• Deirra Footman

Becoming a Network Engineer

In this article, I'm going to share my advice on getting into the field of Network Engineering.

Before we dive in, let's define what exactly a Network Engineer does.

At their core Network Engineers are the people who keep the internet up and running. We focus on the design, implementation, security and ongoing maintenance of a business' network infrastructure and ensure that it is available to our end users. There are many focus areas within the field including data center, Wireless, Enterprise Networking, Designing, Service Provider and Security (focusing on firewalling and other security applications).

What skills do you need?

Network Engineers need to have strong soft skills to be successful in the field. The technical side is not enough, contrary to popular belief. The top soft skills you should have are:

Analytical/Critical Thinking - you'll be spending the majority of your time analyzing complex issues. You will also be expected to proactively identify issues and utilize monitoring tools to recommend/make improvements.

Communication - You'll also spend most of your time talking and emailing your peers and customers. You need to be able to articulate complex issues and concepts to your end-users, teammates, and management. Here are some course recommendations to strengthen your communication muscles:

LinkedIn Learning Courses:

Organization/Attention to Detail - DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! - This will make your life and your peers' jobs much easier. Depending on the size, networks can get very complex and as things change you want to be sure the solutions implemented are compatible. Here's a great video on organizing your notes using One Note. I personally write everything in my notebook and transfer relevant information to my One Note. I also take note as I go when I'm building a solution so that I can easily create or update network documentation later on.

The ability to learn new technologies - Technology is changing every day. Staying abreast of trends and keeping your skills sharp will keep you marketable. You will be able to make recommendations to improve your environment and purpose solutions. #NeverStopLearning Here's a great course on Learning How to Learn

Technical Skills and Path (Net+ vs CCNA):

Now on to the fun stuff….What should you be studying to become a Network Engineer? I'm going to focus on the Cisco certifications here as they are typically what employers look for. I do encourage everyone, once they have settled into their career to branch out and explore what other vendors have to offer. A well-developed engineer should have a good understanding of all options in order to offer a broader set of design options.

What is the CCNA?

The CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) is a certification that is exam tests a candidate's knowledge and skills required to install, operate, and troubleshoot a small to medium-size enterprise branch network. The CCNA covers the following topics:

  • Network Fundamentals