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Are you a cable boy or a network engineer?

Recently ran a news story highlighting the emerging skills necessary for network engineers and administrators to survive. The article summoned an outraged call (I believe the word he used for his temper was simmering) from a network engineer at a global firm. He was appalled that any network engineer or administrator would not already come equipped with the skills we outlined.

The story in question called on networking professionals to train themselves in application management, cloud computing, security – a lot more than providing simple IP pipe access.

“Opening dumb pipes is for cable boys. If you don’t know this stuff already, you’re not an engineer,” my annoyed friend said. “You’ve set the bar too low.”

My first thought? Do you really believe that all high level network professionals are ready to push into emerging technologies without some urging?

My second thought: What does this guy have against cable boys? And isn’t that as un-PC as you can get in the world of networking?

But that’s not what he meant.

“The assumption of the story should have been that the network is seeing a demand for more senior level network administrators,” he said.

Sound a bit arrogant? Maybe, but he explained that a real network engineer, administrator or manager is a homegrown product that starts as a cable boy and listens to others to learn. Real engineers, he said, don’t get one or even two certifications and settle for what vendors feed them.

As they grow, they find the humility to reach across IT silos and get over networking protectionism to learn more about complex technologies that increasingly sprawl across departments.

At every level of the networking team, a professional will find this is the time to form alliances between systems, security and networking groups.

“If you have one guy who does firewall and that’s all he does, you’re going to have a problem,” he said.

What’s more, if these departments don’t approach the C-level executives together, they are not likely to get the resources and support they need to implement complex technologies.

“If you’re not working as an alliance, you’re setting yourself up to be outsourced,” he warned.

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