How Real Life Can Change Your Best Plans

I’ve been doing quite a few wireless networking projects lately, and often that also means Cisco ISE, Prime, location services, and that sort of thing. I really enjoy it, but it’s a funny story how my heart changed from loathing wireless projects to looking forward to them.

Around seven years ago I transitioned from a small VAR to a much larger VAR. This was a big jump for me in salary and in the scope of projects I worked on. During my second interview, the Director of Professional Services asked me high level questions about my experience, my philosophy of customer service, and my professional development goals.

This wasn’t a technical interview – that came later. Instead, this was an opportunity for him to get to know me and see if I was a good fit culturally and professionally. I like these types of interviews because I feel like I’m pretty good at telling a story, and in that way I think I do a decent job in selling myself to a potential employer.

Everything was going very well until he asked me a question that put a new twist on the interview. After discussing the areas of networking I’m especially interested in, the interviewer had the unmitigated gall to ask me what my least favorite area of networking was.

I’m pretty good at dodging questions that seek to paint me in a corner. My favorite one is being asked what my weaknesses are. Without skipping a beat my answer is always something like, “oh, well sometimes I just work too hard and go overboard with customer service.” That usually gets a laugh.

But this time his question was more pointed. What’s my least favorite part of the broader networking realm? Why, wireless of course! I took the opportunity to be a little transparent which I know is an excellent way to build trust.

He patiently listened to me talk about how troubleshooting wireless was such a pain because even if the infrastructure is rock solid, end-users can still have all sorts of issues that are client-related and very difficult to address.

Looking at me in the eyes, he turned his head slightly and said, “did HR explain to you that this is primarily a wireless network engineer position?”

My heart sank, and I backpedaled like a politician trying to explain away a salacious home video leaked on the internet.

The interviewer laughed and told me it was all right. He explained that the engineers on his team rarely worked with only one technology, so I’d be able to work on all sorts of networking projects. I laughed with him as the conversation shifted toward a close.

I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that in the moment. I figured he liked me and was considering offering me the position, but I had my doubts because of my answer. Before leaving, though, he called one of the senior solutions architects to do the technical interview right there and then. Thankfully I breezed through that and felt much better about the situation.

As we all stood up to shake hands, the Director looked at me, and in closing said, “you know you’ll need to get the CCNP Wireless certification, but don’t worry we’ll cover the expenses and make sure you have the time to do it.”

I was offered the job, and it changed my life. I learned so much so fast that I feel it boosted my confidence just as much as it boosted my career. I’m not a dedicated wireless network engineer today, but I certainly work on many wireless projects and enjoy it very much.

Years ago my goal was to go deeper into route/switch and dabble more in security. Though a solid career plan and clear goals are helpful (if not needful), real life seems to have a tendency to take you in directions you never expected, and that’s not a bad thing.

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