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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A Crossroads in My Networking Career

Not long ago, I needed to put a script together for a simple task, so I wrote something very brief in Python. When I say “wrote”, what I mean is I copied and pasted parts of scripts others had written and created some new monstrosity to get the job done.

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By Engineers, For Engineers

If you haven’t heard, the networking community is awesome. I’ve made some great friends, developed strong new relationships, and I’ve had the incredible luxury to bounce ideas off some seriously talented people. However, whether it’s through various Slack groups, Google hangouts, or private email chains, it’s all been relatively private. Not much makes its way onto Twitter, and not as much as I’d like makes it into blog posts.

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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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