Archive for March, 2020

Be a chef!


You cannot learn by memorization only. If that is all that you do then one day you will find yourself encountering a new situation that you have not memorized and you will get stuck.

The key is to truly “ingest” what you are learning. Break it down into the basic “ingredients”…and taste/ingest each one of them individually. It takes more time to learn this way, but, as time goes on you will never encounter a situation that you cannot improvise your way through with the knowledge of the individual building blocks (ingredients) that you had previously “tasted” and learned about.

You will become an artist of sorts, being able to creatively use your knowledge of the individual “ingredients” to solve any problem.

I think that too often, especially in the technical fields, we try to just memorize formulas (only) . I think that this is not the right way. You should be breaking everything down to its basics and learning the “whats and whys” of each of those individual pieces (ingredients).

In doing this, you will build yourself an arsenal that you can draw from in the “heat of battle” and always come up with a new, creative solution.

The difference between a cook and a chef is that the cook memorizes recipes, the chef knows the ingredients.. Be a chef!

Be More Than Just a “Network Engineer”​


To all of my Network Engineering folks out there – As you know, we (Network) are generally the first place that our fellow co-workers/colleagues come to when they have issues. Sometimes their issue is indeed truly a network (layer 2/3/4) issue but more often it is not. The best thing that you can do is to become knowledgeable about systems and applications outside of purely “network”. No matter what the issue is, you should be a resource in solving it, rather than pointing blame.

Solving issues is what we do, no matter if they are truly at the network layer or not. I had an issue recently in which my knowledge of WordPress helped to point the application owner in the correct direction to fix. What came in as a “firewall issue” was actually a WordPress configuration/database issue. 

I have heard something like this generically said (paraphrased) by some network engineers – “It isn’t a network issue and it is not my problem to fix the application or server”. This saying, though technically correct, is not the right attitude to have. 

By learning about the areas outside of pure networking and being able to help our colleagues with their own issues, we earn a tremendous amount of respect that leads to partnership with other teams and grows beyond just being a “network guy”. You will most certainly benefit and grow from having this attitude. IMO – This is how you truly become a “Senior Network Engineer”. This is what it is all about. Be a part of the solution and not the problem!

Never stop learning, always be curious about everything!


This is a follow on to my last article. What makes us better at what we do (what our profession is) is to find ways to take experience from something completely different or seemingly unrelated and relate it into what we do.

For instance – I did not consider myself a musician at all, but, it runs in the family and my father is a great guitar player. In my wanting to imitate him, for a period of my life, I put everything I had into playing guitar and learning/playing with him and his friends. It didn’t come as natural to me as it does my father and his friends, but, I was lucky enough to be allowed to play with him and his friends for years in what we called “The Front Porch guys” or “The Thursday Night Crew”. 

This was an all acoustic group of my dad’s friends (some of whom are/were professionals) who came over to his house every Thursday night and played (mostly) acoustic guitar. We had a guy with a stand up acoustic bass and a couple with mandolins and sometimes harmonicas (and even a coupe of bongos). It was all about just playing/having a good time and we rotated around with each successive person in the circle picking and playing a song that they chose. Some of the guys would come with a chord chart of their chosen songs but that was not always the case. Sometimes, you just had to improvise along and figure out/learn what they were doing.

I learned so much more than I ever could have on my own by just playing and improvising with them. Playing with others and having to improvise really trained my ear and knowledge of music. Of course, I wanted to be better each week so I also studied and practiced a lot on my own to show up “better next week”. Everyone also played a solo in each song (also along a circular rotation) and that was the ultimate in pure improvisation. It was great! I learned so much and exercised parts of my brain and developed talents that I never knew that I had! 

That roughly 7 years of the “Thursday Night Crew” actually changed my opinion of myself. It made me realize that I actually could be a musician, I still play a bit to this day and it always comes right back, just like riding a bike. I found musical talent that I believed that I didn’t have when I was younger.

Now, to the point. Career wise, my true calling has always been as a computer guy. More particularly, the niche that I ended up in is in computer networks, inter-networking, Cisco type stuff, etc.. There are plenty of pure network engineers out there that are much more talented than I, in that focused field. What makes me unique, however, are the improvisation skills and right brain exercises of learning and trying to keep up with real musicians in the “Thursday Night Crew”. That experience gave me some almost un-explainable talents, not only in networking but in the holistic big picture of all of IT. I can improvise solutions almost at the drop of a hat. I can figure out solutions to others’ problems that are not even in my profession as a “network engineer”. Learning coding and automation became much easier. I can easily adapt to almost any situation.

Obviously, just as when I was playing with “The Crew”, I learn and study my profession (network engineering/IT) on my own to be “better next week”. This is necessary! However, the experience of keeping up with “The Crew” at a musical level expanded my brain in ways that are invaluable to my career as a “network engineer”. The key is – Never stop learning, always be curious about everything! You never know what will make you better at what you do, don’t limit yourselves….Just learn and experience life, and you will always be better at your actual profession in doing so!!

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