.”
I recently attended a curriculum night for my eldest son who is starting 2nd grade. The teacher talked about a learning method known as ‘spiral learning’ and that the kids would continue to cycle through a range of topics in each subject, revisiting each topic at a deeper level later in the year. I had never heard of ‘spiral learning’ before. After a few passed I realised that I use the ‘spiral learning’ approach all the time without having a term to define it.
Spiral learnings’ nemesis is mastery-based learning. In mastery-based learning you must master each topic before being permitted to proceed to the next topic. I can’t remember too much of my secondary level education but I think we were supposed to be following the mastery-based approach.
Being judged is tough but valuable
I have wanted to start a network engineering blog for quite some time. I had a long list of reasons as to why I hadn’t started yet. I wasn’t sure what my colleagues would think. Did I have enough material? Could I afford the time? Then I read a post from Seth Godin a few weeks back that really hit home.
Part of our job as engineers is to provide the best solution to our customer whilst minimizing cost. I’m not saying we should always choose the solution with the lowest price tag, but cost should always be considered when evaluating your design. It is pretty likely, however, that your company will be a single-vendor shop. This restricts your cost-saving-ability to choosing the most cost-effective solution from your network vendors catalog. There are other ways of saving money though.
I’ve been very lucky to work in large organizations that saw value in hiring great procurement executives. The job of the procurement executive is to get the best possible deal for your company on any large transaction. Your company may mandate their involvement, so you should engage procurement early unless you want additional delays in your project. You can be unlucky, but a good procurement negotiator can work magic and shrink your project costs massively if you work closely with them. Continue reading
As a network engineer, you take pride in your hard earned skills, and so you should. You’ve learned how to design networks. You’ve learned how to install, upgrade and configure routers. You’ve figured out how to sniff out and fix faults. If you study your craft and hone your technical skills then you deserve to be rewarded. However, unless you can work with the people and process in an organization, you won’t get the career success you deserve.
When you start out in network engineering, everything takes too long. I like to call it the first-time-tax. Everything is new and there are many things to be learned. You have to move slowly and ask for help. Eventually you learn how to do the majority of tasks, and make fewer mistakes. The more you know about networking, the more tasks you can get done in your limited time. You have become technically ‘proficient’.