Networking FAQ 1: Breaking into the Field

By stretch | Friday, January 2, 2015 at 1:29 p.m. UTC

This post is the first in a series I plan to publish over the next few months regarding frequently asked questions in networking. Each post will cover a different subject, roughly following the outline I shared last summer. I hope people find this useful!

What kind of networking jobs are there?

Computer networking is a vast field, rivaling general IT in the diversity of roles it offers. While all areas of networking share a common fundamental level of knowledge, most networkers find that they gravitate toward one or two specialties through a combination of interest and necessity.

Starting at the entry level, there are IT help desk and network operations center (NOC) positions. Depending on the size and breadth of an organization, these two departments might be combined. Most people entering the field out of high school or college will spend their first few years in one of these roles building real-world experience.

At the next level is network administration or operations, followed by network engineering. What's the difference? Administration generally refers to the maintenance and operation of an existing network: Configuring switch ports, tweaking the office wireless, upgrading firmware, and so on. Tasks that, while certainly necessary and respectable, don't require a deep knowledge of the technology involved. In many smaller companies, network administration is considered an extension of systems administration.

The engineering side is where the fun and challenging problems lie, and where you'll need a healthy mix of knowledge and experience to thrive. Network engineering is often divided into junior and senior roles, though there's no rule for doing so, and a "senior" engineer at one organization might be considered a junior engineer at another. The titles are only a loose approximation of the skill level or seniority required relevant to other positions within the company.

The top tier is network architecture. At this level you seldom deal with the day-to-day operations of a network, and might never even configure devices except to intervene where a serious issue has arisen. The role of an architect is to develop the network to meet changing business needs across a long timeline. This can include evaluating new products and technologies, authoring high-level network designs, compiling budgets, and so forth. The job of architect is sometimes rolled into a network team manager position.

What we've covered so far are just the horizontal tiers of the networking career matrix. There are many vertical disciplines across most tiers as well, such as voice, wireless, security, data center, storage, service provider, or automation. Many networkers tend to gravitate to one or two of these specialties once they've mastered the fundamentals. Some vendors, like Cisco and Juniper, maintain certification tracks dedicated to certain specialties. Where you end up is a function of your interests and your employer's needs.

What are the different networking specialties?

Networking as a field is considerably diverse. Through the late nineties and into the 2000s, networking has grown from an extension of systems administration into a field all its own, and over the past decade or so has come to include a number of subfields pertaining to specific technologies and their applications. While there's no official definition for any of these, the professional community generally recognizes the following distinctions (many of which you'll likely recognize from vendor certification tracks).

Routing & Switching

Routing and switching comprise the core competencies of networking. This is where most people start in the field, branching out to other areas of interest. R&S skills alone primarily apply to enterprise networks but serve as the foundation for all other concentrations.

Security

Most people equate security with firewalls and intrusion prevention systems, but to excel in this area requires a refined understanding of security policy and how it can be effectively enforced. This extends beyond hardware to include building VPNs, Denial of Service (DoS) prevention, mitigation of spam and phishing attempts, network access control (NAC), and myriad other technologies employed to protect a network and its users.

Wireless

Once a tangent of vanilla routing and switching, the ever-increasing demand for wireless networking has given rise to the formation of a dedicated subfield. To excel at wireless networking, you'll need a thorough understanding of radio theory, controller and access point design, wireless security, client roaming, quality of service controls, and other concepts unique to wireless communication.

Voice and Video

Real-time communications probably entail the largest subfield of networking. In fact, it's perfectly plausible to dedicate your entire career to working only with voice over IP (VoIP). Voice experts need to be familiar not only with IP networking and VoIP, but to a large degree also the general telecommunications industry, including legacy phone networks. Video teleconferencing, while perhaps not as widely implemented as voice, is a growing market with very similar design requirements.

Data Center

It might seem strange that "data center" is mentioned as a particular discipline within networking since, after all, most networks incorporate some form of data center. But the density afforded by data centers accommodates technologies not often found elsewhere, including storage networks (SAN), virtualization clusters, and extremely highly available (HA) systems. Data center networks also tend to operate at higher speeds and under much stricter downtime allowances than networks outside of purpose-built facilities.

Service Provider

Service provider networking tends to revolve around long-haul communications and Internet connectivity. Networkers who work for service providers focus more on the paths traffic takes from one network, or autonomous system (AS), to another.

How do I get into networking?

You optimal strategy for pursuing a job in networking depends on your current position in your career. If you're fresh out of high school or college, your primary concern should be to build real-world experience as quickly as possible. Having an internship under your belt can help put you ahead of other candidates, but you'll still likely start off with an entry level job at an IT help desk or NOC. This isn't a bad thing, but most people tend to pursue higher positions as soon as possible not just for the increased compensation, but to escape the unfortunate stress and tedium inherent to these roles.

If you've been working in a sister IT field like security or systems administration for a few years and beefing up your network skills, you might be able to land a job as a network administrator or junior network engineer. There might even be opportunity to cross-train into a networking position with your current employer (in which case the biggest challenge can sometimes be finding a suitable replacement for your current role).

If you're stepping into networking from a different field entirely, the transition is more daunting. Networking - IT in general, really - moves fast and won't wait for you to catch up. People coming over from unrelated backgrounds can feel overwhelmed by the breadth of new and seemingly ever-changing material to cover. But if you're genuinely interested in a career in networking, stick with it. As with anything, experience (good and bad) breeds confidence.

Finally, a number of people (myself included) come into the field by way of military service, either having worked in IT during enlistment or commission, or having developed the skills through post-service vocational training.

Do I need a college degree to be a networker?

I hope not. I don't have one and I've been doing this for years. I've even been extended offers for positions which clearly listed "bachelor's degree" under mandatory requirements (these requirements are usually tacked on blindly by HR departments). While a college degree certainly isn't going to hurt you, the more clued-in hiring managers greatly favor passion and experience over formal education. This is primarily because IT moves faster than college curricula.

For instance, let's say you enrolled in a four-year degree program in the fall of 2011. At the time, no one had ever heard the term software-defined networking. Yet when you graduate in 2015, it seems that it's the only thing people are talking about. While you were learning about networking, networking went and changed. Welcome to the world of IT.

SDN_google_trends.jpg

And this is assuming you major in something pertinent to computer networking in the first place. Many universities don't get more granular with their degree programs than computer science or information security, both of which are relevant, but neither of which will teach you how to build and operate a network.

Do I need certifications?

This is topic of much debate and heated opinions throughout IT. The issue is divided primarily into two camps: Those who believe certifications act as proof of competence in a subject, and those who believe that real-world experience trumps formal assessment. As with most debates, actuality lies somewhere in between.

Few people will dispute that certifications offered by vendors (like Cisco and Juniper) and non-profit organizations (like CompTIA and ISC) offer an excellent path for professional development. While the topics they cover don't always map to practical skills, it's nice to have a roadmap showing where you're headed and to acknowledge milestones by way of passing exams. They're also a great avenue to evaluate your interest in particular specialties. Many people opt to pursue a single track to the expert level while picking up a couple associate-level certifications in other disciplines to break outside their comfort areas.

The downside to certifications is that they are often over-valued. After all, a multiple-choice test is not a great measure of someone's skill as an analytical thinker. Some certification exams include lab simulations of real designs and problems, but these are necessarily constrained to very narrow parameters.

There's also the widespread issue of cheating. Ultimately, a certification is just proof of having passed a test, and people cheat at tests. A number of disreputable companies record and sell copies of exam questions, called braindumps, which greatly dilutes the value of a certification. Some individuals even go as far as to pay someone else to take a test for them. In recent years, Cisco and other certification authorities have even begun requiring candidates to be photographed each time they take an exam.

Do I need to know a programming language?

Probably not, but this requirement is highly subject to change with the growing trend toward network automation. And knowing how to code is an invaluable skill even if not a strict requirement of your desired position. If you're familiar with a particular programming language already, great! Be sure to keep in practice with it, so that even if you end up needing to learn a new language, you'll already have a programmer's mindset.

If you're not already skilled in a programming language, I suggest learning Python. Python is very friendly to the novice programmer; easy to read and easy to write. It's also very popular among network platforms, and can double as a scripting language to help expedite tedious tasks. Even if you don't currently have an obvious need to write code, once you learn how, you'll be amazed at how many opportunities you uncover to make your work more efficient.

For some examples of how easy it is to write useful Python, check out this blog post.

What should I list on my resume?

This topic is very subjective, and answers vary from country to country, but I'll offer my advice for candidates seeking a job in the US.

To start with, there are the staples: Your name and contact information, current position (if any), education, and so forth. Don't list your high school; it's assumed that you have at least a diploma or GED if you're applying for a job in IT. Include your college degree if you have one, but specify your major only if it's relevant to the field. (Anything from computer science to business management can apply, but art history, for instance, suggests that your passion lies elsewhere.)

Include any relevant certifications (you can leave out that Red Cross CPR class) you hold, but only if they're current. If you're pressed for bullet points and want to list expired certifications, be sure to clearly annotate that they are no longer valid but that you would be willing to renew them as a condition of employment. (If you're not willing, don't list them. They're gone.)

Work history will vary depending on where you're coming from. If this is your first entry into the working world, list some projects you've worked on either in school or on your own time. If you're crossing over from a field outside of IT, concentrate on skills and responsibilities that are transferable to the position you want. If you're already working in a sister field, go ahead and list details about your work even if they're not directly related to networking. A good recruiter or hiring manager will be able to form an idea of your competencies regardless.

Feel free to list out the skills in which you're proficient, but don't get carried away. Sometimes it's beneficial to list out specific protocols and technologies to trigger keyword filters within application processing software, but before long your resume will begin to look like a bowl of alphabet soup. Use acronyms sparingly, and leave out what can be fairly assumed. For example, if you've listed experience working with server virtualization, the reader will infer that you know how IEEE 802.1Q works, so there's no need to list it.

Though it may be tempting, don't present topics with which you've only flirted as skills in which you're proficient. If you explain that you're not yet skilled at something but are actively trying to improve, it conveys ambition and potential. But if you inflate your abilities and your bluff gets called in an interview, you're out for sure. (Remember, anything listed on your resume is fair game in an interview, so be sure to set the interviewer's expectations appropriately.)

There are several items you want be sure are not included on your resume. The first few should be obvious: Don't list your date of birth (or any other explicit indicator of age), race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliations, intention to overthrow the federal government, or medical conditions. Don't list contact information for your personal references, but have the list ready in a separate file to be furnished upon request. Don't include any hobbies or interests unless they're at least partially relevant to the field. (For example, even if you're applying for a NOC position, it's reasonable to note an open source software project you're involved with.) And while it's perfectly fine and encouraged to note raises and promotions in your work history, don't explicitly list your compensation.

Oh, and a note about grammar and spelling: This is perhaps the single most important document to your career. Proofread. Again and again. For every typo I find on a resume, I toss the whole thing in the trash. That may sound harsh, but attention to detail is a crucial skill in this field. If composition isn't your strong suit, get someone else to proofread for you.

One more tip: Don't save your resume with the file name "Resume." That's what everyone else calls their resume, too. Save it as your full name to make it easier for a recruiter juggling hundreds of resumes to pick out.

How much do networkers make?

You didn't just scroll through this article until you got here, did you? I hope not.

This is the burning question everyone wants to know, for beyond all those books and exams must lie a field of riches just waiting to be harvested, right? The truth is that networking is like any other field: pay and benefits vary greatly from one geographic region to another, from one industry to another, and from one company to another for any given position. It's a harsh truth, but you're worth what the market says you're worth.

There used to be this perception that achieving a given network certification would guarantee a minimum salary. While that may have been true at one time (and it probably wasn't) it certainly isn't today. IT is a much more mature field than it used to be: It's not hard to find someone who knows how a router or switch works. No one is deploying a wireless network for the very first time. Your compensation in this field depends on how well you apply yourself, how aggressively you pursue new opportunities, and, unfortunately, no small amount of luck and timing.

Don't be discouraged if you hear others boast about their lush salaries. Some people just get lucky. Some people also neglect to mention that they work sixty-hour weeks. And don't forget to factor in cost of living: A networker making $80,000 in a major city is likely worse off than one making $60,000 in the suburbs. And there may be extenuating circumstances: I was making a six-digit salary in my early twenties. The catch? I was employed a defense contractor in Iraq not too far from people who would have liked very much to kill me.

"Okay, I get it... But how much can I make, really?" Alright, fine. If you want to get a better idea of what to expect with regard to compensation, Indeed.com is a good place to start. You can search for postings by keyword and geographic area, and get a rough idea what the going rate for a position might be. But please keep in mind that these are very generalized, error-prone estimations generated from an incomplete data pool (many posted positions don't include salary information). The US Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes national wage data sorted by occupation, if you're keen to dive into that pile of raw data.

The time of year during which you apply and the current economic state can skew your chances as well:

indeed_salary_trend.png

The chart above shows average salary fluctuation for postings matching "CCNP" over a two-year period. Note how widely the going rate for a CCNP varies from month to month. Unfortunately, you need a job when you need a job.

Finally, don't forget to account for non-monetary compensation offered, like health insurance, paid vacation, and employer-paid retirement fund contributions. These may not seem like much, especially for young adults, but a 5% employer 401K match or lower than average health insurance deductible can equate to a sizable salary bump when compared against a position with lesser benefits.

How do I find a job?

The first stop for most people is uploading their resume to a major job aggregation sites like Indeed, Monster, and Dice. While these sites are certainly useful, keep in mind that your special, unique resume ends up in a sea with thousands of other special, unique resumes. Also be prepared to ignore solicitations from people offering "franchise opportunities," "sales positions" (pyramid schemes), or the chance to make thousands a week working from home! Perhaps the worst though is the occasional deadbeat recruiter who hasn't even bothered to read your resume, and just wants to match a body to a position and collect his or her commission as quickly as possible.

Once you've published your resume, start applying to individual openings. And not just through job sites: Many companies, especially smaller ones, don't even bother posting open positions to aggregators. Search for appealing companies local to your area and check the "careers" page on their corporate site. Easily 80% of these companies you will never hear from again, not even to say "thanks but no thanks," but try not to get discouraged. Just keep applying.

Unfortunately, the old adage is usually true: It's not what you know, it's who you know. The best looking resume in the pile will have a hard time competing with a phone call to a friend already employed in a position of power within the company. Especially at smaller companies, it's common for managers to ask their staff if they know anyone who would be a good fit for an open position before it's ever posted for application by the public. This both expedites the hiring process and guarantees that the candidate is of reasonable character. (Few people will recommend hiring someone they don't want to work with.)

So, now it's time for that other kind of networking. People networking. Talk to your friends and mentors, see who's hiring. Hit up Twitter and Facebook every so often and let people know you're still looking. LinkedIn can be worth a shot as well, so long as you don't start spamming invitations to people you don't even know. Whatever channels you choose, remember to make a case for why people should want to hire you, and not just because you want a paycheck. Post a link to your resume if you're comfortable with it, but always include at least a brief synopsis of where you're coming from and where you want to go in your career.

Do you have any interview tips?

This advice is pretty standard and available everywhere, but I'm including it here because experience suggests that some people could use a refresher.

Do your research. Learn about the company you're interviewing with. Find out how long they've been in business, where their offices are located, what their core business is, and the challenges they face. Make note of any new products introduced lately that might be a topic of conversation.

Brush up on your resume. Remember that skill you listed on your resume that you haven't used in three years? Brush up on it before the interview in case it comes up. (Remember, anything listed on your resume is fair game during a technical evaluation.)

Prepare questions. Always have a list of questions ready to ask when the time comes. It's perfectly acceptable to write these down ahead of time. Ask specific questions about the company and the position, even if only to confirm your assumptions. Skip any topics that were already covered earlier in the interview unless there's a reason to go into more detail.

Be on time. This is the easiest thing you can do to give a good first impression. Allow yourself plenty of time to arrive at the interview on-time. If you're going to be late due to circumstances beyond your control (e.g. a traffic accident, zombie infestation, etc.) notify the people you're meeting with or your recruiter as soon as possible. Arriving late to an interview without prior notice is essentially telling the interviewers that you don't value their time.

Be confident. A lot of people struggle with this one. Technical interviews can be very intimidating, especially when meeting with a large number of people. Don't second-guess yourself. Be confident in your answers. But also don't brag; no one likes a cocky candidate.

Be honest. Trailing on and on in search of the correct answer to a simple question is as painful for the interviewer as it is for you. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. Share what you do know offhand about the topic, and describe what your next steps would be to find the answer.

Write a follow-up note. After the interview is over, send a follow-up note to the people you spoke with a day or two later to thank them for their time. Offer more detail on any answers you struggled with during the interview to show that you're capable of research. This isn't strictly expected but it does help you stand out as a candidate and reaffirm your interest in the position.

Learn from the experience. Even a terrible interview is experience to be applied at the next one. Make a note of any areas where you think you can improve. Work on these in preparation for the next interview.

What are the negative aspects of networking?

Networking is an awesome job, but like any other field in IT it's not without significant challenges and frustration. The biggest of these in my experience has been the tendency of colleagues to immediately blame the network for any problem. Internet access feeling sluggish? Must be the network. Web server returning 404s? Sounds like a network problem to me. It's raining out and you left your car windows down? Damn network guys didn't warn you.

The tendency of others to fault the network without evidence stems from an ignorance of how the network actually functions. And to a degree, this is understandable; we all have our respective areas of expertise. To many of our colleagues, the network is just this mysterious black box everything plugs into. Packets go in at one point, magic occurs, and they pop back out someplace else.

As such, it's easy to fault the black box when things don't go as planned. As a networker, be prepared to "prove it's not the network" even when there's no evidence to suggest that it is. Typically a packet capture is enough to satisfy the demand for due diligence on your part. (Of course, it's always necessary to follow up on even seemingly frivolous accusations, because occasionally it really is the network.)

Another annoying aspect of networking, and IT in general, is that the network doesn't sleep. It doesn't have weekends off and it doesn't go on vacation, and it has absolutely no regard for your time should you choose to. Things can break at any time, and a large enough disruption ensures that your personal schedule will be interrupted very soon thereafter. (Incidentally, not wanting to get woken up at 3 AM is great motivation to carefully design networks to be extremely resilient to failure.)

Most organizations of moderate size maintain an on-call rotation to handle after-hours issues. If placed on-call, you'll be responsible for any after-hours issues that come up during the duration of your scheduled duty (typically one or two weeks). But the trade-off is that you (probably) won't be bothered about emergency network issues when you're not on-call.

While we're on the topic of after-hours work, even planned changes can be a drag. While you at least know when they're going to happen, service-impacting maintenance often needs to be scheduled very early in the morning or very late at night, when few customers are likely to be using the service. Downtime windows are generally unavoidable in most small- to medium-sized organizations lacking sufficient redundant infrastructure, but most managers are willing to trade compensatory time off from the regular work day in exchange for after-hours work.

Finally, many people simply find the pace of the field exhausting. Technology is always evolving, and you'll be expected to keep up. But this is also an aspect of the field to be embraced: There's always something new to learn, something to get better at. It helps to keep your skills fresh and your mind sharp.

About the Author

Jeremy Stretch is a network engineer living in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area. He is known for his blog and cheat sheets here at Packet Life. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.

Comments


Kamil (guest)
January 2, 2015 at 3:36 p.m. UTC

So true...


CZ (guest)
January 2, 2015 at 7:23 p.m. UTC

I work at a small colo, and the components of our network infrastructure are jealously guarded by only a handful of network admins (no matter that they use 'password' instead of 'secret', and that hashes are clearly visible via backups).

Luckily, I spend a lot of time on GNS3, as well as inheriting physical hardware from my colo when it's decommissioned.

I'm a jack of all trades sysadmin (a little bit of coding, mostly scripting, automated deployment, database management, and firewalling) there, for now, but I really want to go the networking route (I love poring over tcpdump output and trying to wrap my head round the pcap library). The problem is that the knowledge I glean from GNS3 tutorials, playing with Cisco hardware, and reading my good ol' TCP/IP Illustrated doesn't seem to be very effective for me. All that knowledge is learned and then forgotten because I don't have any real world scenarios to use it. Basically I'm just dicking around in my lab.

Should I seek out somewhere with a junior position? Talk to the network engineers? Are other organizations receptive to newbies who want to learn?


Robert (guest)
January 4, 2015 at 5:36 p.m. UTC

Great post! I work in EU and graduated college one and a half year ago (three years studies of networking) and my first job was at a small IT hosting firm. Since it was small you had to take everything from first line to second line issues; hated that job, but after a year I had enough relevant experience to land a 100% network position at another firm on the other side of the country.

Now my title is Network Technician and 50% of my time is to take care of the daily network administration (ACLs, VPNs, Firmwares and their bugs) and the rest of the time is develop the network; from implementing IPv6 to be apart of a ACI PoC.

And there has not been a week without someone blaming the network for ridiculous reasons. But I have started to get used to it now^^


BP (guest)
January 5, 2015 at 4:16 a.m. UTC

@CZ

Colocation positions really boil down into a Smart-Hands kind of role akin to a monkey that has been shown how to do certain tasks - with his hands oddly enough.

In order to get into actual design, config, setup, monitor and maintenance of networks you will need to get out of Colo.

I would suggest looking for a smaller company that needs an All-in-one IT person. If you can get in during a growth phase its even better.

Once you have this experience you can move to bigger companies, but keep in mind the bigger the company the more segregated the duties will be. It really is a balancing act for your career goals compared to what the jobs offer.

A note to the OP - over here in Japan I would say 90% of local companies wont even consider a resume unless they have a (any) form of 4 year degree. I have also seen that some companies do indeed value certificates over experience, but when questioned on the topics if you know what you're talking about then it will be evident during interviewing. That being said, when I did eventually break down and take some Cisco certs for kicks, I actually learned some stuff that filled gaps I didn't even know existed after nearly 18 years in the industry.


Maggie (guest)
January 5, 2015 at 9:08 a.m. UTC

It's great that you have tackled the degrees and certifications issues, because there are many people which think that if they have a college degree or some certifications, they can storm the job market with full confidence over their "achievements".


raidomingo
January 5, 2015 at 4:21 p.m. UTC

Great post. Keep it up.


Bryan Socha (guest)
January 6, 2015 at 4:58 a.m. UTC

I'm in the boat that unless certification is part of specific training you needed, it's sometimes more hurtful than helpful. However, the larger the company the bigger chance of an automatic resume reject that ranked resumes to review based on keywords. Sometimes you need that certification just to get a human to consider you and get the door opened. On a similar note, you don't want to go crazy but sometimes all those little buzzwords and protocol names are also needed for the door to swing open for some organizations.

Don't forget the nogs of the work (nanog, ausnog, nlnog, etc). They have lots of quarterly meetings all over the world where you can socially network with the who's who of networking. You can get some insight into what is really happening globally in networking and it's a great learning experience. Many of these and other similar organizations offer fellowships or sponsored entrance for interested newcomers.

Peering groups have similar events, some years even more events. It's a great learning opportunity for how deals are really made and what people making the choices of how the Internet works are thinking about. The most senior engineer at some point needs to higher an eager entry level. Nothing speaks more of interest then sharing a coffee/meal or shaking their hand.

Recruiters and tech evangelists are hunting talent at meetups. Hackathons, meetups for what seems like unrelated subjects may find you that in you've needed. With SDN, hackathons are starting to pop up specifically for networking challenges. Get yourself into them. Many are usually combined with some indepth fast paced training then dive into the hackathon to make it even better. Networking is open source now.


Nick Cutting (guest)
January 8, 2015 at 8:01 a.m. UTC

I found the field extremely hard to get into.

I was on a NOC for 18 months, then got my microsoft certs. MCSE 2003. I managed to get sys admin positions quite esaily - but the network guys always seemed to be very protective of their knowledge, and were reluctuanct to give me a leg up. I studied hundred of hours to pass CCNA, then ccnp using packet tracer. - BUt I was NOT emplyed as a network engineer. I ocassionaly would go into the comms room, and drop hints about why vtp wasnt working... and I was often right. I then had to install massive multi-pc GNS3 labs (computers were weaker in 2007), bought 4 3550's and then bought the INE ccie program. Doing their workbooks completely changed the way I could troubleshoot and understand the technologies. After doing the advanced teecnology labs for the CCIE (v3 I think at the time) I had huge confidence and I went for a junior network position. In the interview, I answered all the technical questions with ease, and they we glad that I had a sys admin/app support background - as I certainly helps when troubleshooting end-to-end - because no one cares how something is broken or what port it uses - jus tthat it works. So it took me 7 years to crack the field - and I only did it because I spent my own cash, and my own time really, really learning the R&S cisco technologies.


Julie (guest)
January 10, 2015 at 11:42 a.m. UTC

One thing I want to ask is about the REPEATERS and in which category do they lie?


Tom (guest)
February 16, 2015 at 10:09 a.m. UTC

Unfortunately I believe that a large number of companies won't look at your resume if you don't have a degree, or if they will, there are HR policies in place that will have separate paths for those with degrees and those without.


Kerry Thompson (guest)
March 31, 2015 at 3:35 a.m. UTC

For the record, REPEATERS operate in layer 1. They don't read or process either MAC or IP addresses, they just reconstitute the electrical signal. It's been more than 20 years since I saw a wired network repeater, and that one was attached to a segment of the original "Thicknet" Ethernet.


Roshan (guest)
May 11, 2015 at 9:20 a.m. UTC

Valuable information for a all levels of net workers .

Thanks and cheers Jeremy


Claud (guest)
May 28, 2015 at 9:37 p.m. UTC

Excellent and thorough post. Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.


Nikhil (guest)
July 13, 2015 at 5:07 a.m. UTC

One biggest disadvantage of networking jobs in Service providers is that for a few initial years, you'll have to work 24x7 in rotational shifts in a team. This is the biggest de-motivator of a networking job


Joshua (guest)
October 5, 2015 at 7:15 a.m. UTC

thanx for the post, as someone looking to break through networking i found this information helpful. i was a cisco academy student in SA, I Manage to get a field support role job but not dealing with networks. i'm still searching for any networking roles as i'm really passionate about networking and enjoyed every moment i spent in class studying CCNA...


Devon (guest)
January 25, 2016 at 7:53 p.m. UTC

Jeremy - Thanks! I found your blog invaluable. I modeled my LinkedIn page and resume after your tips.

It took me about 1 month of active job searching to get my first Network Engineering job. I’ll attribute this to 1. Cisco 2. Cisco - yes again! 3. Area (D.C/Northern VA) 4. Competence

I studied and got my CCENT then CCNA certifications within 4 months. I used SafariBooksOnline, Boson labs, and CBTNuggets.com.

Cisco is like a golden ticket. No matter what job you want your CCNA is almost guaranteed to qualify you for getting in the door. Mind you I have no prior experience and no college degree!

I can’t stress how much I owe to Cisco.

Northern Virginia, Texas, and California all rank within the top states that are in need of “Network Engineers” according to Careerbuilder.com and I believe them. A short search of “CCNA” within 30 miles for $75,000 minimum returns huge results. Some require security clearances but not all, some required Bachelors, but not all! However ALL required a CCNA. I expect to cross the $100,000 threshold here shortly.

I had my own equipment, I don’t think this is normal because it ensured I got at least 3 job interviews and I was offered 2 of the jobs. 1 offered me a lower level position.

The hardest thing to overcome for me personally was HR PEOPLE! It is VERY hard to get them to see past no experience, no degree. VERY hard. But like I said on a few I got lucky, having my own equipment made me stand out, and when you’re in front of a technical interviewer it just comes down to knowing your stuff.

Questions like “What happens when a user types in Google.com for the first time on their machine? Take me through each Layer” tripped me up my first interview but I got it on my second.


aikiotto
April 17, 2016 at 7:38 p.m. UTC

Fantastic article especially for someone like me who's considering changing fields.


Robert Jose (guest)
September 20, 2016 at 12:19 p.m. UTC

Nice blog Buddy.That content was very informative.

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