Wow, what a wild ride I’ve been on the past couple of years! Back in 2011, just after passing my CCIE written exam and after listening to many of the early episodes of the Packet Pushers Podcast, I decided it was time for me to get more engaged with the greater networking community. I started interjecting myself into conversations on Twitter, commenting on blogs, and otherwise trying to meet folks and get my name out there a bit. In 2011 and 2012, I attended Cisco Live and got to rub elbows with some true industry legends. I got to know celebrity engineers, top-tier trainers, and networking Twitterati. Early this year, I passed my CCIE lab and started this blog. I was graciously offered the opportunity to be a guest on that same podcast that got me interested in community engagement. At Cisco Live this year I got to see many of those industry greats who now knew me by first name, were reading my blog, and listening to what I had to say online. I had my first taste of the Tech Field Day experience in a roundtable format and continued to participate in more podcasts and community events.
All of this has led to my most recent opportunity, to participate as a delegate at Networking Field Day 6. I don’t mean to gloat, but getting trucked around in a limo for a couple days, squished between the likes of Ivan Pepelnjak and Brent Salisbury is a rather heady experience! Through all the vendor presentations, social gatherings, and sidebar conversations, there were a few really key takeaways for me. The things that will be sticking with me as the industry evolves (and hopefully I evolve with it). I’m sharing them with you here:
- The networking industry is changing. Evolving. Converging. This is nothing new, but it sure seems to be speeding up. Is the “old” stuff going away? Of course not. (Will it ever?) But the direction for the leading edge of technology is clear. We are trending deeper into the convergence of what were separate disciplines of networking, compute, applications, and storage with trends like SDN and NFV. Embrace it or get left behind.
- The Cloud (or, the Private Cloud) is real. It’s a lame name, but the idea of a service-oriented architecture where a new application, environment, or tenant can be deployed rapidly (seconds to minutes) with little hands-on keyboard hacking is fast approaching. It needs to come down-market to the other 90% of businesses, but it will. This stuff always does.
- The future will be about integrating technology with a good user experience and simple presentation. There’s too much interrelated info in too many disparate places for anything to be done efficiently with point solutions anymore. Orchestration will be key, I see that now. We can’t be fast enough to support business needs if we have to go to 15 places to get something done.
- Those who excel in this “new world” will be those who know the technology deeply but can understand the big picture. The engineers and architects that I meet who are just blowing my mind lately are the ones who understand how the entire IT infrastructure will come together to provide what the business needs. Being just “a network guy” or just “a storage guy” isn’t going to cut it. We will need to be “infrastructure guys (and girls!)” if we want to stay relevant.
- Complexity is bad. Always. Simple is good. Always. But complexity is sometimes necessary and in those cases, it must be carefully managed, lest it become a harrowing beast!
- The Tim Tam Slam may be humanity’s greatest achievement. ‘Nuff said.
NFD6 was an eye-opening experience. My sincere hope is that this isn’t the pinnacle of my community involvement, but rather the beginning of a new adventure where maybe my insight and opinion may help in some small way to shape the future by keeping the conversation steered toward the important aspects of networking and IT.
Great post Bob!
I too was heavily influenced by the Packet Pushers to become more involved in the community. While I’m not quite up to par with most of you from a technical standpoint, I hope to match or better you guys with my enthusiasm to learn and grow.
I also agree that we can’t just be network engineers going forward. While I still have plenty to learn in that regard, I’m going to have to learn other things like storage, server, programming (or scripting), etc to stay relevant. It’s a tough road ahead but a rewarding one I hope!
Good luck to you and I definitely see this as a launching point for you, not a climax.
Thanks Keith. As I know you’ve discovered, being on top of your game in this industry means learning and growing constantly. It doesn’t take long to get stagnant.
We all have plenty to learn. The best IT practitioners I’ve ever known are the ones who never make the mistake of thinking they know “enough.” That point was really driven home at Cisco Live 2012, as I sat in a session on troubleshooting multicast and marveled at the fact that Terry Slattery, the first CCIE, was studiously taking notes as the presenter spoke. We will never know it all.
PS- I’m very impressed with your scholarship program. What a fantastic way to give back. Kudos!
I can’t say that I’ve ever been close to feeling at the top of my game but it’s coming hopefully. 🙂 I’ve learned a lot from you all on social media on a multitude of things like being prepared for anything (ie all the little things you carry with you), being the consummate professional, and most importantly staying humble and giving back.
That’s amazing to hear that someone of his standing would be taking notes but it proves your point that we never stop learning.
Thank you! I’m going to start taking essay applications in the next couple of months so if you know anyone looking, please send them my way. Also, any suggestions to make it better are more than welcome because after all, it’s for the community, not me.