Innovation has gained a sort-of mystical aura in our world. Move fast and break stuff. We recognize and lionize innovators in just about every way possible. The result is a general attitude of innovate or die—if you cannot innovate, then you will not progress in your career or life. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and bust some of the innovation myths created by this near idolization of innovation.
You can’t innovate where you are. Reality: innovation is not tied to a particular place and time. “But I work for an enterprise that only uses vendor gear… Maybe if I worked for a vendor, or was deeply involved in open source…” Innovation isn’t just about building new products! You can innovate by designing a simpler network that meets business needs, or by working with your vendor on testing a potential new product. Ninety percent of innovation is just paying attention to problems, along with a sense of what is “too complex,” or where things might be easier.
How do you become a “senior engineer?” It’s a question I’m asked quite often, actually, and one that deserves a better answer than the one I usually give. Charity recently answered the question in a round-a-bout way in a post discussing the “trap of the premature senior.” She’s responding to an email from someone who is considering leaving a job where they have worked themselves into a senior role. Her advice?
I remember a time long ago—but then again, everything seems like it was “long ago” to me—when I was flying out to see an operator in a financial district. Someone working with the account asked me what I normally wear… which is some sort of button down and black or grey pants in pretty much any situation. Well, I will put on a sport jacket if I’m teaching in some contexts, but still, the black/grey pants and some sort of button down are pretty much a “uniform” for me. The person working on the account asked me if I could please switch to ragged shorts, a t-shirt, and grow a pony tail because … the folks at the operator would never believe I was an engineer if I dressed to “formal.”
PTSD is a real thing in the information technology world; it impacts the ability to keep and manage good people. In this episode of the Hedge, Lya Myers joins Eyvonne Sharp, Tom Ammon, and Russ White to discuss PTSD, burnout, and strategies for dealing with them.
Tobi Metz asked What is a Technologists? in a recent blog post. Tobi joins Tom and Russ on this episode of the Hedge to expand on his answer, and get our thoughts on the question.
The word on the street is that everyone—especially network engineers—must learn to code. A conversation with a friend and an article passing through my RSS reader brought this to mind once again—so once more into the breach. Part of the problem here is that we seem to have a knack for asking the wrong question. When we look at network engineer skill sets, we often think about the ability to configure a protocol or set of features, and then the ability to quickly troubleshoot those protocols or features using a set of commands or techniques.
While many network engineers think about getting a certification, not many think about going after a degree. Is there value in getting a degree for the network engineer? If so, what is it? What kinds of things do you learn in a degree program for network engineering? Eric Osterweil, a professor at George Mason University, joins Jeremy Filliben and Russ White on this episode of the Hedge to consider degrees for network engineers.
Personal branding and marketing are two key topics that surface from time to time, but very few people talk about how to actually do these things. For this episode of the Hedge, Evan Knox from Caffeine Marketing to talk about the importance of personal marketing and branding, and some tips and tricks network engineers can follow to improve their personal brand.
At what point in your career do you stop working towards new certifications?
Daniel Dibb’s recent post on his blog is, I think, an excellent starting point, but I wanted to add a few additional thoughts to the answer he gives there.
Daniel’s first question is how do you learn? Certifications often represent a body of knowledge people who have a lot of experience believe is important, so they often represent a good guided path to holistically approaching a new body of knowledge. In the professional learning world this would be called a ready-made mental map. There is a counterargument here—certifications are often created by vendors as a marketing tool, rather than as something purely designed for the betterment of the community, or the dissemination of knowledge. This doesn’t mean, however, that certifications are “evil.” It just means you need to evaluate each certification on its own merits.
Michael Natkin, over at Glowforge, writes: “That’s a funny thing about our minds. In the absence of information, they fill in the gaps and make up all sorts of plausible things, without the owners of said minds even realizing it is happening.” The answer, he says, is to overcommunicate. Michael joins Eyvonne Sharpe, Tom Ammon, and Russ White on this episode of the Hedge to discuss what it means to overcommunicate.