The End of Specialization?

22 July 2019 | 0 Comments

There is a rule in sports and music about practice—the 10,000 hour rule—which says that if you want to be an expert on something, you need ten thousand hours of intentional practice. The corollary to this rule is: if you want to be really good at something, specialize. In colloquial language, you cannot be both a jack of all trades and a master of one.

Translating this to the network engineering world, we might say something like: it takes 10,000 hours to really know the full range of products from vendor x and how to use them. Or perhaps: only after you have spent 10,000 hours of intentional study and practice in building data center networks will you know how to build these things. We might respond to this challenge by focusing our studies and time in one specific area, gaining one series of certifications, learning one vendor’s gear, or learning one specific kind of work (such as design or troubleshooting).

This line of thinking, however, should immediately raise two questions. First, is it true? Anecdotal evidence seems to abound for this kind of thinking; we have all heard of the child prodigy who spent their entire lives focusing on a single sport. We also all know of people who have “paper skills” instead of “real skills;” the reason we often attribute to this is they have not done enough lab work, or they have not put in hours configuring, troubleshooting, or working on the piece of gear in question. Second, is it healthy for the person or the organization the person works for?

The Hedge Episode 1: Sonia Cuff and Stress in IT

16 July 2019 | 1 Comment

Working in information technology is notoriously stressful — but why? In this episode of the Hedge, Sonia Cuff, Denise Donohue, and Russ White dig into the reasons information technology tends to produce so much stress, and what we can do about it.

Reaction: Overly Attached

10 June 2019 | Comments Off on Reaction: Overly Attached

In a recent edition of ACM Queue, Kate Matsudaira has an article discussing the problem of being overly attached to a project or solution.

The longer you work on one system or application, the deeper the attachment. For years you have been investing in it—adding new features, updating functionality, fixing bugs and corner cases, polishing, and refactoring. If the product serves a need, you likely reap satisfaction for a job well done (and maybe you even received some raises or promotions as a result of your great work).

Attachment is a two-edged sword—without some form of attachment, it seems there is no way to have pride in your work. On the other hand, attachment leads to poorly designed solutions. For instance, we all know the hyper-certified person who knows every in and out of a particular vendor’s solution, and hence solves every problem in terms of that vendor’s products. Or the person who knows a particular network automation system and, as a result, solves every problem through automation.

Mentorship and Early Career Development

24 April 2019 | Comments Off on Mentorship and Early Career Development

In this episode of the Network Collective, John Fraizer, Denise Fishburn, and Trey Aspelund join the NC crew to talk about the importance of mentorship and practical advice on how to mentor and be mentored. Outro Music: Danger Storm Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Navigating Technology Change

13 March 2019 | Comments Off on Navigating Technology Change

The Value of Certifications

14 February 2019 | Comments Off on The Value of Certifications

On this episode of the Network Collective, we are talking about the value of certifications. Outro Music: Danger Storm Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Short Take: Things to learn in 2019

12 February 2019 | 2 Comments

Learn to Code?

11 February 2019 | 2 Comments

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I went to school to learn art and illustration. In those long ago days, folks in my art and illustration classes would sometimes get into a discussion about what, precisely, to do with an art degree. My answer was, ultimately, to turn it into a…

Whither Network Engineering? (Part 3)

4 January 2019 | 5 Comments

In the previous two parts of this series, I have looked at the reasons I think the networking ecosystem is bound to change and why I think disaggregation is going to play a major role in that change. If I am right about the changes happening, what will become of network engineers? The bifurcation of knowledge,…

Whither Network Engineering? (Part 2)

3 January 2019 | Comments Off on Whither Network Engineering? (Part 2)

In the first post of this series at the turn of 2019, I considered the forces I think will cause network engineering to radically change. What about the timing of these changes? I hear a lot of people say” “this stuff isn’t coming for twenty years or more, so don’t worry about it… there is plenty of…