After spending a few days in San Jose for Networking Field Day 9, it dawned on me that someone new to networking would be thoroughly confused at what’s going on. That makes sense of course, because Networking Field Day is not a training event per say. It’s an event to discuss up and coming technologies and trends in data networking. So how would someone who is new to networking get to the point where they understands what’s going on?
I Hate History
I’ve heard friends echo that they had a strong disdain for history class. They felt there was no need to cover things that should be put behind us, as we move ahead towards the future. Obviously this is the wrong way to look at things, because without a sense of where we came from, how could be possible understand why certain adjustments were made over time? This is my point with data networking. If you don’t understand how the world of data networking is rooted and where it came from, then how could you possibly understand why new technology and architectures are now in place.
So step 1 in understanding data networking is to gat a baseline of the technology with an understanding of why it exists. If you’re learning about the IEEE 802.3u 100 Mbps FastEthernet , then it’s also helpful to understand 802.3i, 802.3e, and 802.3a. You don’t need to know all the underpinnings, but to understand the progression and drivers for new standards you can begin to get a sense for the why. Many of todays emerging technologies such as SDN and NFV have a why behind them that you need to understand.
I Hate to Study or Don’t Have Time To Study
I’ve also heard an argument from students that goes something like this:
I don’t have time or the patience to study the old stuff while I’m implementing new stuff.
This is also a horrible argument. If you don’t have the desire to put in the time and effort to learn the technologies, then you’re probably in the wrong line of work. Take a hard look at your motives for getting into data networking and if you don’t enjoy learning, I guarantee you’re in the wrong field. Networking people will spend their entire careers learning. It’s just how it is.
I Don’t Know Where to Start
This is actually a valid point. There are training companies all over the place that have 1 goal; Get you in a class and swipe your credit card. To illustrate, let me share an experience from a past place of employment.
This place that I worked at had a fair number of sales representatives. We sold Cisco training and tried to get everyone into a CCNA bootcamp if they were new to networking. Why? Well the story to sales went like this:
- The CCNAX class is over 1000.00 more than ICND1 and ICND2. Get them in that class because they probably will only get 1 class this year, and why not get the more expensive class in.
The story to the student was this:
- You can get two classes out of the CCNAX class, bypass the CCENT certification and just jump right into being a CCNA. The CCNA is a better certification to have and will earn you more money in the workplace. Besides, management probably won’t send you to two classes this year.
The sad thing is that I would take a well trained and knowledgable CCENT certified employee over a poorly trained CCNA employee any day. The reason being the CCENT employee probably has a deeper level of understanding when it comes to the fundamentals than a CCNA employee that was whisked through a 5-day bootcamp. You have to spend the time on the basics.
To that end, many will start with the Comptia Network+ certification program. There’s nothing wrong with starting here, no matter what any training company tells you. This is a vendor neutral training program that covers the basics better than the CCENT and CCNA does. This class goes into more detail of the basics because the goal is not to get you on a Cisco command line.
Don’t get me wrong: The CCENT and CCNA is a good program, but it’s a vendor specific program. If you use Cisco equipment it will be very beneficial to get the CCENT and CCNA certifications if you’re just starting out.
So where should you begin then? Thats a tough question there! There isn’t an end-all, be-all entry level program that I’ve seen to date. There are many programs that bridge the gap, but they will often end up with a lot of overlap and wasted time. One option would be to do the following:
- Join my free 13-week Introduction To Data Networking Email Course There’s no strings attached with this free course. I just want to level the field a bit for anyone who’s new.
- Take the Comptia Network+ Course. We offer it but I don’t have it on the schedule right now. It will however be available after the 13-week email course.
- If you are working on Cisco training, next you should take the ICND1 course, which corresponds to the CCENT exam. This will have overlap with the Comptia Network+, but it introduces a more Cisco-centric learning approach.
- Next take the ICND2 class, which corresponds to the CCNA exam. This class is very hands on and it’s all Cisco gear.
I think that this approach will create a well prepared networking candidate. At this point, you should start to understand the technologies being discussed at Network Field Days, maybe not fully, but words and phrases should begin to make sense.
Add in Multiple Modes of Learning
There are many ways to learn. Here are a few ideas:
- Take a live training class
- Read a Cisco Press book
- Watch Youtube Videos
- Subscribe to video training with Pluralsight, CBT Nuggets, or the INE all-access pass.
- Chat with other networking folks on twitter.
- Grab GNS3, subscribe to their forums and start learning different technologies by labbing them up.
The point is that you don’t want to constrain yourself to just one way of learning. Spread things out, not only between delivery methods, but between delivery organizations. Some companies have a better way of explaining certain technologies.
Ask Me for Help
Honestly, if you need help getting started, I encourage you to ask me via the form at the bottom of this page, or reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook. I do get busy, but it never bothers me if you ask more than once. I will always do my best to get back to you in a timely manner. I’m imperfect and forgetful, so please bear with me on that. But again, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Data Networking as a career is one thing. Yes it can benefit you monetarily and provide some sense of security. Data Networking as a passion is another. Once you hit that curve of going from learning to loving, the job becomes a whole lot easier and much more enjoyable, but you will get there. But just one point of advice that I believe will carry anyone in the data networking industry is this:
The most valuable thing you focus on in data networking is yourself. Keep learning, keep reading, keep studying and keep asking questions.
You won’t and don’t have to know all the answers. That’s ok. Just keep at it. You’ll get there.