Bridging the Gap Between the Classroom and Real-World IT

This week I taught my last class as a part-time adjunct instructor at a community college. I’ve been there for six years – 12 consecutive semesters. Each term, alongside the actual curriculum, I incorporated my work experiences and lessons learned about the reality of working in IT. Making the class meaningful from a real-world perspective was very important to me.

For my very last class, I chose not to cover anything in the textbook or any of the bullets on the syllabus. Instead, I introduced my students to systems and network automation. What may seem old news to you and me was brand-new to my class, and I don’t believe this is the exception.

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Helpful Mnemonic Devices for Networking

When I was a new high school English teacher I sat through a class on grammar my department chair taught to her 7th graders explaining a preposition is a word that describes anywhere a mouse can go. I’ve never forgotten that.

A few years later I changed careers to IT and found some very helpful mnemonic devices and acronyms that helped me remember various aspects of networking.

Here are a few that I used over the years:

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How Do You Know That’s True?

About a thousand years ago, rather than configure routers, I taught high school English.

One day, instead of unpacking our favorite Shakespearean sonnet, I was sidetracked by a student who asked me how we know anything about electrons and how they orbit the nucleus of an atom. Apparently he asked his physics teacher the period before and got a pithy “electrons are the essence of a negativity.”

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We Work with People Just as Much as we Work with Packets

Being a good network engineer requires a strong technical skill set. In fact there’s an entire industry devoted to technical training in networking technologies. We know that persistent technical training is necessary to keep pace with constant changes in technology, so I’m sure we agree that technical proficiency is important for the network engineer. If you don’t have a deep understanding of how VPN technology works, you’ll have a very difficult time troubleshooting a site-to-site VPN without the help of some [unnamed] technical assistance center. But is that all that’s required for a successful career in networking?

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I Still Go To School Every Day, But Now I Call it Professional Development

Few fields require the continual professional development that IT does, but few fields offer the incredible rewards that a commitment to developing the skills of our trade can provide. Many factors come together to shape if, why, and how we advance in our field, and though I can speak only of my own experience, I believe the lessons I’ve learned from my journey so far may be of some value to others also on a similar path.

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